When I think of the Greek island of Santorini, I think of blue skies, sparkling waters and bleach-like white buildings with those pretty bright blue dome roofs.
All of the above made me think that Santorini would be a lounge by the ocean type of island getaway — a lie on a sun lounger, breathing in the warm, fresh sea air, my skin slowly turning a deep shade of brown.
But when the ferry slowed at the port in Greece, I came to the conclusion that my anticipation was going to be very different from the reality. Not bad different – definitely not bad – but different, all the same.
Treacherous Trip Up The Cliffside
CC 2.0 / Flickr
If you’re at all afraid of heights, then Santorini may not be for you. The towns of Santorini, Greece are at the top of a steep climb. Hotel shuttle buses, mopeds and four-wheelers, taxis and tourist buses wind their way from the ferry up to the top, around sharp corners and past sheer drops. The drivers round these corners at speed.
On the trip up I was muttering my final prayers instead of taking in the stunning ocean views (get your cameras out for those views). On the way back down, at the end of the trip, however, I accepted that I had survived the harrowing journey once and could probably survive it again.
Black Pebble Beaches
To my pleasure, my concerns of a beachless island were unfounded. The port side of the island is sheer cliffs, but not so all the way around.
Santorini is chock-full of black pebble beaches, perfect for diving and snorkelling, or for lying in one of the plentiful sun loungers with a cocktail in hand watching the sun go down (I wouldn’t lay your towel on the sand for a snooze though, unless you don’t mind the pain and bruises at the end of the day).
But be warned, it’s a very windy island, especially in the towns at the top.
Hold On to Your Hats (Literally!)
Fira is the main tourist town on Santorini, and it’s easy to get to it from anywhere on the island via bus, moped, four-wheeler, car or taxi. A public bus runs from one end of the island to the other and the journey takes less than half an hour. Be warned, however, buses are not particularly frequent so make sure you get to the stop in time. Calderon Volcano View. Credit: Flickr
Fira is where you will find cobble-stoned alleyways brimming with trinket stores, beach attire and delectable Greek cuisine. The decor is uniform and gorgeously so – all buildings are square shaped and white, with the occasional blue dome just to add to the beauty. It truly does look like the pictures you often see of Santorini. If you want to take photos just like the postcards, make sure to take a trip to the top of the island, to the town of Oia. Most of the pictures you see of Santorini are taken from here.
But up here at the top of the island, when you step out of the charming alleyways, even on the warmest of summer days it can feel brisk because of the wind chill as the sea air blows over the island. Be sure to bring something long-sleeved with you in case it gets a bit chilly.
Tip: Bring a long-sleeved jacket as it can get windy and chilly
Trying to take a photo of the superb ocean views can be difficult when you’re trying to keep your hat on and your hair from blowing into the frame. The strong sea winds make for some memorable, laughter-filled photographs. Some restaurants in Fira even have permanent signs on display encouraging guests to come downstairs, out of the wind.
As nice as it is to sit outside in the sunshine, the amount of grit and sand makes it impossible for tables to stay clean, so you may just prefer sitting indoors.
Plenty of Things to Do in Santorini
If black pebble beaches aren’t particularly your thing, there are other adventures to be enjoyed on Santorini. Go diving, take a steep cable car trip from Fira directly down to a beach or enjoy a donkey ride in Fira or Oia.
You could take a day tour boat trip out to the volcano and hot springs, go sailing in a wooden sailing ship, yacht or glass bottom boat, or join one of the many fantastic winery tours on offer. You could even visit one of the fish spas for some pampering or lounge by the pool at your hotel. So what’s the most important part of your Santorini vacation that you simply must not forget to do? Relax.
Where to Stay
I stayed at the Star Hotel in Megalochori – a fabulous three-star hotel with a gorgeous outdoor area and pool, friendly owners and staff, and a resident cat.