Santorini, cliffs in white and blue

Yumi Kayayan
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The story

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Eager to explore the island, we set out on the caldera trail that stretches about ten kilometers along the sea, connecting Fira in the west to Oia in the north. Under the clear sky, the trail crosses Fira and its white facades; the shaded narrow streets paved with black lava stone lead us to the village of Firostefani. We pass some colorful chapels huddled in the burning rocks and rest for a moment in their freshness. The village extends all along the edge of the black caldera cliffs. Silence reigns along the way. You can easily guess where the central part of the island collapsed, following the explosion of the still active white marble volcano. The small islands that surfaced after the explosion emerge from the warm, turquoise water. The bay still contains pieces of pumice floating on the surface.

After crossing Imerovigli, the highest point of the bay, we finally arrive at the famous Oia, the ancient village of fishermen and sea captains. Perched on the crest of the caldera, the city proudly displays its dazzling whiteness and the shimmering blues of its church domes. On the steep cliffs, the houses cascade down to the blue of the Aegean Sea. Only the pink of the bougainvillea infringes on this harmony. The stairs run between the houses, the chapels cling to the sides of the cliff.

Santorini has the gracefulness of the blue and white islands of the Cyclades. It seems suspended in time. In the light-flooded desert landscapes, white churches hide in the hollows of the rocks. The history has been captured on the mosaics of Akrotiri, its mini-Pompeii and the ubiquitous red and black stone are a reminder of the island’s explosive past. In the spectacle of its blue and white villages, one senses the pride of the inhabitants who have repainted their island in the colors of the Greek flag.

But the volcano island is far from being somber. It draws you into its dolce vita, on the black sand beaches and in the coves south of Akrotiri. Fresh, local products fill the tables of the main restaurants and tavernas. And come the evening, everyone sits on the raised terraces to drink Santorini’s famous wines. Here, wine grapes have been cultivated since the very beginnings. On its cliffs, Santorini seems to concentrate all the richness of the Mediterranean, the light breeze, ancient history, warm sun and the sweetness of life.

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When to go?

The high season stretches over July and August. The best time to go to Santorini is in June, when the fruits are fresh and the crowds less numerous. Temperatures are high, but it is not nearly as hot as in the months that follow, and the ferry lines are mostly open. And above all, the black sand is still fresh, before the summer months heat it to white and it can even get difficult to find a good spot to lay your towel.

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How to get there?

Santorini Airport, Kamari, has direct connections to many large European cities. From the plane you can enjoy a truly spectacular view of this puzzle of five islets, which had been a single island before the explosion. Once you arrive, rent a car or a scooter to traverse the island’s high roads with the wind in your hair.

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Experiences

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Go on an adventure aboard a traditional caique

Board a traditional boat with a local skipper, passing along the spectacular cliffs of the caldera. Set foot on land in front of Nea Kameni, the still active crater, and tread on its ground alongside our guide who will tell you of all its secrets. Then drop anchor on the small island of Thirassia for a gourmet picnic with a view.

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Cross Santorini on a donkey in the company of a local legend

Explore Santorini while riding a donkey. Mr. Vasilis, the donkeys’ owner, is a great enthusiast, who has lived on the island for as long as he can remember. Let him take you for a visit of his village, the picturesque Messaria. At the end of the walk, go and drink a raki at Mr. Vasilis and his wife's: it’s an unforgettable encounter.

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Set out on a discovery of the famous Santorini wines

Discover a family vineyard on the island in the company of our oenologist guide and learn the secrets of winemaking on these volcanic lands. At sunset, with a breathtaking view of the caldera, taste a dozen characteristic Santorini wines.

Our address book

Selene

The great classics

You couldn’t choose better than Selene in Pyrgos to discover the classics of Greek cuisine with a fresh touch. The place is renowned as one of the best restaurants in the Cyclades thanks to its chef who prepares rabbit, lamb and quail like no one else. Its decor is just as pleasant in the wine and mezze bar below as it is in the restaurant above. “Brobedo”, its incredible bouillabaisse, is one of the best we have ever tasted.

Pyrgos, 84700

Kokomo podilato / Red Bicycle

Tavern with a view

You are always warmly welcomed at Red Bicycle, and instantly feel at home. This romantic restaurant has probably the most beautiful view of Santorini from Oia, with a wide panorama of the caldera and its famous sunset. Between the walls decorated with works by local artists, the dishes bring the local island produce to the fore: we always end up returning for the sea urchin pasta.

Oia (Ia), 84702

1800

The authentic

For over thirty years, 1800 has been considered one of the best restaurants in Greece. The Greek cuisine here is modern and sophisticated; savor it on the rooftop terrace or in the magical décor of a captain’s house dating from 1845. The menu focuses on traditional Greek dishes - try the grilled lamb chops accompanied by a delicious sweet and sour apple compote.

Oia (Ia), 84702

Santo wines

Local wines

An exceptional selection of wines in a beautiful setting - the terrace boasts a stunning view of the caldera. The venue has chosen to stay in line with the traditional methods of winemaking, all the while exploring the most advanced technologies in its field. In this true oeno-tourist center, you can take the time to discover the typical wines of the island: the Assyrtiko, a dry white wine, is one of our favorites.

Pyrgos, 84700

Theros Wave Bar

A lunar beach

Coming from Fira, follow the road towards Perissa, then turn right at the sign for Vlychada. This bohemian and relaxed beach bar is situated on the white volcanic heights of Vlychada, a few meters from the sea. It is not easy to find, but its wooden and volcanic rock decor nested in the cliffs are worth getting a bit lost for. You can spend entire afternoons on its beach deck chairs, with its fresh fruit cocktails and a lunar backdrop.

Vlychada Beach

Hasapiko

A legendary bar

You’ll find Hasapiko, one of the oldest bars on the island, in an old butcher’s shop at the end of a pedestrian street in Oia. The place is a veritable institution: the bar has long been known for its eclectic playlist and joie de vivre. Night owls dance here late into the night. The place also goes by the name of MaryKay.

Oia, 84700

The sunset in Oia

Secret view

In the labyrinth of narrow streets beneath the Panagia Platsani Church, you’ll discover the small squares where the locals meet on the shaded terraces of tavernas. Here, far away from the tourists gathered at the usual sightseeing spots, one witnesses spectacular sunsets, sitting on the little whitewashed walls.

Oia, below the Church Panagia Platsani

Akrotiri

Prehistoric city

Akrotiri is the best-preserved prehistoric city in the Aegean. A real mini-Pompeii, it gives us a glimpse of what life was like before the volcanic eruption. On your walk you come across traditions, rites of passage and lodgings that have been frozen in time. Tons of ash covered the buildings dozens of meters high, protecting and preserving them in an exceptional state.

Thera, 84700

Atlantis Books

Reading in the sun

An independent bookshop arranged in an incredible way, where novels, poetry books and cooking manuals in all languages stand side by side. Created more than ten years ago by two Americans, Atlantis books is one of the most enchanting places that a traveler can hope to discover. After exploring its wide selection and fairytale décor, you can take a break reading on its terrace perched atop the cliff. It has often been listed as one of the finest bookstores in the world.

Nomikos Street, Oia, 84702