Santorini, beloved by honeymooners and courting couples, is one of the more unique Greek islands. A collapsed volcano the main island is a crescent shaped portion of the rim of the volcano. Across the bay there is another section of the rim and in the middle there is a low hill of lava based land which is the current volcano cone.
The cone can be visited by boat and walked up to stand in the center of the volcano and see the islands of the broken rim around you. It is not a challenging walk, the only challenge is getting back to your boat before it sets off to its next destination.
Getting to Santorini can be done in a few ways. You can fly to Athens on the Greek mainland and get either a domestic flight to the island or catch a boat from Piraeus, Athens port. Alternatively those island hopping can get to Santorini from a number of other islands mostly in the Cyclades of which Santorini is one of the more southerly islands. Another option is to fly directly to the small airport on the island from your starting country – from the UK there are direct flights from Gatwick. Flying directly to the island means less hassle in Greece navigating around Athens and out to the port or waiting in a Greek airport for a connecting flight.
There were a couple of concerns with going to Greece at present, one being the Greek financial situation, but there was little sign of this on island which is funded mainly by tourism and there were plenty of tourists there. The other being the refugee situation, but again Santorini wasn’t affected by this being so far out in the Aegean.
We stayed in Fira, the main town which is the hub of the road network, but you could easily stay in Oia (Ia in Greek) which has even more spectacular views, or if you want a more beach holiday – Perissa is a chilled out and well developed resort.
The bus has around eight routes from Fira which will take you in all directions on the island. You can get to Oia, Akrotiri, Kamari, Perissa and locations on the way such as Pyrgos. If you don’t wish to travel by public bus – which was fine in April but might be busy in summer – other options are private tours by car or minibus, you can hire cars, motorbikes, scooters or quad bikes. We can’t discuss the relative merits as we didn’t try these but even in April the roads were quite busy and narrow in places so a small car would be better or scooter but wear good protection.
The island is now well developed and there is housing in most parts of the island except for the hills between Kamari and Perissa and there is much evidence of further building. That said even Fira isn’t a big town and the island isn’t really spoilt at the moment though it would have been quieter going back some years.
Of the beaches we visited, Perissa was the nicest and the resort had the best feel. There was much work going on at Kamari ‘for the season’, but it looked like a lot of this wouldn’t be done this year. It has a black sand beach similar to Perissa. Akrotiri’s beaches are nice with the famous Red Beach and smaller coves close by. The Dolphins restaurant near Red Beach has a beautiful outlook and was great for a long lunch.
Pyrgos is a beautiful old town built on a hill with houses in the style Santorini’s villages used to be. There are great views from the top by the hilltop churches – you can see right out to the other Cyclades islands to the north and east. At the foot of the hill, the Kantouni restaurant had great Greek food with nice outdoor seating, and the coffee shop next door was good also.
Oia has fantastic views right round the crescent of the island and across to Thirasia. There are walks around the village, down the steps to the sea and out onto the headland for the best views. We walked down the hill away from the village for a taste of more rural Greece away from the tourists and wandered paths surrounded by flowers, bird life and the occasional lizard.
Where you choose to stay on Santorini is very much up to your budget. Private villas go up to more than £1500 per night on booking.com, we were told some places were £3000 per night. You can get reasonable hotel rooms away from the cliff views for £50 per night. A short walk will take you up to the cliffs and you can spend some of your savings in a nice panoramic restaurant instead. Sure if it’s your honeymoon you may want to splash out and have the caldera view, and there are many places to accommodate this.
I would say the one thing you must do in Santorini is get out on the water, if only for a trip around the bay. Seeing the island from down below is almost as rewarding as looking down from the cliffs.