Santorini is an absolutely maginificent geographical wonder! The island is about 200km South of the mainland and is the largest island of a small, circular archipelago that is remnant of a volcanic caldera.
| SHOULDER SEASONS |
I always try travel in May and September, the shoulder seasons for the European. It’s cheaper and one of the benefits to not having children with the flexibility to travel at whim. This particular trip was taken at the end of May and the weather was bliss. It was hot enough to laze in the sun, without too many crowds getting in ones way! The island is also getting preparing for the Summer, so all the sightseeing tours/cruises/bars/restaurants are are up and running.
| RIDING EASY ON EASY JET |
For once in my life, I actually had a straight forward and smooth flight from this airline. There are direct flights between Gatwick (London) and Santorini. The flight is just under 4 hours and takes much quicker than it seems. It’s a relatively painless process.
| WELCOME TO SANTORINI |
You are very aware when you land on the runway that this is a small island. And that island life still prevails! The airport is small with only one passport control desk (if there were two, they weren’t using the second) and the queue snaked it’s way out the building onto the runway tarmac. Thankfully, the weather was perfect so I would hate to think what it would be like to stand in the rain or piping hot Summer. After quite a wait getting through the gates, I met up with the driver for the transfer service that my hotel had arranged for a fee. It had seemed like the best option, given taxi’s were a similar cost. It made the trip to the hotel quick and stress free.
| SUN ROCKS |
I had booked to stay at Sun Rocks as a treat to myself. We had been driving hard at work with long hours for 6 months prior to a campaign launch and I wanted to go somewhere that I could spend a few days to encourage a bit of self restoration. I usually book cheap and cheerful but this was an exceptional circumstance. And I didn’t regret it for one moment. The hotel is phenomenal with a magnificent pool area and awe inspiring view. I had the lowest room on the left… This room is phenomenal! It has a massive balcony area and is very private. The large windows from the bedroom window make you you feel as though you have woken up on a ship! The rooms have Nespresso machines and a small fridge, which actually come in really handy.Breakfasts were incredibly special – the entire cliff is baked in a ‘quiet’, soft light and people stroll up to the pool for a full on breakfast (where one is served, not buffet!) whilst music gently plays in the background. Most beneficial is that you can just roll over from your table to a double sun lounger post brunch comatosis!
| FIRA |
When doing my initial research on the island as to where to stay, I came to the following conclusions:
- It’s best to stay in one of the four main towns (Oia, Imerovigli, Fira or Firostefani) that cling to the cliffs of the underwater caldera (crater). These afford the best views.
- Fira is the island’s largest town and one of the most picturesque spots in all of Greece. It has the most restaurants, shops, and hotels and is the center of Santorini’s nightlife.
- Firostefani is a short 10 minute walk along a footpath from Fira. If you want to be close to the action of Fira but don’t want the crowds then Firostefani is a great choice.
- Imerovigli is Santorini’s quietest town along the caldera and has the island’s best sunset views. Imerovigli is a 30 minute walk from Fira (or a very short bus or taxi ride).
- Oia is Santorini’s most romantic town and has some of the island’s best hotels. It’s located at the northern tip of the island and is famous for its fabulous sunset views.
I ended up settling on Firostefani. Close enough to the action but away from people when I wanted. It was also midway between Fira and Oia/Imerovigli. I was definitely the right choice for me. I’m also convinced it has one of the best views.
| EXPLORATION |
For the hours that I actually managed to drag myself away from the pool at Sun Rocks, I managed to pack in a bit of exploration…
- Firostefani to Imerovigli run: The first thing I did when I arrived was lace up my running shoes and head out to explore the winding white paths and stairs. I had a wonderful run between these two towns. There are beautiful wild flowers in May and the sweeping view really provides a sense of space and freedom.
- Sunset cruise and Volcano visit: I would, without a doubt, do this trip. The boats are incredibly cheesy but so worth it! Ours included a stop off at the volcano (where you learn about the geographical history of the island), a swim in the hot springs (which weren’t very hot!) and sailing back to the island at sunset which really was an inexplicable experience for me. Photos could not do justice.
