Santorini, too much to explore for a honeymoon
I don't know about you but I'd like to take it easy on a honeymoon (I guess?! ). Enjoy the white beach sand, swim in crystal clear waters, fall in love with the sunset but... away from the crowds if possible. In Santorini you can find all that except that it is rather a perfect spot to expose yourself (who knows, maybe that’s what you’re looking for J). On an island that has so much to offer, it's hard to stop yourself from exploring. I've spent a whole week in Santorini, everyday in another corner, not making it even to a neighbor island. And guess what, it was just enough to get to know it.
Santorini is in fact remains of a massive volcanic eruption from 3600 years ago. The eruption had created the islands Thirassia, Nea Kameni and Palia Kameni with the active volcano and a caldera (a lagoon of sea water in between).
Santorini can be reached by sea or air. If you’re coming from the port, the alternative to 500+ steps up to the center, the cable car, may have long queues up to couple of hours whereas the smallest airport is probably the busiest but well connected of all, with direct and frequent flights from Europe.
Where to stay needs to be addressed according to your choice of transportation. Rentals of scooters, atvs start from 30€ and cars from 50€. Public transportation is 2-3€ but it’s not very convenient (as timetables miss details of express route vs normal or buses leave early or too occupied to step on), yet it definitely teaches you to be patient!
Back to accommodation, if your choice is public transportation you’ll want to be at a well connected point. The central bus station is at Fira, and Karterados is about 15 minutes of walk. You can opt for Oia, Firostefani and Imerovigli for luxury & magical views of the caldera. If you want to be at a walking distance to beach, Kamari and Perissa are for you. Prygos, up on on a hill, is in the middle of the island with similar distances to each destination.
I was advised to;
- do one boat tour: I wasn’t impressed with what I’ve read for what to come across at the crater and hot springs but a sunset cruise would be highly recommendable
- one wine tasting tour: I wasn’t in the mood for wine tasting in summer but I can tell you to visit Santo Wines for some nice views of the sunset too. Thanks to its volcanic soil, Santorini is famous for its crisp dry white wine and the amber-coloured, unfortified dessert wine, Vinsanto (the latter my favourite).
- hike the Fira to Oia footpath: I’m not exactly the hiking type and as this route is about 9km, I found it convenient to hike from Fira up to Imerovigli which lasted about 1 hour and something (one way) taking pictures all along. The rest of the hike to Oia is mostly on the country side, so be prepared with water and all.
- explore the villages: Don’t just lay on the beach, save some time for the cute little villages. Keep on reading for more.
- visit the historical sites of Akrotiri and Ancient Thira: Skipped it as my expectations weren’t too high but go see it for yourself.
- wander the cobblestoned lanes of Fira, Oia, and Imerovigli: Get lost in the charming backstreets along with spectacular views where you can discover culinary stops and lots of shops.
- enjoy different beaches: why stick to the same when you have variety?
Towns & Villages
Fira: The capital of the island, nightclubs, shops, restaurants, buzz. Home to the cable car that connects Fira with the Old Port, from which you can take an excursion boat to the volcano or Thirasia. Visit Agiou Mina Church, Megaro Gyzi Museum, Thira Archaeological and Prehistoric Museums. Explore M.Nomikou and Eritrou Stavrou Streets. Check out Stani, Cesare, Kintos for dinner and Zotos for the best ice cream.
Firostefani: Posh and relaxing extension of Fira. Hence the name, the so-called crown and extension of Fira is known for its luxury accommodation on the caldera, the picturesque lanes, and the unique view of the volcano, Oia, Fira, and the Aegean Sea. To Briki is a perfect address to enjoy great food along with panoramic views.
Oia: The most famous and posh place of Santorini. Everybody dresses up here; maybe they take it as today’s Cannes so that they’d be discovered?! Visit Oia on a late afternoon in order to have time to take pictures and settle for the sunset.Expect tons of tourist masses though, which during the sunset time are literally everywhere, on the roofs, streets, walls, stairs. The best angle is from the wall of the Castle facing towards the bay. As sunset approaches the crowds pour into Oia from all over the island. You can grab a spot hours before sunset but my advise is not to torture yourself and instead enjoy your meal at Elinikon with affordable prices and views of windmills.
