Updated: Jul 9
Stop Three: The White Wash Cliff Side City with Blue Domes
*All photos were taken from my iPhone12*
Our ferry took a little under two hours to get from Paros to Santorini, but unlike our first ferry, it made a stop in Ios (another fun island which I would recommend checking out) to let other passengers out. Other nonstop ferry options were also available if you wanted, but usually costs a little more money. There was nothing quite like pulling up to Santorini on the ferry and looking out to the Caldera - which is the steep cliff that forms from a volcano explosion. Yes, I said that correctly Santorini is the only inhabitants built on an active volcano!
The volcano is said to be about 3000+ years old. Santorini, its nearby islands of Thirasia (bigger formation), Palia Kameni (new volcano) and New Kameni (old volcano) were all connected at one point. When the main eruption occurred, it basically split the island into these mini islands and then produced a super Volcano (said to be worse than 40 atomic bombs). This caused a tsunami, which not only hit Crete (not necessarily close Greek island), but also plummeted ash into the sky that reached as far as Egypt. The last eruption was back in 1950 and was said to sink parts of the island as deep as 3000m. Legend is - the parts of the caldera that sunk in the abyss (no longer locatable) are Plato’s Island. Most do not know this, but the actual island itself was originally called Thera and the settlement prior to the eruption was known as Akrotiri. Later, the island was referenced by the crusaders as Santa Irini (the Greek word ‘ei-ri-ni’ means peace). Since most were unable to pronounce it as such, it was later changed to Santorini. While the official name of the island remains as Thera, most Greeks also refer to it as Santorini.
Upon arrival to the port you will find yourself at the bottom of the Caldera. Here you can see a 180 degree view of the Caldera as the warm sun hits and the air smells freshly salty. At the ferry drop off, you can find lots of places for car rentals and/or taxis if needed.
Our Santorini Airbnb host were really helpful, and set up transportation to take us up the steep cliff from the Port on the southwest side of the island to the North side of the island, to the village called Oía. Oía is actually pronounced as “E ahh” due to the Greek Alphabet having five different E’s. For our time in Santorini, we decided to stay in the heart of the island which is known for its incredible cave houses and out of this world sunsets. Our Airbnb was known as Canava View Sunset by Thereon and was such a cute cave house which probably could have fit another 2-3 people. Danielle and I were super lucky to score this amazing Airbnb at a discounted rate due to Greece’s tourism sadly still hurting (not even at 50% again) at the time of our trip. www.airbnb.com/rooms/6209688?c=.pi80.pkdmlyYWxpdHkvc2hhcmVfaXRpbmVyYXJ5&euid=61db52f3-feae-c24a-d993-f2fa0614411f&source_impression_id=p3_1629384597_nNRJvneE2TM896gY. The views from our cute little spot had unreal panoramic views of the Caldera/Sunset, included a small Jacuzzi and was located next to the windmills which photo opportunities are all over online on Instagram and Pinterest.
Our hosts met us at the drop-off location and helped us with our luggage up to the house because most of the houses/hotels are on roads that cannot be reached by cars. With our luggage dropped, we threw on our small bags and were off to explore the town and get our bearings of where everything was! We were located at the very end of the north side of the village, so we headed south to explore all of the shops, checking out the other hotels when and where we could. STEPS, lots and lots of STEPS were walked to get around and not necessarily all smooth - so again, I definitely recommend good comfortable shoes. After that, we decided to throw on our swim suits and head down to the famous Ammoudi Bay at the bottom of the Caldera (below Oía).
Ammoudi Bay is located exactly 300 large steps at the bottom of the cliff, so bring LOTS of water if you are doing this. The steps are even numbered so you can see how close or how far you are from the bottom. Along the walk, down through the cliff, you can spot other famous social media spots as well. If needed, there are donkeys which can be rode up and down the steps as well for ~50 euros (one way). We couldn’t miss the photo ops with the donkeys on our way down!
At the bottom you will reach a small Greek flag and an Ammoudi Bay sign which shows what restaurants are located down here, along all of the fishing boats. If you are feeling adventurous you can walk to the left, through the restaurants that showcase the octopus on the lines and fresh live lobster/fish, to the walkway along the cliff and around the side.
