Santorini – A Fairy-tale Island?
Greece, one of the famous sea destinations in the world has around 6000 islands known for their dramatic views, active volcanoes, and stunning sunsets. Of all these islands, Santorini has grabbed everyone’s attention in the recent times with its charming white-washed houses, blue domes, exotic beaches, the active volcano, archaeological sites, huge cliffs and the never-ending water surrounding it.
But does Santorini live up to the hype? Is it actually perfect?
Recently, I had a chance to visit this tiny Greek island in the southern Aegean Sea, about 200 km to the southeast of Greece’s mainland. In this blog post I will share my experience with you, so you can decide for yourself if the city is as dreamy as a fairytale or not?
Santorini is what remains after an enormous volcanic eruption that destroyed the earliest settlements on a formerly single island, and created the current geological caldera. It is the most active volcanic center in the South Aegean Volcanic Arc, though what remains today is just a water-filled caldera.
Best time to visit:
June, July, August, and September are the peak months to visit Santorini. However, if you travel during these months, there would be a lot of tourists and the prices would be very high. Hence, we decided to visit Santorini in the shoulder season to avoid a lot of tourists. We choose to visit Santorini mid-October. That’s the time when the weather is just above 20-degree Celsius, so its warm enough to wear comfortable summer clothes but not hot enough to make you uncomfortable.
Tiny yet the biggest airport in the Cyclades group of Greek islands
We took an early morning flight from Athens to Santorini and reached Santorini at 7:00 AM. It was that time of the day when the sun was just about to rise. The sky was painted in red, orange and pink. As we descended to Santorini we couldn’t stop admiring the tiny island in the Aegean sea. This water-filled caldera started blowing our minds, right from the first sight. Once we landed at the tiny airport of Santorini, we already had our cab waiting.
Pro Tip: Santorini airport is small and the queues for booking a local taxi are very long. I would advise you to book a taxi in advance. You can do the same online or ask your hotel to arrange it for you. If you are going to stay in Fira, then typically a one-way taxi will cost you around 24 euros.
Drive from Airport to Accommodation:
It was time for us to head to our accommodation. Of all the places to stay in Santorini, we had chosen a hotel right in the heart of the modern capital of the Greek Aegean island and very near to the Fira main bus station. We were super excited as we headed to our hotel. On the way, we could see the beautiful white-washed houses, decorated with colorful flowers and nicely maintained plants. It didn’t take us long to fall in love with Santorini. After a 20 min drive, we reached our destination. Our hotel was small but very scenic and well maintained. As soon as we entered, we were greeted by the reception. They had arranged early check in for us. Without wasting any time, we quickly saw our room and the breathtaking view from the balcony, before getting dressed up and heading to have breakfast.
I must say, being a vegetarian in Europe, it was one of the best breakfasts I have had. Greek vegetarian food has a lot of spices and being an Indian, I love spices. We had pasta, Gigantes (giant beans cooked with tomatoes), stuffed grape leaves and of course all the continental options as well.
Perissa Black Sand Beach
After having breakfast, we decided to head to the famous Perissa Black Sand Beach.
Its approximately 20 min drive from Fira to the exotic black sand beach. Black sand, white pebbles, huge rocks, crystal clear sky, turquoise waters where you can swim or relax and just a couple of tourists. This beach had all of it. I was so glad, that our decision to visit Santorini in October had turned out to be really good.
After relaxing on the beach, building mud castles, and clicking a few pictures, we headed to our next destination – Imerovigli, a small picturesque village close to the Fira. Now, you can either book a taxi by talking to one of the cafes near the beach or you can take a bus to Fira and walk from Fira to Imerovigli. We took a taxi because we had just one and a half day on the island and we wanted to make the most out of it.
As we reached Imerovigli, we started walking on the caldera-edge pathway, and we were exposed to the most dramatic views we could think of. It was just awesome! Sun kissing cheeks, breeze blowing through hair, the mighty Aegean Sea, beautiful houses, cobblestone pathways, and mountain ranges, all in one frame right in front of your eyes. We were simply amazed at the charisma of nature. Of course, we didn’t miss the opportunity and clicked some really good pictures to add to our travel catalog. Then, we kept walking along the edge to discover more and more beautiful places in the region until finally we were hungry and decided to head back to Fira to grab a quick bite.
