With hundreds of inhabited islands scattered in the seas off the coast of Greece, how do you choose which ones to visit?
For us, Santorini was a given.
Not only is the island’s beauty legendary, everyone we know who has been to Santorini has high praise for it. Good friends of ours honeymooned there, while one half of another, well-traveled couple we met recently told us it’s her all-time favorite place.
Santorini is popular for a reason. During our six-day stay on the island, we found that it lived up to the hype…and then some.
What didn’t surprise us about Santorini
Santorini is as picture-perfect as the postcards suggest. Set in the azure Aegean, it was created like so many of the world’s geologic wonders: by volcanic activity. When a larger landmass exploded, the sea covered the volcano’s caldera, resulting in the several islands that make up Santorini. The largest, crescent-shaped Thira (“Santorini”), is unique among the places we’ve visited.
On Santorini, dramatic sea views are never far away. Bright white, cube-shaped dwellings cascade down hillsides. Those iconic blue domes topping churches perfectly match the water rippling all around. And the famed sunsets brilliantly light up the caldera. Yes, the island’s scenery more than lived up to expectations.
What did surprise us about Santorini
We do have one problem with Santorini. The island’s hospitality, high quality, and reasonable prices spoiled us, from complimentary glasses of house-made dessert wine at our favorite eatery, Dionysos, to the tangy capers (grown on the island) that transformed the simple Greek salads we ate everywhere from sit-down restaurants to fast food places.
In a destination like Santorini where visitors often stay for just a day or two, or even a few hours for cruise ship passengers, it’s not uncommon to let quality slide. After all, it’s not as if the many, many restaurants are competing for repeat business. And yet food here was not only routinely fresh and flavorful but downright delicious—and at reasonable prices, including half-liter carafes of locally produced house wines for 5 euros.
Lodging was a bargain, too, considering that Santorini’s tourist season is relatively short, running from April through October. In early May, $57 per night got us a double room at the lovely, family-run Hotel Thira. The property overlooks the sea and is a five-minute walk from the center of Fira.
Santorini was our first official stop on a five-month trek through Europe. We’ve since moved on, staying in numerous other places in Greece, Rome, Croatia, and Montenegro. While all wonderful, none of them have matched the hospitality and quality we experienced on Santorini.
We really miss those capers.