Santorini, Greece: The Island of Ethereal Sunsets
May 20, 2019
by Radhika Kharb
As the plane was landing in Oia, Santorini, scenes from the movie Mama Mia were playing in my mind while I looked out of the plane window. I couldn’t stop picturing the ageless Meryl Streep dancing and singing with her girl pals on the island. My husband and I couldn’t wait to step out of the airport and witness the magical island with our own eyes. We completed the airport formalities and rushed out to meet our cab driver sent by our hotel management. Sadly, we couldn’t see much as night had fallen upon us. After a long drive, we reached our destination. we had picked a hotel with a Caldera view in Oia.
Oia is a quirky little village situated in the North West edge on the island, filled with endless stairs, throngs of people, fluffy cats, donkeys and romantic sunsets. It’s known for whitewashed buildings with bright blue domes. The hotels in this area are infamous for being over-priced but it’s possible to find reasonable hotels if proper research is done in advance. We had booked a lovely hotel with the help of “Tripadvisor”. Renting rooms/apartments through Airbnb is another wonderful option. We had travelled in October which was off-season. The island wasn’t filled with a horde of tourists, the weather was pleasant and we had got a fair price for the hotel room.
The view from our balcony room
We climbed down hundreds of stone stairs in order to reach our hotel. Tired and weary we went to sleep as it was quite late at night. I gasped and stared in awe by the view that greeted me in the morning. Postcard blue sky and crystal clear sea, flanked by pure white houses, which were littered with vibrant bougainvillaea. It was even more alluring than I had imagined. A lot of our evenings were spent in our balcony while sipping greek wine and munching on an assortment of cheeses that were bought from a well-stocked convenience store nearby. Some evenings, we ate Souvlaki which is popular Greek street food and watched the sun go down.
Stone paved paths
We had a greek breakfast at the hotel balcony which overlooked the sea while a black tabby cat meowed at my feet asking for morsels of food from my plate. There was freshly baked bread, plump fruits, sour cream, cold-cuts of meats, tzatziki and tart teacakes accompanied with a strong cup of coffee. After the heavenly breakfast, we climbed up the stairs and reached a market with enthusiastic sellers. There was something for everyone. Handmade soaps, fridge magnets, silver jewellery which was embedded with precious stones, lava stone and coral jewellery, Greek spices, olive oil, clothes etc.
We found a quaint bookshop called “Atlantis Books”. The shop owner was extremely helpful. He told us about some good restaurants and spots in Oia that had to be visited. We learned about a picturesque 3-hour hike to Fira and got tips on witnessing the sunset. Every evening crowds gathered on the streets to get a glimpse of the world famous phenomenon. We were told that the best place to see the sunset wasn’t from the streets because they were filled with tourists but was from the steps that led to the Amoudi Bay. We purchased a beautifully illustrated map of the island and a couple of books.
A taxing but rewarding 300 steps lead down to the stunning Amoudi Bay. Just be careful of the donkeys and donkey poop. The view while climbing down the steps and at Bay is breathtaking and Instagram worthy. I preferred to enjoy the sunset from the stairs as there no throng of tourists here. We had tomato fritters and steamed mussels at a restaurant called Dimitris Amoudi Taverna. The fritters weren’t as great as I had at other restaurants but the fresh mussels were delicious and buttery.
The hike from Oia to Fira
On our way
The hike is 2-5 hours long depending on your speed. We reached Fira in 3 and a half hours. The walk spans along 10.5 km, so it’s better to start early in the morning. We passed a beautiful village called Imerovigli during our hike. This place is covered with plush buildings. It’s another option to stay at because it’s close to Oia and Fira. Extraordinary sights greeted us all along out leisurely walk. The fresh air along with the constantly changing colours of the sky and the sea made it the highlight of our trip. We found many kiosks selling handmade jewellery made with semi-precious stones at throwaway prices on the way and I couldn’t resist buying some pieces.
Fira, the capital of Santorini is so very different from Oia. If Oia is straight out a Greek movie set, Fira is a swanky town with all facilities. We didn’t stay in Fira for long due to time foundation and set back to the lovely little village we had started the trek from.
The Scrumptious Food
I was told by a Greek lady who conducted Greek food cooking classes that I had attended that raki is drunk often while preparing dishes. Raki is a traditional strong alcoholic beverage. It’s often consumed with Meze, a platter of cold or hot appetisers and that’s the secret of not getting drunk easily. We sipped on raki during the whole class and regardless to say we were given blunt knives to cut. The class was filled with fun, laughter and enthusiasm and as we all did get a little tipsy. I am certainly going to incorporate a glass of wine to sip on while cooking now that I am back home. Here’s a list of some of my favourite restaurants.
Lotza cafe, Oia
Baked potato, Feta pastry, Pork Sagnaki accompanied with Raki at Lotza Cafe
This cafe is situated on the Main Steet in Oia. They offer great food with a great view. Don’t forget to order the Feta in filo exterior, Baklava and the Pork Sagnaki here. Wash down these delicacies with a strong glass of raki.
Candouni restaurant, Oia
This place is a little hard to find but it makes a perfect stop for a romantic dinner. The winking candles and fairy lights give it an otherworldly feel. My husband made us visit this place time and again because of the delectable Greek Lamb which is cooked all day and then served in the evening and night. Sadly, I forgot to take pictures of this gorgeous restaurant.
Fino Cocktail Bar and Restaurant
This bar and restaurant have the best cocktails in Oia. We had dropped in for a few cocktails and a little snack before our dinner at Candouni. The lobster spring rolls were appetising. We were served some meze along with the drinks which were a tasteful fish roe dip with crispy bread.
Mezzo restaurant, Imerovigli
Lamb Shank at Mezzo
Fava at Mezzo
Tomato Fritters at Mezzo
Mezzo restaurant in Imerovigli has a magnificent view of the rock and the ocean. I settled down with my aching legs in between an exhausting but scenic hike from Oia to Fira. The Tomato Fritters, Fava and the Greek Lamb are definitely must try items. These were undoubtedly the most toothsome Tomato Fritters I had sunk my teeth in Greece. I paired my meal with Vinsanto, a delicious Greek dessert wine.
Greek Platter at Aquarius
The black sand beach at Perissa
It’s situated in Perissa overlooking the famous black beach. I quite liked the Greek platter they offered. It had a variety of traditional dishes like the Moussaka, Dolmades, Capsicum with rice stuffing and grilled vegetables. Moussaka is a dish comprising eggplant served, béchamel sauce and minced meat. Dolmades is a grape leaf roll with rice stuffing.
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May 24, 2019
Succulent and mystic details of dreamworld for any wanderer who wishes to drift aimlessly to experience the unknown.
May 24, 2019
Reading your article it seems I have also traveled the place through your expressions. Keep writing so we are also traveling and learning about new places.