• Berni

Santorini - the island of beautiful sunsets

Santorini is the southernmost volcanic archipelago in the Cyclades archipelago in the Aegean Sea. Santorini reached its current state as a result of several volcanic eruptions. Currently, the main island (Thira) embraces the Caldera in the form of a crescent moon to the east and a smaller island, Thirasia, to the northwest.


The Caldera is the part of the bay surrounded by islands, a stretch of coast formed by volcanic eruptions, and in the middle of it the volcanic crater can still be seen today. Looking at the tiny little volcanic island, it is now hard to imagine that about 1,500 years B.C., this volcano could wreak such havoc that it ended even the thriving Minoan civilization on the island of Crete, more than 100 km south. According to many, this huge volcanic eruption not only took the island of Santorini into pieces, but also caused the disappearance of Atlantis. It may even be that the legendary city lies there off the coast of Santorini, and the Caldera hides even more wonders and secrets than have been revealed until today.



Thanks to the island's incredible history, magnificent architecture and enchanting geographical location, it is no wonder that Santorini is the dream destination for thousands of people. The magical island is visited by millions of tourists every year. Nowadays, it is easy to get to Santorini in many ways. Many visit Santorini from Crete on a few-hour cruise, but most people come by air with cheap low-budget airlines. However, the influx of tourists from large cruise ships is not negligible either. Santorini is an unmissable stop of the cruises, which are shipping around Greece. And because the water in the Caldera is quite deep as a result of the volcanic eruption, large boats and cruise ships can anchor quite close to shore.


The island of Santorini is quite contrasting. When you land with a plane, you first encounter the eastern side of the main island, Thira, which at first may seem very dry and barren. Especially in the summer season, when the drought is very high, there is hardly any green vegetation on the island, or if there is, it is also a little browner, yellower because of the lot of dust and drought. Most of the green plants that we find on the island, are the large cactuses, palm trees, fig bushes and dusty grapes.


However, for those who arrive on the island by boat at the west coast of Thira, their first sight of Santorini is the Caldera, which is sure to be a beautiful first impression for everybody.

As Santorini is very small, Thira, the main island is 79km2, so you can easily visit most places on the island in a week, especially if you rent a car. There are big price differences on the island. The main cities of the Caldera: Fira, Oia and Imerovigli offer a number of wonderful luxury accommodations with private jacuzzis, from where you can enjoy the magnificent Caldera sunsets. These small apartments are located on top of each other, completely crowded and with little privacy, as these tiny little terraces and jacuzzis are right below the pedestrian streets of the Caldera, but the fact is that it is still an amazing experience to admire the sunset from there. The price for these Caldera-view apartments has no limits. We can find accommodation for even 1500+ Euros in the high season in the Caldera. But of course, there are also cheaper, more budget-friendly accommodations in Santorini, especially in the parts where there is no view of the Caldera, or in the east and south of the island, and on the other small island of Thirasian.



In terms of transport, it is advisable to rent a car / quad / motorbike on the island because public transport is limited and Fira-centric. There are bus services that go in a circle through Fira and Oia, but only in one direction (Fira -> Oia, so clockwise), and there are also bus services to the southern part of the island, but you should know that buses are not very frequent and in the summer during busy hours you can easily wait hours for the bus, especially if you can’t get on the first one because of the long queue, but have to wait for the next one. This crowdedness is especially specific for the pre-sunset period. However, this time of day can also be a challenge by parking a car. Santorini is one of the few tourist places where parking is free, but in Oia and Fira it is only possible in the designated large shared car parks marked with large blue P-parking signs. However, this also means that the car parks are very crowded and if we want to be sure we can find a place, it is better to arrive well before sunset.


If you haven’t booked your accommodation on the Caldera, this earlier arrival is also good because it’s worth spending a minimum of 2-3 hours per city just wandering aimlessly, walking along the tiny streets while admiring the coastline and the beautiful panorama of the Caldera, with its iconic blue-dome churches. The three small towns along the Caldera have their own small charm and sights. Even though all three places are similar, you can still find completely unique sights in Fira, Oia and in Imerovigli as well.


Cities:


Fira:

Fira, perhaps the best known, is the so-called capital of the main island. It is located approximately in the middle of the island, in line with the volcanic crater, and from the harbor can be reached by a steep, more than 600-stair stairway.

In the port there are donkeys standing the whole day, and tourists from the port can pay for a donkey ride to go up to Fira, but I would not recommend it to anyone. Think about it, it’s tiring for people to go up the steep stairs in the scorching heat, and these donkeys do it all day long, with tourists up and down on their backs in such a heat. Therefore, please choose either walking up or possibly going by cable car, which costs 6 Euros (one way). The city offers beautiful views evening lights as well.


Oia:

Oia has the most iconic blue-domed churches. Seeing the many beautiful photos of Santorini all over the internet, you might think that there is a blue-domed church on every corner, but that is not the case. In addition to the blue-domed churches of Oia, another attractions are the windmills, which are even more beautiful during sunset.

Oia is special because not only the entire Caldera is visible from there, but also because the sunset is obscured neither by the volcanic crater nor Thirasia, but it sets in the sea over the horizon. While walking in Oia, make sure to go up to the ruins of Agios Nikolaos Castle, from where there is a wonderful panoramic view in all directions.


Imerovigli:

Imerovigli is located between Fira and Oia. This is the third town where we can admire the Caldera. It is very pleasant to walk along the small streets. For me, the most amazing sight of Santorini is in Imerovigli. A blue-domed little church in front of which a huge beautiful bougainvillea bush expands.

From the main street of Imerovigli, it is almost impossible to see the beauty of the smaller hidden street one above. This church is the Church of the Resurrection of the Lord. If you go after the crowd, you see the church from below, so let’s take a sidewalk to the tiny street above the church, either through stairs at the base of the church, or by the little streets on the right-hand side, by going up the regular street stairs.

If you do so, you will arrive at this beautiful photo spot, with the bougainvillea in the front and the church in the back. Because there is a beautiful panorama, it is quite common for girls to take photos in long, vivid silk dresses, as if the wind was floating their skirts, but what is not visible in the insta photos is that photo assistants waving their skirts in the background to make the skirts' look like floating on the photos.