Santorini is the most iconic and recognisable of all of the Greek Islands; with it already being so familiar, is it worth the trek to see in person? The answer is a resounding ‘yes’!
This crescent shaped island was formed in 1500 BC when the volcano that the villages now perch apon erupted. The combination of this eruption and the subsequent subsidence, formed the uniquely shaped islands, forming what is now known as Santorini (along with Thirasia and Aspronisi).
Getting Around Santorini
Cruise ships drop anchor off the coast, closest to Fira. From there, you have a few options to get you up the cliff-side to the town perched atop the crater rim. Mules and pedestrians share the winding pathway to the top or you can pick up cablecar tickets for €5 per person (in each direction).
As we knew we wanted to check out Oia, we picked up a package down at the dock that would ferry us out to the shore that Oia is accessed from, then shuttle us up the hill and bus us over to Fira, before allowing us to come back down the hill in the cablecar. Our transport for the day was €20 each and it meant that we beat the majority of the crowds over to Oia which ended up being a great move.
Oia is home to the iconic (and insanely beautiful) Church of Panagia – most photos you’ll see of Santorini heavily feature these domes and for good reason, they’re gorgeous. If tracking this church down is on your agenda, just remember that you’ll need to transfer across from either the dock at Fira or Fira itself. Once you get to Oia, the church sits on the hill in the middle of the village – after ducking into a few alleyways, you’ll soon spot it.
This town is much more than it’s churches though. In fact, most of the photos you’ll see of Santorini will have been taken in Oia – in our opinion it was the most striking part of the island and we’d highly recommend including a visit to this village on your trip to Santorini. To get a view of the windmill and views of both sides of the village, head to the right (as you face the ocean) where you’ll find an old stone structure out on a mini-peninsular – the perfect spot for photos!
The whole village is pedestrian only and the narrow alleyways wind in and out of shops and restaurants, with stunning views out over the ocean and terraced building almost every step of the way. The shops had a range of high quality gear at reasonable prices (with the odd designer-brand-excessively-expensive shop thrown in the mix) including turkish towels and throws (if you don’t already travel with one of these, get yourself one ASAP), Greek inspired jewellery, leather shoes, clothing, hand-blown glass designs and more.
Oia was exactly what I’d imagined when I thought of Santorini and wow, was it impressive! Though we could have happily have spent all day soaking up the sights of this gorgeous wee town, Fira was calling and we couldn’t ignore it.
Fira is, for most people, the entrance point to Santorini. As stated earlier, there are a few options to get you to the top of the town – just be aware that if you choose to walk, there is very little shade on the pathway and it’s quite a hike.
Once you’re at the top, you’ll find a similar range of shops, cafes and restaurants to Oia. Fira seemed to have more fine jewellery shops and certainly more gelato (which we made sure to indulge in) but the biggest difference between the two towns was the layout of the buildings themselves. Oia provided views out over the whitewashed buildings, clinging to the cliff as almost every bend, whereas we sometimes walked a fair way in Fira without a glimpse of the coastline. It’s a beautiful town and when the views open up, is just as spectacular, it just doesn’t happen quite as often.
After making our way down on the cablecar, I’m sitting back aboard the cruise (wifi-ing up a storm thanks to my new favourite travel gadget, the Skyroam) reflecting on an amazing day in a place that really is the stuff of dreams.
Pictures are great, but if you can get to Santorini for yourself, don’t hesitate for a moment!