Famous for its sunsets, the Greek island of Santorini offers visitors a chance to explore on land and at sea.
As one of the Greek Cyclade Islands, Santorini lies in the Aegon Sea, its name taken from Saint Irene. As many of the Greek islands have suffered volcanoes and earthquakes, Santorini is no different. Devastation was brought to the island during the 16th Century B.C.E. with the eruption of the volcano which can still be seen smouldering at Caldera, Nea Kameni. It is due to the island’s volcanic activity that the rugged landscape, black beaches and neighbouring islands that are seen today exist.
After making a first fleeting visit to attend a wedding as I island hopped from Heraklion on the neighbouring island of Crete, I returned to explore more of this island and reacquaint my taste buds with the local food and wine.
Feeling lucky to be travelling with people who knew the island well and to also have Greek friends from there, I was met at the airport and taken to my accommodation in Perissa. This was to be my base for the full visit.
On the South East coast of the island, Perissa is still a developing resort for tourists. There is plenty of nice traditional food, beaches, old churches, scenery and the odd donkey on the road carrying its owner’s load. The beach is black, the sea ideal for snorkelling. You can gaze out to sea or up into the mountains from almost anywhere in the village.
The mountainous headland alongside divides Perissa and its northern neighbour, Kamari. It is accessible to walk up. Halfway there is a small church. This church was the desired destination for a walk one day. A friend and I did find the church, but not before an unplanned walk to the top with an unexpected visit to Ancient Thira.
After paying a few euros we walked around the archaeological site, taking in the stunning views. Reading the abundance of information on each section as we passed through what used to be churches and temples, Roman baths, sanctuaries, gymnasiums and even a theatre we were able to really get the feel of how it used to be.
It was on the way back down that we found the path to the small church that can be seen glowing each evening. A little unsure of how we missed it on the way up we were extremely happy to have had our detour.
Travelling further down the island, to the western side of the most southern tip there is the small coastal town of Vlychada. Used as a port, receiving small fishing boats, I found it to be the ideal place to sample some of the days catch. A group of us visited one evening and ate at a restaurants beach side table. Eating fresh seafood and sipping Greek wine whilst the sun went down is one of those memories that anyone would keep with them for a lifetime.
The main port of Fira is on the islands west coast. Every day various boats come and go with people arriving or heading out on holidays or for short trips. It is a steep drive up out of the port. They have cable cars running to take people up and down the rocky edge.
From Fira I boarded a boat for a bit of island hopping, including a visit to the volcano of Caldera, Nea Kameni. A walk around this smouldering volcano took a little under one hour, seeing the craters, lava marks and breathing in stunning sea views.
The hot springs of Palea Kameni were close by. In Nikolaos Bay the water is said to have curative properties due to the levels of Sulpher. On the boat trip I was able to jump off the boat and swim into the springs, even bathe in the mud. My bikini ended up an orangey colour but it was worth it for the experience and softer skin.
The most northern on these small islands is Thirassia. It was a beautiful stop off for lunch with the water side restaurants serving fresh seafood cooked over the outside barbecues. The large grilled prawns I indulged in were delicious.
Back on Santorini, not far from Fira on the west, is Pirgos. The home of Santos wines and the perfect spot to watch a true Santorini sunset. Let’s face it, it is Santorini’s most famous attraction. The sunset that is, not the wine. All be it, that was also very good.
Further up the west coast, almost at the top of the island is Oia. A purpose-built tourist town and probably one of the island’s most photographed places. If arriving by boat it can be a steep walk up into Oia, so here they have donkeys to carry people up for a fee. I found it to be very different to anywhere else on the island. The quaint, picturesque town is bustling with people. The small streets are lined with gift shops, bars and restaurants. As the sun starts to go down, people here also drift towards the coastal points in search of the perfect spot to watch the days sun go down.
Going back over to the east side of the island there are plenty of nice long stretches of black beach. One of them is Monolithos, a good spot for watersports that attracts windsurfers on windier days.
Just south of Monolithos is the airport where this trip started. But as I don’t need to leave yet I make my way back to Perissa, for some greek gyros and krasi. Yamas.