Imerovigli: Amazing views to the caldera, seclusive and home to some of Santorini's finest restaurants. Skaros Rock was inhabited in medieval times and a fortress was built during Byzantine years serving as a protection from pirates. the capital of Santorini has been shaken repeatedly by strong earthquakes and is totally uninhabited with the exception of a small church, the Chapel of Agios Ioannis Apokefalistheis.
Pyrgos: One of the five Kastelia, aka castle cities of Santorini (the others are Akrotiri, Emporio, Oia and Imerovigli) and its former capital with traditional whitewashed houses and neoclassical structures. Walk through its narrow alleys where you can see the Theotokaki Church and some great art galleries. Pick any of the top restaurants like Selene, Cava Alta, Rosemary but my favourite are Rimidi & Penelope's. Franco’s is good to enjoy a drink. Pay a visit to Monastery of Prophet Elias for a breathtaking view across the island if you have a car.
Akrotiri: The cultural hub of Santorini in the Minoan Era. Believed to have been successfully evacuated before the eruption. The archaeological site with frescoes and pottery recovered can be visited. The lighthouse, built by the French in 1892, is recommended to watch the sunset.
Megalochori: A historic, beautiful village with lovely churches, great restaurants (try Aylogyros or Feggera) and traditional cave houses (you can even visit one for free). Megalo Chorio, meaning grand village, is home to two wineries with its fertile soil, too. Take a look at the interesting art pieces at Apostol Gallery nearby.
Emporio: Another cute village that’ll amaze you with its charming whitewashed houses, it’s like mini Cappadocia! Located at the foot of the Prophet Elias Mountain, Emporio was once the center of trade and hence was named after it. This village is less frequently explored by tourists, making it something of a hidden gem with untouched local color in Santorini. Visit To Kafenedaki for its famous yoghurt with honey or the Old Barber Cafe for coffee.
Perissa and Perivolos, home to the best beaches lined on the east coast, are technically separate Santorini villages. In fact, the beaches are one long stretch of shore (Perissa being the north, Perivolos the south part and Agios Georgios the furthest south), so the villages are often lumped together. You'll find the best quality of sand and amenities here. The sand here is black, however the so-called Black Beach is not necessarily this one. Perivolos is my personal favourite.
The seaside village of Kamari is separated from Perissa and Perivolos from the stately mountain, Mesa Vouno. Apart from shops and cinema, you have tavern options where you can listen to traditional Greek music played live by local musicians in the evenings. It's interesting to witness planes departing so close right above you at the beach. I somehow found Kamari soulless, though; again, see for yourself.
Red Beach is at Akrotiri. There's a boat from Akrotiri to White Beach (accesible only by water) and Black Beach. So you can visit all in one day, with an hour of visit to each if you ask me. I'm not sure why Black Beach was called so but in fact it was full of pebble stones only, don't expect sand here. Akrotiri would be your stop to eat something as the others lack amenities (perhaps except for only Black Beach). The pebbly sand at Red Beach is different but it's the scenery on the way that makes it worth visiting. Be careful while walking to the beach tho. You won't miss much at White Beach if you ask me. And I wasn't so enthusiasthic about Black when I saw it.
Vlychada Beach is a unique landscape with white volcanic rocks in forms of a lunar landscape. I mean just take a look at the photos, pretty amazing! Few umbrellas and sun-beds exist and in fact Vlychada is preferred by few nudists beacuse of its isolation. The factory right behind the beach has been turned into Tomato Museum. The island is famous for its cherry tomatos if you didn’t know btw.
Monolithos Beach is known as family-friendly beach but I’d totally skip it if you’re not in to kite surfing; hell of a wind here!
Ammoudi is not a beach but rather a great swimming spot on Santorini unless you’re into jumping from the rocks into crystal clear water. There’s a small island that you can swim out to that has glorious views of the caldera.
Do & dont’s
- Watch the sunset at Oia, Fira, Foristefani, Prygos and from the sea by boat.
- Some beaches have just an entrance fee while others offer you free sunbeds & umbrellas for certain amount of consumption.
- Don’t forget to reserve for the restaurants.
- Visit Fira first and you’ll also wonder why it’s been overshadowed by Oia.
- Try fried feta and Vinsanto.
- Ladies, leave your high heels home as cobblestoned lanes can be slippery.
- Check out kissing fish; what a great marketing! The same foot massage by small fish exists in Turkey but it's not marketed like that.
- Watch out, not all churches are blue & white. Yoı may have seen pink but hey there’s even yellow!
Ready to find out more?
Check my photo gallery for more pictures 😉