Our 1st wedding anniversary - My Guide to Santorini
I cannot believe I haven’t already done a blog post about our trip to Santorini. To say I was excited for this Holiday was a slight understatement. I have a thing where I just book holidays impulsively so one glooming autumn evening after returning from our honeymoon I booked our holiday to Santorini for our first wedding anniversary- I always find it easier booking a holiday when you’re under the influence of the dreaded holiday blues. I do apologise for how long this blog post is, it’s very long winded but also very informal and I hope you find it useful.
We travelled to Santorini at the end of September when it was the end of the season. With Santorini currently being the “in” travel destination I wanted to enjoy Santorini in all of its glory rather than it being super busy and too hot to enjoy this beautiful island. We stayed in a gorgeous Greek traditional villa, with its white walls and blue roof, in Perivolos. This was a fantastic base for us and we hired a car to explore the full island... which we certainly did.
On our first day, we pottered around Perivolos to get our bearings and to see what was around us locally. This place was stunning and I was already in love, we hadn’t even explored Thira or Oia or the rest of the island yet and this magical island had already stole my heart. That day we set a plan for the rest of the week, getting recommendations from the locals. We decided to go self catering due to the fact I wanted to go out and explore the island and take advantage of what it had to offer so we thought this would be the best option. We obviously needed some essentials for our apartment so we headed to the local Lidl and even the views from there blew us away, you certainly don’t get those sort of views from Lidl in Swalwell!!!
Day 2: Today was the day we headed to the eagerly anticipated Thira, Santorini’s capital City. The drive to Thira was just beautiful, this island was better than the images I saw on the internet, how was that even possible. We arrived in Thira and, my god, it was super busy - there was just people everywhere! I knew it would be busy but never expected it to be this busy. We took refuge in a bar which over looked the ocean and its nearby islands and I opted for refreshing Aperol Spritz.
Sipping on my cocktail and taking in the view in front of me I still couldn’t believe I was in Santorini - some, please freakin pinch me! I kept welling up inside, what was this island doing to me - I’m the Ice Queen, I don’t cry! Thank goodness for my huge, oversized sunnies!
We went for a look around Thira, walking through its narrow footpaths and winding streets for a couple of hours and lit a candle for my grandad in one of its churches.
When you see Santorini on the internet, you’ll expect to see images of its traditional churches over looking its magnificent scenery so we set out searching for one to get an iconic photo. We stumbled across a beautiful church on google and headed to Imerovigli, a village slightly north of Thira. If you do come here and you have a car, please do not search the little streets for a car parking space like we did, just park you car at the Yacht Club on the right when you first come into Imerovigli. This will save you the time and stress of driving around it’s narrow streets! Trust me on this! Entering Imerovigli initially I didn’t think much but when we finally entered the centre of Imerovigli I was blown away!
How could this island get anymore beautiful because it did and I fell in love even more! This was the place to be, I didn’t want to leave! We headed out on our mission to find the Theoskepasti Church... little did we know what adventure was in front of us... a 3 hour hike in 28 degree heat with 1000 steps and I was wearing a skirt and flip flops but you know what, we were there and I wasn’t turning back. We didn’t know how far we had to walk but when we realised it was too late to turn back, we were committed. The blood, sweat and tears we worth it. The view was nothing like I’ve seen before, we sat there for what seem liked an eternity and just took in the view.
It was quiet and tranquil, we were in awe... plus the fact we didn’t want to move as we knew the ordeal that was laid in front of us to get back. The hike back wasn’t fun but every time I turned around to see the view I knew it was worth it.
When we finally back in Imerovigli we stumbled into the first restaurant and ordered 2 large waters and 2 large beers, we certainly needed it! We couldn’t breathe, we were red and sweaty but boy was it worth it! Our day wasn’t over though, we headed to the opposite side of the island to Akrotiri and watched the sun set by the lighthouse. We then finally headed back to our villa and stayed within our resort that night, we were shattered!
Day 3: We decided to head to Ancient Thira which over looked the whole island but when we got there it was due to close so we pulled over and made a plan B. After much debating we headed to a traditional town called Pyrgos Kallistis, based at the highest point of Santorini providing great panoramic views of both sides of the island.
Pyrgos remains traditional, accordant to the Cycladic architecture. The fact that it is slightly undeveloped with narrow, winding paths and stone houses makes it adorable. Pyrgos is surrounded by blue domed churches and vineyards. Here and there you will meet small galleries and shops tucked into hidden corners, as you get around the successive, uphill and downhill alleys.
At the bottom of the village there are some tourist shops, mini markets, welcoming restaurants and taverns with delicious food and coffee shops, most of them around the main, round square. We explored Prygos for a few hours then made our way back to Perivolos, we had a boat trip booked for the following morning so an early night to recharge our batteries was needed. Day 4: Today was the day of our 7 hour boat tour around Santorini. This included a visit to Santorini’s volcano, hot springs and Thirasia. We drove to Athinios Port rather than being picked up from our villa, this saved us time and money. Our boat was huge, well looked after, clean and the staff dressed very presentable. After our induction, we headed to Santorini’s volcano: Nea Kameni. We got 1.5 hours free time here so up the volcano we hiked.
Boy was it hot and the terrain was like walking on the moon. There was no breeze and no shade, with the sun glaring down on us we knew, again, this would be tough but knew we would be rewarded at the top. The dark volcanic cliffs cutting a contrast against the blue waves of the Aegean Sea with volcanic rock formations scattered around you as you walk around. A walk of about 30 minutes will take you to the top of the volcano where you will see still smoking craters and breathe an intense smell of sulphur. The sweeping views from the top at the crater were well-worth the climb.
