Even as a popular holiday destination, Santorini retains much of its idyllic charm unlike many of the other islands in the Mediterranean. Although there are some 800 hotels on Santorini, it never feels really overcrowded. Most are smaller boutique style hotels which tend to cater to the slightly better off tourists. One of the best hotels is the Santo Maris OiaLuxury Suites & Spa, an exclusive boutique hotel with 55 suites and 2 bedroom villas. Most of the rooms have stunning panoramic views which can be enjoyed from the jacuzzi in each room. Ideal after sightseeing on the hilly terrain. A popular location to stay in is Imerovigli due to the excellent facilities and that the suites and rooms are actually caveswhich have been turned into luxury accommodation with many having a private outdoor jacuzzi.
Like most holiday destinations, there are some obligatory places to visit. For those who are interested in history, the best museum is the Museum of Prehistoric Thera near the Orthodox cathedral. Most of the exhibits are devoted to the Minoan settlement at Akrotiri. The exhibits truly show how developed the Minoan civilisation was and the Nilotic vegetation proving seafaring contacts with ancient Egypt. Some account for the demise of the Minoans on a catastrophic volcanic eruption nearly 4,000 years ago. From the ashes has arisen the Santorini caldera that has created such a magical island group in the Aegean Sea. The water in the caldera has a deep blue hue which has most likely influenced the choice of colour of the roofs of the white washed buildings. It is a magnet for scuba divers, swimmers and those who enjoy stunning scenery.
Most beaches feature dark-grey volcanic sand which can become extremely hot under the mid-day sun. Flip-flops may not be in vogue but they will definitely stop you getting your feet burned. Kamári is the most manicured and have the best amenities. There are other excellent beaches at Perívolos, which has beach bars pitched at a younger crowd and is found immediately south of busier and narrower Períssa. For the adventurous who doesn’t mind a throng, scenic KókkiniÁmmos cove near the ancient Minoan site at Akrotíri is highly recommended.
For those who want to get away from the beach, there is plenty to see. But remember that this is a volcanic island and is quite hilly. Comfortable walking shoes are highly recommended as getting around the island will involve a lot of trekking up and down steep slopes. There are more than a dozen official walking routes which are an excellent way of exploring the island.
After a day of strenuous sightseeing and sunbathing, what better to end the day at one of the many superb restaurants serving fresh seafood, sun-drenched vegetables and local wines. And if you are enamoured by the wine, you can always visit one of the many vineries on Santorini. Fish tavern Ammoudi is situated right by the water front where you can enjoy some of the finest seafood and Greek cuisine whilst being watched over by Poseidon. A romantic dinner can be had at the Japanese restaurant ASEA which offer some of the best vistas of the caldera. During lunchtime, the location offers a perfect setting to take picture postcard photos of a traditional Greek village. Both restaurants are extremely popular so advice is to book well in advance.
All in all, Santorini offers a very civilised summer retreat. It is easy to understand how Greece gave birth to western civilisation. After having spent a vacation there, you will feel exhausted but relaxed at the same time, only wishing that you had had a few more days there. Well, there is always next year.
By Angelina Kali