Santorini is the most magical place I have ever been to. They don’t lie when they say you will fall in love with this beautiful island. Some say it’s too touristic but I think it didn’t lose its essence. Of course in Fira and Oia you almost only see tourists, but there are other places more authentic.
So, here is my top 10 things I absolutely loved about Santorini:
1. The Volcano
Nea Kameni is the name of Santorini’s volcano, which is still active. I got the chance to go there when I went on a half day cruiseship that cost me about 20€. One of the sights of this cruiseship was the volcano, where we could hike for a couple of hours with a guide who told us the story of the volcano and also take some photos.
As we reach the top of the volcano, we could feel the smell of the sulfur getting stronger and the heat of the volcano in some places along the way. We saw smoke coming out of certain holes and when we put our hands near them, we could not take the heat for long.
I have to admit that I have a kind of geek hidden within me. I get all fascinated with everything nature and sciences related and that’s why I enjoyed going to the volcano so much. For those who want to go there I only have one advice: don’t wear flipflops. You are going to hike a lot, you will kick stones all the time and sometimes you might slip.
Even though I’ve googled a lot about Santorini, I had no idea that Thirassia existed. Maybe due to lack of information or because people don’t give it much credit, how many of you might be missing this almost hidden paradise of Santorini?
Thirassia is a little isle that once was an extension of Thera, the main island of Santorini. But then, BOOOOM, volcanic eruption happened and they split up. Once again, I got the chance to visit a little bit of Thirassia thanks to that half day cruiseship and unfortunately we had only one hour and half to explore, but we were so tired that we just went to the restaurant with the nicest view and most delicious food I have eaten in Greece, and spent the time walking around the port.
In this piece of paradise, I could only feel the good vibes and peace. The turquoise waters, the seagulls flying near the small boats and people dancing zorba in the street made me feel like a kid with no worries.
And talking about kids, there was an image I think I won’t ever forget. When we arrived at the port, the first thing I’ve noticed was a kid playing in the water with rocks. He spent all the time playing alone but happy, I could see that he was living in his own world just enjoying simple things which reminded me that, when we become adults, our lives get so busy and stressful that we forget to simply enjoy every moment…
3. The Donkeys
When I was a kid, my mother’s uncle always invited me to go for a ride in his donkey, in Alentejo. They’re known for their strenght to carry great weights and also for being really stubborn. So, when I saw the donkeys in Santorini I knew I had to go back to my childhood. That’s why when I discovered I only had to pay 5€ to ride a donkey I was thrilled. I had to go!
It wasn’t the safest journey ever, it never is. But sure it was a fun adventure! First of all, you don’t have a guide. You only see the owners of the donkeys in the begining and in the end of the path. They don’t give you any instructions, the donkeys already know their “mission”, even if you are clueless about what to do if they suddenly stop for no reason. So if it happens to you, don’t worry. They might be tired, sometimes they need a rest. You should not forget that they carry people up and down all day.
You need to be careful with your legs, so they don’t get twisted off or wedged between the donkey and the walls. And sometimes the donkeys might seem to be doing a race with each other because they almost start to run up the stairs. It was so fun, I would do it again.
Funny thing: they park themselves in the end!
4. Akrotiri Excavations
After being closed for 7 years, Akrotiri Excavations opened its doors to public again. Some say it might be the lost Atlantis, so I bought a book about it! The entrance is cheap (and for some people, free!) but, if you can, pay for a guide because it will make the visit even more interesting. Going by your own you miss most of the stories related to this site.
Associated to the Minoan civilization, this ancient city was buried in lava due to the eruption of the volcano which preserved incredibly well the frescos, pottery and furniture. The only thing that archeologists didn’t find was human skeletal remains, which indicates that people were able to escape from the island after the severe earthquakes before the eruption.
I don’t need to say that it was the one of the most interesting places I have ever been, once there are several clues that show us that this 17th century B.C. civilization was really advanced.
5. Red Beach
One of the first things I have heard about Santorini was the beaches with black sand due to the volcanic rocks. But once I arrived and got a map of the island, a little draw of a red beach got my attention. As we were already in Akrotiri we decided to go there.
I have been told that I could only access legally the beach by boat, once there isn’t a safe path from the Akrotiri Excavations to the read beach. But I have this kind of theory: in touristic places, following the crowd might lead us to where we want to go. We did it and found out that many people were trespassing the “Do Not Pass” sign. It was obvious that we might put ourselves in risk by going down the cliff by no safe path and with an obvious prohibition, but at least we weren’t wearing flipflops.
Believe me, it was worth it!
6. Frozen Yogurt
The best frozen yogurt I have ever eaten. I miss it every single day. I’m dying to eat it again. I can not say much more about it. It’s been almost 6 months since I tried it and I’m still obsessed.
Pyrgos is a village that will make you feel like you are in an Aladin movie! Oia is beautiful but Pyrgos is amazing and more authentic, once it doesn’t get too crowded. It is trully a piece of paradise on Earth.
Three funny things: we climbed to the rooftop of a house to take some pictures, I fell asleep at the bus station and when I woke up we found out that buses have finished at 8 pm and we had to take a cab back to our hostel.
8. Open Air Cinema Kamari
When we booked our tickets to the Open Air Cinema in Kamari, I was worried about if I was going to be comfortable, since Santorini is a little bit windy. But after so many good reviews on TripAdvisor, I decided to give it a try and I don’t regret it, at all!
First, it was well isolated, so we didn’t even felt a breeze. Once they opened the cinema’s doors, we could choose our seats and go to the bar to buy tacos, hot dogs and drinks for really cheap prices. While we were waiting for the movie to begin, we could talk with each other while smooth jazz was playing.
We paid 7€ for the movie, plus the food, and it was completely worth the price. It was so nice and cozy that I fell asleep!
9. Atlantis Books
I didn’t fall in love with the overtouristic crowd of Oia, neither its sunset, but I sure did with the most wonderful bookstore ever. Atlantis Books is a special bookstore hidden in one of the main streets of Oia. I almost missed it.
The guy that takes care of Atlantis Books is weird. But the good type of weird! It is really interesting to talk to him, if you ignore that he might sound arrogant sometimes. He isn’t. He is just weird. And weird people fascinate me.
10. The Sunset
Last but not least, I loved the sunset simply because I love sunsets, since I was a kid. I still prefer the Portugal sunset, though. For me, what makes Santorini sunset special is the way the light plays with the white washed walls of the houses.
But a picture is worth a thousand words.
Have you ever been in Santorini?
What did you like the most?