The tour continued by boat to Palea Kameni, for the Hot Springs and stopped in the small bay of Agios Nikolaos. The naturally formed pools were created from volcanic activity and are said to have medicinal powers against skin and bone disease. So across the ladder I went and dived into the water. The water initially was mild but with a short swim of around 30 meters I reached the famous thermal spas of Palaia Kameni, where the water temperature ranges from 30 to 35 degrees Celsius as it mixes continuously with the normal sea currents. The feeling was surreal swimming up to it, I’ve never been in a thermal spa before but it was rather nice. Just be careful if you’re wearing light clothes in the hot springs as the sulphur will dye your clothing and keep blonde hair tied back when you enter the hot spring as again, this may discolour due to the sulphur.
Feeling relaxed, we returned to the boat and cruised across the water to Thirasia, a large island just adjacent to Santorinis northwestern coast. Forming part of the remains of ancient Thira, Thirasia is sparsely populated and most of the islanders reside in its main village. We got to enjoy two hours of free time here to explore and walk around the villages pretty streets, lined with white Cycladic houses and colorful flowers.
We had our lunch here too at a family run seafood restaurant. All the fish was caught fresh, first thing in the morning and we were given the best seats in the house. Right out on the balcony facing the sea, this was certainly one of the best places I’ve had for lunch. The food was amazing and the prices were super cheap, we did not expect that!
Tummy’s full we sauntered around the picturesque Main Street, well when I say Main Street it was literally once path of our 500 metres which started where the boats pulled up, past a handful of family run restaurants, 2 shops and ended at the last restaurant.
After Thirassia, we start on our return to the old port, sailing close to the volcanic cliffs of Oia... glass of vino or two in hand taking advantage of this breathtaking moment.
Needless to say, our Caldera Boat Trip blew us away. We were, again, shattered but no early night for us tonight... tonight was time for our first wedding anniversary meal.
We dined at Forty One, a contemporary restaurant facing the beach. This restaurant is amongst one of the best at Santorini and is just fantastic from the moment we entered the guy gave us a bit of history about the building which added to the character.
The service was attentive but not overbearing and the seafood was super fresh, washed down with a recommended bottle of white wine made in Santorini.
After Forty One, we headed to Sea Side by Notos voted Perivolos’ number 1 bar and restaurant. We sat on the beach at their Möet bar. Here the waiters made this occasion even more special by playing our wedding song whilst bringing a bottle of champagne to our table.
Day 5: REST DAY! We decided that after a none stop holiday today would be our rest day and we did absolutely nothing. Pottered around the hotel, ate gyros and just relaxed! I’m not one for lying around the pool, doing nothing and just wasting my time when I could be out exploring but so far I’d pretty much ticked off everything and more on my list of things to do and see in Santorini.
Day 6: Today we dead to Oia, the most famous of all villages of Santorini. It is known throughout the world for its quiet life and fantastic sunset. The village is also situated on top of an impressive cliff and offers a spectacular view over the volcano of Palia and Nea Kameni and the island of Thirassia. Oia is situated on the north of the island, 11 km away. Oia is a traditional village with charming houses in narrow streets, blue domed churches, and sun-bathed verandas. Its streets have plenty of tourist shops, taverns, cafes, and other shops.
Oia also has a small port, Ammoudi, which can be reached by a set of 300 steps leading down. There, small boats can take you opposite, to the island of Thirassia. The beach of Armenis is also located there.
Personally, I was very underwhelmed at Oia. I don’t know if it was down to the fact the weather wasn’t amazing or because we had already visited other less busy, traditional villages but Oia was a huge let down for me which was a shame. We headed back to Perivolos to enjoy our last night in the beautiful island of Santorini. We dined at, yet again, another restaurant famed for its seafood and opted for a seafood platter which was out of this world.
Overall, Santorini is hands down one of the most amazing places I’ve been too. Yes it’s expensive, yes it’s busy but is it worth it? Yes it is! Who would expect that Santorini has more to offer besides luxury hotels, hospitality, services, restaurants and night life? It's no coincidence that Santorini is the top destination that combines comfort with adventure, relaxation with exercise and, above all, mountains with a sea view. Personally for me, I wouldn’t stay in Thira or Oia. They’re too commercial and too touristy, yes I know I’m a tourist but there was too much hustle and bustle for me. Imerovigli was the place to be for me. If you want complete peace and serenity, stay there!
Santorini is no secret and draws crowds for much of the year although Perivolos was pretty much quiet by the time our holiday needed, yet it wears its tourism crown well. The island’s intrigue reaches deep into the past, with the fascinating Minoan site of Akrotiri and the gorgeous traditional hilltop village of Oia. It glides effortlessly into the future with accomplished artists, excellent wineries, a unique microbrewery and some of the Cyclades' finest accommodation and dining experiences. The multicoloured beaches are simply the icing on the cake. I cannot recommendation Santorini enough, in the words of Belinda Carlisle heaven really is a place on earth. One last note though, I wouldn’t recommend Santorini for children. There is nothing there for them, no parks, no softplay, nothing. Children are not well catered for and I can imagine they’d get easily bored. Fair enough if you take a baby but definitely not a toddler, personally I wouldn’t take my child. Until next time Santorini!