Oia & Fira at Santorini Island

You have definitely seen the place. Even if you never knew it; in a movie or a postcard, a romantic couple and a breathtaking cliff -scenery with a sunset so iconic you were sure it was photoshoped. Yup that’s Santorini.

A place so unique in views and colors that must be first in the universal -strike that- intergalactic lexicon of images. Right under “romantic” and “sunset” and “picturesque”…

Movies – from “Summertime Love” to  “Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life”, to “Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants” –, dozens of music video clips – from Hollywood to Bollywood and the South Korean scene – and millions of photos, have spread Santorini’s images around the world. So much so, it feels like you have already been there, right?

Caldera view from Fira

Caldera view from Fira Photo Credit: Ben & Gab

Wrong! “You’ve got to see this place…” is what most people who have will tell you. And we are not talking about the spectacular sunsets that – especially love-struck couples and newly-weds from around the world – come to see.  It is the only place in the world where it is common for people to applaud when the sun goes down as if it’s a show! At least I have only seen it in Oia, Santorini’s most famous village. And it is one of a handful of places on the planet with so many romantic couples at the same place and time, turning it to one of the world’s top destinations for weddings and honeymoons. It is like god Eros used W.M.D.s or something… But the scenery itself is breathtaking no matter what your marital status is.

Chapel with Caldera view

Chapel with Caldera view Photo Credit: zolakoma

How and when Santorini was formed

This tiny Cycladic Island is a prime-positioned balcony to a rare Caldera.  A bowl of sea and rocks that a volcano formed when it erupted some thousand years ago. Oh yes, all these romantic sunsets are courtesy of the same huge “kah-boom” and tsunami that destroyed the Minoan civilization. According to some scientists, it is also responsible for the main incidents that are described in the beginning of the Hebrew Exodus. On the other hand, myths and theories around the Greek seas come in abundance and there are some that place the mythical Atlantis at the bottom of this magnificent Caldera.

The red beach at Santorini

The red beach Photo Credit: Rinetta Gousgouni

This same eruption gave the place such a dramatic landscape, with darkly colored cliffs in absolute contrast to the Mediterranean sun and the blue sea. The tiny cube-like white houses, the blue-domed churches and the iconic windmills all entwined with winding cobbled streets are also present, the trademark of the Cyclades. As if nature’s playing its tricks to make the colors and lights contrast even more sharply, in order to maximize the impression – bringing your photography equipment to its limits. Whether you are taking a romantic stroll in the villages of Fira (island’s cosmopolitan capital) and Oia (island’s romantic-sunset-views capital), hiking on the cliffs of the caldera, or sipping cool beverages in between dives off the deck of a catamaran in the middle of the mesmerizing blue sea, a place like this has to be savored step by step.

Catamaran sunset Cruise at santorini

Catamaran Cruise Photo Credit: niki georgiev

Activities in Santorini

Which reminds me… if you are about to do one single thing – apart from exchanging vows or renewing them – , then this is it: Try the local white wine on a real wine safari, hunting for the famous Assyrtiko grapes and its magic juice. A single sip will take you by the hand and guide you through another world of tastes and aromas. You see, the soil here is mainly volcanic and the harsh microclimate made the once-poor farmers develop wine-cultivating methods of their own, perfecting them for centuries to produce a series of wines equivalent to the island’s views. And they still do it, so do combine some wine-tasting sessions with tours to top local wineries. Match them to the local cuisine like a real foodie, as the same combination of soil and climate affects everything, from the taste of fruits and vegetables to the meat. And learn firsthand, by a local, how they are all cooked. I know it is hard to imagine that anything can grow on this black soil but do roam off the beaten path, inland and you will be surprised!

Hiking trail to Oia from Fira at Santorini

Hiking trail to Oia Photo Credit: Kostas Limitsios

But if you really want to experience this island in a way as unique as its landscape try to explore around its coastline and its Caldera on a kayak!