Santorini, Greece is a volcanic island and one of the hundreds of Greek islands in the Mediterranean Sea. In 1500 B.C., a volcano erupted on the island so large that experts believe the explosion wiped out the Minoan population on Crete, an island 70 nautical miles away.
In the aftermath, the island persevered through decades of economic decline and natural disaster to become one of the best tourist destinations in the world. It’s also my absolute favorite place to visit.
My friend and I stayed in a small coastal town on the island called Perissa, which is famous for its black sand beach. Like many of the other villages we passed on our bus ride, Perissa was mainly made of dirt roads, houses, and a strip of businesses along the shoreline.
Our first impression of the small community showed us how welcoming, helpful, and kind the people are. Without knowing how to get to our hostel, a local restaurant owner called our lodging and arranged a ride to take us there. With his help, we were able to get ourselves and our luggage to the hostel safely and easily.
There are many restaurants and small stores on a road along the main beach. I remember walking back and forth up and down the road trying to decide what smell my nose should follow. We ended up at a small restaurant with traditional Greek dishes such as Moussaka, Souvlaki, and Baklava.
Like many Greek restaurants, the one we ate at had the main dining room open to outside. This made for a pleasant dining experience; allowing us to relax and eat our meal while listening to the waves crashing on the shoreline nearby. But that also meant other things, like animals, could also get inside. During dinner, a litter of kittens and their mom explored the restaurant, played at diners’ feet, and were sometimes lucky enough to get a bite of food.
To go anywhere on Santorini, you must go to the island’s lively and bustling capital, Fira. It is the center of all travel within and leaving the island and home to various historical museums and cathedrals. The main square is busy with cars, motorcycles, and pedestrians exploring small shops and snacking on food from local vendors.
We found a rooftop restaurant on the western edge of the city, overlooking the Aegean Sea and a nearby active volcano called Nea Kameni. We ordered a refreshing tray of toasted bread, savory spreads, and a fresh Greek salad.
Oia, Santorini is a coastal town at the northernmost tip of the island. It is most notable for its white buildings which are packed together and connected by a series of winding cobblestone streets. Homes and businesses are decorated with flower beds overflowing with blooming white and pink flowers. The town is designed like a maze with twists and turns and roads that lead to nowhere.
The best way to explore it is by getting lost in the hidden corners of the cliffside community. You’ll encounter remnants of long-forgotten stone structures from ancient Oia, such as a tower where couples from around the world attach strings and padlocks to an old railing. Or, stout windmills peppered idly throughout the sea of white buildings.
Santorini may be small but is rich in history and natural wonders. Outside of the lively villages and cities, you can hike to the ruins of Ancient Thera and sunbathe on the black sand beaches. Head south to the south of the island for breathtaking views of the sunset at Akrotiri Lighthouse or snorkel surrounded by the red cliffs at Kokkini Paralia.
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