Anyone who knows me, will know how much I love travelling. I can always justify spending money on a weekend away or a week abroad. For me, travelling is not just about making memories and taking amazing photographs. It is also about exploring different cultures, meeting new people and experiencing life outside of your own comfort zone. ‘The world is a book and those who do not travel, read only a page’ (St Augustine- philosopher).
For years I have had Santorini on my travel bucket list. I remember watching Facebook and Youtube travel videos of famous couples who have travelled to Santorini and I remember thinking ‘I am going there, even if it takes me years to save!’ After completing my NQT year and Harry landing a job as a Junior Draftsman/CAD Engineer, we felt that it was the perfect time to go. So we did…
Santorini is one of the many Greek islands in the Aegean Sea which hosts around 1.5 million tourists every year. Now, I can see why… Me and Harry booked to stay in the northern coastal town of Oia for seven days in the middle of July. Oia is a beautiful town made up of whitewashed houses and blue domed churches carved into the surrounding clifftops, overlooking the vast Aegean Sea. We stayed at the Residence Suites which we found through TripAdvisor (rated 4*). The Residence Suites were made up of a collection of apartments, with amazing sea views and private balconies/terraces. The suites were within the heart of Oia town which was convenient in the day, when you wanted to go out and explore the town and in the evenings when we went out for dinner and drinks.
The Old Town
The old town of Oia is bustling with shops, restaurants, bars and galleries. The main street stretches throughout the town and along the top cliff face of the island. One of my favourite ‘go to shops’ was a tiny bookshop called Atlantis Books which stocks a variety of books (popular reads to traditional literature) in English and Greek. The best time of the day to visit would be in the late evenings, otherwise it would become too busy to wrack the shelves for worthwhile hardbacks.
Me and Harry never struggled to find a quaint coffee house, restaurant or bar in Oia which overlooked the Cyclades. The restaurants had a variety of food options ranging from traditional Greek cuisine, to Italian and English dishes suitable for both vegetarians and vegans. However, we both enjoyed opting for the popular Greek dishes of souvlaki and tzatiki at our favourite restaurant, Thalami overlooking the beautiful Santorini sunset. The staff were lovely and welcoming and the food tasted beautiful! Harry also enjoyed the Mastika liqueur that was served free of charge with the bill.
If we were to visit Oia again in the future, we both agreed that we would go when it was less busy. That is not to say that the tourism detracted from the island at all. It just meant it became very difficult to really explore the streets and shops properly without feeling rushed or cramped. We were told by people that either lived there or worked on the island in the summer months that Santorini becomes very busy from June to early September. They said that the best times to visit would be April/May or later in October when the hustle and bustle of the summer tourism calms down.
The famous Santorini sunset is one of the most stunning sunsets I have ever seen (yes I am completely biased) and Oia town is considered one of the best places to fully appreciate it, for free. If you are not staying in Oia, I would recommend that you arrive in the town before 5pm to grab the best sunset spot, as everyone flocks towards the south side of the cliffs to enjoy the best views. So get there earlier rather than later! Oia castle made for an amazing spot, but it does become incredibly busy and difficult to take pictures.
Next time, we would pay to go on a sunset cruise around the island to enjoy the sunset views from the sea. Prices range from 35 euros+ each, depending on which company you go with. But it is an experience that you wouldn’t want to miss out on! So it is on our ‘to do list’ when we next visit.
I will be honest, Santorini is not well known for its stunning and idyllic beaches. Other Greek islands that I have visited including Skiathos, Skopelos and Paros have beautiful sandy, white beaches that stretch on for miles. Santorini’s beaches are composed of black volcanic sand and pebbles. But they are still beautiful and well worth a visit! The best beaches in Santorini are Perissa, Kamari, Ammoudi and Perivolos.
Our favourite was Perissa Beach or ‘Black Beach’. It is located on the south side of the island and lies at the base of the Mesa Vouno Mountain. The beach’s location meant that we either had to travel by taxi or bus from Oia, as we didn’t rent a car, moped or quad bike. It took about 45 mins to get there as we travelled through Fira (the island’s main town). Perissa is definitely one of the most popular beaches on the island with its famous volcanic, black sand and dark, blue crystal clear waters. We went quite early in the morning so we didn’t struggle to find sun-beds with amazing views of the sea and mountain. We found out that if we were to have lunch at one of the various beach bars/restaurants, then the sun beds came free.
I love taking photographs, but I will admit that my pictures do not give the scenic views justice, so it gives you all the more reason to add Santorini to your own travel bucket list!