view of the santorini caldera from our balcony at astra suites
my husband’s and my second anniversary was a couple of weeks ago (see our anniversary trip to san antonio here), and it got me to thinking about our previous trips together, namely our honeymoon that we took to the shockingly beautiful santorini, greece. i had seen the photos and thought there was no way it would be so astonishing in person. yep, it was. santorini can be expensive, but let me tell you, it is totally worth it.
these guys run the donkey rides from the port to the cliff’s edge in fira. no nonsense here. you get on a donkey and you ride. no regrets.
where to stay
so santorini is an island with multiple cities, not just one city like many people think. fira/thira is the port city, and is quite busy. filled with a lot of tourist stores (this is where the cruise ships dock on a daily basis), it also has some hidden gems. one in particular is the donkey ride you can take from the port down below (the only thing at sea level) up a winding (and completely dangerous by US standards) path to the cliff’s edge where the town resides. i highly recommend this, and i highly recommend doing it at night, so you can’t see just how sharp that cliff is that you’re climbing. oh yeah, if you’re into clubbing, stay in fira.
climbing the stone path from the port to fira…on donkeys…in the dark. terrifying/awesome.
oia is the nicest city in my opinion and lays claim to the most beautiful sunset in the world (i believe it – keep reading). it is also the furthest away from the port, so if you’re staying in oia and want to explore the island, you will definitely need a car or need to explore the bus options. imerovigli is between fira and oia, and is where we stayed at astra suites.
overlooking fira from imerovigli in santorini
it is a 30 minute walk along the cliff’s edge to fira (which was a walk we made often and thoroughly enjoyed), which was just far enough away to get away from the crowds and enjoy a bit more of the true santorini lifestyle. i highly recommend astra (for more information on astra suites, see my triptease review) if for nothing else than you get the owner, george’s, suggestions for your time in santorini. which leads me to our next topic…
what to do
santorini was perfect for me in that it was big enough for me to explore and get to know another culture. but also small enough that you feel like you can sit at your hotel pool for a day and not feel guilty about doing nothing other than soaking in the breathtaking views. a few of my favorites things we did:
overlooking the caldera while hiking the santorini volcano
– boat cruise around the caldera – santorini is an island that was formed after a giant volcano erupted. there’s a chance it will still erupt. it’s the chance santorinians are willing to take when living on the island in exchange for living in utopia. the boat cruise we took sailed around the caldera and docked at the volcano site, which we hiked up while learning about the history of the island. we also visited the hot springs created by the volcano (which unfortunately have a strong sulphur smell) and swam in the sea while our captains made us dinner. we then sailed to oia where we watched the sunset while we were serenaded by saxophone (cheesy? yes. perfect? you betcha.).
swimming the hot springs in santorini – strong sulphur smells, but worth it!
– explore the island – we rented a car one day and drove around the island. we stopped at megalochori, a small, quaint, narrow, white, artsy town with a cute square that held tavernas and wineries and giant fuschia flowers that appeared to be fake they were so pretty. adorable.
town entrance to megalachori on santorini
we then drove to akrotiri, which houses the site of the (then closed) ruins of minoan civilization. we parked and hiked around the cliff to the red beach – stunning. it’s a small beach at the bottom of the red volcanic cliff just filled with people.
the red beach in santorini (see the throngs of people at the bottom of the cliff)
the next stop was perivolos, which houses the black beach on the back of the island – called the black beach due to the small black pebbles that line the water instead of sand – very good at exfoliating, but also so hot! kind of a party vibe if you’re looking for that (think tons of beach bars and thumping music).
pebble “sand” from the black beach on the back of santorini island
we wanted to explore a little more, so we hopped back in the car and headed to pyrgos, a quaint town on a hill in the middle of the island. an old venetian fort stands on top of the hill and inside is franco’s cafe, which provides sweeping views of the caldera and black beaches, all with classical music playing. it was quite nice after the craziness of the black beach. also, order a freddo. last stop: oia. best. stop. yet. the streets are narrow and the pedestrian paths are paved in marble and lined with art galleries, jewelry stores, and nice restaurants (a far cry from the tacky souvenir shops of fira). we parked just outside of town and walked in, which leads me to my final must-do of the island…
oia, santorini – so perfect for food and sunsets and watching beautiful people stroll by.
– eat fresh seafood in oia while watching the sunset. magical. at the edge of oia, we descended 250 OLD stone stairs to the bay of ammoudi. about 10 fresh seafood restaurants are located here and we had made reservations at dimitri’s, recommended by our trusty friend, george. we arrived in time for the sunset and sat at the edge (literally) of the bay. one wrong step and we could have easily fallen in. the owner’s wife is canadian and she waited on us and helped us order our meal – some mezedes (appetizers, and p.s. order as many greek salads as you can – they are divine), some wine, and one whole fish to split between us.
dinner at dimitri’s at the bay of ammoudi in oia, santorini
while the travel costs and accommodations can be pricey (do look into hostels or cities on the back of the island if that’s keeping you from going), santorini is worth every penny. i promise.
the santorini sunset, as seen from the bay of ammoudi in oia