Choosing your summer holidays can be tough. Especially if you belong to the 99% of the world’s population that cannot afford their own private island. So, last summer, determined to make the most of my days off, I set out to choose the perfect destination. Having spent most of my summers in Sardinia since childhood, the sea was an obvious choice, but at the same time my spirit of explorer is no longer satisfied to simply lounge on the sand the entire day. So, after carefully planning 3000 different holidays across the globe, I narrowed it down to Greece.
I was looking for something that said “luxury”, while at the same time leaving scope for adventure, wilderness and most importantly, something that wouldn’t completely break the bank. Since I was to travel with my boyfriend, I also wanted something relatively romantic and relaxing (i.e. no screaming babies or mobs of teenagers). I had no idea that choosing the Greek island of Santorini would give me all of these things, and so much more.
So why did I love this trip so much?
Number one, Santorini is BEAUTIFUL. The postcards don’t lie, it really is all about adorable white houses with bright blue dome-shaped roofs, overlooking dramatic cliffs of volcanic rock. At first sight, the contrast of the white with the blue of the sky and the sea blending together almost blinds you, but once you take it in, it leaves you speechless
The moon-shaped island is the largest of the Cyclades islands, which form an archipelago 200 km south of the cost of Greece. It was created as a result of a gigantic volcanic eruption some 4000 years ago, which left, at the centre, an enormous lagoon (the Caldera). It has been said that the eruption was so violent that led to the legend of the submerged city of Atlantis. The volcano is still active, but completely safe, and can be visited as part of a number of amazing boat tours (a lot of fun, but beware of the trek… and the heat!).
Number two, THE VIEW. If you are looking to impress your significant other with a breath taking view, look no further. Santorini is uber-famous for its sunsets. In order to secure a front row seat to this explosion of orange, choosing the right spot for your hotel can be tricky. View-wise, the capital Fira is ok, but I would certainly recommend the scenic village of Oia, on the north-west edge of the island. We stayed there, and it was awesome! Wherever you decide to stay, a room with a Caldera view can be pricey, but you can opt for a cheaper hotel and still enjoy the sunsets from a number of absolutely beautiful and free-of-charge spots across the island (however, beware of romance-overload in the air and couples taking selfies). In Oia, beside the luxury 5* hotels, there are a number of resorts offering independent villas for great prices (we stayed at Ambelias traditonal villas, and were extremely happy. Our host was the best!).
Number three, Beach with a twist: Despite the endless sea that surrounds it, if you are looking for a “boring” white sandy beach kind of place, Santorini is probably not for you. But beach lovers don’t despair! Perissa beach, on the south of the island, is certainly worth the drive (if only for the delicious, mouth-watering food of Tranquilo bar and the 7 am yoga class, if you’re in that kind of stuff). The Red beach is also a must see, especially at sunset, when the orange of the sky blends perfectly well with the red sand. We had an amazing time exploring both beaches, which required a certain level of fitness, since you basically have to hike over a cliff just to get there. But trust me, it’s worth it. There are also a number of boat tours leaving from the island’s main port of Athinias, including day trips to the Volcano and the sulphur natural pools around it, or island hopping if you are in the mood for some partying in the close-by (and sadly underrated) island of Ios. if you decide to stay ashore, the island can easily be explored by car (many cheap rentals available) or, if you don’t fancy going very far from your hotel, in Oia and Fira there are plenty of little shops and even a fish pedicure salon (yes, I said fish pedicure…)
Number four, the FOOD. Ok, keeping in mind that this point would deserve a whole blog post to itself, get ready to gain some pounds. The food and the wine in Santorini is simply mind-blowing. I love Greek food, truly, I could possibly marry it if I had a chance, but never have I tasted some as tasty as this. Santorini is a maze of colour and smells, with a delicious taverna at every corner, offering typical products like the Santonini cherry tomatoes, the fava beans and, hold on to your seat, a delicious dish of feta cheese, wrapped in filo pastry, fried and covered in honey!!!!. I really think we spent half of that holiday stuffing our faces, and the other half burning the calories trying to reach the top of a cliff or a wonderful secret beach. Santorini has also a whole region dedicated to wine production, and thanks to the microclimate present on the island, the wine has a very special and unique taste. A pleasant drive can take you to the Santorini wine museum, a very fun place to visit (plus you get to try all the wine at the end!!!)
Number five. If this was not enough to convince you to open sky-scanner and have a sneak peak, Santorini is also (almost) completely child-free! Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE CHILDREN, but they are not the ideal neighbour when you are sipping a glass of wine overlooking the sunset with you boyfriend, trying to have a moment. Be it the wild landscape, the romantic atmosphere or the absence of child-friendly activities, families with children shy away from this paradise, leaving you able to enjoy your siesta in peace, with the only sound being that of the waves (and maybe some donkey here and there).
All of this doesn’t come with a huge price tag. Easyjet flies to Santorini (Thira) from London, Manchester, Rome and Milan, and the island is easily reached by boat from Athens. The flight is certainly affordable, and there’s accommodation for any taste. Since the economic crisis hit Greece, the cost of living on the island has considerably decreased (according to local restaurant owners that I questioned in amazement while stuffing my face). there are really NO EXCUSES….
So, since we both know you are fantasising about your next summer holiday, do yourself a favour, and go to Santorini!