If there were a contest for the world’s most photogenic location, Santorini would win that crown in a landslide. With 360 degree views of the Aegean Sea, a striking harmony between white-washed structures and accompanying blue doors and windows, and staggering cliffs plunging into clear blue waters, it’s hard, if not damn impossible, to not fall under Santorini’s mesmerizing spell.
There are many places that claim to be the most beautiful place in the world, and we’ve been fortunate to have been to a handful of them, but if we’re being honest, few really, are actually in the running for the title. While I’m not entirely ready to proclaim Santorini as the ultimate winner, it certainly is a viable competitor. While beauty of course is in the eye of the beholder, the only other place that we’ve been to that we feel could give Santorini a run for its money is Bora Bora. These two islands couldn’t be more different, but they’re every bit as gorgeous in their own right.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this post may just be worth a cool million. And the photos featured below don’t even represent half of the photos we (fine, I) took. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
We spent four days in Santorini and had plenty of time to see the majority of the island while still having ample time to relax. Getting to Santorini is easy: from Athens, the flight is less than 45 minutes, and from Crete, the high-speed ferry takes about 90 minutes.
Enjoying coffee during our morning ferry ride from Crete. Tip: spring for a few extra Euro to sit in the upstairs VIP area for more room, more comfortable seats and less crowds.
Here you have it…how to get the most out of your time in extraordinary Santorini:
Over two hundred seventy steps below the city of Oia lies the charming port of Ammoudi Bay. Surrounded by jagged red cliffs and dotted with white-washed buildings, this little village features several quaint tavernas serving up fresh seafood and local cuisine. We enjoyed a lovely lunch at Taverna Katina as well as some thirst quenching wine at Ammoudi Fish Tavern.
Paradise gets even better when exploring with friends.
Remember those two hundred seventy plus stairs? Well, they are just begging to be climbed! Yes, clambering up these steep bad boys is probably not the most fun you’ll have all day, but man are you rewarded with some phenomenal views of the caldera along the way. Simply breathtaking…and a little added bonus workout for the win!
Notice how the steps are numbered?
Didn’t I tell you the climb was worth it? Those views!
Enjoying Santorini’s splendid views from a catamaran is a pretty spectacular way to explore the island. There are a number of tour operators that offer sailing trips and we arranged our Viator trip ahead of time, although you can certainly wait until you are there to book. Departing from Ammoudi Bay, our sailing trip began close to the Caldera cliffs and volcano and made three stops altogether: dipping in the hot springs, snorkeling near the White Beach, and swimming at the Red Beach. Unlimited wine and a tasty barbecue meal were also included and the staff was attentive and friendly. While there are multiple sailing trips offered throughout various times of the day, I highly recommend taking a late afternoon one so that you can catch the striking sunset.
First stop: a dip in the hot springs
Ain’t no sunset like a Santorini sunset.
As if Santorini hasn’t been blessed enough by Mother Nature, it is also home to a number of delicious wines, including Assyrtiko, the white wine for which the island has become known for, as well as Rosé, Nykteri and Vinsanto, proving once and for all that Santorini is indeed Heaven on Earth. Without question one of the highlights of our time in Santorini was going on the Santorini Wine Adventure Sunset Tour. We visited three wineries (Boutari, Gavalas, and Venetsanos) during our 4.5 hour tour. At each winery, we tasted about five wines accompanied by local cheeses, olives, and chocolates. Our guide Michael was knowledgable, affable, and funny as hell. We have visited countless wineries from California to Oregon to Virginia, and South Africa, and this was one of the most informative (and fun!) tours we’ve ever experienced. Cannot recommend enough!
Wine and food pairings at Boutari Winery
Perched upon the caldera cliffs, Vanetsanos Winery offers incomparable views and is the ideal setting for sunset-catching.