- Donkey ride from the port (where you hop off the cruise) back up to Fira: Seriously, do this if you go to Santorini! You can take the cable car (which I did on the way down) but I really recommend trying both. The stairs are steep but it is so much fun! I met an Australian couple on the sunset cruise I was on and we decided to do this together. It was dark so of course jumping on these creatures (which were more like large mules than donkeys!!) was hilarious. they had a lot of interaction with each other which can be highly amusing. They have bells tied to them and it was magical on our ascent to look out over the island with it’s twinkling lights to have the accompanying gentle jingle of the bells from our group of mules. I do think that it was a much more pleasant experience in the evening as it seemed really overcrowded during the day and a bit like the donkey version of bumper cars! Which I can’t imagine would be much fun…
- Quad biking: I really wanted to do this and simultaneously was super nervous to jump on one and just motor off on the foreign island by myself! But I knew I would regret not doing it and besides, I wasn’t hiring a car and had no other way to get to the Red Beach! So I went into town, where there are numerous places to rent Quad and motor bikes. I was given a few instructions for the road and that was about it. It took me a good 15min to get used to driving a Quad bike on a main road but after a while you get used to it and realise that on the island cars, donkeys, motorbikes and quads are all welcome. Luckily it was one road straight out to the Red Beach (trying to ride the Quad and check directions would have been quite tricky)! The entire trip there and back took a few hours. There are plenty of ‘taverns’ to stop at on the way to much up some mediterranean eat and drink – the local wine is not bad either. Needless to say, as a tiny, single blondie out on the road, I was picked up by waiters and fellow travellers alike, but at no point did I feel unsafe and if anything everyone was very helpful! It’s a great vibe out on the road with all the other quad bike riders.
- The Red Beach: This was a fascinating beach. After reaching a parking lot for the beach, I parked the quad bike and took a short hike over the rocks to the beach. I wouldn’t say it is the most amazing beach for sun lounging (I did have the Sun Rocks pool after all!) but the topography is super interesting. Soaring red lava cliffs which drop right to the sandy shore and into the clear blue sea, make for a majestic setting.
- Spa treatments: One of the other reasons I booked Sun Rocks was that they were able to arrange a free transfer to their sister site Kirini Suites and Spa. I was curious to see the view and sunset from Oia, so I booked a treatment and then reserved dinner at the hotel restaurant following the treatment. The entire hotel and spa is like a Greek fairytale! I had my treatment and then was escorted through a winding white tunnel to the restaurant. The staff were just as attentive as at Sun Rocks – and one is made to feel like a VIP from the start of the evening, with cocktails on the sun loungers, to the trio of taster desserts at the close of the meal! By the end of the evening, my transfer had already been arranged and I was seamlessly escorted outside to catch my ride back to Firostefani.
- Shopping and lazy cocktail afternoons in Fira: It’s a quick 10min from Firostefani to Fira. The trail is so picturesque that you really don’t notice the link. I walked to and from the two towns regularly (day and night) and never felt unsafe. There are many places to eat along the way (with views over the caldera)and you can wind your way in and around all the white cycladic buildings, which is a bit like exploring a maze meets a rabbit warren! Once in Fira, there’s great energy in the town. Strolling the cobble stone street, one can browse the shops for anything from luxury jewellery to curios. When your feet tire of walking there are taverns and bars lining the front of the cliff where one can lose many hours kicking back and drinking cocktails in the sun. If you are looking for a place to wind down from the daily London rush – this place is going to do the trick!
I can’t remember my thoughts or feelings when having to leave the island but I would imagine I tried not to think too much about it, as is mostly the case when I have to leave somewhere that has stolen my heart. I try to go through the motions, trying to be in denial that I could quite willingly pack all my goods in London and spend an elongated time soaking up the island life. But it’s the daily life in London that provides these amazing opportunities just a stones throw away. And so when I said my goodbyes to Sun Rock, all the staff (some who had gushed at ‘my beauty’ like stereotypical Greek men during my stay!) and the jaw dropping view, I knew in my heart that it wouldn’t be my last goodbye and that I would definitely be back to wrap this beautiful view around me one more time. I am, after all, only a 4 hour flight away…