And there I stood, enchanted by the beauty of Santorini and breathtaking doesn’t describe it. On this volcanic Island, the sky and water intersect at the horizon in a most magical way. I wondered, if I got up on my tippy toes whether I could reach the deep blue sky and if I stretched my arms out far enough I could touch the cobalt waters of the Aegean Sea. Steep cliffs are weighted with homes built one on top of the other in washed shades of white and cream with pops of colour that seem to kiss the landscape. Crime is practically non-existent, the streets are clean and the overwhelming feeling is of the consciousness of the surrounding beauty.
Today Santorini is one of the most popular holiday destinations worldwide, as well as one of the most picture perfect spots on the planet. Although dormant, Santorini is an active volcano. The towns of Fira, Imerovigli, Firastefani and Oia have the best views of the caldera and are where you want to visit to experience the postcard views. The blue rounded domes of churches are everywhere. The cliffside villages house the most expensive real estate on the island and are studded with luxury hotels offering masseuses to release tension as the concrete streets and steps can be a little rough on your feet. We hired George from SantoriniTravel.com to be our guide. He not only took us to the best and secluded photo spots but he delighted us with his tales and provided us a disk of our photos at the end of the day.
Photo Source for Lycabettus Restaurant- Andronis Suites Hotel- Gallery
Offsetting the luxury hotels are an equal number of posh restaurants. For the spectacular view and experience look for Lycabettus Restaurant at the award winning Andronis Suites Hotel. Book in advance and ask for one of the six tables that hang off the cliff. Attention to detail is the focus, from the personal dining attention to the presentation of the exquisite Mediterranean fare. You are guaranteed to take away a fantastic dining experience.
For delicious lunch and simple eats look for Pitogros. It doesn’t offer the best view of Oia, but it is the gold standard for delicious sausage and chicken gyros. The meat is juicy, thin and crispy, perfectly seasoned and topped off with fries. This is the must try local hole-in-the-wall. The gyros are well packed so I suggest you order up, take a walk, find a beautiful vista and dig in.
I also recommend you day trip outside the caldera to Monolithos Beach and Taverna Mario for fresh fish on the beach and gastronomical fare. I sampled the saganaki mussels and baked octopus which was tender and perfectly tasty.
To sample the local wine pop into Venetsanos Winery located above the port of Athinos boasting unforgettable views of the caldera. This is the first commercial winery in Santorini. It has been lovingly restored and reopened by the family in 2015. As an added bonus, it is off the beaten path of the cruise ship crowds. The family offers wine making tours and wine tasting ($22 USD paired with food). As a Canadian who loves dessert wines, I fell in love with the winery’s Vinsanto wine. Made from the assyrtiko grape, it’s an ancient wine making Santorini tradition. The colour is dark amber with notes of apricot and raisins and extremely delicious.
Santorini and Mykonos are two of the most popular islands belonging to a group of islands called the Cyclades, but the feel between them is totally different. Where Mykonos is close to the beaches and sea, in Santorini you will look down to the sea from cliffside villages. Mykonos is all about the party, Santorini is all about the romance. Both islands are unique and worth exploring. Read my visit to Mykonos here.