HIKING THE CALDERA TRAIL
The best and most scenic way to explore Santorini is by hiking the 10 km path that runs from Fira to Oia, which is right on the rim of the famous volcanic caldera. The hike takes anywhere between two and three hours, depending on pace and the amount of times you stop to take photos (I might have taken a lot of those, sooo…) and offers extraordinary views from every angle. Along the route you are surrounded by traditional white-washed settlements, the turquoise waters of the Agean Sea, and remarkable landscapes that will surely take your breath away (or was that the oppressive heat?). The route is clearly marked and occasionally falls in the main road street and then again enters the villages. The hike isn’t all that strenuous, although there are plenty of uphill climbs to keep things interesting and the rugged terrain constantly changes from paved path, to gravel, sand, and rocks. We Hills aren’t exactly morning people and although we knew that we should commence our hike by 8am at the latest, we didn’t get started until about 10am. By 11am, it was easily over 95 degrees (with no shade and minimal wind) and let’s just say that T was not the happiest of hikers. If you ask him, he’ll tell you that he nearly died of a heatstroke. Clearly, he’s not nearly the hiker that I am and is no match for my superior physical condition and fortitude (even if he did beat me by two minutes during our last half marathon…he claims it was five…not only is he a bad hiker, he’s clearly also a liar). But I digress. Trust me when I say that if you want to beat the heat, get an early(ier) start! Oh, and make sure you wear proper footwear, bring water, and apply plenty of sunscreen!
Look at me. Not even breaking a sweat. Maybe just a little.
Pretty early in the hike. T’s not cranky. Yet.
We see you, Oia! So close, yet still so far…
Alas! We’ve arrived! Hello, Oia! And T has his shirt off! Which means that right about now, he’s hot, pretty cranky, and has no time for my photography antics…hence, the photo from behind.
But great shot, right? I thought so.
Oia is as picturesque and magical of a village as it gets. Its beauty is truly spellbinding. Of course, as with most beautiful places, everyone else wants to go there, too. So Oia is very crowded and a bit overrun with tourists…it’s still an incredible place to visit, but it’s busy. We were both really happy that we chose to not stay in Oia and stayed in the village of Imerovigli (see more below). Less than twelve miles in length, it’s very easy to travel between Santorini’s villages and takes a mere forty-five minutes to travel from the north to the south ends of the island.
Exploring Oia offers numerous opportunities for wining and dining, shopping, and marveling at all its splendor.
When in Santorini! For those who do not want to commit too much time to a fish pedicure (like us!), at Kissingfish, you can opt for a 10 minute “trial” for only 10 Euros. Tiny fish gnawing on your dead skin…quite the odd sensation. It doesn’t hurt, it’s just WEIRD.
AND SOMETIMES WE GET LAZY AND DITCH OUR (MY) ITINERARY
On our fourth and final day in Santorini we had an activity-packed day trip planned to the southern part of the island that included the ancient site of Akotiri, the Red Sand Beach, and lunch at the famed Selene, which is considered by many as the island’s best restaurant. We woke up, turned to one another, and were like, nah, not going to happen. Instead we opted to lounge around our incredible hotel, Above Blue Suites, and then ventured into Fira, for an early dinner and drinks. Do I regret not going on our day trip? Not really. This was the tenth day of our trip and we really just wanted to relax by the pool and eat and drink wine (because, you know, we hadn’t been doing that for the last ten days or anything). Should you go to all of the aforementioned places when you visit Santorini? Absolutely! And then tell us all about it 🙂
Daily breakfast situation and a room with a view takes on a whole new meaning at Above Blue. Cannot recommend this magical hotel enough!
And the pool views and my handsome husband aren’t too bad on the eyes either.
Another spectacular village, Fira is the capital of Santorini. We found it to be a tad less crowded than Oia, but it’s still busy and lively with numerous shops, restaurants, and bars.
MY BIG FAT GREEK DINING SCENE
Just like you can’t take a bad photo in Santorini, I swear you can’t eat a bad meal there either. We didn’t dine at any upscale restaurants and I dare say that you really don’t need to. I know, this is saying a lot, considering that T and I plan most of our trips around the local cuisine and specific restaurants. While the food in Greece tends to be rather simple, it is so fresh that pretty much everything is delicious. If you eat fish and love fresh produce, you will be in Greek heaven. And don’t even get me started on the olives, feta, and yogurt. Yum. While we ate the best in Crete (stay tuned for a future post), we ate very well at various restaurants throughout the island including Avocado in Imerovigli, Petros Fish Taverna in Oia, and Classico in Fira.
So there you have it. A fabulous four days in glorious Santorini. Stay gorgeous, Santorini, and thanks for being so picture-perfect and leaving a lasting impression on our traveling hearts.
Ya mas to the Greek, white, and blue!
To read more about some other beautiful European locations that we love: