The strong contrast of the dazzling white houses built on the edge of the black volcano is softened by cyclamen-colored flowers and blue domes. It’s like being dropped into a fairy tale. The coasts are not sandy here, but lava rock and the volcanic sand mean that the beaches are black and rather narrow. The streets of the island’s capital, Fira, are lined with shops, restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. Prices in shops and restaurants are twice as high as on Crete. Hotel prices are also very high, and there are few bathing places – only a few hotels have swimming pools.
There’s a lot of traffic at all times of the day. The city is characterized by endless floods of tourists arriving by bus. Buses take tourists up from the port, but on the way back down you can also choose to take a glass cable car or ride on a donkey.
The beautiful town of Oia on the northern tip of the island is especially famous for its sunsets. Many visit to enjoy dinner with a spectacular view. The views are spectacular at any time of day, however, and from almost every point on the island! (2017)
“Santorini - the incredible nature
Our boat reached Santorini at 8 in the morning, it was a fantastic sight as we sailed into the partially sunken caldera of the former volcano. From the boat, it didn’t look as though people could live in such a barren, volcanic landscape, let alone grow grapes, though the archipelago is famous for its wineries.
As we drew closer, we could see ever more clearly the many white buildings, indeed whole settlements, stretching along the top of the cliff.
Even the new port is unable to accommodate ships the size of ours, so instead, we dropped anchor in the middle of the bay, alongside two other cruise ships of a similar size, and from there they were taken ashore on small boats. Since there was a strong swell at the time, our little boat swayed a lot as it sailed towards the shore.
The new harbor has been constructed at the south of the island, and from there a bus took us up the dizzying switchback road cut into the almost vertical cliff face. Many did not even dare look out the window.
As we reached the top, we saw that the outer half of the once gigantic crater was a huge sloping hillside with many smaller settlements, vineyards, and even an airport.
Our bus took us across the top of the caldera to the north of the island, which is almost entirely built up, with a multitude of houses all painted bright white.
It was dizzying as the huge buses raced along the narrow streets, passing one another with just centimeters to spare.
At the top of the caldera, we stopped in two places and could walk through the narrow and charming streets of the villages, where there are plenty of shops selling souvenirs for tourists. Almost everywhere there was a fantastic view of the sloping hillside and the more distant islands on one side and on the other side the rest of the giant caldera, with a few barren islets in the middle of the bay. From up here, even the giant ships waiting in the bay looked like toys.
According to our guide, this was once a large island that collapsed about 3-4,000 years ago due to massive volcanic activity. The sea flooded the volcanic crater which formed in the middle, engulfing much of the other side. It is said that archaeologists have even found the remains of settlements under the sea ...
The bus trip ended in the old capital of the island, from where we wandered on foot between the shops and cars, then made our way on foot, down through the narrow streets to the old port, where little motorboats were waiting for us. To get down, you could choose from two options, either line up at the seemingly endless queue for the chairlift or go down the 600 steps on foot. Those of us who chose the steps didn't get down much faster, however, and sometimes we have to avoid donkeys and their stinky poop on the steps. A more civilized solution might be to clean the steps regularly.
While we were still at the top of the steps (at a section the donkeys don’t walk past) we went into a small restaurant where we were charged about €100 for some grilled fish, a salad, and four glasses of white wine.” (D. A, 2018)
What should you look for in Santorini?
1: Be aware that in some parts of the island (such as Oia) it’s not enough to find a hotel with a sea view. You also have to make sure that the view isn’t looking in the wrong direction.
Simply put, accommodation is generally along the crest of the caldera, so it might have a view in precisely the opposite direction – so not in the direction of the sunset, the bay, and the blue-domed churches, but in the more “commonplace” direction. Be careful, check the pictures thoroughly before you book, and read the reviews!
2: Think about how you will get to your accommodation. Do you need an airport/harbor transfer?
(Buses and taxis also go out to all boats and planes, so don’t worry, you definitely won’t get stuck there, but if you travel with a lot of luggage, it can come in handy if there is a transfer to the accommodation)
What are the pros and cons of getting a beautiful view?
1: Accommodation on the caldera side is at least double the price elsewhere on the island
2: You can ‘only’ swim in the pool (and they certainly don’t change the water every week)
3: If you don’t rent a car, transport can be a problem
4: If you do rent a car, you have to park it somewhere when you’re not using it, and not all hotels have their own car park (of course there are exceptions, see below 🙂)
5: In places with really good views, hotels and hotel rooms are usually crammed on top of each other. (see image below)
1: For the price, you get a view you will remember for a lifetime!
2: Hotels on the caldera side are generally much better.
3: These are small hotels, mostly family businesses, and for the most part they take great care to ensure that guests leave satisfied.
Are there any that have both a great view and a beach?
There are no, or at least very, very few hotels that face the caldera side and yet are within walking distance of a beach.
The coexistence of the superb panorama and a beach is not common, because the side facing the volcano is basically a cliff all the way around. The volcano erupted thousands of years ago and its center collapsed, which is what makes Santorini so special. 🙂 (I know of only one place that has the super view + beach combo – see below)
Are there any hotels that have a great view and are not too expensive?
There are! While you won’t usually get the full panorama and probably won’t have your own jacuzzi on the patio, it may be in a secluded location, so you need to make some slight compromises. Of course, you might also be lucky enough to get top-class accommodation for a low price. 🙂” (2018)