The last couple months, I’ve been itching for vacation. However, we are handcuffed to home so to speak until October, because of work. Thank goodness, October is almost here!! So what’s a girl to do but to reminisce about past trips. Since I’ve gotten you all up to speed in my last post on how to plan your trip to Santorini, Greece; I wanted to share some of the highlights of our trip, but before I get too far into all the things you could do, I want to make sure you know that the #1 thing to do in Santorini is RELAX. There’s no shame in your game if you come here just for that. If you come and spend your whole time here rushing around, you’ll definitely miss out on the Santorini experience. Trust me on this fact and plan enough time to take a few hours throughout the day to enjoy the cafes and restaurants and take in the views, just like the locals do.
Keeping with the idea of relaxation, you must soak in the Santorini sunset. We were lucky enough to catch 3 gorgeous sunsets in Santorini, each one was unique in it’s own way. My photo here doesn’t even come close to seeing it in person; here were the spots we watched the sunset from.
The Lighthouse at the very southern tip of the island is a beautiful place to watch the sunset. It’s nice because there are no structures to block your view; we saw some incredible colors the evening we went to the lighthouse. It was pretty windy over there, so I would say bring a light jacket just in case.
Another amazing site for the sunset is Santo Winery. I would definitely say you shouldn’t miss this spot; during high season reservations are recommended so you get a good spot. Don’t get me wrong, they have plenty of seats with a view (there’s 3 levels of terrace) but you will want a seat right by the edge. When the hostess was taking us down to the lower seating level, I literally gasped when I saw the view. It is truly an amazing place for the sunset and your eyes won’t regret it.
The food and wine are really just average, but don’t forget why you’re here, for the amazing view (some people I heard really enjoy the wine here, so this is just my opinion). For wine, Santo offers 32 different varieties. They are a wine cooperative which means they don’t have any vineyards and don’t grow their own grapes; they purchase them from many local (greek) farmers and then produce the various wines. From year to year their wines can vary slightly for this reason. With so many options, we decided to try the 16 wine flight, yes you heard me right….16 wines! The wines come out all at once and are placed in order of least alcoholic to most alcoholic, ending with the dessert wines (which were way to sweet for my liking). They also had live music while we were there on a Saturday.
Our last sunset was over in the town of Oia which may be one of the most picturesque towns in Santorini and is home to many of the classic “Greece” photographs and paintings that you have seen. Although you can get a similar view of the white buildings with blue roofs in Fira and Imerovigli, Oia is considered to be the best spot due to its location on the North tip of the island. As such, you’ll want to get to Oia early and find a good spot to catch the sunset….because everyone else is doing the same thing! So come early, grab a parking spot (if driving), and enjoy the view from the North end of Santorini.
The sunset is truly a different experience from each spot of the island. Coming from Florida, we have seen our fair share of sunsets; however Santorini offered some truly unique and breathtaking sunsets.
Some of you can probably stop reading now, I mean you have relaxation and watching the sunset while you sip a glass of wine, I mean I think that sounds like a plan right? Well for those of you who might have some extra time, or really want to do some sight seeing, let’s get into what there is to do on the island. Since Santorini is small enough, especially if you have a car, you’ll be able to see quite a bit.
Walk the coast
Many locals will recommend that you make the walk from Fira to Imerovigli since it’s only a 2.2 km (1.36 mi) walk and offers vantage points you would otherwise miss via a car. If you do decide to make the short journey, note that it is a steep uphill walk and it would be zero fun with luggage or a stroller (although we saw quite a few people struggling). If you’re really a walking enthusiast, feel free to do another 2.5 hours from Imerovigli to Oia; the 30 minute walk to Imerovigli was just right for me though.
While we were in Imerovigli, we stopped in at Mezzo Restaurant to rest and get some lunch. The restaurant had nice views of the caldera and the rock structures. The food here was on point, and we were happy campers. One favorite was the tzatziki (cucumber yogurt sauce) with grilled pita, which was so fresh and tasty that we asked for extra pita so none of the tzatziki went to waste. The other dish we really enjoyed was the spicy chicken pasta, I know that it doesn’t sound that exciting, but it was SO good; the flavors were so bold and I suspect they used harissa to make it spicy (which we loved).
