Wednesday, 28 September 2016


Although we don't actually own a home in Santorini, we have been going there on holiday for the past 15 years and apart from just one year when the hotel was fully booked, we have been staying in the same lovely little spot every year in Perissa.

Our friendly hosts Ellie and Eugene are always giving us little treats so we almost feel part of the family.  In fact our respective  two daughters, Marianna and Louise, played together when younger and have both grown up to be independent young women with lives of their own - though Ellie and I do like to swap stories of the horrors of those teenage years and the worry about their futures.

One of the things we love most about Santorini is the laid-back atmosphere.  There are no loud clubs in Perissa, no gangs of young people, and in truth, not many families with young children. This tends to be a couples resort - possibly because there are very few large hotels or with facilities and clubs for kids.

This year - as every year - we take someone new along with us because we love to show people around and take them to our favourite places. And this year is was the turn of our friends Colin and Karen who paid their first visit there, and absolutely loved it.

Top of the list of things to see are the capital of the island - Thira, and the artists playground, Oia, both famous for their stunning sunsets, but also for the brilliant shopping - as witnessed by the Kardashian Klan in recent years!

Thira- the capital

Thira houses the main port for the cruise ships and this year the authorities have limited the number of passengers allowed to disembark to 8,000 from 10,000.  But that means that Thira is very crowded during the day, and that the shops tend to be expensive to cater for them.  

The journey from the port up to the town is either by cable car or more traditionally, by donkey. But these are no ordinary donkeys since they work so hard carrying the tourists up the 588 steps.  My personal view is that this seems a little cruel, but having read some of the history of the island, they have been successfully used for centuries carrying imported goods and people from the port up to the town.  I think you have to make up your own mind about supporting local customs or taking the modern route.

The jewellery on sale in Thira is just amazing - store windows drip with luscious gold and precious stones of every colour - emeralds, sapphires, rubies, as well as diamonds and pearls, and every designer watch imaginable. But I have discovered a small boutique selling gorgeous costume jewellery and always treat myself to an unusual piece each year.

Oia - a haven for artists

Oia is a favourite with artists of all kinds, with galleries and museums celebrating crafts of every kind.

The town is well worth a visit to watch the famous Santorini sunset, being at the furthest western point of the island. However, the streets are narrow and sometimes difficult to negotiate through the tourist population, but this year it seemed extra busy - so much so that we couldn't get near the best vantage points to see anything. Tip - if you do want to watch the sunset here, go early and be prepared to have a meal, sit, people watch and wait! There are some lovely bars and restaurants with amazing views, so this is really no hardship.

This year too they have built quite a few new shops in Oia - selling the most gorgeous jewellery and cute shoes and clothes, but there are also a couple of designer shops selling Pucci, Gucci and Dior as well as stylish Greek boutiques specialising in linen, cotton and fine knits.

Accommodation along the western coast tends to be more sophisticated, upmarket and pricey, since all have stunning views of the Caldera - the "cauldron" - which is the crater left after the catastrophic volcano blew away half of the island 3000 years ago, leaving 1000 foot drop down the cliffs into the sea.  Many of the hotels are built into the cliff face and from a distance look as if they are perched precariously along the edge. You can actually visit the volcano and the hot springs, and although still showing signs of activity, it is currently dormant.

Megalachori - a favourite spot

Magalachori is another favourite spot we like to visit.  This ancient pretty Greek village is not a touristy destination, but is where many of the local islanders live. With a maze of tiny streets featuring traditional houses, this is the real Santorini - the Greek equivalent of our chocolate box homes. There are just three or four restaurants and a couple of snack bars and shops.  This year we ate in the stunning Meze restaurant with pretty candles and gorgeous bougainvillea tumbling around picturesque stone archways. There is just one very exclusive hotel, the Vedema, where you can pay up to £3000 a night in high season for a family suite - but it looks fabulous! If you prefer a villa or traditional Greek house, they are available to rent, but this is not the norm for Santorini.  Accommodation is usually in small hotels, or for a budget holiday, village rooms or apartments over shops and bars.  These tend to be quite basic but functional, since most tourists tend to spend their days on the beach or visiting the local sights.

