The most iconic view of Greece – Santorini
Last week my friend Ginny and I ended our cruise along the French and Italian Rivieras with a stop in Eze, and beautiful French coastal town. Our lunch overlooking the sea reminded me of the fabulous views in Greece. Thinking of the Greek Islands and its most famous view inspires this week’s article…
The most iconic view of Greece – Santorini
Santorini is one of the most popular destinations in Greece, and rightfully so. Boasting black volcanic sand, pretty whitewashed villages, an active volcano and a wealth of archaeological treasures, there’s more to this destination than simply sun, sea and sand (though there’s plenty of this too!). In this article, we’ll show you some of the main attractions on the island, which are sure to have you reaching for your passport in no time.
Oia and Fira
Oia and Fira are similar, but not the same. They share many of the same characteristics – gorgeous, whitewashed buildings, breathtaking sea views and magical sunsets. Fira is the larger of the two, the capital of the island. A stroll down its narrow streets reveals all manner of charming boutique shops, restaurants, hotels and jewelers. Oia is further to the north, jutting out over the cliffs and offering wonderful views over neighboring Thirasia island. This iconic photo that you see when you think of Greece, with its white buildings and blue dooms, looking down on the sea – that view is from Oia.
There is a popular walking trail which connects the Fira and Oia. Winding for approximately 6 miles, it takes about two hours to complete and is the lovely way to experience Santorini, including stunning countryside and some of the best coastal views in all of Greece. When it comes to sunsets, sipping a glass of wine in an oceanfront bar is one option, or you can take to the water on an evening sailing tour, for incredible views back over the island.
The volcanic caldera
Many centuries ago, a tremendous volcanic eruption shattered Santorini into pieces. In fact, what remains today is just a fraction of the original island; the rest has been consumed by the sea. If you look at Santorini on a map, this is clear, the surviving land forms a sort of semi-circle around the now submerged volcanic crater. It is only the still active islets of Kaimeni which rise from the ocean.
It is possible to visit the caldera on boat trips from the main island, and you can even hike along the cliffs of Kaimeni, where green sulphur dioxide still rises into the atmosphere from vents deep underground. The volcanic activity which still persists in the area has also created several underwater hot springs. You may enjoy a swim in these waters, which will have you feeling like you’re taking a warm bath, but in the open ocean! Numerous licensed boat operators offer such trips out to the island, and it is the most popular activity for visitors to Santorini.
If volcanoes and charming Greek villages don’t appeal to you, then how about ancient Minoan ruins? Southwest of Fira, these ruins were buried under the lava and ash which spewed from the now-underwater volcanic crater during an eruption sometime in the 16th century. Often labeled as the Greek answer to Pompeii, the site has been wonderfully well preserved, with the remnants of buildings, pottery and an ancient drainage system all visible among the ruins of a once thriving market outpost. Many of the recovered artifacts can be seen at the Akrotiri Archaeological Site, while the village itself can be explored through a network of pathways which wind through the ruins.
Red Beach and White Beach
Not far from Akrotiri, visitors will find Red Beach, named because of the spectacular red cliff which rises up at the back of the beach, and red sand and stones that make up the shore. It is small and gets very busy in summer, so you’ll want to arrive early to secure a spot. The beach can be accessed by a narrow path from Akrotiri.
On the very southern tip of the island, travelers will find White Beach, in an even more remote spot than its red neighbor. White Beach boasts crystal clear water and a speckled shingle beach of white and black pebbles. It is one of the prettiest parts of the island, and well worth the slight effort involved to get there.
One of the best ways to explore the beaches and coastline of Santorini in style is by catamaran, where you can take in the view of the island and easily visit the various beaches and enjoy the water – the waters surrounding Santorini are prime for snorkeling, with clear, calm waters, protected from the wind by the shape of the island.
Travelers to Greece are spoiled for choice, with a wealth of historic cities and attractive islands to choose from, from Athens to Mykonos and Rhodes to Thessaloniki. Yet Santorini always seems to come out on top for travelers deciding where to visit in the country. And there is good reason for this. A volcanic island paradise, with reliable weather, stunning beaches and gorgeous landscapes, there is sure to be something for everyone on this Greek island.