If you decided to walk all the way to Oia, don’t forget to go down the 200 steps (via foot or donkey) and stop in to see Ammoudi Bay, watch out for the donkey 💩 on the steps! There are a lot of seafood restaurants in Ammoudi Bay, but depending on what you order, it can get pricey.
If you’re spoiled, like we Floridians are, the beaches in Santorini are not the beaches you’re used to. They are more like areas of volcanic rock that you can lay on next to the water. However, if you’re looking for a little beach time, here’s what you can look forward to.
The Red Beach is about a 10 minute walk from Akrotiri, or you can drive over and park. The red cliffs surrounding this tiny beach a nice to look at from afar, but it’s up to you if you want to make your way up a rocky path and then walk around and down to the beach.
If you’re looking to grab a drink before or after the Red Beach, you can enjoy the view of the waterfront at one of the many tavernas nearby. We stopped into The Dolphins and got a couple drinks and some fried tomato croquettes. The croquettes were delicious little crunchy balls of fried dough with tomato, onions, bell peppers and dill, but were extra tasty sitting on the water listening to the soothing sounds of the waves.
Another option is the White Beach, which we were told could only be reached by boat. We were able to drive right up to the beach, granted we had to drive through some rather hilly back roads, definitely a little sketchy and it looked abandoned when we were there. It’s really a tiny little beach and not really “white” so to speak, so I didn’t think it was really worth it.
The last beach we visited was Kamari Beach aka the “Black Beach.” This is what you think of as a beach, there is fine black “sand” and rocks and the water is blue and beautiful. If you’re spending an extended period of time here and want to walk around, you might consider some aqua shoes, the rocks are HOT!
There are also many local restaurants set up at Kamari Beach; I would definitely recommend stopping by for some drinks on the deck or get the real beach experience with the available sun beds and umbrellas (these were free if you ordered something from the restaurant, this was during low season, so don’t quote me during high season).
We ended up stopping in at Hook Bar and enjoyed a few beverages, some appetizers and just enjoyed the music and the beachy atmosphere. My favorite appetizer here was the baked Santorini white eggplant, topped with feta and mozzarella; it almost reminded me of eggplant parmesan.
Visiting the city of Pyrgos is a little bit of a workout, you should expect to be climbing upwards quite a bit. The little town offers a lot of fun little souvenir shops along the way, some cute little churches and great views of the area (which include the vineyards, the coast and the local towns).
After we explored the town, we stopped in to Kantouni restaurant for some drinks and snacks. They started us off with some olives, croutons and a fabulous tomato paste mixture; the tomato paste was so good, like WOW good. I wish I could have taken it home! We loved the calamari which was lightly battered and perfectly fried; it also came with some veggies and almost reminded me of Japanese tempura. If you’re looking for a full meal, we saw a neighboring table with the mixed grill which comes on an awesome coat hanger looking contraption; it looked absolutely scrumptious.
Hours of Operation: Friday to Wednesday: 8:00 AM – 8:00 PM and Thursday: 8:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Entrance Fee: €12 (if you’re really into archaeology, look into the 4 day pass for €14, which admits you to the other archaeological sites on Santorini).
Parking: Before you park in their lot, which costs €4, go down the road towards the water and look for a street parking spot by what they call “acrotiri beach.”
Restroom: This is a good spot to use the restroom
Originally, we weren’t really expecting much from this archaeological site, but we were pleasantly surprised how interesting it was, mostly due to how well the structure and interior artifacts were preserved. The structures were preserved after the volcano eruption in the middle of he second millennium BC and the ash layer that covered all of the buildings literally froze everything as it was at that moment in time. Currently only 20% of the site has been excavated, and active excavations are still in progress; the archaeologists are taking their time to ensure that they don’t damage anything. This site really reminded me of seeing the terra cotta warriors in Xian, China.
