When my alarm went off at 2:30am i didn’t have to drag myself out of bed, i was up and ready in no time, excited for the long weekend ahead…
We’d booked to spend 3 nights in Santorini, a place i’ve always wanted to visit. It wasn’t long before we were on the plane and making our way, the sunrise up in the air was stunning, made even better by the fact we’d left the cold and fog behind in London, it felt great to be heading away, i’ve not travelled in a few months so it was long overdue.
Santorini is a small island around 100 miles south of mainland Greece, it sits in a volcanic region of the Aegean Sea, the island and it’s immediate neighbours are what remains of an enormous volcanic eruption which broke up what used to be a single land mass. The volcano is still visible in the middle of the lagoon and is responsible for creating the vast sweeping cliffs on the western side of the island, at points the cliffs are over 300m in height, offering a stunning location for towns and settlements along the coastline with incredible views of the Caldera.
When choosing somewhere to stay i wanted to make sure we were in a great location with easy access to both of the main towns on the island, Fira and Oia, in the end i chose Hotel San Antonio which is a luxury hotel about half way between the two, in a remote and secluded location with a nice boutique feel to it. The hotel was absolutely amazing and the staff treated us like royalty. The views from the private terrace of our suite and around the grounds were like nothing i’ve seen before. If you get a chance you MUST stay here. As soon as you drop your bags off in reception and walk through the doors to the back of the hotel, you know you’ve made the right choice.
The two main towns are linked by a coastal walking route, Fira being the capital and Oia the instantly recognisable settlement in the north west of the island, both were around an hour walk from our hotel along the clearly signposted walking route, which was great for us as we love walking and exploring when we’re out and about. If you’re out after dark or perhaps it’s a bit hot to walk you can easily get around the island by bus, which is also very cost effective at €1.80 a ticket.
Most of our time on the island was spent walking around Fira and Oia, i’ve never been to Greece before so it was a real treat for me to experience the white washed buildings set against colourful flowers and blue domed churches. The island is so photogenic, even more so than i imagined, an absolute must if you’re into photography. I’ve just picked up a Fujifilm X100T which i used for all of the photos in this post, i’d love to spend more time on the island photographing it ‘properly’, perhaps something for the future.
There are plenty of things to do on the island, we grabbed a boat tour from the harbour in Fira which took us out to the volcano and to the hot springs. The port is at the bottom of long winding staircase which includes around 600 steps, the locals are keen to offer donkey rides up and down to make life a little easier and there’s also a cable car if thats more your thing. We opted for a couple of donkeys on the way down, certainly a bit more hair-raising than i thought it would be, the rides are apparently ‘fully insured’ but i didn’t believe that for one second. Thankfully we got down in one piece, although my donkey definitely had his moments, needless to say, we walked back up. The volcano is worth a visit, albeit slightly underwhelming, i’m not entirely sure what i was expecting but a bit of lava would have been nice!
Fira being the capital of the island and the busier port offers slightly more in terms of shops and restaurants, there’s a nice cathedral in the centre too which is really peaceful and offers a bit of history and culture, like most other buildings it was destroyed in the earthquake that struck in the 50’s and has since been rebuilt.
Oia has a really nice feel to it and one of the main things to do here is watch the sunset over the caldera, there are plenty of vantage points but if you want the famous view back over Oia you’ll need to head to Byzantine Castle Ruins, it wasn’t too busy when we went there but i have heard it can be unbearable in higher seasons so make sure you plan accordingly.
The town of Oia is also where you’ll find the instantly recognisable windmills as well as the blue domes which are equally as prominent. The town has a maze like feel to it with narrow streets and steep staircases, you’ll find a main square too, thats where the buses and taxis will leave from, helping you get back to your hotel, if you’re not staying within walking distance.
There’s plenty of other things to do on the island, if we had more time i’d loved to have visited some of the more ancient and archeological sites as well as a few of the beaches, perhaps even a winery. I’m really pleased with what we did during our stay and i’m confident that 3 or 4 days is enough to get a great taste of the island but you’d also easily be able to make a week of it too, which is something i’ll hopefully do one day…