Santorini is my number one destination in the world! Not only because Basil and I got married there (although this is going to be an amazing excuse to get back, obviously) or because I am of Greek decent. Remove all of these factors and you have a breathtaking island that well - takes your breath away. Quite literally too. But I'll get to this a little later!
Sun-drenched shores, ocean that stretches as far as the eye can see, quaint little cobblestone pathways, white washed and pastel buildings, endless archways, amazing sunsets, relaxed balmy nights and not to mentioned the incredibly fresh seafood. Could you really ask for more in the one location?! Everywhere you turn you are in an ongoing battle with yourself, your camera and probably your partner! (Been there, done that...) You'll most likely have this sense of urgency to share what you are seeing with those who are not with you, but you'll quickly find that it's impossible to capture what you are seeing in real life, even if you are lugging your 5D Mark Canon and extra lens set around with you. So, to really enjoy the island and make the most of it, it's best to only carry your phone with you some of the days so that you can really take it all in, wonder, explore, remove the perfect photo anxiety and lose yourself in the moments. Do however, make a list in your phone of the places that you want to go back and capture, as the island is small and you'll thank yourself for those camera free days, and your back will too (I promise!). Allow yourself to forget what time it is, what you're wearing, how you look, how many gryos you've smashed or loukoumades you've consumed (hello food baby!) and save this for the last few days on the island.
Santorini just feels so far away and if you allow yourself you'll forget about everything. You'll forget you have a job, you'll forget to check the time, what even is real life? Just ensure you don't forget about check out day, because chances are you'll want to stay forever...
Images by Aenaon Villas in Imerovigli
Imerovigli, Firostefani or Fira are my personal recommendations for accommodation. These areas are central and are also on the Caldera side (west coast) of the island with amazing views. Fira is the busiest town of the island and has a lots of resort style stores, restaurants and bars. Firostefani and Imerovigli are a little further north and are perfect if you are looking for something a little more quiet, romantic and luxurious. Caldera views can attract higher rates, so you can usually find more affordable options inland, or on the opposite side of the island. However, if you can afford to splurge on your trip, Santorini is the place to be doing it, and a pool overlooking the Caldera is something you won't regret.
Oia is a beautiful town in the north of the island with some of the most incredible hotels, restaurants and views. However, Basil and I have always chosen to visit Oia but not stay here as it isn't central and makes it more difficult to get around. We love experiencing a new area each time we visit, but below is a list of places we have stayed and loved in the past and would highly recommend!
Images (including opening image) by Steven Curti of the view from Palia Kameni
- Kamari is a lovely beach town on the east coast with lots of beach bars and lounges and is great for families by day and partying at night. It has black sand, is about 10km from Fira and has a lot of water sports activities and facilities.
- Perissa, Perivolos and Agios Georgios are known as the black beaches of the island and they lead into one another along the one strip. With a lot of restaurants and activities and an enormous rock called Mesa Vouno that rises from the sea at the Perissa end, you'll find a few more beach lounges and bars at the Perivolos end.
- The Red Beach is the most unique beach of the island and requires a climb down steep rocks to get to. It's usually a pretty crowded tourist attraction, but you have to see it!
- The White Beach is in a cove right next to the Red Beach, the surrounding cliffs are white and is accessible by boat or on foot from the Red Beach. It is relatively quiet with limited facilities other than sunbeds and umbrellas.
- Vlychada and Eros Beach are the less packed beaches of the island and are a little more romantic.
I personally prefer to hang by the hotel pool during the day and quad bike around the island doing stops at the beaches for a quick swim. A beach hop is a great way to spend a day, and enables you to explore as you drive around. Have a look at a map and pre-plan your days journey before heading off. Also try not to wear your white bathers this day, as they may get dirty and lather yourself in suncream!
For something romantic:
- Kandouni in Oia - An intimate restaurant in a redecorated old house with traditional, delicious and rich Greek food. Adorned in bougainvillea, this cute restaurant is enchanting, romantic and has a perfect share menu.
- Mylos in Firostefani - this bar and restaurant offers modern and sophisticated gastronomy at a beautifully renovated windmill. Basil and I fell in love with the vibe of this place, and we sat at the bar until the early hours of the morning. There are often local musicians who serenade the diners, so look out for the nights they are playing before booking.
