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Let me tell you about a dream I had: I was floating through layers of clouds, surrounded by pillars of white. I heard the sound of birds soaring through the air gracefully calling out to each other and seemingly to me, I turned my head to see an expanse of water with a blue hue so vivid my eyes couldn’t look away. And in the distance, yes, I could just make out the traces and outline of vast mountains and volcanoes by the horizon. I start walking out towards the water, one foot in front of the other, and then I realize..this isn’t a dream…I’m in Santorini.
Where do I even begin. Santorini, hailed as the crown jewel of Greece, is a small island most notably associated with its beautiful array of white splash buildings located on a steep cliff (otherwise known as the caldera), and the black volcanic rock. In fact, the image of Santorini is probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Greece.
Truly, the best way to describe my time in Santorini is just that, a dream-like state. We had just arrived from busy, urban Athens, so arriving to this island was like a breath of fresh, sea salty air. You can tell that the locals who live here are much more relaxed and carefree than your average population where time and punctuality are not important factors here.
Getting from the Fira airport to our hotel was a challenge as I didn’t do any research prior to on transportation from the airport and we ended up taking a taxi.
Pro tip no. 1: Don’t take a taxi from the airport to your hotel like what we did (unless you have a lot of luggage)! Apparently, we had to learn the hard way as our hotel staff ended up telling us that taxis from the airport are overpriced and you should take the bus instead which is a fraction of the price.
Pro tip no. 2: Don’t book a hotel right at the top of the cliff/caldera. You may think it has the best views but it doesn’t, and more importantly, it will be a pain in the tush to walk up all the stairs with your luggage to get to the top.
My family and I stayed at Hotel Thireas (I cannot recommend this hotel enough!) and it was situated closer to the middle-bottom of the cliff which is the best location. Because you’re at the mid-bottom, you end up getting the best views of the caldera up high and it was only a 2 min walk down the steps from where the taxi drop-off point is.
As I look back on our three days in Santorini, a moment that holds the most clarity and joy in my mind was when we initially arrived. As I mentioned earlier, the taxi ride getting to the drop-off point was slightly hectic and Santorini is made so that for the entire ride there, you see only vast expanses of flat terrain and little houses. I remember it so clearly…my family and I had just been dropped off at the drop-off point by the taxi, we were all sweaty, tired, holding our heavy luggage, occupied with trying to find our hotel…and then we walked into a clearing where suddenly, the entire caldera came into view.
I can’t describe the feeling fully in that it was the fastest I’ve ever felt my mind transition from cluttered busy-ness to utter serenity. I stood right there at the view point, overlooking the densely-packed white buildings and black volcanic rocks, and I was hit with a strong gust of wind. And that’s when I noticed that it was windy.. real windy. And from then on, the salty sea wind became my absolute favourite part of Santorini.
What would have been scorching hot days in the sun in our time there, the sea breeze became our reprieve, refreshing us just as we would feel we were on the brink of a heat stroke. What would have been a typical morning waking up, the sea breeze added another dimension to the soundtrack of the morning, helping the birds glide and soar close to the caldera.
What would have taken hours for our clothes to dry outside, the perpetual winds dried in minutes. What would have been prim and proper pictures taken in Santorini, the wonderful wind created portraits with us and our crazy hair flying all over the place.
In short, if you ask me what moment I think most fondly about looking back in our time in Santorini, I’d say any moment where the wind was powerfully present. Plain and simple. Here are a few pictures taken from when we first arrived and when we took in our first views of this beautiful island. I’ve never had a better checking-in experience at a hotel when the view is like this.
As the sun set on our first night in Santorini, we went to a restaurant called Naoussa, which was right beside our hotel. There is nothing like getting to eat dinner right next to the sea especially when after the sun had set, we were left with gorgeous views of Santorini at night.
This may quite possibly be one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had? I mean, waking up at 8am and sitting on our balcony, having breakfast delivered to our room, and peering out to the volcanoes and Mediterranean Sea in the distance.
Fun fact: Santorini, especially Fira, has a large nightlife scene so it stays pretty loud and awake till the wee hours of 2am, but because of this, the island is very quiet in the early morning while everyone’s still sleeping until around 10am. My favourite part of each day was sitting on our balcony and doing absolutely nothing but staring out into the water, volcanoes, and the caldera and watching the island slowly wake up from sunrise to morning.
We spent our first official day exploring through Fira and the hundreds of stairs that came with it. Grab some sunscreen, sunglasses, and cash for endless gyros and souvlaki to help you fuel for this Stairmaster of a workout and get ready for one of the most picturesque hiking days I’ve ever been on.
On our second day, we headed over to the land of blue domes and unparalleled sunsets -Oia.
Pictured above are ATV vehicles, which is one of the most common ways of getting around the island. If you ever come to Santorini, I highly recommend renting these for the day (all you need is your driver’s license) and exploring the island at your own pace.
The central area of Oia was beautiful, but what stood out more for me was Amoudi Bay, a small port located all the way down at the bottom of the cliffs. It happened to be my birthday the day we were in Oia, so we booked a table at a restaurant there for sunset and it was magical. Because Amoudi Bay is all the way at the bottom of the cliff, less tourists come to this area and so it was a lot quieter, more peaceful and quaint.
Even looking back at these pictures now, they can’t quite fully capture the beauty of Amoudi Bay at sunset. One of the most common ways of getting to this bay is by boat, so I loved how there were several small boats parked amongst the waters as people came to enjoy good food by the water.
Pro tip no. 3: Everyone comes to Oia to watch the famous sunsets, but this can often lead to overcrowding in the main city area. We also heard that because so many people come to Oia just for this time of day, it becomes difficult leaving after the sun sets as everyone tries to get back home. Going to Amoudi Bay to watch the sunset helped us to avoid this problem because there were a lot fewer people down under.
Yes, this was a 4kg whole fish that we ordered and ended up finishing it all within 20 minutes! Greece is known for having some of the freshest fish from the Mediterranean Sea and I don’t doubt it at all after the meal we had.
And here we are. Wow, if you’ve made it to the end of this post, my congrats to you! This was a long one, but is it even possible to encapsulate all of Santorini in one blog post? Here are some of my overall thoughts on Santorini. Yes, because of its growing presence and popularity all over social media, it can feel a bit touristic at times, but this does not take away from the stunning landscapes of the caldera and volcanoes that will leave you speechless…I guarantee it’s a view that you’ll never get tired of looking at. It’s really one of those once-in-a-lifetime trips that I highly recommend you take at some point in your life.
What I will take with me from this place and remember forever are the quiet, small moments. The mornings of waking up to the sound of birds and sea waves crashing and hearing nothing else. Feeling the comforting windy breeze at every time of day. Rushing to our dinner reservation at Amoudi Bay only to turn around and realize how radiant the sun was as it started to set right before our eyes, inviting us to stop and stare as it made its descent towards the horizon.