White. Before I went to Santorini, the first thing that came to mind when I thought of this place was a scene with beautiful white villas. I imagined Santorini as a big resort island (like the Maldives) but with more hotels close to each other thus forming those charming white towns that we see on Pinterest. Maybe I should have done better research before we went, or maybe it was good that I didn’t, but the first sight of Santorini was nothing like what I had in mind. I was simply blown away by its natural beauty.
The Ferry to Santorini
The familiar chant from the Blue Star ferry announced that we had reached our destination, Santorini (Thira). I have never been on a cruise ship, but the 8 hour ride from Athens (Piraeus) to Santorini is probably the closest I’ve got. Apart from the cold wind from the Aegean sea, it was a wonderful trip which passed along some stunning Greek Islands – Ios, Naxos and Paros, which were on the latter part of our itinerary. Excitement overflowed me. I was finally in one of my dream destinations.
First Impressions of Santorini, A Volcanic Island
Enormous. The massive rock front of Santorini was striking and intimidating at the same time. The colours range from rust red to deep black. From what I read on the place, (8 hours was enough time to get a brief on this destination), apparently Santorini, along with some other Greek islands, were formed due to a volcanic eruption ages ago. This volcano still sits on the caldera close to Santorini. Everything here is clearly an impressive work of nature. From where I stood, I felt tiny, I felt like I was but a piece of this gorgeous scene. Overwhelmed, I couldn’t wait to explore the rest of Santorini. I saw some white structures along the hillside, but how do we get up there?
It was a good decision to contact the owner of the hotel before we left Athens. The port of Santorini is a long way from the main towns and it can be a bit difficult to find your hotel. From the port, we drove uphill along a windy road and reached the main streets of Santorini. I was glad I didn’t get motion sickness from the ferry earlier or from the drive. The hotel owner talked about the location of the different towns and beaches as she drove.
Fira: The Capital of Santorini
Fira is one of the most popular towns in Santorini, and is considered the island’s capital. The photos you see of Santorini on social media are most likely taken from here. White painted houses sit side by side overlooking the caldera. It’s quite pleasing just walking along the grey footpath which contrasts perfectly with the white walls and blue roofs of the villas. Cozy cafés, fancy restaurants and artisan shops fill the area with the resort holiday feel that most tourists want. It was low season when we were there so some of the shops and hotels were closed. It was quiet but I appreciated the solitude – I cannot imagine how busy this place would be during the summer.
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Oia: The Sunset Town
Sunsets in Santorini are not overrated. The sunset colours of Santorini are remarkable. Although we were only there for few days we got to see beautiful sunset colours in the village of Oia. The red, pink and orange hues cast over the familiar white walls were simply captivating. This village, further north from Fira, is known as the best place to witness the sunset in Santorini. There are also some hotels in this village but they didn’t seem to be in business during the low season. To get here, you can either take a bus or do a scenic walk from Fira.
Scenic Walk from Fira to Oia
This is probably one of the best walks we’ve done on this trip. We walked through the towns overlooking the caldera, starting from the island capital Fira towards the sunset point of Oia. The views are breath-taking! If you have plans to go to Oia, I highly recommend doing this 3-hour walk and then take the bus on the way back. It is definitely a great way to see gorgeous views of picturesque scenery in this Greek island. Check out Jon’s post on the details of this Scenic Walk from Fira to Oia.
Red. Red is one of the prominent colours of Santorini. Red Beach is located in the southernmost part of Santorini. The unique scenery is simply captivating. It was like being in another world. The place was enclosed by huge red rocks which stood out from the rest of the sights along the way. We walked further along the rocks and down along a path which led us to the stunning red pebble beach. As we walked along, the foamy waves splashed on my feet. It felt cold, this wasn’t a dream. Nothing I had ever seen before compares to this spectacular sight. It’s one natural wonder that Santorini should very well be known for. Why had I never seen photos of this place before? It’s one of the best beaches we’ve seen on this trip, and I totally loved it.
Apparently there is a white beach which is accessible by boat from the Red Beach but we didn’t get the chance to see it since the boats only go from the Red Beach during peak season.
You can reach the Red Beach by bus from the town of Fira. There is also an archaeological site close to this beach – Ancient Akrotiri. However, it wasn’t as impressive as the likes of Pompeii and Herculeneum in Italy.
Perissa Beach (Black Beach)
Black. I have been to a black beach in the Philippines ages ago. It was somewhere in Subic, where most beaches are of volcanic origin. It was alright for a beach, but didn’t stand out as much so maybe that was the reason I couldn’t quite remember. There are a few black beaches in the island of Santorini. We went to Perissa Beach, considered as one of the best ones, which is located in a village close to the Red Beach. There are some accommodation options along this village, which are more for backpackers, and there are a few restaurants along the beach front. The black sand was beautiful and the water was clear. We probably would have tried to swim there if it wasn’t so cold. The scenery, like the other parts of Santorini, did not fail to impress us. Close to this beach is Ancient Thira, a huge hill that overlooks this side of the island. We didn’t have time to see this area but it looks pretty interesting from below.
You can reach Perissa beach by bus directly from Fira or from the bus stop close to Red Beach if you happen to be in the area. We took the bus from Red Beach but we were dropped off at an intersection which led to Perissa. There was supposedly another bus we had to transfer to but that bus didn’t stop for us since we were on the middle of the intersection and not on the bus stop. We ended up walking all the way to Perissa beach, which took us about an hour. It was a long walk but it was worth it.
Can You Do Santorini on a Budget?
Most couples will wait for their honeymoon or a big bonus to go on a trip to Santorini. I thought I’d have to wait awhile before I get there but there we were as part of our big trip around the world.
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Accommodation in Santorini
We went to Santorini on November, which was low season so most of the island was pretty quiet and only a few hotels were open for business. We stayed in the town of Karterados, which is more of a local town, a few minutes’ walk to Fira. The accommodation was €22 per night, which is one of the cheaper rooms we got in Europe. The prices we got for places we stayed in the other Greek islands were also cheap during low season, but expect higher rates in peak season.
Transportation: How to Get to Santorini
There are flights to Santorini, but we chose to do the ferry from Piraeus port in Athens since the fare was way cheaper and we wanted to travel along the Aegean Sea to see the other Greek islands. The ferry stops at different islands on the way, so it was definitely worth doing the 8 hour ride. We booked this ferry ahead online so it turned out cheaper than if you get it from the port. Price was €30 from Athens to Santorini. We also used the ferry going to the other Greek islands (Paros, Ios and Naxos) which was pretty convenient. Make sure to check their website or ask a travel agent on the ferry routes/schedule as they may change depending on the season.
Getting around Santorini was relatively easy. You have the option to rent a car or motorbike, or take the public bus which pretty much goes to all the popular places and only costs a few euros. The bus times on the bus stops are not always reliable though, so try and ask the locals for information.
Food in Santorini
We stayed in a studio with a kitchen when we were in Santorini so we cooked a lot during our trip. If you have the option to cook, this is probably the best way to save money on food since most restaurant prices, even in low season, are pretty steep. Gyros and souvlaki are pretty cheap so we had those when we were out for lunch. If you are in Greece, you should definitely try these two dishes!
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Have you seen the beautiful colours of Santorini ? Is Santorini in your bucket list? Let us know.
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