I have to start off my Greek travel post with Santorini. After all, Conde Nast Traveller has it up on the top spot for the Top 10 islands in Europe under its Readers’ Choice Awards in November last year.
I have been dreaming about going to Santorini for years ever since my eyes set on those dreamy, postcard perfect images of this idyllic island. I must admit that then I did not know much of what it holds apart from the pretty white and blue buildings that overlooks the dreamy caldera landscape.
We arrived at Santorini via Blue Star Ferries from Naxos. We caught our first glimpse of Santorini as our ferry approached the island. However, this first peek of Santorini was nothing like what we saw in pictures. With a dark cloud looming over the island, the buildings looked a tad weathered and grey. I wondered if we were on the right ferry until the announcement by the captain confirmed it.
The port was rather small and fronted by a line of uninspiring-looking cafes for the weary tourists. Again, not like the Santorini you would imagine.
We caught our ride to our hotel at Imerovigli; it made a 7 hair-pin turn up to the town from the port; it is definitely not for the faint of hearts. I’m thankful we decided not to drive from the port after all.
Arriving at Imerovigli, we were greeted by a completely different experience – our first peak at the caldera. The sky was blue, a little misty but that only made the whole scene feel mystical. The shadows of the caldera take shape over the mist over the calm, sapphire waters. That was the view that we woke up to for the following five mornings.
The first thing we did was to take an afternoon walk around the area to take in the sights and colours of this picturesque island.
After walking up and down the countless of steps around the Imerovigli area (we did not get all the way to Fira as we got too trigger happy), we were famished. We sat down at a newly-opened no name restaurant with a postcard perfect view of the caldera and of a dramatic sunset that is to come.
Note: You cannot leave Santorini without trying its tomato fritters (Domato keftedes). I have read about the Santorini tomato fritters even before the trip and I was really intrigued by them.
They did not disappoint. The Santorini tomato fritters were light and crispy, and bursting with sweet cherry tomato juices. I love this dish so much that I ordered it throughout my stay in Santorini. You don’t find this dish in all of Greece; it’s is a dish found almost exclusively on Santorini island. That is understandably so as Santorini’s volcanic soil produces intensely sweet tomatoes which results in such a superb dish. You have to try this when you are on the island.
The one mistake that I find many tourists make is to spend too little time on the island. During our four night stay on Santorini, we met three different sets of couples that took the room next to ours! That, I find a little too hasty.
We were there in early May, in spring. Even before the height of the summer peak season, Santorini is already packed with tourists. I think that you need to spend a little more time on the island, to unearth its quiet beauty beneath the hoards of other tourists.
The Santorini that we enjoyed was in those little moments that we stumbled upon unwittingly.
…Like the morning walk to the Skaros Rock, a rock that is in the middle of the Aegean sea
…and the drive around the winding paths from the beach to Oia with views of the Santorini vines
…and the lovely evening by our terrace where we watched the setting sun over the horizen with a bottle of vin santo and a plate of greek yogurt, honey and fresh strawberries.
Those are amongst the little moments that made our Santorini experience extra special. I’ll be sharing with you a few of my favourite spots around Santorini in the next post.
Just my take on the few areas that are chosen by tourists. Most people would pick a place that faces the caldera in these three villages.
Fira: Main town centre. Stay here if you like the bustling activity (shops and restaurants). Do take note that the port of call for cruise-liners is just right at Fira so it sees a lot of day trippers. The main bus stop start from Fira town so it may be easier to get around if you want to use the public transport.
Imerovigli: Imerovigli village is in between Fira and Oia. It is quietest amongst the three villages. This is where I chose to stay (I actually booked a place in Oia before cancelling it and rebooking in Imerovigli). I like it that it is quiet and it has arguably the best sunset even though the sunsets are Oia are most often photographed. If I had to choose again, I will still choose to stay in Imerovigli.
Oia: Oia village is at the other end of the island. It is a place that most couples would pick for a romantic stay since it is the place where you catch the view of the windmills. It has a many restaurants and shops as well. Much nicer than Fira in my opinion. During sunset, it can be overrun with tourists trying to take photos of the postcard perfect view.
Tomato fritters (Domato keftedes)
It used to be fortified settlement during the medieval times but now there is little of it left except for a small church at the other side of the rock. The rock is in the middle of the Aegan Sea and is connected to Imerovigli via a footpath.