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