You, me and Santorini: Suzi Gillatt explores this picturesque Greek island
Santorini, you have taken my breath away. Who knew you could experience a little piece of heaven on earth only three hours on a plane from London?
This ancient island is both magical and mystical and has captured my heart. Some moments the land appears barren and rustic that you start to consider what all the fuss is about, but then, out of nowhere you experience views like no other. Breath-taking views of the Caldera, Aegean Sea and surrounding volcanic islands forcing you to stop still in your tracks and take a moment to appreciate the beauty before you.
Now if you’re going to do Santorini, do it in style. Hotels such as Santorini Princess and Rocabella in-between Imprevigali and Oia are two prime examples.
Staying on this part of the island lends itself nicely to visiting the most famous village in all of Santorini, this is the northern village of Oia (pronounced e-ya). It is known throughout the world for its quiet life and stunning sunset and I have witnessed firsthand why those from around the globe are called to witness the sun-setting in this very spot. It’s a hedonistic, purifying moment to stand should-to-shoulder with someone you don’t know, who may not speak your language or know your name, to appreciate and take in the very same moment, as one. As the bright-orange sun moves across the sky and is swallowed by the sea you think about everything that you are, that got you to this very point in life, and it becomes an emotional, purifying moment in time – united side by side acknowledging the end of the day together.
Oia is situated on top of an impressive cliff meaning you have sea views from every angle. I drove to Oia and managed to find a great parking space, from here I walked to the very end of the island where Oia is built.
The cobbled streets get narrower, caves have been designed into shops and luxury hotels, there are authentic restaurants and attractive bars, you’ll find designer shops next to run-down churches, then there’s silk shops, book shops and diamonds, yes diamonds. I couldn’t believe how many treasures are perched within this tiny place.
As you walk the streets you feel alive; you are walking the very same steps that thousands of people have walked before you for thousands of years. As you make your way through the twists and turns you can see the end of the island is getting close. To the west sit the remains of a castle that once was a royal defence point of the island, keeping secrets of a thousand years. Walk to the furthest point and look back onto the cliff-side where the traditional cave houses and hotels sit; this is a photo moment. From here you are able to see the white-washed buildings that face the horizon; this is the iconic Santorini image.
If budget is no option, Santorini Secret is a five-star, uber-luxury hotel that is wow from start to finish. There are various traditional houses and cave-suites along the main walkway of the Cliffside and despite people walking along this promenade all of Oia’s accommodation is very private. Rooms with hot-tubs and private pools are discretely perched within the cliffs, making the Oia experience all the more special and alluring.
For dinner and drinks at sunset there is no where better than aptly named, Sunsets; take note of this place now. It’s a simple, elegant roof space that has been created to worship the sun setting each day. You walk up the stairs that could quite easily be missed from the street below and your heart skips a beat on arrival for the beauty and expanse of the sea before you is something spectacular. And that doesn’t do it justice. If you choose to dine here ahead of sunset I highly recommend the Risotto; a speciality of Sunsets restaurant. The sangria here is not the ‘norm’; it’s much better. Smooth, light and delicious – ask your waiter for a glass before you leave.
The staff at Sunsets Restaurant are perfection, as are many of the personal I met in Santorini. Service is number one for these humble people and nothing is ever too much trouble. Sitting in Sunsets waiting for the very thing it is set up to experience, is a magical moment. Gathered, as one, to witness the end of the day really is special.
The following day, reeling from the beautiful evening I took a boat from Fira (the capital) to the volcano that stands proud from the sea. This volcano forms the Caldera and is the main view that people come to experience from Santorini. This boat trip takes around 15 minutes from the mainland and costs 20 Euros. Well worth the money. It’s an easy journey and allows you to walk to the top crater of the volcano.
Let me point out that this is an active volcano so a hat’s off goes to the Geographical Society who monitor tremors and activity every second of the day. Walking this black landscape with hills and craters, watching the steam rise from the ground and smelling the sulphur in the air, you are sitting on top of Mother Nature, as she reminds you she is never far away.
Back in Fira you must stop for a cocktail at V Lounge. The Mojitos are a must here, enjoyed leisurely with the Caldera backdrop. Again the service is unrivalled, the music relaxed but with a beat, plus there’s free wifi to make your friends jealous on Instagram or catch up on emails. If you want a night to remember, order the Long Island Ice Tea, that’s all we’re saying!
For the wine connoisseur in you, the Santo Winery is outstanding. I’ve seen some views in my life but this, is, incredible. Take a walk round to admire the view then grab a table on the lower level and order a Greek mezze and the wine tasting package. It’s very reasonable and the best way to understand about the island’s wine. Imagine the scene; sipping on stunning reds and whites, home-grown at Santo Winery, with a breath-taking view of the island and Aegean Sea. Words cannot and will not describe this moment.
Santorini is beautiful, breath-taking and refined. There isn’t a place quite like it on earth that I’ve experienced (yet) But it will take a lot to beat!
As I sit here and sip my glass of Ouzo, I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be. Santorini, you have touched my heart. I’ll be seeing you again soon.
Watch sunset from Oia at the rooftop restaurant aptly named Sunsets. Simple elegance, the view is breath-taking. Our tip: be sure to book two weeks in advance during the summer months.
Hire a car to explore the island. Santorini is only small so this is the best way to understand it. Getting around isn’t always easy (the locals don’t wait for anyone and love to overtake on bends). Nonetheless, it’s worth it. Having a car allows you to explore Red and Black Beach, historic points of interest, Impervagli and Oia. I’ve heard the buses are very cost-effective and easy to hop-on and off, too, but I’m impatient and like to get there, so the car hire worked best for me. Maybe next time.
Visit Santo Winery. Perched on the south-west Cliffside this place is incredible. You won’t find a view like it.
Take a trip to the Minoan city. This ancient relic represents life in Santorini in 1600 BC. Time to develop your history.
Visit Fira (the island’s capital) to take a boat to the volcano and hot springs. Looking back at the mainland is a view I’ll never forget.
Always order a Greek salad – wherever you are – the feta here is to die for!
Brace yourself – the island can be surprisingly windy – so dress appropriately and wear comfy shoes!
It’d be criminal to leave the island and not have a glass of ouzo, even if it’s just to say you have.