The crowned queen of the Cyclades, Santorini or Thira, is essentially what remains after an enormous volcanic eruption around 1650 B.C. The explosion destroyed the earliest settlements on a formerly single island by succumbing into the sea. This gave birth to Santorini’s current trademark geographical landscape and its iconic rugged underwater caldera or crater. The rugged steel rocks and cliffs of the caldera extends more than 1,000 feet above sea level! Some say that this was the original home of the lost city of Atlantis, which long ago disappeared into the ocean’s depths. One thing is for sure, Santorini’s shocking beauty is no myth! The enigmatic caldera-edge cliff top villages with pearly whitewashed buildings overlooking the Aegean sea and other nearby islands is legendary. From the moment we arrived on its majestic shores I could not help but be in awe of this wonder of the world!
Santorini is actually a group of islands consisting of Thíra, Thirassiá, Asproníssi, Palea and Nea Kaméni in the southernmost part of Cyclades. The whole complex of Santorini islands is actually a miracle in itself perched on a sleeping volcano in the middle of the sea. The volcano is widely known as Nea Kaméni and it can be explored.
Our first adventure in Santorini was onboard a small chartered ferry exploring the red and black volcanic shores leading to the thermal springs of the uninhabited islet of Nea Kaméni. The dark blue-green healing waters of this ‘volcanic spa’ are rich in sulfur while the rocks around it are red and copper-yellow. The tourist crafts usually stop around 50 meters away from the spot where the springs gush and you have to swim your way there. Be warned, the water is so sulfuric it will immediately turn any jewelry that is not precious metal into a shiny bright copper color. Ladies, you’ll be able to tell if that ring or necklace he gave you is real 🙂 The water was not as hot as I expected, but there are areas as I swam around that were definitely warmer than others. I had recently injured my knee so I was all about the healing powers of this area. After, we boarded our ferry and toured all along the coast. Seeing Thira by sea is undescribable and I highly recommend it! You really get to see just how amazing the caldera is. We saw overwhelming scenery and views that made me pinch myself just to make sure I was not dreaming. Once I realized Santorini is very real, I could not wait to get wonderfully lost exploring the higher grounds of the calderas.
The villages of Oia and Fira are the precious gems of Santorini with their whitewashed houses and blue domes that delicately drape over steep slopes at the top of a cliff. Viewpoints here are some of the most iconic in the Greek seas, and photographers clamor to capture their striking beauty. A highlight of visiting Santorini is the Fira-Oia Hike. It takes you along the caldera cliff and through the villages of Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli, and Oia. The hike is 6.5 miles and takes between 2 and 5 hours depending on how fast you walk and how often you stop. This was on top of my list but sadly I was not able to do this hike due to my injured knee (even though it felt better after our volcanic spa afternoon!) I was able to hike from our docking area up the caldera. Most people take the “donkey express’ up the very steep hills but I opted to walk up to Oia. It was extremely hot and very steep but It was worth it! I was part of the caldera and the views took my breath away.
Oia draws enormous numbers of tourists and overcrowding is the price it pays for its beauty. However, we found a slice of heavenly peace in the luxurious Canaves Oia Hotel. Between the majestic views, peaceful setting, contemporary-fresh decor, infinity pools, relaxing spa, delicious al fresco dining and unbelievable sunsets all our senses were treated to an unforgettable experience. It is no wonder Canaves Oia is considered one of the best hotels in the world!
After a day of relaxation we were ready to explore Fira, the vibrant capital of Santorini. It is the biggest and most cosmopolitan village on the island. On the caldera side we saw some of the best views of the island that left us speechless. Fira is bustling and there is so much to do and see. Fira keeps you entertained day and night. There are cafes, bars, restaurants, clubs, shops, churches and museums all with spectacular views. Everywhere you look in Fira is postcard worthy. During the day I loved exploring the endless alleys of the caldera by myself. I went into full on wanderlust mode. It is a photographers dream and the photos opportunities are endless! Needless to say, my camera and I were in heaven.
As if Santorini could not possibly be more magical, the area is also known for their wines. Yes, this volcanic island produces some of the best wines in the world. The island’s volcanic soil, ample sunshine and arid climate add up to a distinctive wine grape. The fruit of the Santorini vine is both hearty and sweet. There are dozens of wineries where visitors can sip and eat while enjoying the views. We arranged a wine tasting at the beautiful Santo Wines Winery in Pyrgos about a 20 minute car ride from Fira. The facility is one of the most modern winery not only in Santorini but throughout Greece and the views of the caldera are spectacular. We enjoyed an epic wine flight accompanied by delicious cheeses from the area. The refreshing Santo Sparkling Rose was the overall crowd winner. We ended our leisurely wine flight just in time as a large crowd began rolling in. This is a very popular destination so make sure to make a reservation in advanced.
I could not think of a better way to celebrate our time in Santorini than by toasting this amazing island and its people. Till I see you again Santorini! Yamas!