Santorini

 

So many Greek islands, so little time… Cyclades, Dodecanese, Sporades, Ionian…literally hundreds of islands, thousands if you count the uninhabited ones, and why not count them? They’re there, they’re islands, they deserve to be recognized. However, in order to stay relevant, we’ll stick to the inhabited ones, and then narrow it way down to a few that possess just the right combination of scenery, personality, infrastructure and accessibility.

We’ll take one in this post – Santorini

While I’m sure most islands have some drama in their past; on that front, I venture none can compete with Santorini. The island as we know it is the caldera of a volcano which erupted in one of the largest explosions ever known on this planet around 1600 BCE. Ash and debris shot 25 miles into the stratosphere and the massive tsunami that followed brought immediate destruction, as well as prolonged environmental devastation that lead to the extinction of the powerful Minoan civilization.

Akrotiri fresco

Akrotiri fresco

The Minoans were centered in Crete but their influence was widespread and they had colonies on a number of Aegean islands. Akrotiri on Santorini was a Minoan settlement that was preserved in volcanic ash, much like Pompeii. No human remains have been found, so it would seem the inhabitants got out in time. What remains is evidence of a very wealthy, sophisticated city. A powerful city that sank into the ocean in a single day, hmmm, does that sound familiar? Could it be Atlantis? Some think so, scholars even. Visit Akrotiri and decide for yourself.

Despite an explosive history, Santorini is a very peaceful place, and thanks to its explosive history, Santorini is extraordinary to look at. Santorini is all about the views. You sit on your hotel terrace and look at the view, you eat your meals looking at the view. When walking around, you really must try to stop looking at the view and watch where you’re going because there are some pretty steep drops.

Most habitation is perched on the caldera rim, a sheer 1,000 feet over the sea. Fira is the main town, with the most happening. Oia is a little out of the way, quieter and more romantic. Imerovigli is closer to Fira but quiet and sits higher than either Fira or Oia, so claims superior views. Really, the views are good everywhere, as long as there’s nothing in the way.

Most (if not all) Greek island cruises stop in Santorini for a few hours at least. In season (April/May-October) there are frequent flights and ferries from Athens.

GREEK ISLAND CRUISE DIARY – DAY 4

On the last full day of our Greek Island cruise, we disembarked in Heraklion, Crete as soon as we could, around 7:30, and grabbed a taxi to Knossos. We had been there before so didn’t take an escorted tour, but for a first visit, I would recommend having a guide. The site is just on the outskirts of Heraklion, about a 20-minute drive from the port. You can read more about Knossos in my previous post on Crete. If you’re interested in mythology and/or ancient history, it’s worth braving the crowds of tourists for a visit. The earlier the better, to avoid the larger crowds and the intense heat of midday. Continue reading

Santorini Hotels – 2 of our favs

Santorini is expensive. It just is. There’s no point denying it. It’s expensive because it’s rare. We think it may be the most romantic place on the planet. The only reason we don’t declare it so emphatically is because we have not seen every place on the planet. Such beauty and serenity comes at a premium.

#1. ASTRA SUITES – IMEROVIGLI
Our number one favorite hotel on Santorini is lovely in every way but certainly not extravagant. Still, you’ll pay from over $400 to almost $600 a night for the studio rooms we recommend, depending on the season. For Santorini, that’s a fair price.

We loooooooooove this place. Clinging to the side of the caldera, you get jaw-dropping views from most every corner. Every inch of the place is immaculate. Guest rooms are large. The pool is large, relative to most on the island. Service is outstanding and delivered with genuine warmth. Breakfast is served each morning on your private terrace, perhaps the best feature of the overall superb accommodation package. And the food is excellent.

One thing to keep in mind about this or any property on the rim – lots of stairs.

