The volcanic island of Santorini was once a single big, round island called Strogili, which means round in Greek. In 1610, during the Minoan civilisation, a massive volcanic eruption blew the island apart, and the crescent-shaped caldera that remains is the Santorini that we see in pictures today.
A top choice for honeymooners and one of the most photographed destinations in Greece, Santorini is, in the words of my friend Misty, “so beautiful, it is almost unreal”. Indeed it is as far as you will get from the mundane. Here, blue sky, sea and the rugged terrain of the caldera rising from the Aegean come together to present a most striking and inspiring natural symphony. Whitewashed, blue-domed buildings hang from the edges of the caldera, and at night, their warm yellow lights turn the villages of Santorini into chimerical fairylands.
If you’re looking to be wowed by magnificent views of the caldera and the small surrounding islands that were once part of the mainland, then stay in Fira, Oia or Imerovigli. Fira, the island’s capital is the most bustling, Oia is the prettiest, and Imerovigli is the least crowded with a handful of high-end hotels and only a few shops and restaurants.
If you prefer a more local vibe, and don’t mind not having caldera views, then the traditional villages of Katerados, Pyrgos and Megalochori might be good choices for you. Katerados is walking distance to Fira and there are a handful of good bakeries and restaurants in the area. Pyrgos and Megalochori, with their narrow, cobblestoned streets and Byzantine churches are like pages out of a history book.
Visit a vineyard in Pyrgos; take a hike along the ridgeline of the caldera from Oia to Fira. See the archeological site at Akrotiri or take a boat excursion to one of the nearby islands.
Cuisine: Feta cheese, olives, capers, tomatoes, octopus, rusks and Vincento wine are items that you’ll see on many of the restaurant menus on the island. Sagnaki – an appetizer of fried cheese, tomato fritters, mashed fava beans, red snapper, grilled octopus and the Santorinian salad – a variation of the Greek salad using locally grown tomatoes and cucumbers, feta, olives, caper berries and sometimes caper leaves.