You've seen the postcards, you've heard about the food and you've dreamt about the weather. Still, nothing can prepare you for the view of the sun setting behind a volcano when you finally arrive in Santorini and settle down with a glass of ouzo and plate of grilled octopus. An island created by one of the largest volcanic eruptions recorded in history, fortunate environmental events gave birth to a large caldera, rectangular lagoon and steep cliffs sloping downwards towards beaches on the Aegean Sea. If it sounds mesmerising it's because it is and Santorini is for good reason one of Europe's premier summer destinations.
One of the most unique places you're likely to visit on earth, it's the land and seascape that’s Santorini's main attraction. Famous for its views and the sunset from Ia town, Santorini is also home to the Faros Lighthouse and many of those classic whitewashed houses you've seen in Greek travel brochures. Along with Ia, which is also known as Oia, Fira and Thirasis are two more picturesque cliff clinging towns for you to explore. To go deeper inside the island, take a tour to see and feel the steam vents from more recent lava flows at the hot springs. Of course there are beaches too, the most popular of which are located in Perivolos, Perissa and Kamari.
Sure, it might taste like it but no you haven't died and gone to heaven. Some of the tastiest fish, tomatoes and cheeses in the world can all be found for moderate prices in Santorini. You won't have to look hard because there are countless places to eat and drink in Santorini but just remember that generally the better the view of the caldera, the higher the prices. For a quick and cheap snack you'll find gyros places all over town. The busier the establishment is with locals, the tastier the gyro.
Where to Stay
The Greek islands are the land of rest and relaxation and right around Santorini you'll find countless comfortable places to dose up on sleep. Most tourists make their base in the region known simply as the caldera, which is home to Firostefani, Imerovigli, Ia and Fira. Fira is the most developed of the four and being home to the largest amount of shops and restaurants makes it the place where most people decide to stay in Santorini. To be close to the action but away from the crowds, a short walk away is Firostefani. Slightly quieter and more romantic is Ia, the most popular place for honeymooners. Even more tranquil is Imerovigli, the caldera's most serene town.
Leave some space in your suitcase because you'll find plenty of things to fill them up with in Santorini. Each town has the standard range of souvenir shops but the most variety can be found in Fira where the cobblestoned streets are lined with all manner of shops. Paintings by local artists as well as ceramics and of-course local produce are popular purchase items. Jewellery is another local specialty and Odos Ipapantis (Gold Street) is lined with jewellery stores. Check out the Lalaounis and Koukla stores for the greatest jewellery Santorini has to offer. Ia is the second best place to shop in Santorini and is well known for its art scene that features both a selection of traditional and contemporary Greek art.
Santorini Like a Local
In summer it can be hard to spot a local but one place to experience Santorini like a local is at one of the island's many family run tavernas. If mother is in the kitchen you know you're in for a treat but one of the things you need to know when visiting a taverna is to insist on local tomatoes in your food. They're some of the best you'll ever taste and far better than the imported ones used in typical tourist haunts. To take a day trip, Thirassia is a small island near Santorini with an authentic Greek feel. The island's small villages are home to many tasty places well worth the weight gain.