I fell in love with my favorite place in the world, the island of Santorini in Greece, when I was 14 years old and I watched the movie Summer Lovers. Right there and then, I decided that this idyllic island would (hopefully) be my honeymoon destination (regardless of where my future husband would want to visit). Well, 14 years later, my wish came true. When my husband and I were planning our wedding and he suggested Hawaii as a place to honeymoon, I very sweetly suggested the Greek Islands instead, and the rest as they say, is history. Our honeymoon included a few days in Athens and also in Mykonos (click here for my Mykonos blog post). Santorini went above and beyond all of my expectations, it is simply breathtaking. It is so beautiful, that most of the photos and postcards that you will see of Greece, will typically be of Santorini…it is the most photographed of the Greek Islands. And trust me, the postcards don’t do it justice! Luckily I have had the opportunity to visit Santorini many more times, and I always leave with the feeling that I can’t wait to visit again!
There are so many things to see and do on this special island that this blog post could go on for days…LOL! So, I have decided to round-up my Top 5 experiences on all of my visits!
Fira. Fira is the largest town on Santorini, and is also the first town many travelers experience, as Santorini’s ferry and cruise ports are located in Fira. While most of the pictures you will see are of the town of Oia, I actually prefer to stay in Fira, the island’s capital. Fira also has a thriving night life, something for everyone, clubs, bars, restaurants, and shops stay open past midnight. Nothing like walking around at 11PM having some gelato, and feeling like it’s 2 o’clock in the afternoon, I love places that stay open late when I’m on vacation. I also find that there is a larger selection of hotels to choose from in Fira, extending to Firostefani and Imerovigli, the two towns immediately north of Fira. This past summer we stayed at the Adamis Majesty Suites, which we loved, a spacious cave house with a perfect location, and million dollar views! Fira also boasts great shopping with many boutiques and local designer shops. Make sure to visit some of the gold and jewelry stores, with amazingly beautiful 18 karat gold jewelry, showcasing the very distinctive Greek designs. Also not to be missed are the delicious restaurants Fira has to offer. Sphinx and Archipelagos among my favorites, and if you’re looking for amazing gelato and homemade Greek desserts and pastries, make sure to stop in at Zotos Cafe & Bakery, on the main pedestrian path.
A Visit to Oia. Having said this, the village of Oia, located on the northwestern end of Santorini, is magical. I always like to visit during the day and also in the evenings. Oia is special (fun fact: the house that the Summer Lovers characters lived in is located in Oia, not Fira). Oia is a sleepier, quieter version of Fira. Here you’ll find those red cliffs, white windmills, and blue-domed churches from the postcards. It’s famous for its sunsets and great for honeymooners. You can find smaller art galleries and many unique shops in Oia. Oia is a short bus ride away from Fira, a must see.
Breakfast with a View. Many of the hotels in Fira and Oia have rooms with a view to the caldera. There are many other areas in Santorini where you can stay as well, such as Perissa or Kamari, if you prefer to stay near the beach. But in my humble opinion, there is nothing quite like opening up your window and seeing the beautiful blue waters and the gorgeous views of the caldera and the cliffside town. Many of the hotels will serve you breakfast on the terrace outside of your room, so you can enjoy these views, while having your meal. My husband always says that he could spend an entire day just sitting in a café or in one of the hotel balconies, overlooking the caldera and taking in this view. Absolutely magnificent!
Dinner at Sunset. Similar to the views in the morning, Santorini is famous for its gorgeous sunsets. Fira and Oia both have plenty of cafes and restaurants that advertise their sunsets. Many people flock to the old Kasteli (Castle) of Agios Nikolaos in Oia, which has become the most desired spot for sunset watching. It can also get pretty crowded, so get there early to claim a spot. You can also catch the sunset with no obstructions, by walking the northwest end of the village above the steps leading down to Amoudi and find a place to park yourself. While most folks prefer to watch the sunset in Oia, I have also seen the sunsets in Fira, and they are just as amazing. And watching the sunset while enjoying your dinner with a glass of wine is an experience all on its own!
Blue Domes Everywhere. And then of course…there are the numerous, beautiful, blue domed churches that the island is famously known for. Almost everywhere you look, in every town throughout the island you can’t miss these brilliant, blue domes! Most of these churches are open during the day, stop in and take a look, they are just as beautiful inside as well. One of my favorites is the Catholic Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in the center of Fira.
Some more fun things to do while visiting Santorini:
- Visit Akrotiri, the ancient and fascinating archaeological site.
- Spend a day at one of the beaches, Perissa and Red Beach are my favorites.
- Take a donkey ride or cable car from the port up to town.
- Rent a scooter or ATV and spend the day cruising the island.
- Relax with a kissing fish spa pedicure (yes folks I tried this and actually liked it).
- Visit one of the island’s wineries, Boutari is my favorite.
- Visit the traditional village of Megalochori.
- Visit the Argyros Mansion in the town of Messaria.
- Take a boat ride out to the volcano, Santorini should be viewed from the water.
- And for those of you traveling with small kids, you can always spend an afternoon at the Perissa Water Park, although it’s just a very large pool with a few water slides!
Here are a few more photos for your enjoyment:
Is Santorini on your travel bucket list? If it’s not, it should be. Have you visited this gorgeous island, I would love to know what you thought of it…