Part four of my Eat+Stay+Play Greek travel guide series takes us to the beautiful island of Santorini! Be sure to check out my first three guides, too:
As always, at the end of this post is my free pdf of all the links and resources from this post for quick access.
Santorini is one of the more well-known, if not the most well-known of the Greek islands, due to its many beautiful blue domes that grace the pages of travel mags everywhere. It was our last stop on our island hopping adventure and we loved its equal parts old-world tradition, natural beauty, and buzzing city life. Travelers come from all over the globe to capture the sunsets from Oia, but we discovered that anywhere on the island is a great place to be.
After a ferry transfer from Naxos, we were picked up by our driver and taken to Volcano View Hotel. This was the largest of the hotels we stayed in and it’s gorgeous. Built into the side of the cliff, Volcano View lives up to its name with spectacular views of the caldera. There are also three pools with varying degrees of privacy as well as a daily European style breakfast buffet. We especially loved having our own terrace again, which was equipped with a cafe table, two chairs and an umbrella. It was the perfect spot to unwind each night and watch that fantastic Santorini sunset.
Another great thing about Volcano View Hotel is a regular shuttle that runs to and from Fira. We started there and spent time walking through town, checking out shops and restaurants. One of my favorite shops is Athens Protasis, a jewelry boutique specializing in jewelry made with natural stones, corals, agates, lava rock and leather. They have several locations around the islands and I picked up a few unique pieces.
We decided to have a pre-dinner cocktail with a view at a place called Select Café. The service is friendly and the sunset views are pretty incredible.
Dinner was at a place recommended by Santorini Dave (great recommendation, Dave, thanks!) called Naoussa. The food is traditional – almost like eating at your Greek grandmother’s house. The meatballs were exceptional as was the view. There really isn’t a bad spot to take in the caldera as the sun sets.
Definitely make time to explore Oia. If you want to fully appreciate all the beautiful architecture, I recommend starting your day early so that there are fewer crowds to avoid when taking photos. We easily spent the entire morning meandering through the streets, shopping, and having gelato (of course).
One of my goals was to make it to Atlantis Books. If you’re a book nerd like me then you cannot leave Santorini without visiting this amazing bookshop. Atlantis Books, named appropriately after the legend/belief/myth that Santorini is actually the lost city of Atlantis, is a bookstore with a flair for the artistic in its design and aesthetic. Wind your way down the staircase while reading philosophy and literary quotes scripted onto the shop walls. The cozy interior is lined floor to ceiling with tomes of all kinds in several languages. I couldn’t leave without a souvenir so I purchased a copy of Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar…Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes by Daniel Klein and Thomas Cathcart. They will even offer to stamp your book, which of course I enthusiastically accepted.
We next began our trek down to Ammoudi Bay. It’s a pleasant but steep walk down and you may encounter a group of donkeys waiting to take you back to the top. Donkeys are still used on the island to transport goods where cars cannot easily go, but we opted for a taxi back to the top.
Ammoudi Bay is breathtaking in its beauty and tranquility. The water laps at the dock where large and small boats come and go throughout the day and people swim and sunbathe. We stopped for lunch at Ammoudi Fish Tavern. This is a great spot for a lengthy lunch, so come hungry and don’t be in a hurry. Just take it all in and remind yourself that this is the good life. We enjoyed fresh sun-dried grilled octopus and red snapper with tomato keftedes and a local white wine. They brought out loukoumades for dessert and before we knew it, our four hour lunch had concluded.
On the way back up to town, we stopped by a shop for a pair of sandals I’d seen earlier in the day and then spent our afternoon enjoying the pool at our hotel.
Rather than head back into Fira or Oia for dinner, we opted to stay local and enjoy our terrace. Across the street from Volcano View Hotel is a bakery that is open 24-hours and frequented by tourists and locals alike. We picked up two small pizzas and took them back to our terrace to have with the wine we brought from Naxos and enjoyed the sunset.
Today was our second sailing day on the trip. You can read about our sailing day with Naxos Yachting in my Naxos guide post here. I’m very glad we decided to do two sailing days in two different islands because both were exceptionally fun but different. Our day with Naxos Yachting was full of adventurous swimming, snorkeling, and cliff jumping whereas our day in Santorini was definitely on the more relaxed side.
I highly recommend chartering through Sail Away, Santorini Catamaran Sailing. Instead of a full day as we did in Naxos, we booked a half day private charter on the catamaran Tonina. The captain and staff are highly professional and extremely accommodating. We literally didn’t lift a finger. I’m not sure my wine glass was ever empty.
The seas were calm and we slowly cruised around the island, taking in the black beach, red beach, and white beach. The different volcanic rock formations are fascinating and can really only be truly seen from the water. We were able to bring the boat very close to the sheer cliffs that towered over us. It was one of the more humbling and majestic experiences of my life.
Just like clouds, you can often see images in the shape of the rocks. There is a well known “Indian rock” as well as an alligator shaped peninsula. There’s even a small island that looks like a cupcake. In the center of the caldera lives a hermit who moved there some thirty years ago. Ironically he is the most visited resident of Santorini.
We enjoyed swimming in the cold and deeply blue waters while our gracious crew prepared a lavish lunch of mussels and shrimp, chicken over rice, Greek salad, and wine. A simple dessert of sliced apples with honey and cinnamon was perfect. There were a lot of boats on the water that day and it was so fun to have lunch and watch them go by. Truly relaxing.
We finished our day at the pool, because how can you not when you have the views we had? Dinner was at Anemoloos, a restaurant where you dine on small plates known as “meze.” It was like eating Greek tapas and by the end of the meal we were completely stuffed. We had tomato keftedes, spicy feta dip, potatoes topped with melty cheese, braised pork shoulder, local Santorini wine, and what I can only describe as a Greek panna cotta for dessert. This place has excellent food but be sure to make a reservation in order to be seated on the patio to also take advantage of the view.
Can you ever get tired of a pool day when you’re on vacation? We never take trips like this one and we took full advantage of the R&R! We started the day with loukoumades and frappé poolside and then proceeded to finish a couple books and take a nap. The older I get the more I recognize the need to recharge my batteries like this.
For lunch we went to Santo Wines Winery for a wine tasting and a couple of elaborate meat and cheese plates. We tasted six wines while gazing at the caldera. Santorini has a reputation for excellent wine so definitely make time to visit one of the island’s wineries or go with a guide. We have been to wineries and vineyards in some of the world’s most prominent regions and Santorini did not disappoint. The Ageri Semi Dry Rosé was perfect.
For our last Santorini meal we decided to go back into Fira and have one more glass of wine at Select Cafe. I wish I could bottle up those sunsets and take them with me everywhere I go. Dinner was at a local dive called Lucky’s Souvlakis. This galley style restaurant is tiny and packed with locals and tourists alike. You may have to stand on the sidewalk to eat because of its popularity and highly rated status but don’t let that deter you. The food is fantastic.
We managed to snag a small table in the back. You can watch your souvlaki or gyro being made along with some of the best tzatziki and fries. It’s also inexpensive, casual, and looks to be open late night. It was fun not having a reservation to keep but rather the flexibility to explore Fira a bit more for our last night on the island.
Thank you so much for reading! Have you been to Santorini before, or any of the other Greek islands? Which one is your favorite? I know this is not the last time we will visit Greece, and so I’d love to hear your suggestions of favorite places to see and things to eat and do.
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