• Eryn

A Photo Diary of the Idyllic Santorini, Greece and its Hidden Gems


Eryn looks out to the whitewashed buildings spread across the hillside in Oia, Santorini, Greece

Santorini is unmistakable. The island's curving, whitewashed buildings that mold into the volcanic cliffscape, and of course, its iconic blue-domed churches are the subject of every postcard from Greece. The small island, which is just under 80 square kilometers in area, is a world-renowned destination that certainly holds a place in everyone's hearts and bucket lists! Likely being Greece's most famous island, Santorini welcomes 2 million tourists annually and it was a dream that we were able to visit it. Here's a photo diary of our experiences and memories from Santorini that turned out to be dazzlingly just like the postcards, but also filled with hidden gems from its quieter sides, all the more adding to the idyllic island's charm.


Flower branches partially cover a blue-domed roof topped with a white cross in front of ocean and the hills of an island in the distance
One of the iconic blue domes of Santorini.

Located in the southern Aegean Sea as a part of the Cyclades islands, Santorini includes its main island along with four surrounding islets. Clustered together amidst the vast blue ocean, the now separated Santorini was actually once whole. Thousands of years ago, it was a massive volcanic eruption that sank the island's center into a crater or caldera. Perhaps one of the largest eruptions that have occurred on Earth, it gave Santorini its unique, rugged landscape that we see today. Looking at the islands from afar, they almost seem like a snow-capped mountain range, except in the place of snow is Santorini's iconic whitewashed villages.


The cliff landscape of Santorini island stretched across the horizon amid a deep blue ocean and a partially cloudy sky

However, Santorini's volcanic activity isn't only responsible for its beauty but also for its potential danger. In 1956, a severe earthquake struck Santorini and resulted in a tsunami that, combined, damaged thousands of houses and took dozens of lives. Thankfully, a disaster as destructive hasn't happened since and great efforts have been put toward restoring the island's historic architecture, especially in the village of Oia.


Looking out from the caldera's edge in Oia to the Santorinian landscape and the island of Therasia beyond.

The picture-perfect Oia is Santorini's most famous village and is settled on the northern tip of the island. It is here where, dotted with iconic blue-domed churches, a bustling city covers the caldera's edge. With cobbled steps and paths that snake up and around the cliff face, no two buildings are quite the same as you are taken through a maze of pastel colors. Walk and explore the village to find photo opportunities at every twist and turn, for the beauty of Oia can only be best conveyed visually.


Whitewashed buildings including a couple of windmills cover the hillside with a blue ocean in the distance
The soft hues and curves of the traditional buildings in Oia.
Whitewashed buildings of Oia, Santorini fringing the cliffs of the island that is wrapped around a deep blue sea
The rainbow of colors that can be seen from Oia and its natural landscape.
A whitewashed church building with a blue-domed roof and a white cross at the top in Oia, Santorini, Greece
The blue dome of the Saint Nikolaos Holy Orthodox in Oia.
Whitewashed Santorinian buildings partially covering a hillside before the sea in the distance
The pastel village of Oia in distinct contrast with the dark volcanic cliffscape below.
An orange seated sphinx statue in front of a deep blue sea and the cliffs of Santorini island on the other side
A lonely sphinx in the middle of Oia, Santorini.
A whitewashed, blue-domed church building topped with a white cross in front of the an old brown structure on a cliffside in Oia, Santorini, Greece
A blue dome in front of the remains of the 15th century Castle of Oia or Agios Nikolaos.
A brown domed roof with a small cross on top in front of a view of the open ocean and some distant islands of Santorini, Greece
Jutting out on a sort of peninsula, the Castle of Oia is one of the best spots for panoramic views of Oia and the caldera.
A stray cat on the streets of Oia. There are many around the island of Santorini and if anything, all of Greece!
A dog with a red scarf sits on the doorstep of a red door surrounded by whitewashed walls in Oia, Santorini, Greece
A watchful doorkeeper in color-coordinated attire.
Buildings of Oia village in front of a peninsula under a sky turned orange by the sunset
With a near unobstructed view to the horizon, the sunset can't be missed in Oia.

