Santorini: The Heart of the Aegean Sea
A beautiful island of hidden miracles, undiscovered even by those who believe they have seen everything, Santorini is home to stunning colorful architectural splendors, incredible local products and sun kissed landscapes.
A mix of towering cliffs, mesmerizing landscapes with blue domes and white washed houses. Churches perched on volcanic cliffs, all set against the backdrop of the beautiful shimmering Aegean waters.
This magical island never disappoints. It boasts a fine selection of small and beautiful boutique hotels offering personal and memorable stays. Staying boutique is the best way to experience Santorini and to witness the famous “filoxenia”, the hospitality and generosity of being a guest first hand.
For more than 6000 years, Santorini’s volcanic character has had a magnetic effect on anyone who has ever laid eyes on it. Santorini is a wondrously historic place with a dramatic presence as you can walk through vineyards, swim in the volcanic sea or immerse yourself in Santorini’s sensational sunset that permeates the soul so deeply.
Being voted one of the world’s most beautiful islands is one of the accolades heaped on this Greek island. Santorini is situated about 120 miles southeast of mainland Greece and close to two million visitors go to the island every year. Many of them to watch a sunset that is unlike those seen anywhere else. A huge flaming fireball slipping into the sea together with orange skies and white chalk houses is why the island is repeatedly voted as Europe’s most popular destination.
Santorini inspires every visitor with its breath-taking moments. Below are some experiences you must indulge when stepping into the magical world of Santorini.
Fira’s promenade, known as the island’s center, basks in a labyrinth of cafes, restaurants, trendy bars, clothing stores, jewelry boutiques and souvenir shops that ring the caldera. White terraces, the magnificent stillness of the sea and the volcanic islands lay in the near distance, are a mesmerizing sight. The sunset is spectacular, layered palette of pink, red, orange and purple. The caldera on Santorini is the only inhabited one in the world and it comes to life as the sun melts into the sea. Every bar and restaurant perched on its rim becomes a balcony where people gather to gaze out as the sun descends into the Aegean.
Within the island’s center, the breathtaking cable-car ride down to the old port is an absolute must. The cable car soars off the edge of the volcano and floats down 300 meters, past solidified lava flows and rock formations.
Local dishes are a must
Santorinian food coupled with a glass or two of locally made wine is a must when you visit the island. “Fava” is a creamy dish of yellow slip pea puree, usually served warm with olive oil, “Ntomatokeftedes”, tomato fritters made from locally grown cherry tomatoes, “Kopania” being traditional sweets made from powdered barely rusks, raisins and sesame seeds, and “Chlorotyri”, creamy cheese made from goat’s milk, are part of the local cuisine and worth taking the time out of your day to indulge in these delicacies.
Exquisite gastronomic experience in Fira
Argo restaurant in Fira begins with a delicious journey of flavors, elegant spaces and phenomenal views of the caldera. The restaurant is magnificently positioned to embody the sunset whilst indulging in new age cuisine.
The most spectacular places to stay are those hillside hotels with caldera views in Firostefani, Fira, Imerovigli and Oia. Ancient cave dwellings are smartened with pools and spas and characterized by simple all-white interiors. Shopping urges can be similarly sated in the glamorous little town of Oia with its smart jewelry boutiques and cute narrow streets.
Luxury elegance accommodation
The island’s hottest new luxury hotel – Canaves Oia Epitome – has just opened May 2018. A well-kept secret, Epitome is located right out of the main town of Oia. A serene location, relaxing ambience within a world of unrivalled luxury experiences all in the one spot. From a world-class Spa experience, to private yachting, speed boat or sailing excursion, you will indulge in the beauty of the Aegean Sea.
Hike from Oia to Fira at sunset
When it comes to exploring the island’s dramatic landscape, there is no better way than by foot or a hike along the balcony of Santorini. Cobblestoned footsteps mark the ancient merchants and farmers who would embark on a four-hour hike from Fira to Oia. Insta-worthy shots will be captured as you pause along the villages and when you perch on Fira’s highest point, Firostefani at sunset, you will capture priceless moments.
Experience the taste of Santorini at Oia: 1800
For a gastronomic feat in Oia, take a seat at 1800. An eatery tucked inside a former captain’s house built during the same century as its name suggests. The rooftop garden captures the island’s signature fiery sunset hands down.
The 1800 Restaurant combines Greek traditional dishes with a modern twist where every plate resembles a canvas for you to indulge as part of a gastronomic dream trip. The restaurant is set within a 200 year-old-luxury mansion, delivers quality dining and a high standard service as recognized with a Greek Golden Chef’s Hat Award. The 1800 restaurant has stood the test of time and is still one of the top spots for dinner.
Sunset hero shots may have become a cliché on Instagram however when everyone gathers in the cobblestoned town of Oia just before the evening falls, you can see why. Hotels built into the steep cliffs offer views over the sea that are so captivating there is no reason to leave your suite or its private plunge pool.
A hidden gem nestled at the foot of Mt Profitis Ilias, Pyrgos affords panoramic views and a more subdued less picture-perfect charm. A more relaxed pace of life, the main square, with its tall pine trees and quaint little coffee shops, is the focal point for socializing and entertainment.
One of the perfect ways to discover the authentic Santorini is to walk through vineyards and to visit the impressive Hatzidakis winery.
Gastronomic experience at Selene
Within the village of Pyrgos, located at the foot of Mt Profitis Ilias, hosts a must restaurant Selene promising a true gastronomic experience. Selene features Greek culinary roots while also offering fine-dining techniques that draw on elements from modern culture.
This exquisite landmark moved from Fira to Pyrgos in 2010 capturing magnificent views as the restaurant lies next to vineyards. The owners Yiorgos and Evelyn Hatziyannakis promote the local products along with local cuisine transmitting a taste of the island’s culture to their guests. They have incorporated a delicatessen shop where visitors can find premium Greek products and introduced cooking and tasting courses.
Santorini’s most famous beach, Red Beach exudes a red lava mountain from the red and black sands where clear blue waves crash upon its shores. The island’s volcanic eruptions have created vivid beaches on both the southern and eastern coasts with long stretches of black sand and white pumice beaches with sculpted cliffs that provide natural shade. A short walk from the Akrotiri archaeological site will take you directly to the Red Beach.
Tucked between the cave-like spots selling postcards and paintings are a few of Greece’s best boutiques. Pop into the iconic Ilias Lalalounis in Fira for handmade gold jewelry inspired by ancient Greek artifacts.
Cruise the Caldera by Catamaran
We don’t like to play favorites when it comes to Santorini’s beaches, but selecting a private luxury catamaran yacht is a spectacular way to immerse off on the Aegean. Many options to explore from mud baths in volcanic hot springs and snorkel sessions off Red Beach, or ride by the time-trapped island of Thirassia and the cliff side monasteries lining Santorini’s coast.
Thanks to its natural beauty, Santorini endures plenty of visitors during summer. Spring is a lovely time to visit however October is best as there are no crowds, the water remains warm and there is wine to be tasted. Santorini has an undeniable air of mystery that enhances its idyllic charm. The view not only inspires, it evokes a personal sense of limitless possibilities.
Angela Kambouris built a high level career as an executive in the field of vulnerability and trauma. A global consultant and founder of Angela Kambouris Consultancy, she helps people to unlock their human potential and build business greatness through stepping into their leadership mastery. She speaks, mentors and writes for large publications on how leader’s mindset drives workplace culture, how to cultivate leaders and set you and the leadership team for success and on personal development topics as well. She loves to travel, experience different cultures and mastermind with leaders in personal development and business all over the world.