Not quite viewable from the bottom of the 300 steps, is a small area where all locals and visitors climb the rocks, set up their towels and jump in the crystal clear water of Ammoudi bay. Right across from here is a large rock formation which actually has the church, Saint Nicholas, on the side of it. For those who really love adrenaline like myself, I would recommend climbing the side of the rock (you will see plenty of people doing this) to run and jump off the cliff edge into the water below.
After a while we decided to pack up and head back to our house and hang in the Jacuzzi and have some snacks from the Elinikon Oía Restaurant right next to us before sunset and dinner. We got dressed up for a night on the town, just in time to catch sunset from the little balcony of our place with the windmill and all. Sadly our first sunset in Santorini was a little hazy due to the Sahara Sands but still so beautiful to see. Later, we walked the main drag of Oía to explore more of the shops and check out all the restaurants. For the first night we ended up choosing Apsithia restaurant which was extremely charming and had views that overlooked the cliffs and illuminated places along the sides. During our time in Greece they were still on curfew so most places sadly closed at 1:30 am, so we spent most our time at dinner, having drinks and relaxing before continuing our night. Currently the curfew is lifted and things are more open and a lot of bars stay open almost all night, the Greeks love to party!
The next morning we stumbled on one of my favorite little cafes in Oía, Vitrin Café Creperie. They had great coffee and was a great spot to grab good crepes before our big boat day ahead! They have a great covered patio which is also nice to take a seat and grab a coffee and just admire the view of the cliffside. Vitrin not only had various food options but also overlook the white washed cliffs of Santorini and the beautiful Caldera waters below. Of course we had to do a catamaran tour while in Santorini, if you have limited time and want to catch most of the big ticket items, this is a great way to see everything - especially if you did not rent a car or scooter or four wheeler.
Vista Yachting had about 15 people total on our ride and even picked us up from our Airbnb. There were two options for the ~ 6 hour rides, one in the mid-day and one for sunset. Danielle and I opted for the mid-day tour about 10:30 to 4:30 to get to see most of the stuff before heading back to our place for sunset! These catamaran tours start on the southeast side of the island and take you along the south side of the island to make stops to check out Red Sand Beach, Black Sand Beach and White Sand Beach (only accessible by boat). The red sand is formed from the iron produced from the volcano, while the black sand is formed from the cooled lava and the white sand is produced from the ash as a result from the volcano.
The company provides snack, unlimited drinks along our route, and also gave us some history of the island at the different spots along the way. Eventually, we made our way around the southwest side of the island which showcases the famous Akrotiri Lighthouse. This is also accessible by car and/or scooters from the mainland and has some amazing views of the island and the lighthouse itself. This is the most southern place on the island where you still can catch sunset because the entire south side of the island actually cannot view the sunset due to the cliffs. From there, the boat makes a stop in between what is known as the old and new volcano rock formations and what is home to the “hot springs” of Santorini. These waters probably aren’t quite as warm as you think when you hear the word hot springs, but due to the sulfuric waters and most vessels trying to get in, they let you hop in for about 15-20 minutes to get to experience the hot springs and see the small church found on the side of the new volcano while they start cooking up lunch (or dinner if you did a sunset one).
The next stop along the tour was at the smaller island, Thirasia, for lunch where they anchor to let people swim, snorkel, lay out along the boat and enjoy the food and drinks. Here you will find some of the bluest Aegean waters. Finally, on our way back they stopped one last time at red sand beach for a little dessert and hopping in the amazing turquoise waters. Highly recommend a boat day if only spending a few days in Santorini. If away on a honeymoon or with your significant other, I would say do the sunset cruise where you can opt to jump in the water along the way if you would like, but most people throw on a cute cruise outfit and enjoy the amazing sunset at the end of the tour near Ammoudi Bay.
Our night was finished by watching one of the most amazing sunsets while were in Oía. Then heading back out on the town for food, drinks and this time, shopping! Note - if you ever see philo wrapped feta on the menu, we definitely recommend (especially if they top with local honey) it’s the best sweet and salty combo!
For our last day in Oía we decided to hit a little bit of everything. The morning we grabbed our morning coffee at Vitrin again and then headed along the way for photo ops. We hunted down the famous blue domes and church bells that overlook the cliffs. Note - the blue domes indicate churches and it is disrespectful to go climbing on them as seen throughout Instagram and Pinterest. There also is over100 churches that cover the island of Santorini.