Now, away from the stacked hotels, restaurants, churches, and postcard views of Oia, there is still the rest of the crescent-shaped main island to explore. With quiet vineyards in the interior of the island, more caldera-side villages on the western coast, black sand beaches to the east, and beaches made up of even more colors in the south, our rental car served as the perfect mode of transportation to explore all of the different sides of Santorini.


A donkey with its head leaning over a fence in Santorini, Greece
A friendly face we met on the road in Santorini.
Rocks and cliffs covered in shrubs and some whitewashed buildings on the side surround a deep blue ocean in Santorini, Greece
A quieter side of Santorini, featuring the raw volcanic landscape of the island.

One popular beach at the southern edge of the island is the Red Beach in Akrotiri village. As implied by its name, the sandy cove is made up of red volcanic sand where dramatically towering over it, there are slopes and cliffs of an equally vibrant red hue. On a sunny day with a spotless blue sky, the shallows beside the beach turn into a glimmering turquoise that beautifully complements the surrounding earthen tones.


Red slopes and cliffs open to a bay of turquoise water with some small boats nearby
The gorgeous Red Beach of southern Santorini in Greece.

At the southeastern corner of the island, we also found the laid-back Vlichada village. By the marina, we were able to enjoy fresh seafood and views of the ocean that simply stretched as far as the eye could see.


The patio of a restaurant overlooking Vlichada village's turquoise-water marina in Santorini, Greece
A horseshoe-shaped boardwalk lined with parked boats in turquoise water of the Vlichada Marina in Santorini, Greece
The marina of Vlichada village.

Though immersed in the utter bliss of the paradise that is Santorini, we were able to explore both its world-famous and more unknown sides. Yet, there was still so much that we missed, even for an island of its small size.


Where We Stayed


A Santorinian church building with a blue dome amid whitewashed architecture and greenery in Santorini, Greece

When taking a trip to Santorini, most likely choose to stay within the main Oia village among its lively restaurants, shops, and more. However, during our time on the island, we decided to stay a little ways away from town in Aghios Artemios Traditional Houses. The grounds of Aghios Artemios are centered around its own Santorinian blue-domed church that, incredibly, was constructed in 1444! The rooms that you stay in are the traditional cave houses that the pilgrims and guards to the private Orthodox church would have stayed in all those centuries ago. Surrounded by the whitewashed buildings, it was like we were in our own little secluded village.


The whitewashed structure of the Aghios Artemios church with a Santorinian blue dome
The Orthodox church at Aghios Artemios.
The whitewashed architecture of traditional cave houses surrounding a driveway in Aghios Artemios Traditional Houses, Santorini, Greece
A Santorinian church building beside a large tree in the Aghios Artemios Traditional Houses grounds
Eryn stands beside the outside of a whitewashed cave house in Aghios Artemios under a tree with pink flowers
The ultimate color palette of Santorini!
An outdoor corridor amid whitewashed architecture and the leaves and pink flowers of a tree in Aghios Artemios, Santorini, Greece
The curved, whitewashed architecture of a Santorinian church beside the pink flowers of a tree in Aghios Artemios
Seats and tables outside traditional whitewashed cave rooms in Aghios Artemios, Santorini, Greece
Three cats sleep on the three chairs to a table in Aghios Artemios, Santorini, Greece
This table is reserved (by a few local residents).
The blue dome of the Aghios Artemios church surrounded by greenery in Santorini, Greece
Everything turns dark blue as night sets in while yellow lights illuminate the inside of the church's blue dome and the underside of a tree in Aghios Artemios
The Orthodox church at dusk.

If you haven't been yet, I hope you'll be able to visit Santorini for yourself one day! And if you have been, how was your experience? I'm curious to know, so please share in the comments below!


Sources:


We visited Santorini in 2017 during our year-long trip around the world. Click on the link to read more!



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