Santorini Greece's Most Photographed Island

24 Jun 2015

Santorini is one of those idyllic destinations, the pictures of which you are probably already familiar with. Photographs of the stunning blue and white architecture and glorious sunsets adorn most travel websites, and there’s good reason for that…


We flew by Easy Jet to Thira airport (3 hours 20 minutes) and picked up our hire car from Avis. The island is only small (45 minutes from one end to another), but I like having the freedom to explore, which having a car offers.

We stayed in a self-catering apartment on the outskirts of Oia (pronounced ee-ah), called Maria’s Place. Our apartment had sweeping views across the islands landscape and ocean, with the island Ios in the distance. Of an evening rather than vie for spot to watch the sunset with every other tourist in Santorini, we had a prime spot from our balcony. Of course we did join the throngs of people one evening… you have to!

Oia and the famous views it offers was only a 10 minute stroll away and whilst we were very envious of those lucky souls and their private infinity pools, overlooking the caldera, we were more than happy with our quiet retreat. Oia can be quite hectic, especially when the cruise ships roll in.


Oia is just as the travel guides tell you… a white washed Cyclades village, carved into the slopes of the caldera. It’s picturesque, quaint and probably one of the most perfectly situated places you’ll ever see. On our first day we spent leisurely traversing the narrow lanes of Oia, eating icecream from Lolita’s Gelato. Around every corner is an opportunity for a photo. At sunset the crowds gather at the castle on the tip of the island to watch to gradual colour changes it casts over the buildings. People start to gather quite early to get a prime spot and expect a bit of argy bargy as people duel for position, with their modern day swords (the selfie stick…). But you will soon forget the throngs of tourists, as the sun slowly drops into the ocean and casts an orange glow over the caldera. It is a must do.


After sunset we took a walk down to the fishing port where there are a handful of seafood restaurants. Halfway down we started to regret the decision, it’s a long, steep path! During the day you can hop on a donkey on the way up, and let them do all the hard work. By night you just step in and smell what they left behind.

Full of grilled snapper, we thought the only way to tackle the return journey up, was to do it half drunk. Thankfully Santorini is well known for its wineries. The craft beer - yellow donkey, red donkey and CRAZY donkey will also help you with the climb back. They certainly do like a donkey here…

We spent a day in Fira, Santorini’s largest town that offers sweeping views across the caldera and of the tip of the volcano. From Fira you can walk the coastal trail that takes you to Oia. We walked a small part of it and the whole trail is approx 10km long. Our evening there was spent sipping martinis in the V Lounge watching the sun go down. This was the best situated bar/ café that I’ve ever been to and as I write this, I’m daydreaming about being back there.


Over the next few days we explored some more of the island in our hire car. We started with Akrotiri, the Minoan settlement that was destroyed by the last major volcanic eruption in 1627 BC. It is amazing how well preserved the buildings are and how advanced the Greeks were. It’s not as in tact or extensive as Pompeii, but Akrotiri is nearly 2000 years older and some say it could even be Atlantis!

Near Akrotiri is the Red Beach which is one of the stops on the catamaran island tours. The name comes from the sheer red coloured volcanic cliffs that surround it. To get to it you have to walk along a narrow path over the rocks. From where we stood it looked terrifying and I nearly talked myself out of it, but as I watched the young kinds and pensioners attempt the journey, I didn’t think it could be that bad… and it really isn’t. It’s worth making the effort, as it is a nice little beach and the water is lovely for swimming.


At the southern tip of the island is the lighthouse where we stopped briefly for some snaps. On the way back we took a chance stop (attracted by the donkey outside) at Faros market. A little family run shop selling all homemade produce, grown and produced from the surrounding fields. The lady in the shop was lovely and talked us through the types of honey, tapinades, chutneys, caper leaves, cheeses, wines (including tasters of everything!!). She was very passionate about her produce and it shows in the quality. Need less to say we left there with a heavy bag of food and wine to take back home. A lot of it didn’t even make it that far and was gone within a couple of days!

On another day we went to Pyrgos, which is the highest point of Santorini and has panoramic views of the whole island. It’s a quiet, traditional village with little winding pathways that lead up to a ruined castle and beautiful blue domed church. This was my favourite place on the island and I have since decided that if I was to ever move abroad, this place would be high up on my list.

After Pyrgos we drove down to Vlychada which is a traditional fishing port. Not on many tourists itineraries (unless you happen to be passing through there on a boat tour) but we stopped there on a recommendation for some seafood. “Not outside the harbour, not on top of the harbour bur IN the harbour”. The café was filled with locals and served up some super fresh calamari and cuttlefish.


A short drive away from Vlychada port is Theros beach (or Eros as some signs say), and it felt like we had landed on the Star Wars planet of Tatooine. The road leading up to it is towered either side by strange, alien looking rock formations which I can only imagine must have been left by the eruption and subsequent erosion. The beach (which we were told was the best on the island) is again towered by these strange cliffs, and it is beautiful. Also there was not another soul on it. There were no sun loungers or hotels and only one place to get any food/ drink. We spent the rest of the afternoon on this, our very own private beach.

May is a great time to come to Santorini. The temperature is just starting to heat up and the masses of tourists have not yet packed their suitcases. It is a place that has been on my ‘to do’ list for some time now and I have no doubt that I will make a return trip someday, hopefully to buy myself that piece of land in Pyrgos and a donkey of course.