Next we made a pit stop at the castle of Oía which has a 360 degree view of the island and is the highest point of Oía. At the top, a cute little Papppou (Grandfather in Greek) was even playing Greek music on his Bouzouki. Danielle and I both recommend that the best light is super early morning if you want to grab a photo at some of the spots, especially without all the crowds that tend to occur later through the day. Bopped into town for a late brunch overlooking the white cliffs again before deciding to spend a couple hours at the Lioyerma Lounge Pool Bar. Here there is a large pool surrounded by lots of chairs to hang out, relax, grab a drink and/or food at the café attached and of course catch a dip in the pool on what was probably our hottest day in Greece. The whole area overlooks the cliff to the Northwest side of the island and also makes an amazing spot to catch sunset if you can! Another fun activity to do if you have extra time is to walk the cliff walk that connect Oía to Thira (old port on the center of the west side of the island) it is approximately a 6 mile hike so recommend this really early in the morning or later in the evening when it cools (could take a couple of hours). Along this walk you can even make a detour to Skaros Rock and the church which jets out over the Caldera for an amazing view point; his detour is about a one mile round trip. Along the way you pass through other towns such as Imerovigli and Firostefani. If you would rather go back to the beaches, this is also possible via car rentals and/or four wheeling the island. If you are afraid of cliffs, I would not recommend using the four wheelers.
WINE Not?! To end our last night in Santorini we opted to get ready and try out one of the famous wineries of the island Santo Wines. There are multiple wineries found throughout the island and due to the volcanic soil it is said it helped produce amazing conditions to grow the grapes for the wine. We took a taxi down to Santo Wines since it is closer to the south side of the island where the ferry brought us, overlooking the Caldera. Along the way you can see the multiple vineyards where they actually force the vines to grow in bushes closer to the ground due to the little rain they receive, along with the humidity which makes them cute to look at as our driver told us. If you are not doing a day trip to the winery and are trying to catch sunset make sure to make a reservation significantly in advance because they book up fast. We spent a couple of hours sipping wine and splitting a snack board since they do not serve actual dinner. The sunset was indeed a magical view overlooking the Volcano Islands from the top of the cliffs. Danielle and I tried multiple red and white wines from the vineyard and enjoyed quite a few of them. But according to the locals, there are better wineries if you are into more sophisticated wines. It was suggested to us that if you like white wine, Artemis Karamolegos is the better choice and if you prefer a rose then Venetsanos winery and lastly if you are more of a red wine person to check out Domaine Sigalas. While we did enjoy our time at Santo Winery, we did not feel it was worth the “hype” everyone says of it and would suggest checking out one of the local wineries by the town you are staying in.
The last night we spent enjoying a quick dinner, walking the town to soak in the atmosphere especially since the streets were nowhere near as crowded as it was pre-pandemic, and a good scoop of homemade ice cream! The Greeks sure do love their ice cream and I don’t blame them, especially in a hot summer day or night. Santorini was a dream and couldn’t have had a better time soaking in her magical atmosphere.
Biggest Santorini Takeaways
For Santorini there are a few takeaways if you are opting to spending some time in Santorini.
Santorini is definitely one of the pricier islands to visit in Greece. But do not let that fool you, it does not detour the crowds and there is plenty of tourists ready to walk the streets of this picturesque island!
If wanting to explore and get the best photo ops especially in Oía, then go in the early morning for best lighting!
Santo Wines in my opinion is overrated. Transportation to & from and the food & wine is pricey. Quality of the wine is not the best.
If you are only spending a few days in Santorini definitely book a Catamaran tour which will take you around to explore the biggest attractions of the island!
Lastly and most importantly, the photos on the internet do NOT do the beauty of this island any justice. It is something I would recommending seeing even if only on a day trip!
BEACHES & THINGS to DO:
Red Sand Beach [South Side]
Black Sand Beach [South Side]
White Sand Beach [South Side]
Ammoundi Bay [North Side]
Kamari [East Side]
Akrotiri Light house [South Side]
Oía to Thera Cliff Walk [West Side]
Skaros Rock [West Side]
Wineries [Most offer tours]
Oía: [North East Side]: Sunset, food, shopping, to stay, Windmills, churches
Thera: [Center West Side] Main Port, shopping, food, to stay, Windmills, churches