The Island of Thira, better known as Santorini, is a picturesque island in the Aegean Sea. Located about 120 miles southeast of Greece’s mainland, it is the largest island of small circular archipelago; the remnants of a volcanic caldera. My husband and I had the opportunity to spend three days on this beautiful island in April of 2018, and it topped my list as being one of my all-time favorite destinations. The history is rich and we learned many fascinating details from our tour guide with Top Santorini Tours. According to our guide, the island was the site of the Minoan eruption (one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history) and may have indirectly led to the collapse of the Minoan civilization on the Island of Crete. What remains from this eruption is a large caldera, encircled on one side by the crescent shaped Island of Thira (or Santorini).
But enough about the history, you can hear more of that when you go to take your own tour of the island. Let me tell you more about OUR experience in this incredible destination! Santorini was our final stop in a three stop trip, which included Barcelona, Athens, and then ending in Santorini (more on those later!).
We choose to fly from Athens to Santorini for this trip because it was still very early in the travel season and ferry options were limited (also rougher seas!). Had we been traveling in May or June, we likely would have opted for the ferry option from Athens. The flight is a quick 30 minute hop from the mainland to the island. We had a private transfer pre-arranged to meet us at the airport and drive us to our hotel (pre-arranging transfers whenever you travel will make life SO much easier).
We stayed in Dana Villas, one of the many hotels that is actually set into the cliff side of the caldera. It was down multiple flights of stairs (approximately 200 steps in all) to reach our room from the street drop off point. No worries about consuming too many calories here! Thankfully, the staff at Dana Villas was fantastic and had porters available to haul our luggage down the dozens of steps it took to reach our room. Our white-washed stone room faced the Caldera and from the room you could look out and see nothing but that gorgeous caldera view (every one of those steps was worth it!). The hotel had a tasty little amenity plate awaiting our arrival and we settled in to enjoy the beauty of our surroundings. Some people prefer to stay in the larger towns of Oia or Fira, but Dana Villas was the perfect location for us. It was in Firostefani, about a 20 minute walk from the main town of Fira (which is where the cruise ships dock. It was just enough removed to feel quiet and more secluded, but close enough to easily walk into Fira for dinner each night. They served a delicious breakfast and let me tell you, nothing felt more dreamy than sitting poolside, with a hot cup of coffee and a freshly prepared breakfast overlooking the Caldera. Unreal. Pictures do not do it justice.
Our time on Santorini was spent at a much more relaxed pace than many of the big city European destinations we had previously visited. One of my favorite things to do in a new city is to find the best food! So of course we went to work researching and reading reviews for all the local spots. For lunch the first day, we ventured over to Lucky’s in Fira; a small restaurant serving the best gyro souvlaki I have ever had! The owner, Lucky himself will likely be working behind the counter when you arrive, and I can guarantee his antics and stories will keep you entertained throughout your meal.
For dinner our first night (and second night!), we found a local spot, by the name of Naoussa. It was right on the Cliffs of Caldera in Fira, nearby the Central Orthodox Cathedral of Fira Town. It was more reasonably priced when compared to many of the other cliff-side establishments. One of my favorite menu items was a traditional Greek appetizer, Tamara dip with freshly baked pitas. It is made from the salted and cured roe of a fish, mixed with olive oil, lemon juice and a starchy based of bread, potatoes or sometimes almonds. It sounds a little odd I know, but absolutely delicious!
Outside of dining, there were a couple of other experiences on the island of Santorini that I would say were “do-not miss” activities. The first of which was taking a guided tour of the island; there are so many small details and fun facts about this tiny island that are easy to miss if you try exploring on your own. I had pre-booked our tour with Top Santorini Tours so that all we had to do in Santorini was meet at our pre-arranged pick-up point, board a Mercedes van and off we went! We opted for a small group tour vs. a private tour and had the good fortune of sharing our tour with a delightful couple from Kenya and then of course our entertaining tour guide, who was originally from Canada (he managed to keep us laughing throughout our tour). We visited a winery and sampled several of the local specialties (grapes are one of the primary crops on Santorini); drive up to Oia for a quick walk through the quaint little town; explored the Monastery of Profitis Ilias which is the highest point on Santorini, with a beautiful vantage point of the entire island; and then drove to the far side of the island to walk around on the black sand beaches and enjoy a local café. Following our tour we were dropped back off directly at our hotel to send the rest of our day relaxing and then enjoying our walk back down to Fira for dinner that evening.
For our second full day in Santorini, we decided that a Caldera Cruise was high on the list of priorities. Our tour driver (with Caldera Yachting) picked us up at our hotel and we made our way down to the harbor. We shared a yacht with a small group of 5-6 other friends traveling together and made our way from the harbor to see the Red Beach, the White Beach, the Black Mountain and then all the way out to the hot springs area in the center of the Caldera. This was an incredible way to see the island from a different view point and also to see the differences in the landscapes. The volcanic activity in the island’s past caused vastly different beaches. You can see the red-earth beach near Akrotiri (a pre-historic city); the black beach (which we had explored the day before); and then a stunningly different “white” beach, which is actually comprised of small white stones. We opted not to take a plunge in the hot spring area since the temperatures were not quite to my personal comfort level for swimming, but several of our shipmates enjoyed the, supposedly therapeutic, waters of these volcanic springs. Following our yacht tour, we dropped anchor and enjoyed a freshly prepared meal of seafood, chicken, filet, salads and fruits is served, along with local wines and beers. We ended our day with beautiful sunset views, as we sailed back to the harbor.
Our time on Santorini was by far one of the most memorable trips of my life and one I hope to repeat someday. The beauty of the island, combined with the hospitality of her residents and not to mention the incredible food, places this destination easily in my Top 5 (if not number 1!). If breathtaking sunset views, caldera yachting and Greek food sound like your kind of trip give me a shout! I would love to help you plan your own getaway to this incredible destination.
Manager and Travel Planner