Santorini — a volcanic island located between the island of Ios and Anafi, Greece, and whose land- and seascape are unique and romantically impressed. The sun sets here looking more gold and intimate, probably why Santorini is referred to as the most romantic island in the world.
‘Underwhelming’ is not a word that enters the vocabulary when you first lay eyes on this island. Hundreds of white-washed buildings gathered together on a striking volcanic cliff, with the rich, blue Mediterranean ocean perfectly complemented by the signature blue domes of the many churches scattered around the island… Santorini — every angle of it — truly was a sight to behold.
My sister and I were here for somewhere between 1.5 to 2 days, and while we’ve been here, we wrote postcards to our parents telling them we should come back as a family sometime in the future… maybe jump off cliffs at Amoudi bay or walk around volcano craters while we’re back. 😉
— — —
First things first, I’d just like to share a little about the coolness of this island.
Santorini, according to Greek mythology, originated from a clod of earth presented to the Argonauts by Sea God Triton, son of Neptune and Venus. The island was primarily called ‘Strongyli’ (round) because of its circular shape.
However, not only is there had to be a name change years later because the island didn’t remain round! Instead, it looks more like this — a ‘seashell’ and a random caldera near it.
Around 1450 B.C. a catastrophic volcanic eruption took place and not only did it destroy all of Strongyli’s life, the flow of lava created an enormous hollow dome beneath the centre of Strongyli. The hollow dome was eventually unable to support the weight of the island, and the roof of the dome collapsed. The greater part of Strongyli sank beneath the waves and all that was left above the surface of the sea was its caldera and a ‘seashell’-shaped island. Today, these parts are called Santorini and Thirassia islands.
One more thing, check this out! Santorini could have been the ‘legendary lost land of Atlantis’!
— — —
Seeing that we couldn’t get to Akrotiri the day before, we made it a point to head there on this day. Taking a bus from Mesaria to Fira and then transferring to another bus heading to Akrotiri, we make it to the Red Beach in due time before it got too hot at mid-day. The red beach, a relatively small beach, is arguably one of the most famous beaches of Santorini, not only because it is located only some steps away from the ancient site of Akrotiri, but also because of its unique landscape of red and black volcanic rocks. After admiring the beach from headland (and listening to amazing Greek music), we gingerly tackled the rocks and descended all the way down to the beach.
(In the audio as well: we decided that it wouldn’t be worth it to head to the White Beach as well because we’d need a boat to get there and we didn’t have the time nor the budget for it.)
Now the real adventure begins.
We took a bus back to Fira and had lunch at a Veg-friendly roadside cafe-bistro (my sister had falafels and Tzatziki and I had a really satisfying, delicious veggie wrap) to refuel ourselves before the insane hike we were about to embark on. My sister stopped at chillbox (again) for dessert and when the waiter, holding up two spoons, asked us if we wanted one or two spoons, to which my sister replied, “Just one please!”, and then he joked, “Which one?” Caught off guard, we threw our heads back in laughter.
It would be a 10km hike from the picturesque port Fira, and it would follow the rim of the caldera, short and long stretches of asphalt, and dry stone walls via the beautiful historic villages of Firostefani and Imerovigli, all the way to Oia (sometimes referred to as ‘Ia’) at the tip of Santorini — travel guides told us that the hike would take about 3-4 hours.
The hike was sectioned into stretches of hair-flipping, torpedo-like winds and of scorching, sweat-through-every-possible-layer-of-clothing heat. I almost broke out into Katy Perry’s Hot ‘N Cold lyrics several times… “‘Cause you’re hot then you’re cold”! There was one point during which the sea crept into the landscape behind us and the sound of waves integrated itself into the crisps and crunches of our steps on the sand and rocks. Just then, wafts of rosemary became apparent and my hunt for rosemary began. It turned out to be a futile search…
During this hike, one thing we realised was that while there were many tourists who started out on the hike with us (we knew because they went the same lefts and rights as us for quite a considerable distance), most stopped fairly early and soon enough, we found ourselves surrounded only by the splendour of Santorini… and 3 couples who stuck it out with us.
Oh! We spotted Greece’s version of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers! (kinda)
This hike is the most talked about trek in Santorini and there sure is good reason for it! It is absolutely incredible, and offers a real taste of the Aegean experience. The hike included spectacular, cliff-top walking with the sparkling, azure sea stretching for miles before our eyes.
Upon reaching Oia, we were starving and, not wanting anything too heavy, ordered smoothies and juices at a café. We bought postcards and wrote a couple to people we loved when yet another Chinese tourist requests for a photo with us… (I was still hungry and ate six more bananas…)
Time was ticking and we knew that if we were to miss what we planned our day around — the precious minutes when the sun sinks into the sea, we’d be devastated. This picturesque village at Santorini’s northern tip gives a view of the whole caldera, showing off the island’s crescent shape from one end to another. We went with the trickling crowd and were led to the kastro walls — sunset on the kastro walls is the “rock concert” experience, we were told.
Sunset watching seems pretty straightforward – you sit and you watch — right? Not so in Santorini! We had to
fight for find the perfect spot, fend off a hundred fellow sunset gazers and then try very hard to crop them out of our photos. Where we were, there was a tall stone ledge which had already been occupied by avid photographers and normal tourists like us. We didn’t realise how early one has to reach this place to secure a good spot (we found out that most people wait here for 2 hours!), so just as we were about to leave to try our luck elsewhere, a somewhat elderly man — perched on top of the ledge mind You… nimbleness! — made some space beside him and managed to fit us both beside him!
Oia’s whitewashed houses are its most distinctive feature (featured above). The cliffside is studded with them, reflecting the changing hues of the sunset — a palette that cycles from warm gold to rosy pink to dusky blue.
The fiery red ball descended into the shimmering ocean…
“What makes the Santorini sunset so magical? Combine the drama of being perched on a tiny white village atop volcanic cliffs with the vastness of the Aegean Sea. Add the liquid gold of Greek sunlight and the mirror-calm waters of one of the world’s most famous calderas — the stillness is purely visual of course, there’s an active volcano down there! –and you have all the makings of an unforgettable experience.” — Curry Strumpet
“So I know it’s an obvious one…. Watching the sunset at Oia is on every ‘top 10 things to do in Santorini’ list and in every destination guide you’ll find. There is a very good reason for this! I don’t need to exaggerate when I say that sunset at Santorini was by far the most spectacular sunset I have ever seen. Ever. There aren’t many crowds that erupt in a round of applause once the sun makes its final descent beneath the ocean. This is one of those pinch-yourself kind of moments, one that you are going to remember for the rest of your life.” — Polkadot Passport
Polkadot Passport wasn’t kidding when she said that an applause follows the sunset. Amused, my sister and I joined in the occasion and even cheered! We got a few more shots before we left with the slow shuffling tourists heading towards the bus interchange — mhmm, a human traffic jam. I shudder to think what it would be like in the peak months of July and August.
If You were to ever come here to experience the sunset too, here’s my two cents: Take a million photos, but also don’t forget to take time to really be in the moment, to soak it all in. It’s a once in a lifetime experience and I still break into smiles just thinking about it.
In the end, words describing Santorini just don’t do it justice, and… come to think of it, neither do photographs. This place just HAS to be experienced.
(Watch in HD)