I’ve always liked the edge. As a kid I would often be called back from exploring some crumbling ridge to take a peek over the other side. So it should be no surprise that I fell in love with Santorini, a Greek island born of mythology and rich in geology. Legend tells of a land gifted to the Argonauts by sea god Triton. The first settlers called this place Kallisti, ‘the most beautiful one’. It developed as a sophisticated outpost of Minoan civilisation until 1600 BC, when one of the world’s largest volcanic eruptions tore the island apart. A tsunami raced and raged across the sea…perhaps claiming Plato’s ancient Atlantis beneath the waves?
The draw of modern-day Santorini is in no doubt. This is the Greece of a 1,000 picture-perfect postcards. A volcanic jewel in the Aegean Sea crowned by whitewashed villages. One such village is Oia, home to blue domed churches and traditional Greek windmills converted into unique holiday accommodations. Located at the Northern tip of the island, Oia is famous for it’s sunsets and it’s where I stayed for my Santorini photo shoot. Traditional cave houses appear as bites in the caldera cliff and hotels cling to the rim, competing for ever-superior sea views. Nameless streets and numerous steps link the viewpoint of Oia’s old fort down to the shores of Amoudi Bay. This tiny fishing port offers fresh seafood…and the chance to swim in the flooded caldera of a resting volcano.
Santorini is a ring of crater islands through which Mediterranean cruise ships sail. The main island is Thira and it’s capital town of Fira is where boatloads of tourists first set foot – helped from ship to shops by a cable car or donkey ride. From this cliff top tourist town it is possible to walk all the way back to Oia. A coastal path rewards hikers with stunning sea vistas, passing whitewashed villas and the roof top rowing boat of Homeric Poems Hotel in Firostefani.
From Firostefani, with it’s caldera view of volcanic Nea Kameni island, I continued on to the medieval Skaros Rock, site of a long lost castle fortress. Within a stones throw of this rocky headland is the luxurious Hotel White in Imerovigli. Infinity pools and hammocks aside, it was enough to admire that same million dollar view from the path, stood in trusty trail worn sandals! Itchy Feet didn’t make it straight back to Oia that night, distracted instead by fine food at the Blue Note Restaurant…where a chilled glass of wine and the Santorini sun sank together.
For such a small island, Santorini holds many charms. Travel inland from the balcony-clad coast and you will find a slower, less material way of life. Journey past vineyards to the hillside village of Pyrgos. This fortified settlement of churches and mansions has panoramic, coast to coast views overlooking the grape-growing landscape. Or step through the arched entrance of Emporio Castle into a miniature maze of twisting tunnels and narrow alleys that hide a tumble of medieval dwellings built tightly together to protect from pirates.
Santorini often features in the top 10 lists of travel destinations, best island holidays and romantic escapes. Plan a visit, and find out why!
See more pictures of Oia village and Santorini sunsets over at itchyfeetphotography.com.