Greece is one of the top places to see for any traveler, and its many islands are home to ancient settlements, unique beaches, cliff-side towns and, of course, excellent local wine and cuisine.
Santorini, also known by its Greek name Thera, is one of our favorite islands as it offers a luxurious, pristine setting that completely embodies the characteristic snow-white cottages overlooking sapphire blue waters of the Aegean Sea. This is a popular destination for couples both old and young due to its timeless romantic atmosphere.
The island boasts a unique collection of black, red and white beaches due to its geological identity, the most defining feature of which is its volcano which is easily visible from the entire west coast of the island and lies directly across from Fira, the island’s main city. There’s no real cause for worry, however, as the volcano is currently quiescent.
Along with Crete, Santorini is one of the best known sites of ancient Minoan ruins. The Minoan settlement excavated near Akrotiri lies on the southern coast of the island and is believed to have been the home of wealthier, sophisticated Minoans. Interestingly enough, its urban design is also similar to Plato’s depiction of the lost city of Atlantis, one of many suggestions that this legendary lost culture is based on that of the ancient Minoans.
Another worthwhile site is that of Ancient Thera, which lies at the top of Messavouno Mountain, at 360m high and overlooking the Aegean on the southeastern coast of Santorini. This ancient settlement was named after Thera, the mythical ruler of the island, and dates back to the 9th century BC. In the 1st century, the city was assumed by the Roman Empire, so ruins from both cultures exist within the settlement. On either side of the base of the mountain lied the seaports Oía, present-day Kamari, and Elefsina, present-day Perissa. Ancient Thera can be reach via vehicle on the northern side from Kamari, or you can tie up your laces and trek up the mountain on a small (but relatively safe) path from the southern town of Perissa. Both towns offer excellent accommodations with sea views away from the more touristic crowds of Fira.
Perissa comes highly recommended by The Luxe Travel as a beautiful seaside town offering fish tavernas on the beach with lounge-chair service during the day and music in the evenings. The beach, one of Santorini’s most beautiful, is made of black sand and smooth black stones, a result of the island’s volcanic history, and is dotted by light, hardened chunks of foam created by lava coming in contact with cool Aegean waters. Messavouno Mountain to the north creates a cozy, mountain-by-ocean picturesque landscape.
Ancient seaport Oía, however, is not to be confused with Oia, a cliff-side town on the northwestern tip of the island with some of the most ancient ties to the island’s original settlement. This town is recognizable in images of Santorini by its iconic windmill building, and is the site of Fort Londsa, a ruined Venetia castle at the town’s pinnacle with an excellent panorama of the western caldera coast. As the epitome of an idyllic Greek island village, it has been used in the films Summer Lovers (1982), The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (1 and 2), and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life (2003). You can trek down Oia’s 300 steps to its cosy little port by donkey-back, cable car or foot. But if you choose to brave it by foot, be warned that the trek up is only recommended for those who can handle some cardio! Whether from the port below or the pinnacle at Fort Londsa, Oia is known for offering spectacular views of a colorful Grecian sunset.
As the island is rather small at 73 sq km, locals recommend renting a scooter or car to travel to its many towns, beaches and ancient sites. While public transportation via bus does exist and is inexpensive, service is rather unpredictable. Vehicle rentals are reasonably priced, so The Luxe Travel recommends this option for transportation around the island to allow you the luxury of dictating your own schedule and itinerary. This also allows you to discover little gems off the beaten path, such as mountain hikes and local tavernas where you can enjoy locally-made Greek wine.
Santorini (Thira) Airport is reached via a stopover in Athens, where local and regional airlines will then transfer you to the island’s airport, located just north of Kamari, in only 30 minutes’ time. You also have the option of taking a ferry from the port of Piraeus in Athens, but this may add some unnecessary stress to your journey. A bus ride to the port from the Athens airport will cost you less than 3 euros but will also cost you 1-1.5 hours. The ferry ride itself will take 5, 7 or 9 hours depending on whether you take the high-speed, Blue Star or regular ferry. The ferry’s upside is that it allows some fantastic sea views, but does not allow for much time flexibility in planning your itinerary. The Luxe Travel, from experience, recommends enjoying sea views from the cozy quarters of a villa on Santorini as soon as possible via a quick flight.
We hope this information has interested you in visiting the magic and romance of Santorini. Please contact us if you would like to know more about getting to and from or around the island or learn more about its many attractions.