- Ambrosia in Oia - has dreamlike terrace views and fine Mediterranean and Modern Greek Cuisine. The tables are laced with red roses and the mood lighting is set with candles.
For casual dining:
- Sea Side by Notos in Perivolos Beach - A beach lounge that finely balances its modern, cosmopolitan nature with an unpretentious gourmet atmosphere, being relaxed yet boasting excellent, informal service.
- Ammoudi Fish Tavern in Oia - Ammoudi Bay is famous for it's traditional Greek taverns with the freshest seafood on the island. There are various other fish taverns closeby. It can get very busy around sunset, and the pricing high at dinner time.
- To Perasma tou Horiou in Pyrgos - A traditional restaurant with recipes from Santorini and Crete, all made from superior quality products. Honest, full-flavoured food accompanied by Greek liquor and music.
- Mc Daniels in Fira - is my number one pick for Gyros on the island, and believe me we've tried and tested a long list of them! Don't let the name fool you, these guys make the meanest gyros around. Ask for chips and order an extra because one won't be enough.
- Lucky's Souvlaki in Fira - is my second pick for a quick, cheap and delicious Gyro on the island, and is located as you enter the town.
- Anogi in Imerovigli - Rich and flavoursome Greek food. Worth visiting if you're staying in Imerovigli and don't want to venture too far at night.
For the sweet tooth:
If you come across a 'Zakaroplastio' on the island, go take a peek inside and buy some traditional sweets for the road. My personal favorites are Galaktoboureko, Katafi, Melomakarona and Bougatsa. I also can't go past some good Baklava! And don't leave island without trying some Loukoumades (you'll find them on most restaurants dessert list!)
- Loukoumadoupolis in Fira - A quick greek specialty! This place makes amazing loukoumades - a kind of Greek Donut, deep fried so its crispy on the outside, then injected with chocolate, jam or drizzled with honey & cinnamon. Heaaaaven.
- Lolita's Gelato in Oia - A quick stop off to cool off, Lolita's has some delicious flavours in both gelato and sorbet for those who have to avoid diary like myself.
There are so many bars on the island, so whilst it's great to explore and walk into bars you see on your travels, here is a list of our favourites on the island.
- Tango in Fira - The place to be seen in Santorini. Dress well, start early and party into the night. Open from 8pm until 5am.
- Palia Kameni in Fira - Our personal favourite! Cute outdoor terraces overlooking the sea from 380m above sea level and specialising in sunset cocktails.
- V-Lounge in Fira - Located on the rooftop of the Panorama Boutique Hotel. Great fresh fruit and Champagne cocktails.
- Anemos Beach Lounge in Perivolos Beach - Comfortable sun beds on the beach, great cocktails and good food.
- Katharos Lounge in Oia - One of the best places on the island to have a coffee (frape`) or a cocktail and watch the sunset. Chill-out music in the early evening but can start pumping later in the evening, especially if they have a special event on.
- Cafe del Mar e Sol in Perivolos Beach - Relaxed vibe with good hospitality and good music.
- Wet Stories in Perivolos Beach - Often has famous European DJs and can be a good place to get loose.
- Casablanca Soul in Fira - An absinthe bar/nightclub playing funk, soul and house. Greece's most successful DJ, Osunlade, rates this as his favourite club in Europe!
Oia and Fira are full of an eclectic mix of shops, catering to tourists and locals. There are the most beautiful handmade jewellers, sandals and kaftans on the island and you'll find some gorgeous things you won't find back home. As Santorini is a huge tourist attraction there are a lot of Australian labels stocked in the boutiques with a large price increase so shop carefully in these! Make sure you buy yourself a 'mati' to bring home with you. I love the ones for the home, and find a unique one every trip!
There aren't many large supermarkets on the island (especially not in the main towns) so when you pass one on your travels, make a stop and grab snacks, water and any essentials you may have forgotten to pack.
MAP OF THE ISLAND
You can find some of the places I've mentioned pinned on a map of Santorini here
THIS IS ONLY PART I ...
As I have been asked so many questions on how to travel the Greek Islands, I will be splitting this series up into a few parts. Have a questions on Santorini or how to travel the Greek islands? Comment below and I'll do my best to answer it for you! Next up in Part II - What to pack, what to wear, close by islands to visit, ferry vs plane and general tips you may not know about the island.