It’s 7am on a sunny day in June and I’m sitting on a balcony overlooking the cerulean waters of the Aegean Sea, taking in the view of neighbouring islet Nea Kameni, and listening to the sound of hooves clattering on the cobbled street below.getting lost on santorini
A crescent-shaped island, Santorini’s indomitable cliffs were created some 3,600 years ago when a giant volcano blew its lid and imploded on itself sending shock waves rippling across the ocean. The scared lump of earth that remained has become one of the most photographed places in the world; fast forward to today and visiting cruise ships are bringing waves of tourists to the island all keen to see its iconic form for themselves.
Elsewhere in the archipelago at this hour there’s little activity, but by 7am in Santorini cruise ship passengers (most aided by donkeys) are already making their way up the 600 or so steps that wend their way skyward from the harbour to Fira town.
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I wouldn’t ordinarily choose to visit such a tourist haunt during peak season, but given its reputation as a ‘destination that will delight’ I decided to tag a four day stay onto my two-week Greek itinerary.
While many choose to remain in the narrow lanes that litter Fira’s cliff-side (there’s much to see and if you’re only visiting for a few hours you’ll find little time to explore further), those with more time can enjoy the island’s often undiscovered charms.
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Here are a few of my favourite places that will make getting lost on Santorini a dream.
OIA, 11KM NORTHWEST OF FIRA, 121 METRES ABOVE SEA LEVEL
A maze of small shops and spectacular views Oia epitomises the romantic view so many have of Santorini. Quiet yet cosmopolitan, here artisan galleries, marbled streets, and a certain architectural finesse set it apart from the rest of the island.
LOSE YOURSELF IN ATLANTIS BOOKS
Located in the basement of one of Santorini’s white houses, Atlantis Books was started in the winter of 2004 by young American and European bibliophiles who wanted to create a haven for readers and writers in one of the most beautiful, if remote, places in the Mediterranean. The shop has also received international attention in the literary sphere for its impressive collection of rare first editions.
One of Santorini’s many hidden beaches, Mesa Pigadia is an off-the-beaten path option if you’re keen to escape the crowds. A sheltered bay the swimming is suitable for all and there’s even a small taverna where you can buy drinks and fresh fish cooked in a wood-fired oven.
EXPLORE THE CAVE HOUSES CARVED INTO THE CLIFFS
Take a walk along the beach and you’ll find a number of cave dwellings called varkadies used to house small fishing boats during the cold winter months. An unexpected addition to the coastline their blue doors showcase years of harsh weather conditions and make for an interesting addition to your Instagram feed.
IMEROVIGIL, 3KM FROM FIRA, 325 METRES ABOVE SEA LEVEL
One of the best places from which to capture a Santorini sunset, the town of Imerovigil is just a short walk along the ‘balcony of the Aegean’ from neighbouring Fira. Offering an uninterrupted view of the caldera in times past this was optimised to identify pirate ships approaching.
HIKE SKAROS ROCK
From Imerovigil you can walk onto a small spit known as Skaros Rock that reaches out further into the crescent of the caldera.
Home to a castle which was built during the 13th century the outcrop also boasts a hiking trail that will lead you past ruined cave houses to the remote chapel Theoskepasti. This is, in my opinion, one of the best places to photograph sunset on Santorini.
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