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Santorini island and the Aegean sea sunsets

16 minutes read

Everyone who is visiting Santorini for the first time comes up with some expectations of their own. We have all seen romantic photos of white houses and churches with blue roofs. We have heard about the steep slopes on which many tourists climb with donkeys. And about the brilliant sunsets of Santorini that everyone is talking about. But in the first days of May, when the ship docked on the periphery of the magical island complex in light fog and clouds, Santorini appeared in a different light. That mystical light that arouses curiosity, but also awe.

Santorini island in the spring
Santorini island in the spring

The volcano of Santorini

Once upon a time, thousands of years ago, Santorini was a completely round island. But after the largest eruption of the volcano on which it is located, in 1600 BC, today’s caldera was formed. The caldera is the depression that remains after the crater collapses inwards, in a place free of magma. Today the caldera is partially submerged and Santorini is a complex of several islands on its periphery. The landscape continues to change constantly because there is periodic underwater volcanic activity. Thus, in the centre of the caldera, there are two more islands of cold lava, which are increasingly emerging in recent years.

View from Oia village to the Aegean sea and the other parts of Santorini

Travelling to Santorini

There is a small airport on Santorini, which can be reached with several airlines, including the Aegean Airlines which we used to fly to Athens. You can also find low-cost flights to Santorini. But mind that there are no low-cost accommodations on the island.

The road to one of the ports of Santorini
The road to one of the ports of Santorini

Another option is taking a ferry from Athens. You can also board the ferry with car.

The option we chose was a cruise ship. In late April and early May We travelled with Celestyal Cruises and particularly the Celestyal Olympia ship, which took us to an unforgettable Aegean journey not only to Santorini but also to Mykonos, Crete, Patmos and Kusadasi. Santorini was our last stop.

Reaching Santorini by cruise ship
Reaching Santorini by cruise ship

Our ship was slowly approaching the island and all passengers were standing on the decks, enjoying the view. In the bay two boats were waiting for us to take us to the land.

Santorini island
Santorini island

Try to imagine Santorini, standing as a big mountain above the sea, the harbours are small and down by the water. The towns and villages are instead up there on on the ridge. So, we got off the boat and boarded our shuttle to the top.

The wine of Santorini – Venetsanos winery

After a 20-minute drive by bus, we reached the ridge. We arrived at the Venetsanos winery, one of the oldest and most picturesque on the island. We sat on a table on the terrace and tasted wines from local varieties, overlooking the caldera.

Venetsanos winery
Venetsanos winery

This location of the Venetsanos winery today is a museum with wonderfully preserved wine-making facilities from several decades ago. They were extremely interesting. We saw the first generator of electricity on the island. We tasted three local wines, which we all liked. For home, we took bottles from the white wine, Santorini series, Assyrtiko variety, which is traditional for the island, but also for other places in Greece. The red was from another local variety – Mandilaria. We were extremely impressed by the dessert wine Liastos, again from Mandilaria grape, vintage 2001. Made from dried grapes, aged in French oak (17 years said). Still, it was great, and we left the winery with a few bottles. Although quite good, the wines had fairly high prices, but we still supported the local wine production and took a few bottles.

More about the wines of Santorini

Wine production is the second most important business on the island after tourism. About 17 % of the island’s territory is planted with vines. The most important grape variety is Assyrtiko – a white variety, indigenous to the island. When visiting a local winery, look for it. If you notice a lable, saying Nykteri, this means that is is oak-aged Assyrtiko.

Assyrtiko from Santorini, Venetsanos winery
Assyrtiko from Santorini, Venetsanos winery

Another notable wine on the island is Vinsanto. This is a sweet wine, made usually from local varieties Assyrtiko, Aidani and Akrotiri. Vinsanto wines are also produces in Tuscany, Italy. To make Vinsanto, the late harvested grapes are left to dry for a couple of weeks and then fermented in inox tanks. Then the sweet wine matures in oak barrels for at least two years.

Assyrtiko from Santorini, Venetsanos winery
Oia – the village of sunsets
Oia village is just charming
The village Oia is just charming

Oia – the village of sunsets

We bought some wine and headed for a photo walk in the village of Oia, where are the famous white churches with blue roofs and that stunning sunset. We were not lucky enough to admire the sunset in its full glory, but we still took a walk with the several thousand other tourists on the streets and took pictures. Our local guide Ginnie recommended to come in November to really enjoy Santorini, and that’s probably what we will do.

Oia village on Santorini island, Greece
Oia village on Santorini island, Greece

The main town on Santorini is called Fira. What you may not know is that the official name of the island is actually Thera. Santorini is a name originating from the times of the Latin empire, when the island was named after Saint Irene (Santa Irini).

There are amazing places to stay in Oia
There are amazing places to stay in Oia

Oia is the famous village you can see on many photos of Santorini – with the famous hotels in the rocks, the blue domes, the thousands Asians who come here to marry, the crowds of visitors in the summer. However, we are here in May, strong wind is blowing, it is quite cool and the only tourists have come with our cruise ship. The permanent population of of Oia is about 600 people.

We are strolling among the luxury shops on the main street Nikolaou Nomikou, then down by the narrow streets offering great views of the sea. We wish to be staying here for the night, to enjoy the sunset before heading to dinner in some of the very good restaurants on the island.

Maria posing for photos in Oia
Maria posing for photos in Oia

Walking by the main street, you will reach the fortress of Oia – another great location to enjoy the sunset. However, there is no best location for the sunset in Oia – all of them are amazing. You just need to find some space among the other visitors.

The remains of the Oia fortress can be seen in the discance
The remains of the Oia fortress can be seen in the discance
Oia village, Santorini island
Oia village, Santorini island

If you want to enjoy the full beauto of Oia, it is best to stay at the houses on the rocks. Be prepared for really high prices. But the romantics and the view are priceless.

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The blue-domed churches of Oia
The blue-domed churches of Oia
Church in Oia
Church in Oia

We already mentioned that Santorini is a steep island with towns and villages on its ridge. Oia village up there is reachable by the famous stairs from Ammoudi bay, which you can also climb on the back of a donkey. However, we would prefer not to exploit the animals.

Andrey Andreev on Santorini island
Andrey Andreev on Santorini island
In early May the tourist season has not yet started
In early May the tourist season has not yet started

On the road again

Our story stops here. We took some sunset photos although the sunset despite the many clouds and the light rain. It was still very beautiful view. We took the last boat to the Olympia ship and sailed away towards Athens.

Oia village
Oia village
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Ginnie, our joyful tour guide, recommended us to stay at Imerovigli, another beautiful village on the top of the mountain, near the main town Fira. She suggested there might be more budget hotels.

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