Santorini is a 360 degree, panoramic postcard. As you step out onto your balcony each morning and your eyes adjust to that bright Aegean sun, you literally have to pinch yourself to make sure what you are seeing is real. It's hard for me to compare it to anything. It has the jaw dropping depth of the Grand Canyon, but filled with glistening, deep blue, waters and is topped with bright white towns gazing down from the rim of the caldera. When you compare this beauty, with unbelievable Greek cuisine, it's honestly one of the most difficult places to leave.
We stayed in a small town between Fira and Oia (the two largest areas) called Imerovigli. There are a few restaurants and stores, but it is mostly comprised of hotels and vacation rentals. Imerovigli provides an even more commanding view than Fira and greatly reduces the hustle and bustle found in either Fira or Oia. This makes it a nice getaway for leaving the throngs of tourists that pour onto the island every day when the ferries and cruise ships arrive. Our accommodation was a hotel called "Zenith Blue" and we would absolutely recommend our stay to other travelers. The rooms are all set into the side of the caldera, like caves, and each offer private terraces to relax and enjoy the views. The hotel also provides a quality rotating breakfast every morning (much like most European accommodations).
In comparison to Athens, we slowed our pace WAY down once we hit Santorini. For Kailah and I, most days would start with a 30 minute, downhill trek to Fira, stopping for espressos and smoothies along the way (and the occasional sweet crepe). We loved exploring Fira and Firastefani (the only town between) during this time of the day because the tourists hadn't arrived and we could enjoy the meandering lanes and various shops. The shops and food stalls contained anything you could think of; olive oil, crepes, ouzo, t-shirts, donkey soap, dresses, etc. Once our wallets were empty, we would then make the sweaty return journey back uphill to our hotel, for a quick shower and breakfast. By then, the rest of our crew had emerged from their morning ritual as well and were ready for a day of relaxing by the pool.
Although our entire Santorini experience was outstanding, there is one in particular that really stood out for me. One afternoon, following a few hours by the pool, we had Santorini Sailing Center pick us up at our hotel and shuttle us over to the docks in Oia. Our destination was a 16 person catamaran, where we would spend 6 hours in the caldera, swimming in the Aegean sea, bathing in the volcanic hot springs, exploring the coastline and literally sailing into the sunset. All food and beverages (soda, water, beer and wine) were included in our rate. They say that there is nowhere on earth that offers a sunset that compares to a Santorini sunset (see what I did there?). Having been fortunate enough to watch that burning globe fall below the horizon from our catamaran, glass of Greek wine in hand, I would have to agree.
More on cuisine coming soon!