For our delayed honeymoon, we chose a week in the beautiful Greek island of Santorini as the most romantic destination we could think of.
The island of Santorini is made up of the remains of a volcano that last had a major eruption in about 1600 BC in one of the earliest and largest in recorded history. The event, which included earthquakes, tsunamis, ash clouds and the massive eruption itself, is thought to have led to the downfall of the Minoan civilisation on the nearby island of Crete as well as the peoples who lived on Santorini at the time. The rim of the ancient volcano crater, forms the majority of the island with an almost complete ring of 300m high cliffs encircling a central sea. Away from the cliffs, the land slopes more gently back to sea which is where the most people live. In the centre of the crater is the island of Nea Kameni, which a small-but-growing island where the still-active volcano has erupted several times over the last few hundred years and building up to some probably future major event.
We had booked the Kallisto hotel in the cliff-top village of Imerovigli about 1.5 miles north of Fira, the island’s capital. The hotel had provided a transfer bus to pick up up from the airport and a few other guests joined us for the 20 minutes drive. One lady passenger was rather obsessed with where each of her fellow passengers came from pronouncing something bigger or better about her own living arrangements to whatever answer they gave. At the hotel, the owner welcomed us and kindly told us that, as it was our honeymoon, he had upgraded Rach and me to the best suite they had! The uppity lady huffed and puffed and even wanted to come and see our room wanting to know why ‘she’ hadn’t been upgraded! We politely declined her offer to visit.
The pathway to our room entered via our terrace, which had an amazing view looking southwards to Fira and along the rim of the crater with the sea down below. Big wooden shutters opened up into the living area which was cut into the steep hill-side. The room was all in white with high arching ceilings and a Mediterranean decor. A smaller separated area at the back led onto the bedroom and bathroom. Being cut into the hill, the only windows were at the front but these let in plenty of light and the room was kept cool from the heat outside.
After unpacking we decided to explore the local area and start planning out the week. Imerovigli was a pretty village with a central, tree covered square that was accessible by car but nearly everywhere else was reached only by foot. Alleyways linked the square to the surrounding village and they wound up and down, and twisting around the jumble of tightly packed homes, shops, hotels and churches. Nearly all the buildings were painted white, the paths were painted grey, and the roofs were tiled or painted a ‘lapis lazuli’ blue. Altogether with occasional rocks of the cliff itself breaking through with plants and trees softening the edges, overall effect was beautiful.
We spoke with a guy in the town square who rented cars. There wasn’t much we needed a car for but there were some archaeological remains I wanted to see at the far south end of the island along and we also wanted to take a drive up to the far north end to see the village of Oia which was also supposed to be very pretty. So we decided to cram that into two days and booked a car for later in the week. For now, we would explore what Imerovogli and the surrounds on foot.
It had been an early 3am start to be on our 06:40 flight from Gatwick which had left us a little tiered, so once the car was sorted, we spent the rest of our first day just relaxing on our terrace and exploring the village.
In the evening, we explored further around the town watching the sunset and enjoyng the pretty transition as the lights began to turn on lighting up the paths and buildings. For dinner, we found a lovely little restaurant called Aegeon, not far from the hotel which overlooked the sea. The staff were friendly and the food tasted great.
6th May 2016: around Fira, Santorini, Greece (Tuesday)
We wanted to explore Fira today and took a walk down the coastal path. It was about 2 miles but a beautiful walk gently sloping down through pretty fields before reaching the outskirts of Fira.
Here, more restaurants and bars lined the streets since the views over the caldera were lovely. We stopped in one called Oman for lunch and ended up staying for a couple of hours since it was so nice.
Fira itself was bustling and we checked out how to get a ferry to the central islands which we were planning to do tomorrow and it seemed straight forward enough.
We spent the day exploring the streets and nearby villages before eventually heading back up to Imerovigli for a dinner at Aegon.
7th May 2016: Nea Kameni and Fira, Santorini, Greece (Wednesday)
We walked back down to Fira where we descended on the cable car straight down the cliff side to the small port. Here we took a large wooden ferry boat over to the central volcanic island of Nea Kameni.
The island is made almost entirely of volcanic rock and dust with a few plants in places where soil had got trapped in between the dry rocks. The surface rocks ranged from black through to reds and yellows making it all quite pretty there were great views of the Santorini caldera all around. Paths led up the low volcanic hills and in places, sulphur vents emitted steam along with a putrid smell. We walked around the ‘new’ crater itself which was not obvious as it was a 20m deep, conical depression in the island about 50m across. The last eruption was in 1950 and since then, the rocks and soil had collapsed inwards until nothing else could be seen. The path led around the edge and we enjoyed the views across the caldera sea.
A hot spring on the island vented into a small bay which led to the sea, and some people had brought their gear to swim over there. We hadn’t thought to bring ours but it didn’t look massively appealing with lots of other bodies in close proximity!
After enjoying the island, we headed back on the boat to Fira port and took the cable car back up to the top of the cliff.
Back in Fira, we took the opportunity take a longer look around. Fira was a lot busier than Imerovigli, with a lot of shops and restaurants but it had a nice charm about it. I bought a pair of summer shoes to smarten up from my flip-flops and Rach bought a few souvenirs.
8th May 2016: Akrotiri, Santorini, Greece (Thursday)
The car rental started from today so we made best use of it to head out to the further away places. Our first destination was the archaeological remains at Akrotiri in the far south.
There are no real main roads in Santorini so the drive took us though lots of back roads with Rach navigating via Google-Maps. It was interesting driving through the villages and fields and occasionally there were some lovely views across the caldera.
At Akrotiri, we went to visit the remains of a bronze age village covered by the volcanic eruption in 1600 BC. The partially excavated area was enclosed within a large structure and walkways provided to get close to the site without fear of disturbing anything. There are many theories about whether pre-eruption Santorini is the source of the famous Atlantis myths or even the story of the plagues of Egypt and the Exodus. There is so much we don’t know about what was really happening in this time and it was interesting to glimpse a little bit of ancient history.
Not far away from Akrotiri was a place called ‘Red Beach’ named after the deep burgundy red colour of the sand which has largely fallen down from cliffs behind it. It was a little tricky to access having to climb up a rocky path over a headland and parts of the beach were closed due to a number of recent land slides. We decided to go as far as we could to have a quick look but didn’t feel the need to layout a beach towel!
That evening, we had dinner in a restaurant somewhere in the middle of the island called Selene Meze & Wine. It was a fine dining restaurant and it lived up to its reputation with some very good food.
9th May 2016: around Oia, Santorini, Greece (Friday)
Our last full day was spent exploring the far north of the island and the area around the town of Oia. We drove around the outside of the island on a coastal road and it was a lot more remote than the more southern areas.
Oia itself was a lovely village similar in style to Imerovigli but larger and more touristy. The main streets / alleyways were filled with shops and along the cliff edge, many restaurants offered views of the famous ‘Oia sunset’. More of the houses here were painted in the traditional white with blue roofs and we had a nice time just exploring the streets.
It was easy to spend time just exploring but after an meal in Floga restaurant, it was time to take the long drive home and give back the car.
10th May 2016: Imerovigli, Santorini, Greece (Saturday)
We were due to fly this evening so we had a relatively relaxed day around the hotel and the local area. We returned to our favourite restaurant – Aegon – for another moussaka which I thought tasted amazing but otherwise just soaked up the last few rays of sun before heading back to blighty.
Mid afternoon, we took the hotel transfer back to the airport for our evening flight home. Santorini has been a magical island and perfect as a romantic getaway for a few days. I must read up on the legends of Atlantis when I get home!