#Pro Tip: Instead of going via the main road, try to take an alternate route through the city of Fira. Trust me you won’t regret it since you will get to see a lot more!
The Fira City Centre:
The Fira city center is full of restaurants, also known as Tavernas in greek. I particularly found the place very lively and full of people grabbing quick bites before heading back to exploring the island again. We decided to grab some falafel sandwich, freshen up and head to our next destination.
#Pro Tip: Public toilets in Santorini are not well maintained, even if its a ‘pay and use’ facility. It’s better to avoid them when you can.
I had seen so many pictures of Oia and heard so much about it, I was extremely keen on exploring it. We took a bus to Oia from Fira main bus stop. It took us 40 mins. The bus was as expected not very well maintained and the road was long but very interesting. On one side of the road was a cliff and on the other, there was a valley. Looked scenic to us as passengers but it definitely was not the best road to drive unless you are really sure of what you are doing. After a 40 min long ride, we finally reached Oia. On reaching Oia, we saw a small stall selling fresh roasted corn. We immediately bought one and had it before heading ahead. We took the bus since we had limited time at hand, but you can also hike from Fira to Oia. It’s approximately a 10.5 km hike which takes you along the caldera cliff and through the villages of Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli, and finally Oia.
In Oia, our first destination was Amoudi Bay. In order to reach there, we crossed the narrow streets of Oia, filled with nicely decorated souvenir shops. There is a variety of souvenirs you can buy in Greece. You can choose from a variety of hats, leather items like shoes and sandals, personal and beauty care products, olive wood items, headgears, and junk jewelry. After passing through these picturesque streets, we started our descent towards Amoudi bay. There were some 200+ deep, uneven stairs which we descended in order to reach the bay. But when you have the love of your life with you, walking down the steps is not a big deal right? We kept talking, holding hands and going down the stairs. On the way, we met some really tired travelers who were trying to go back up. We cheered them by telling them that they were almost there (They were actually not!). As we reached the bay, the view grabbed our attention. The pictures speak for themselves. Once we saw the view and relaxed a bit, we decided to take a taxi back up, so we could save some energy for the rest of the day.
#Pro Tip: The taxi takes 15 mins to come, so in order to plan better, talk to a cafe 15 mins before you want a taxi. That way you don’t have to wait.
Once, we were back to the top, we explored some souvenir shops, danced to some of our favorite tunes and headed to the top of Oia castle for sunset view. So far, Santorini had been at its best. The sunset at Oia was definitely good, But I personally think it’s overhyped. Instead, I would advise you to find a nice quiet location somewhere in Imerovigli and enjoy the sunset with your loved ones.
Post sunset, it was time to head back, on the way back, we saw an entirely different Oia. Beautifully lit with lights and in its full glory. It was again a really good way to see the city in the evening lights. Finally, we headed back to Fira.
#ProTip: Since a lot of tourists come to see the sunset at Oia, it gets really crowded while going back. Expect very long lines at the bus stop. If you want to skip the lines, make sure to pre-book a taxi.
Once we were back to Fira, we decided to rest for a bit, before heading to the main square in Fira for dinner. We managed to find a very good Indo-Chinese restaurant, which had delicious food and spent some time talking before heading back to the hotel. Fira is also known for shopping and nightlife. You can explore if you wish.
Morning walk in Fira town
We woke up early in the morning and decided to go and walk in Fira, explore the beautiful streets, shops, see Nea Kameni and Palea Kameni and locate the three bells of Fira before heading back to the hotel. I must say that this walk was the perfect final touch to our Santorini vacation before we headed back to the hotel for some awesome brunch. Post breakfast, it was time to leave. We had already done online check-in, had no bags to drop and Santorini airport was very small. So it was fairly quick to reach the gate.
#Pro Tip: Santorini Airport doesn’t have a lot of food/shopping options, so better grab your food before you reach the airport and bring something to keep yourself busy in case the flight gets delayed. And yes! flights often get delayed.
And this was the end of a dream vacation for us. It was one of the best vacations we have had and we shall cherish the memories of it forever and ever. If you are longing for a fairytale getaway, Santorini is definitely worth a visit. I hope you now know what to do in Santorini. Since we had a limited amount of time, we skipped the red beach, the volcanic islands of Nea Kameni and Palea Kameni and the Akrotiri archaeological site. If you have more time in Santorini, you should definitely visit them.