Total relaxation

My personal trips every year include a visit to the Suite of the Gods Spa and Hotel, overlooking the Caldera, where I usually indulge in a facial and massage with use of the hot and cold pools, and although it is billed as an hour and a half - the staff don't bother you and after treatments you can pretty much stay as long as you like. Not only can you see the volcano and the western towns of Thira, Firostefani, Omerovigli and Oia, but you are directly above the old port and can watch the ferries coming and going and all the coaches and traffic winding their way uphill to the main road. This is also a hotel with a cool laid back vibe set on different levels with surprising corners where you can relax or sunbathe. We have witnessed quite a few weddings there and it looks lovely. We did ask if we could have a peek in the rooms but unfortunately they were fully booked so we didn't get to see inside.

Santorini is an island steeped in history, having been invaded several times over the centuries.  It has had many names over the years, with one theory being that it was named Santa Irene (now Santorini), from a time when the Romans took control, but it was also named Fira or Thira after the emporer's son (now the name of the capital) and has also been called Kalliste.

The resort of Perissa might be considered the poor relation, but we love the old Greek charm rather than the sophisticated resorts.  Prices are less expensive but the location is just perfect for a lazy sun-drenched holiday.  The beach is volcanic black sand (actually grit!) which disappears into the sea via a rocky ledge, so not really suitable for very young children.

There are plenty of lovely restaurants and bars along the sea front, often with chilled live music. Our favourite beach restaurant is Ntomatini where they serve delicious meze, but our very favourite restaurant  in Perissa is on the road parallel to the beach, called Sirocco.  It is billed as a pizza/pasta restaurant with a wood-burning oven, but also serves the most delicious Greek food, and is owned by the chatty Kostas, who closes up the restaurant in October and jets off back to his other home in Australia.

We have worked our way through his menu several times but highlights include a delicious dish cooked in the oven called beef stamna, which we have tried (and failed) to recreate at home, which is to die for. The chicken souvlaki and home-made tzatziki with pitta bread are pretty amazing too. Greek salad is also a favourite, and Kostas always insists on sending over an extra carafe of wine or a couple of liqueur shots at the end of the meal. To be honest we pretty much ate here every night for three weeks and never got tired of the food!

Perissa's neighbouring resort is round the headland at Kamari,  reached daily by water taxi, it is a little more of a polished resort - with pavements rather than tarmac on the roads and floaty curtains around the stone sunbeds (doesn't sound very comfortable to me!).  With a long wide beach, this is probably a better destination if there are children in the party.

Santorini vineyards

The island is famous for its wine - which is largely produced for home consumption, and local wineries all offer guided tours and wine-tasting.  Our favourite is Santos Wines which also boasts stunning views and is a wonderful venue for a wedding, but unfortunately it was briefly closed during our stay, so we ventured to a small new winery which opened just this year. I think they were a little overwhelmed by the number of visitors the evening we visited as the service was slow, but the wine was delicious with a plate of cheese and breadstick nibbles.

Places to see

Santorini is not a huge island and you can pretty much see all of it in one day, though if you hire a car there is plenty to see.  Of note is the fortress town and highest point on the island (if you don't count the ancient city ruins on the top of the mountain) is Pyrgos, while the ruins at Akroteri are now in a temperature-controlled housing following a fatal accident a few years ago when part of the site collapsed.  There is also Mesa Gonia where an earthquake in the 1950s destroyed a small village which has been left untouched since then - and where the church clock is stopped at the time the earthquake hit.

There are plenty of museums to while away the hours including art and Greek history museums, wine museums and even a tomato museum - though we have yet to visit that one!

But it isn't all doom and gloom!  The locals are incredibly friendly, the scenery is magnificent, the weather is hot and dry and it is such a great place to relax and restore balance in our busy lives. And yes - we have already booked again for next year!


  1. Wow! Your images are stunning, and your travel prowess is intense.
    I'm lucky to make it to Hounslow shopping centre these days. You put
    me to shame.

    Lovely post. I'm glad you had a lovely time

    H xxx

    1. Hello Heather. Obviously we have both reached a great age now and if we're honest we have featured places we have been to over the years - not all of them have been visited this year, though most in the past five years! Our plan is to see what we can of the world while we still can - both healthwise and financially! There are still lots of beautiful places in the UK to visit too, so maybe when we are not able to go so far, we can concentrate on places nearer home .... and maybe even Hounslow!!!


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