Santorini is a circular archipelago that includes inhabited and uninhabited islands south of Greece, totaling some 34 square miles. Santorini proper is a crescent-shaped island on the east edge of a long-extinguished volcano, its caldera, now serving as a gorgeous viewpoint for the ocean of beauty. Other Santorini islands host beaches and mesmerizing hot springs.
Last summer, Katerina and I visited Santorini’s Fira and Oia. We touched land at Santorini’s main port some 200 meters beneath Fira, from where a cable car or a donkey takes the bewildered visitor sky high up the cable or the serpentine to this capital of Santorini. Unassuming but absolutely gorgeous, Santorini is one of those must-visit places that everyone should have on their bucket list.
From below, Fira’s glistening white houses seem like sun-bleached teeth of a primordial titan’s jaw jutting out of the sea but coming up top reveals an occasional splash of primary color on buildings. The view from here is sublime, with toy-like cruise ships inching across the sunbathed sea in the distance. The scenery is serene with the bluest ocean I’ve ever seen spanning beyond the limits of eyesight where only imagination can reach. It’s truly an unforgettable romantic experience, one you should share with that special person in your life.
The fine wines, traditional Greek cuisine and splendid sunset view make for a timeless, once-in-a-lifetime experience in all senses of the word. The capital is spread across several steep cliffs, with our hotel balcony giving us a monumental view of the caldera White and blue are the colors of the Greek flag and Santorini indeed represents this wild, rustic beauty of Greece that you can’t find anywhere else, making a stay at Santorini an experience not to be missed.
Not just the caldera, but all the places in the Santorini archipelago are natural wonders worth exploring, especially in a small, intimate group of people. The three beaches – red, white and black – are comprised of brightly colored sand and pebbles that present picture opportunities galore.
The first one is the Red Beach, approachable by foot from Santorini. We found it too close to Santorini and looked at it in passing as we were heading by taxi boat, the cheapest and most flexible option, to the black beach. Red volcanic rocks and jagged cliffs comprised a tiny beach crawling with people, where you could only land if you managed to get in before everyone else.
Right next to the Red Beach is a small cove known as the White Beach. We would have to swim from the taxi boat to get on it, which isn’t that big of a hassle if you’re prepared for it but we decided against going there. The White Beach is lined with pumice and gray pebbles that complete the experience, making the entire landscape seem like a masterful painting. The water on both Red and White Beach is crystal clear and the landscape is quite scenic, though there are no facilities nearby.
We eventually decided to get off at the black beach. There is waist-deep water to wade through before reaching the shore, which is apparently intended for visitors of a hotel on a cliff above it. You can rent umbrellas and lounge chairs, with food and refreshments on offer too. The taxi boat made trips every hour or so but we were in no rush to go back.
The different colors are due to the magma eruptions over millions of years. Formidable earth-shattering forces shaped this environment and created a vista to bedazzle and astonish countless generations. There’s quite a lot on offer here, so you can combo the ride with kayaking, paddleboarding, snorkeling, swimming, chilling in hot springs, mud baths or a visit to Akrotiri, one of the oldest lighthouses in Greece.
Also known as Faros, Akrotiri is located at a high point overlooking the sea. We settled in for a light show as the setting sun lit up the tower with its warm rays. There’s usually a quieter, smaller crowd going to Faros, and we could feel the anticipation build up as the sun set, with the wonderful magic of the sunset punctuated by the calls of seagulls flying over the tower. You can go for the Akrotiri visit before or after the beaches but do try to get up early to avoid the tourist rush.
The highlight of any Santorini visit is a scenic boat-sailing ride as the setting sun tints everything with a warm, mellow orange. Day turns to dusk as the sun hangs wearily in the sky, suffusing the atmosphere with a gentle glow that skips and bounces across the shimmering surface of the sea into our arms. Like a long-lost lover, we embrace the sunlight and let it burn itself into our memory so we can carry its warmth and beauty with us forever. Before long, we have to let it go, because no love survives the embrace of a desperate lover wanting to steal a kiss.
The setting sun colors the heavenly mantle from orange to crimson, turning into a faint, muted orb that sends its farewell kisses, caressing our cheeks and touching our lips. Dipping across the shoulder of Santorini as our boat glides across the water, the sun drops and dives into the ocean, turning the sky into a kaleidoscope before inviting the night.
Santorini sunset boat ride is a majestic, breathtaking experience. We watched with bated breath as the sun slowly sank into the sea, sending a dwindling ray of light towards Santorini as if though shining a spotlight on it and reminding us where to go next. With a glass of delicious local wine called Vinsanto in the hand and soft, romantic music in the ear, the stage is set for a delightful night.
Night of delight under the moonlight starts by visiting Oia, a fascinating town on the north side of the main island . Here you can find hotels and restaurants on rocky peninsulas that provide a superb view of the caldera, making it the picture-perfect location for that special honeymoon and wedding for natives and tourists. The nightlife does exist but isn’t as rambunctious as that on Mykonos.
From all over the world, people flock to Santorini’s Oia with one thing in mind – catching a glimpse of the astounding sunset. There is only a tinge of regret when you realize your camera storage is full and you can’t take any more photos. To that, I can only say to come back again tomorrow and fall in love with the pristine beauty of Oia’s scenery even more. In Fira, the best spot for a sunset photo is called Mamathira but do come well before sunset to grab the best photographing location.
Santorini is remote and private but also friendly and welcoming. Katerina and I felt like we were rejoined with dear friends and family, with complete strangers sharing these wonderful moments with us. We took as many pictures as we could but found the wanting when we left – nothing can convey the unspoiled beauty of a Santorini sunset. If you can squeeze the visit into your itinerary, do visit Santorini and bask in the wonderful sunset.
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