SANTORINI ISLAND - GREECE
Hello everyone and welcome back to my blog!
Today I am finally writing about my trip to Santorini which has been long over due! I know that for so many of my followers on Instagram (follow me here if you don't already @bethlucyblogs) and for many of my readers online, that Santorini is one of those mesmerising and idyllic islands that we all dream of going to. I can understand, as last year I too desperately wanted to visit Greece and in particular Santorini. Whether it is the blue-domed churches, amazing Instagram-worthy shots or even the unforgettable caldera view, Santorini is an attractive and appealing holiday destination for so many people worldwide, not just bloggers! Additionally, Mykonos is also another one of the Greek islands which I believe is as equally sought-after and renowned and yet many more celebrities visit Mykonos than they do Santorini (I am yet to visit Mykonos
!) I did love visiting Santorini, regardless of the swarms of people queueing at 'photo points' and the endless numbers of buses, coaches and cruises dropping off thousands of people at Oia each day.
However, there were some aspects of Santorini that I certainly did not enjoy and I wanted to make it clear to you as the reader what these are. Although I went on holiday with my family and didn't book the holiday myself, I believe that I was naive and unknowing when it came to arriving in Santorini. It was extremely different to those perfect photos that we see on our instagram home page each day and it was also significantly underwhelming in a few areas too. Nethertheless, I do not want to discourage you from visiting, as it is still one of the most beautiful islands I have ever been to, but instead I would like to inform you on some features of Santorini which I wish I had known of before I had gone.
I arrived in Santorini at the end of July, after a 6 hour long ferry ride from Naxos. My family and I had been 'island-hopping' and had done so traditionally by using the blue star ferries - always punctual and efficient, I was rather pleased and impressed with the ferry service and would recommend it to you if you are going to several islands too. However, if you are thinking of visiting Santorini, you could always fly directly as there is an international airport on the island! This would save you much more time and would probably be less troublesome too for you as my family and I spent over 16 hours on the ferry overall! If you do travel on the blue star ferries I recommend the business sector of the ferry (only 10 euros more) as it definitely improved our experiences on board.
On arrival in Santorini, I was shocked at how busy the port was. It was swarming with taxis and people and we could only just find the car that was waiting to pick us up. The journey to the top of the islands up the cliffs was long and tiring (as well as quite dangerous!) Once at the top of the island, the views are astonishing, but the actual towns were not as I had anticipated - the island was just several interconnecting roads between a few small towns which did not appear too impressive, however, I was surprised at how many blue-domed churches there were - it seemed like there were multiple in each town, I would really recommend visiting some of the less well-established and popular ones as they are so underrated and you will not need to queue for a photo!
Once my family and I reached our accommodation which was in Firastefani, only a five minute walk away from Fira (the capital) we settled into our villa. We were fortunate to have accommodation overlooking the caldera and volcano- the views are indescribable and the sunsets are magical. If you are staying on the other side of the island, make sure to walk along the roads on the caldera because you will not regret it! I was really pleased with my accommodation that although it was a villa (not a hotel with a pool or anything fancy) it was perfect for my family. We were located high up on the cliff, next to a hotel and we had a beautiful balcony and an authentic bathroom that had rocks built into it from the cliff edge! Additionally, although it is strange to be located next to other buildings so close together and to sit outside and be practically eating with the people on the balcony next to you, I did enjoy the experience! It was also so quiet and the peacefulness made the trip extra special.
We then walked to the centre of Fira. It is a bustling place with so many people there! It was hard to enjoy our walks around the centre as it was crammed with people, street-sellers and to our surprise, there were very few restaurants to eat at! Many of the restaurants were mediocre and did not serve traditional Santorinian cuisine. It was also especially challenging to find supermarkets that were open and had fresh fruit we could buy. Unlike Naxos which is full of restaurants, Santorini was quite disappointing and we never found a restaurant we particularly liked. As a result, a lot of the food we ate we had prepared and made ourselves, although we did like the sushi restaurant in Firastefani that was excellent!
I would not recommend staying in Fira because it is so loud and there are too many people there! It is also not as picturesque and pretty as Firastefani. In Fira, we found where the bus station was. It was very disorganised and on several occasions of day trips, we did have to stand! If you are renting a car though, this should not be a problem, although there can sometimes be traffic. We used the bus services to travel to the Atlantis Museum. I was quite impressed with the museum and would recommend going to it if you ever have time.