Imerovigli is quieter than Fira or Oia but still offers plenty of restaurants. It sits higher up than Oia or Fira, in a particularly view-friendly position. Walk about 10 minutes to bustling Firastefani and another 10 minutes to Fira.

dining on the edge of the caldera, Astra Suites, Santorini, Greece

dining on the edge of the caldera, Astra Suites, Santorini, Greece

Astra Suites, studio room, Santorini, Greece

Astra Suites, studio room, Santorini, Greece

Astra Suites, studio room, Santorini, Greece

Astra Suites, studio room, Santorini, Greece

Astra Suites, studio room terrace, Santorini, Greece

Astra Suites, studio room terrace, Santorini, Greece

#2. ARESSANA SPA HOTEL & SUITES – FIRA
For a slightly more budget property (approximately $200-$400 per night, depending on the season) this is our number one pick. Plus, it’s one of the few Santorini hotels that accepts children under 13.

Aressana is just across the road from the caldera rim, so, although the views are not as immediate as they are at rim-side properties, they are within easy reach. Right next door is the cable car that travels from the rim to the beach, 1,000 feet below. The location just on the edge of Fira’s town core makes it a bit quieter than it would be right in the center but still just a few minutes walk from all Fira has to offer, including a bus stop for easy access to the whole island.

The contemporary interior design is chic but the atmosphere is very laid back. Guests are greeted like old friends and served with sincere warmth and pleasure. Guest rooms are on the small side but spotless and comfortable, as are all public areas (we wish they’d cool it with the muzak though).

The food is very good and the pool area is enchanting.

Aressana is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, a group with very high standards.

Aressana Spa Hotel & Suites, lobby, Santorini, Greece

Aressana Spa Hotel & Suites, lobby, Santorini, Greece

Aressana Spa Hotel & Suites, Santorini, Greece

Aressana Spa Hotel & Suites, Santorini, Greece

Aressana Spa Hotel & Suites, Santorini, Greece

Aressana Spa Hotel & Suites, Santorini, Greece

To read more about Santorini island, click here.

Santorini

Akrotiri Museum, Santorini

So many Greek islands, so little time… Cyclades, Dodecanese, Sporades, Ionian…literally hundreds of islands, thousands if you count the uninhabited ones, and why not count them? They’re there, they’re islands, they deserve to be recognized. However, in order to stay relevant, we’ll stick to the inhabited ones, and then narrow it way down to a few that possess just the right combination of scenery, personality, infrastructure and accessibility.

We’ll take one in this post – Santorini

While I’m sure most islands have some drama in their past; on that front, I venture none can compete with Santorini. The island as we know it is the caldera of a volcano which erupted in one of the largest explosions ever known on this planet around 1600 BCE. Ash and debris shot 25 miles into the stratosphere and the massive tsunami that followed brought immediate destruction, as well as prolonged environmental devastation that lead to the extinction of the powerful Minoan civilization.

The Minoans were centered in Crete but their influence was widespread and they had colonies on a number of Aegean islands. Akrotiri on Santorini was a Minoan settlement that was preserved in volcanic ash, much like Pompeii. No human remains have been found, so it would seem the inhabitants got out in time. What remains is evidence of a very wealthy, sophisticated city. A powerful city that sank into the ocean in a single day, hmmm, does that sound familiar? Could it be Atlantis? Some think so, scholars even. Visit Akrotiri and decide for yourself.

Despite an explosive history, Santorini is a very peaceful place, and thanks to its explosive history, Santorini is extraordinary to look at. Santorini is all about the views. You sit on your hotel terrace and look at the view, you eat your meals looking at the view. When walking around, you really must try to stop looking at the view and watch where you’re going because there are some pretty steep drops.

Most habitation is perched on the caldera rim, a sheer 1,000 feet over the sea. Fira is the main town, with the most happening. Oia is a little out of the way, quieter and more romantic. Imerovigli is closer to Fira but quiet and sits higher than either Fira or Oia, so claims superior views. Really, the views are good everywhere, as long as there’s nothing in the way.

Most (if not all) Greek island cruises stop in Santorini for a few hours. In season (April/May-October) there are frequent flights and ferries from Athens.