This Greek island was so much more than we actually expected. It was a pleasant surprise to discover that, although being quite popular among tourists, it has still preserved the feeling of untouched beauty, especially if you carefully choose your accommodation and stay in one of the not so popular places like we did. We booked a small house in Emporeio, which was the perfect place to have a good rest – in the mornings we could only hear the voice of the rooster and the donkey, who were melodically communicating next to our place. The evenings were so quiet, with no noise from cars, just the song of the crickets and the few cats who acted like we are on their territory and were constantly around, keeping us company while we were enjoying a dinner in the inner yard.
We arrived early in the morning from Athens, rented a car, got to the first supermarket and bought plenty of products, then went in search of our new home for the next days. The little town of Emporeio was pure magic – narrow streets where a car can barely pass, beautiful well maintained houses and friendly local people smiling at you at every corner. We couldn’t ask for more. Our house was located at the end of the village, where the access with a car was pretty difficult, which was fantastic, as there was no noise and we could enjoy the nature and the quiet village life.
We were quite exhausted from the early flight so we decided first to get a good rest and then to explore the Venetian castle, located on the hill next to our place. The maze-like fortress, which is a home to many locals, was almost empty, with just a few tourists walking around in confusion, while trying to figure out where their accommodation is. We even had the chance to attend a small wedding ceremony which was taking place when we were passing by the church. The beautiful bell ringing was echoing throughout the whole fortress.
On the next day we wanted to go to a nice beach and spend some time there. So we carefully chose one which to offer us some comfort and protection from the strong sun. Our host recommended Perissa Perivolos, which is a very long stretch of black sand beaches with plenty of umbrellas and sunbeds. We explored the area by foot, as there is a pedestrian zone right next to the beach, separating the sand from the tavernas and hotels with swimming pools. It was noisy, pricy and crowded – exactly the opposite of what we were looking for. A bit disappointed, we got back in the car and drove to a restaurant which, again, was recommended by our host – To Psaraki. Well, this was something else – the place has a playground which Reya liked a lot, the food was delicious and although the initial plan for the beach didn’t work out so well, the excellent food made our mood improve instantly.
We decided to give the beach plan a second chance and went to the White beach of Vlychada. With its tall white cliffs standing against the back of the beach, this place was incredibly beautiful. There was just one little bar and a small organized area with umbrellas next to the parking, the rest of the beach was absolutely wild and untouched. We enjoyed the rest of the day there and had dinner in the yard of the house
I wanted to see the ancient town of Akrotiri, so after we stopped at an awesome bakery we found on the road the day we arrived on the island, we continued to see the ruins. The entrance fee of 12 euros is worth paying only if you are interested in this type of things, I think that many can find this place somewhat boring, but it is very interesting to see the remains of the sophisticated multi-storey buildings and walk through the thousands-of-years-old streets.
Right next to this prehistoric settlement is located the famous Red beach, which we decided just to check from a distance, as we otherwise had to walk on a steep rocky path, carrying Reya, which at that heat didn’t seem worth it. And it was sooo crowded, that you could barely find a spot to place your towel.
Our next stop was the Lighthouse, which offered us a nice view of the caldera accompanied by some very strong wind.
For lunch we went to Argo, a restaurant located in the island’s capital of Thera, which one shouldn’t miss if on the island – this was the best food we enjoyed on a beautiful terrace overseeing the crowded little streets.
For a proper finish of the day we went to Monolithos beach, where, although we liked it a lot, we didn’t spend much time as it was getting late, the sun was almost gone and it was too windy to stay at the beach.
On the next day we had a lazy morning and went to the beach at Vlychada, as this seemed, from what we have seen, the most suitable place for us. Around 3 p.m. we were already in Thera where we wanted to try another restaurant – Pelican Kipos, which has a fantastic garden and is somewhat more relaxed than the restaurants located near the caldera.
After the late lunch we were driving back to the house when we realized we can stop somewhere and watch the sunset. It was pure luck that we saw some people gathering in an area near the road so we decided to check it out. As it turned out this was the famous Heart of Santorini near Megalochori – a naturally carved heart into the caldera rock. Next to it stairs lead to the small church of Agios Nikolaos with an awesome view of the vast sea and the setting sun.
This was the day dedicated to Oia so we were pretty excited to see what it looks and feels like in reality, after seeing tons of photos of it on the internet. Before that we stopped at Fira to see the Museum of Prehistoric Thera, which houses the mosaics from Akrotiri. After visiting Akrotiri I definitely wanted to see the mosaics. The museum is rather small but it has a very interesting collection of artifacts and I would say it is worth visiting. Keep in mind that it is closed on Tuesdays.
After leaving busy Fira we headed to Oia, which turned out to be really really crowded, even at noon when it was above 30 degrees and we were literally melting. The adventure started right away when we arrived and wanted to park our car. We made a couple of circles until we realized the smartest decision was to leave it somewhere at the outskirts (it is a small village) and then walk. So far, so good. We took the baby stroller out of the trunk put little Reya in it and cheerfully started our walk. Well, it was a pleasant one in the beginning of the wide pedestrian zone, but then stairs came our way – lots of them ☺ And so we ended up carrying around a little girl and a stroller. The views were absolutely stunning and the village really is a place to see while on the island, but if you ask me I would never book one of those rooms, where you have absolutely no privacy due to the tourists who have no respect for the private zones marked as such while attempting to take the greatest Instagram shot. Also getting to your hotel can be quite challenging with a suitcase due to the stairs and the crowds. There were some people struggling under the burning sun and I was thinking how grateful I am that we found the best place to stay on the island, far from this hectic atmosphere.
Some hours later we left for Ammoudi bay, which was just magical. It is located very close to Oia and once you park your car on the steep hill you walk down to the water, where you have to pass through several restaurants until you reach a rocky path which will lead you to a rocky place where you can leave your towel and jump into the water. Although There were some people there, but it didn’t feel packed. There is a big rock not far from the coast, which attracted the cliff jump lovers.
The first half of our last day at the island we spent at Kamari beach, which is a quite pleasant one. There is a nice walkway next to it and we really liked the place.
The rest of the day we spent at Imerovigli, which offers the same astonishing views of the caldera like Oia, only without feeling squeezed in the narrow streets by tons of tourists. It is much more relaxed and pleasant and although you wouldn’t want to miss Oia once at the island, I highly recommend you go and spend a few hours in Imerovigli as well.
Our flight back home was early in the morning on the next day so we went back to the house in the late afternoon to pack, have time for a final proper rest (although this is almost impossible with a toddler, but one never gives up hoping) and say goodbye to Santorini at dawn.