On the lovely greek island of Santorini it is actually the small town of Oia, on the north west coast, that you usually see in all the iconic photographs of the island, and in many cases Greece too! It has the quintessential white walls, blue domes, a crazy patchwork of alleys, steps and dwellings that somehow teeter on a cliff edge over the most stunning of turquoise waters – Oia just doesn’t look real! Even when you are physically there, sitting on a white terrace looking out over the most glorious of sunsets, it’s just hard to take it all in – one of the most magical places we’ve been to – along with being one of the most picturesque and photogenic too!
The legendary sunsets do draw in the crowds every evening, as Oia has some of the best viewing points on the island, where you witness spectacular light being cast back onto the cliffs of the Caldera – which is a volcanic crater that is now filled with water! We stayed at Aris Caves (since we were there ownership has changed) where we had a most wonderful stay in one of their bijou, cool white, cave suites that was literally carved out of the cliff! It came with our very own private terrace jutting out over the water with uninterrupted views and the perfect spot to watch the boats, sunsets and dreamy skies each night! See David below in the jaw dropping doorway of Aris Caves with the setting sun lighting up the cliffs of the caldera beyond!
One thing you may want to consider though when choosing where to stay in Oia is the hundreds of steps that may be involved in getting to and from your hotel! There is a main road at the back/top of the town which sweeps around, and down the cliff to the sea, but everywhere else in between is pedestrianised with winding alleyways and steps, steps and more steps! Easy to navigate going downwards distracted by the lovely boutiques, loads of stunning vistas, architecture and beautifully designed places to sit and eat but not for the faint hearted on the way back after dinner and a couple of drinks! It’s steep and uneven in places and at night some spots weren’t lit very well but this all added to the experience and adventure of staying in this extraordinary place – for us anyway!
And as you may have already noticed from our blog we absolutely love colour – colourful places, colourful people, cobalt skies, aquamarine waters, nature in bloom – all of which we always find in Greece and Santorini was no exception! Although the main colour of all of the buildings was understandably white to deflect the heat you will always find splashes of colour – doors, the odd side wall, painted steps along with cascading vines and flowering creepers over the facades, that just look staged as are so perfect, but are in fact just nature’s artwork at it’s best!
Also well worth a mention is to venture down to the bottom of the cliff that Oia sits upon and cascades down, where you will find the most dramatic of coastlines – large boulders of volcanic black rock butting up against crystal clear blue water that you just have to dive into! After that precarious descent and refreshing swim we had a delicious couple of hours that is not to be missed! You will find nestled there a tiny village called Ammoudi and with the water lapping up against your feet – waterside dining in the most literal sense we’ve experienced – were many fish restaurants, back to back, with their grills lit up and ready to go, the fishermen casually float up, off load their catch, the waiter puts the fish straight onto the grill and then you have the freshest lunch or dinner of your life! The setting, the simplicity of it all, the taste, the buzzing atmosphere, the view … ‘this is the life’ we thought, we said, we chinked glasses to!
We did hire a car for a couple of days to explore more of the island and found some lovely, very quiet beaches all with black volcanic sand … on the road there are many viewing places to stop and take in yet more spectacular panoramas … also lots of vineyards as the island is known for producing excellent wines … and there is lots of art and art galleries dotted about which is actually understandable as you can’t help but feel inspired by your surroundings day and night! Artspace is a wonderful old winery built in the 1830s that has been lovingly converted into an enormous art gallery which was a delight to walk around and we found it to be full of surprises too – in both the mix of artwork and how it was displayed within the quirky spaces of this ancient architecture! Well worth seeking out as they have also reinstated a small winery in part of the building with up to date equipment alongside an organic vineyard – combining history with the present – they’ve made a fantastic job of it!
We are sure to be back to Santorini in the not too distant future – we would most probably choose to stay in Oia again too – we really did love our time there and if you are after tranquility, beauty and inspiration you can’t go far wrong!