Ok, truth be told you don’t need a reason to visit Santorini much beyond the fact that it is insanely, unarguably, knock-the-wind-from-your-lungs gorgeous. Lonely Planet describes it as ‘the supermodel of the Greek Isles’ and picturing lazy days and long nights on the head turner of an island can take you from ‘I’m staying in the UK, who needs a holiday?’ to ‘Hand me my suitcase, I’m off’ in minutes. Here are six real reasons why Santorini should be on your holiday wish-list.
Food, glorious food!
As always, we start with our stomachs! Greek food is incredible but Santorini’s unique blend of Greek-Mediterranean fare is unlike any other. Pick a taverna and start with mezedes of dolmades (vine leaves stuffed with beef mince or herb rice), melitzana (fried aubergine and courgette both feature heavily on Greek menus, along with various other Mediterranean vegetables), or the Santorini speciality of Domatokeftedes. The island’s ripe cherry tomatoes are flavoured with herbs and shaped into fritters using flour, before being served with tzatziki and a generous squeeze of lemon juice.
Greek salads feature the usual suspects of sliced onion, tomato and cucumber, with things taken to a whole new level thanks to juicy olives and chunks of salty feta. Oodles of olive oil remains long after you’ve eaten the salad itself and is best mopped up with huge chunks of bread.
Typically Greek dishes of moussaka and fricassee make regular appearances, whilst barbecued meats are delicious with herby rice and flatbreads. Gyros is a far more delicious and far less questionable take on the more commonly known doner kebab. Meat is king in Santorini but the island’s fish is incredibly fresh, though expensive. That said, calamari and marides make great nibbles while you wait for the main event.
Leave the restaurants behind and head to the patisseries, or zacharoplasteio, for dessert; sweet baklava, kadaifi and cinnamon and honey stuffed donuts known as loukoumades are all perfect endings to an amazing meal.
The best sunsets in the world
Santorini claims to be the home of the world’s best sunset; a big claim for such a small island. Luckily, it has the goods to back it up, with those lilac-orange skies found in various sunset-seeking spots around the island. Oia is the best known and most popular, and while this is indeed where you will the Santorini sunset you see on postcards, the crowds that gather here can take away from the experience somewhat.
Our top tip is to snap a photograph of the caldera from Oia, including windmill villas, whitewashed homes and blue domed churches, before moving on to the more peaceful Firostefani. Take your pick from countless restaurants and cafes – you’ll have the best view in the house when the sun starts to dip below the horizon and those rainbow skies appear.
The loveliest of locals
It’s easy to assume that Santorini’s locals keep their visitors happy out of necessity, especially given that tourism is the island’s only income, however there is nothing forced about their friendly nature. Ask for advice on the best restaurants and the locals will burst into animated conversation; embark on a tour and your local guide will show you the island’s sights with passion, humorous anecdotes littering the conversation.
Envy-inducing photo opportunities
Having already mentioned the sunsets, white, blue and pink dotted vistas and scenery across the caldera, it probably goes without saying that Santorini offers photo opportunities galore. Even the most novice of photographers can get the perfect shot in Santorini, whether that is pink blooms against bone-white walls, rugged tavernas on cobbled streets, or the turquoise waters that lap black beaches. Prepare to induce some serious holiday envy with these snapshots!
White, red and black sand; volcanic rocks, pebbly outcrops and tiny harbours; Santorini’s beaches have something to offer every kind of beach bum. Head to the south of the island for the black sands of Kamari beach, one of Santorini’s most popular yet nicely chilled areas. Nearby Perissa boasts another black sand beach, though the vibe there is more hyperactive than that of Kamari; perfect for the visitors who are keen to give watersports, laidback dining and indulging in Ouzo a go.
Santorini’s Red Beach has been the willing subject of countless photoshoots over the years and deservedly so; its red sands and black volcanic rock backdrop resemble a lunar landscape.
The best possible base
Hopping between the Greek isles is the stuff travel dreams are made of and Santorini makes the perfect base for your adventures.
Whether you are on a cruise to Greece and the Mediterranean, or spending longer exploring the islands that dot the Aegean Sea, short boat rides from Santorini can take you to some of the most stunning spots. Crete, Noxos, Paros and Anafi are amongst the destinations that are all just a boat ride away and perfectly doable in day, whilst a regular ferry service is also available for travellers looking to venture to the historic Greek capital Athens from Santorini.