Once back in Firastefani, we watched the sunset go down along with many other tourists and locals. The sunsets are incredible and definitely Instagram 'worthy' if you are a blogger. Additionally, once it is dark and the houses and cruises are lit up, Santorini is stunning. It was always hot during the day, but at night time the temperatures became the most bearable. I thought that going to Santorini in the summer was a mistake as it is the most populated time on the island (especially in the months of July and August.) If you do go to Santorini I would recommend going during Easter such as May or June when it is not as busy in Santorini and when it is also not as hot.
The next day we walked to Imerovigli which is definitely my favourite town on the island. Not only do I think it boasts the best caldera views, but it also has some of the most luxurious hotels and accommodation, as well as a beautiful blue domed church - one that you won't have to queue for a photo of!It was so quiet and peaceful as we walked there and it has the best places to stay. More than most of the villas we passed had a pool and although there weren't many restaurants there, some looked good. We also found the best ice cream place there called Confetti. The desert boutique is modern and spacious and sells what I believe are the best ice creams on the island. Although, it may be a walk to get there, you won't be disappointed! It also has beautiful furniture and great views of the churches from its premises! The pictures do not do it justice! Imerovigli is a MUST visit in Santorini as it was my favourite place, which I believe is so underrated - I would also really recommend staying there.
Finally, how could I not include Oia! On our penultimate day in Santorini, we visited Oia which is the most popular town on the island. It is acclaimed as the most 'touristy' place to visit and one local warned us to get there especially early due to the fact that over 60,000 people will be strolling through the narrow streets before midday. We were recommended to set off to get there before nine in the morning and that is what we intended to do. We woke up early and got down to the bus station at Fira to go to Oia. There were dozens of people there and we managed to get on an early bus even though we had to stand. After an exhausting half an hour journey where our bus was driving up and down endless jagged roads, we finally arrived in Oia, only to realise that half the islands inhabitants were there too. It was pandemonium getting off our coach in the midst of a busy car park 'drop off' bay with numerous other large coaches too. People were embarking coaches while others were still trying to get off. It was extremely busy and we had to fight our way past tour groups of hundreds of people to reach the main square. From there, we found the routes to the best view of those famous churches which are photographed and branded on all the Santorini souvenirs and posters. The churches were beautiful, but we could not even get close to them as tourists were roped off from going nearer due to safety reasons.
Clambering over rocky paths, we followed the sea of tourists armed with selfie sticks and cameras to wait patiently in queues for the 'Instagram photos.' I was extremely disappointed with how busy it was and how obsessed everyone was for their photos - it may seem hypocritic and contradictory as I got those photos myself and was there to see these churches too, but Instagram had misled and deceived me when it came to Oia. Bloggers always make their shots appear effortless and perfect, when they are probably photoshopped or at least staged. Standing in the endless lines of tourists on those small cobbled streets at 9:30 in the morning, already under the glaring sun and unbearable heat really made me come to realisation and understand that I wouldn't be able to get the photos I wanted and that was alright, because now when I look back on my trip, I was pleased with the photos I did get that were connected to the best moments. The worst memories are linked to Oia and yet my happiest are linked to Imerviglo and the beautiful scenery there. Although the churches in Oia were incredible and the cliff views were remarkable, my opinions of the actual sights will be undermined due to my strong feelings on the extreme tourism and crowded streets, not to forget the buildings that had fallen into disrepair just next to the prominent blue-domed churches.
If you do go to Oia, I would highly recommend visiting before 9 in the morning if you are staying in another part of the island, or to stay at Oia and wake up really early in the morning - 6 or 7 to get those Instagram worthy shots that everyone is envious of!
I haven't actually recommended a food spot, but my family and I loved eating at Galini's which was a short walk away from my accommodation in Firastefani. Although quite expensive, you will not regret it! The food was delicious and included homemade ingredients. The prices are mainly high|
due to the stunning views as the café is situated ideally over the caldera cliff - it is quite windy! The staff were always kind and usually quick to serve us. We loved eating lunch there and getting coffee there too!
Thank you for reading this blog! I hope you enjoyed it and although you may have disparate views to mine, I hope you will still like visiting Santorini and if you have already been I hope you enjoyed it too! I tried to be honest in my reflection of the trip and also what I enjoyed the most, if you would like to read my travel blogs on Athens and Naxos where I write about my recommendations, be sure to check out the links above. Additionally, if you enjoyed this blog, please share it or comment your views - I would love to know them! For similar content click here to read my blog called 'Instagram vs reality' that features Santorini.
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Thank you once again for reading this blog - my final one of my Greek series! Make sure to keep in touch to see what my next travel blog will be on!