Much has been written about Santorini-one of the most beautiful islands in the world! Numerous beautiful pictures and some bollywood influence were enough to lure me into allocating 5 days of my 10 day Greece trip to this island. And I am so glad I made that decision. Somewhere a tiny voice inside my head kept saying it might be overrated but those voices died down as soon as I landed there on a huge Blue Star Ferries ship. Photographs DO NOT do any justice to the beauty of this place. It is simply spectacular. Drop-dead gorgeous no matter which direction you look! Here’s a 5-day guide to the most beautiful place I have seen.
Day 1: We took the 7:25 am ferry which took around 8 hours to reach Santorini. The ferry was huge and the ride was pretty stable with pretty views of the Mediterranean sea. By the time we checked into our hotel it was late evening and we decided to have lunch, freshen up and enjoy the sunset from our private terrace.
Day 2: We hiked from Fira to Oia which can easily take 4-5 hours depending on your speed. It is not an easy hike so make sure you wear comfortable clothes and shoes. This was our favourite activity in Santorini- free of cost, breathtaking views and the pace and itinerary are completely according to your preference! After reaching Oia, we had lunch there and explored its pretty lanes. We watched the sunset at Amoudi Bay and then headed back to Firostefani for dinner!
Day 3: We left for our hotel in Akrotiri the next day enjoying splendid views of the caldera on the way. After check-in, we took a tour of Akrotiri’s Archeological site. Like Pompeii it is an ancient city which got covered under layers of volcanic ash during an eruption leading to its preservation. Excavation is still going on here; I felt it could have been better developed to tell the history associated with it and the ticket was rather pricey. From there we walked to the red beach. There are danger signs warnings visitors of landslide but still visitors keep pouring in. Its a unique beach, red volcanic soil in sharp contrast to the cobalt blue waters of the mediterranean sea. Our last stop for the day was the gorgeous Santo Winery where we enjoyed the 12 wine flight while watching the sun dipping into the sea. The wine flight consisted of rare white and red wines made from Santorini grapes. We especially loved Vinsanto and bought some to take back to Singapore.
Day 4: We pretty much spent the entire day at Perissa beach. Another gorgeous beach, with black pebbles rather than sand. You can rent two sun beds and an umbrella for 7 euros. We spent a relaxed day here, had fresh fish for lunch at one of the shacks lining the beach and then explored Emporio village on the way back to the hotel. It is recommended that you explore one of the traditional Santorini villages (Emporio, Pyrgos, Megalochori etc.) on foot to get a glimpse of true island life and Emporio is one the best preserved ones.
Day 5: We left Akrotiri for Imerovigli and since this was our final day in Santorini, the only plan was to soak in the beauty of the place! Imerovigli has the most fantastic view of the caldera- the view from our hotel was just unbelievable! We had a sumptuous lunch near our hotel and then went to Fira for some shopping. We then made it back to out hotel just in time for the splendid sunset. We had dinner (packed from Lucky’s) while watching the sky become orange, pink and finally black. We were lucky to watch the Iftesia- the annual fireworks event which takes place at Nea Kameni to mark the anniversary of the volcanic eruption that lead to the current formation of the island. Its beautiful how this day is celebrated-while the eruption was destructive, it resulted in the formation of the caldera that makes Santorini one of the most beautiful islands in the world with dramatic views.
How to get around: We used the public transport throughout our stay and found it to be cheap and convenient. KTEL buses ply at frequent intervals from Fira to Oia, Akrotiri, beaches etc. Alternately, you can rent an ATV or a car as well. Exploring the island on foot is not a great idea since its a big island and it can be scorching hot during summer. We tried doing this and will not recommend it!
Where to eat: We had some of our best meals ever during this trip. Firostefani in particular has some fantastic restaurants- fining dining at reasonable prices. The following restaurants are highly recommended- Aktaion (everything is fantastic!) and Onar cafe (ceviche, squid, pasta) in Firostefani, Theofanis (try the Shrimp Saganaki) and the good heart (stuffed peppers) in Akrotiri, and Avocado in Imerovigli. For fresh fish head over to Fratzeskos Fish Tavern at Perissa beach. The best gelato can be found at Lolita’s at Oia (try their orange ice cream and Ethiopian coffee ice cream) and the best gyros is at Lucky’s in Fira town.
When to visit: May till September is the best time to visit but September is probably the best month. Its the end of peak season so not as crowded as during May-Aug. The temperature is more benign during the day and pleasantly cold at night. You may need a light jacket in the evening!
Best sunset: We watched a different sunset every day of our stay and I can safely say that the one at Amoudi bay was beautiful but not the best. Sunset views from Firostefani and Imerovigli are much more spectacular!
Finally, spot pretty churches as you explore the island.