Make sure to watch the video towards the end of the path that has a 3D model of what the original house looked like.
Beer and Wine
Since we already talked about Santo Winery, I figured it’s only appropriate to talk a little bit more about wine. Santo Winery is only one of many wineries on the island of Santorini, if you are a huge wine lover, you will enjoy exploring the large and small wineries.
A pleasant surprise for us though, was learning that Santorini has their own beer, brewed by the Santorini Brewing Company. The brewery opened in 2011 and their beers are only made of 4 ingredients (yeast, hops, malt and water) and are unpasteurized (so they have to stay refrigerated). The brewery offers free beer tastings, but you can only buy beers to take away, you cannot drink your beer purchases inside the brewery because they do not have a “serving” license. But feel free to drink your beers outside on their steps like we did, hooray for no open container laws!
These were the beers we were able to try:
- Yellow Donkey – Their palest ale and had just been bottled on the day we visited.
- Red Donkey – A Belgian amber ale and was darker, sweeter and stronger than the Yellow Donkey.
- White donkey – A limited edition Weiss beer.
- Crazy donkey – Their version of India pale ale (IPA) and has 5 times the amount of hops. It is also the first ever IPA in Greece.
- Slow donkey – This beer was only sold by the bottle, not available for sampling. The beer has been barrel aged for a year in a wine barrel; You can really smell the wine scents when you open the bottle and taste it.
Scott, being the beer “connoisseur” of the family, enjoyed our stop and parking lot brews. He preferred the Red Donkey over the Yellow and also tried the Slow Donkey. The Slow Donkey had very distinct flavors from the wine barrels which gave it a sweet taste (aka not his favorite). So I’m guessing you have noticed a little donkey theme going on here, but why donkeys you ask? Well….we were told it’s because donkeys are so prevalent on Santorini, and an important part of its history. Donkeys were once the main mode of transportation for the locals and were key to transporting goods and materials to build anything on the island. There is a great respect for donkeys on the island, plus I think it’s because donkeys are so cute too! Just take a look at their logo and all their merchandise and I’m sure you’ll agree with me!
Aside from the places I already mentioned, here are a few other places you might enjoy while you’re in Santorini.
Taverna Aeolas offers a huge selection of food and views of the caldera; it’s located not too far from Akrotiri. We started with a Greek salad with Santorini tomatoes and moved on to the bouyardi (cheese baked with tomato sauce). Don’t forget to ask for crusty bread to eat with this dish, you gotta soak up that sauce!
We also ordered the married sardines (cheese and fresh tomato sandwiched between sardines and then baked). I mean seafood is a must while enjoying island life! The sardines were tasty, but a word of warning to those who are sensitive to fishy fish.
We loved the of food at Taverna Aeolas. It was a great, local meal with local ingredients; it’s really fabulous that you can taste the freshness of each ingredient.
My personal philosophy while we were in Greece was, “A gyro a day, makes your tummy say yay!”
Let’s say that we had quite a few gyro “snacks” during our trip, one of the best gyros we had in Santorini was at the No Name Restaurant in Fira. Their gyros have a nice twist as they are served panini style; the chicken gyro we ordered was cooked on a barbecue grill which gave it a perfect crunch.
If you’re looking for something to satisfy your sweet tooth, Chillbox in the Fira city square offers Greek frozen yogurt with strained yogurt Greek milk; the yogurt is incredibly smooth and velvety. It’s really so much better than American froyo. My only caution is to remember it’s pay by weight, so don’t be like us and pay €8 euros because we let the guy fill it all the way up…ooops, at least it was a super tasty mistake!
Well that’s pretty much all I have for Santorini. But I do want to leave you with this, do you ever hear so many good things about a vacation destination that you don’t think that it can live up to all the rave reviews? For us, that was Santorini, but after visiting, it really was as fabulous as everyone says and I hope that you are able to make the trip soon. Have you ever been on a vacation to a destination that you thought was over-hyped, but ended up loving as well? I would love to know!