A Trip to Santorini: the Greek Island of Magic and Mystery
The geological masterpiece is known as the most visited of the Greek Islands – and for good reason. Santorini, with its timeless beauty, is unlike any other in the world. Five separate islands were created from a massive eruption in 1660 B.C. resulting in a magnificent isle.
Officially called Thira, this magnificent isle was transformed by lava from a massive eruption in 1660 B.C. creating five separate islands. Follow along for our recommendations for a trip to Santorini on our Greek Island cruise.
After a splendid day in Mykonos, our Celebrity Cruise ship slowly maneuvered into port. We were treated to unforgettable images, views of bright white pristine sugar-cubed houses clinging to the towering cliffs of the caldera (crater).
We recalled a Greek friend’s comment from years ago that the island of Santorini is not only shrouded in mystery but also romance. She said, “It has the power to make people fall in love or fall in love all over again.” Perhaps its mystique relates to a strong belief that the mythical ruins of the Lost City of Atlantis lie buried beneath its cerulean waters. Truth or fiction, Santorini excursions on this island is absolutely breathtaking.
For a good Santorini itinerary, visitors can book private or group tours. In our case, we decided to rent a motorbike with friends in the main town of Fira. This allowed us the freedom to explore the island at our own pace. The island is only 35 square miles hence no fear of getting lost.
Capital Town of Fira – Where Santorini Day Tours should start!
Santorini’s vibrant cultural capital, Fira features narrow-cobbled streets weaving through its town filled with charming boutiques brimming with jewelry, artisan treasures, local arts and crafts, a daily outdoor farmer’s market, and an occasional passing donkey.
Fira’s high elevation and ocean side location provides almost indescribable captivating panoramic views. Lithos Restaurant’s outdoor dining has prime front-row seating from its lofty summit overlooking the caldera and magnificent Aegean waters below.
Stunning vistas are not their only draw. Lithos’ savory traditional Greek salad perfectly set the mood. This delectable lettuce-free dish consists entirely of fresh tomatoes, feta, and crisp Greek olives. One thing is for sure: You won’t starve in Santorini as you stuff your face with delectable Greek food. There are more restaurants in Santorini to try than one could ever fit in a vacation.
Santorini’s most famous site is ancient Akrotiri, destroyed by the massive volcanic eruption in the mid-second millennium BC.
When time doesn’t permit an excursion to the ancient site on your trip to Santorini, a visit to Fira’s spectacular Prehistoric Thera Museum is a must-do. Fragments of painted frescos, metalworking, fossils, pottery, paintings, and jewelry are all part of its rich collection of excavated finds.
These historic treasures from both Akrotiri and older southern Cyclades islands of Greece provide a glimpse into prehistoric life on these islands to the days when Thira was at its zenith.
If you decide to stay the whole day in Fira, you can book a 4-hour walking tour with food samples here.
Wine Tasting at Santo Highlights – Trip to Santorini
Santorini’s wines have been famous throughout the Mediterranean since ancient times. Today, you can find them in wine shops throughout the world. The island’s volcanic soil gives a unique mineral and earthy taste to its vineyard creations.
You can book a 4-hour Santorini Wine Roads Tour here.
The Countryside Experience
Heading out to the countryside, we had the pleasure of stopping at Santo Winery, one of the island’s most famous wineries. Santo’s innovative architecture is remarkable. It is built on various levels terracing the vineyards below. These terraces offer magnificent, awe-inspiring views of the volcanic caldera and cobalt Aegean Sea.
Our guided tour of the vineyard and property was fascinating and gave us an inside track on not only Santos, but how other island wineries are making wines differently than other parts of the grape-producing regions of the world. Notably absent were the typical trellises supporting row upon row of grapevines.
About Santo Vineyards
Vintners invented a distinct process of pruning called “koulouri” where unlike most vineyards, the vines remain close to the ground forming a spiral. These natural baskets hold the grapes, protecting them from incoming strong winds. From pruning and harvesting, everything in the Santorini vineyards is done by hand.
Artificial irrigation is not common in Santorini. The vines dependent on the island’s natural humidity and sea mists. The winemakers construct stone terraces called “pozoules” to facilitate the cultivation and maximize the absorption of rainwater.
All this results in vibrant and full-bodied wines with citrus fruit aromas. What a joy to taste these unique wines, along with a spread of the vineyard’s own Santorini tomatoes, homemade baked bread, and island-grown Greek olives. With the majestic panoramas before us accompanied by Santorini sunshine and azure skies, the wine-tasting experience was like drinking liquid gold in paradise.
Exploring on a trip to Santorini – at the Heart of Oia Village
The picturesque town of Oia (pronounced ee-ya) is without a doubt the Aegean’s most photographed village. Located on the northern part of the island, the idyllic picturesque town sits atop an impressive cliff overlooking the massive caldera, rocky wetlands of Palia. Just nearby, the island of Thirassia stands tall. We recommend that you visit here during the morning hours to avoid crowds which tend to build up throughout the day.
The intricate maze of Oia’s cobblestone streets leads from one fascinating architectural gem to another. Meandering alleys are dotted with colorful sea captain’s houses and hyposkafa-type (cave house) buildings hewn into the volcanic rock.
Cycladic windmills blow in the distance. A myriad of luxurious hotels, restaurants, cafes, and elegant shops fills this photogenic town. Vestiges of an ancient Venetian fortress built to protect the town from pillaging pirates hovers over the bay.
Oia’s Magnificent Church – the Icing on the Santorini Day Tours Cake
Oia has several eye-catching white-washed churches and chapels with domed roofs and dark blue trim. They’re simple in appearance, but inside, they contain stunning relics, beautiful wood carvings, and exceptional art pieces.
Our favorite is the Oia Santorini Church that has a magnificent set of bells against the backdrop of this picture-perfect Santorini skies. Your trip to Santorini should definitely include a visit to this church.
Its charming dazzling chalk-white houses with edgeless infinity pools, blue-domed structures, and sun-bathed verandas sprinkled with scarlet bougainvillea provide breathtaking views seen only in postcards.
Greek Delicacies: adding flavor to your trip to Santorini
But no postcard could possibly capture the essence of Santorini that will forever be imprinted in our memories. Experiencing the island’s magic is much more than what can be seen with the eyes.
Its gentle prevailing winds cool the sun-splashed air as enticing scents of Greek delicacies waft from its quaint eateries. The laughter and happy vibes from its locals are absolutely contagious.
American Playwright Henry Miller once said, “It takes a lifetime for someone to discover Greece but it only takes an instant to fall in love with her.”
Book a Greek Food and Wine Tasting Tour in Santorini here.
Real Magic in Santorini
As we headed back to our ship moored in the Aegean waters, the sky became cloud-covered. Instantly thought we’d never get to see one of Santorini’s legendary sunsets.
Just as the sun approached the horizon, the skies suddenly opened and we were spellbound by a jaw-dropping sunset. “There is real magic in our trip to Santorini”, we agreed to toast to our unforgettable visit to Santorini as our ship sailed out to sea. And to think we found so much magic in just a single day.
Our friend was right.
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