You are nowhere closer to heaven than under the blue church domes of the Cyclades island of Santorini. They form a perfect symbiosis with the white-painted houses that stretch along the cliffs of a volcanic crater and give you the feeling of floating above worldly things. The small vacation island of Santorini has become the Instagram Hot-Spot par excellence in the last few years, which you must have seen and captured at least once in your life. But of course there is so much more behind the perfect facade of a Greek vacation dream, which I now have to discover.
It all starts with a little history lesson at the house of my hostess Katerina, who invited me to her Ifestio Villas. She explains to me by means of a map how the island was devastated by a volcanic eruption in the 16th century B.C. and how the present landscape with all its small islands and the striking caldera was created. It is important to her that Santorini is not only perceived as a romping place for photographers.
She draws recommendations for the sunset or the perfect dinner on the map to guide me a little off the beaten track through Oia. This report is therefore also a little bit the story of my hostess, who breathes a soul into this place and thus makes the difference to the often anonymous hotels, of which there are simply countless on Santorini.
I move into Villa Paride, which is modelled as a typical Santorini house and offers a beautiful bedroom with sitting area, a small kitchen and the perfect balcony with heated outdoor Jacuzzi. This is my place when I get up in the morning and see the first rays of the sun moving over the crater rim and this is my place to write these lines here in the late afternoon.
The view of the sea is so captivating that you don’t want to leave, which in principle is no problem since Katerina has already provided bread, cake and cold champagne. But that would be just too bad in view of the coming impressions.
From here, we head for the main shopping street of Oia, which lines boutiques, restaurants and galleries like pearls on a necklace and leads the visitor to the most beautiful places on the island by chance, because one thing is certain: you can hardly imagine a more perfect place.
First, I follow the small side street, which turns almost inconspicuously to the left and offers the famous view of the blue domes of an old church, which artfully stands out against all the white of the villas and bungalows and has already been immortalized in countless pictures.
Only a few stores and restaurants later, you already reach the remains of a 15th century castle ruin, which today is a veritable place to enjoy the sunset every evening and is particularly busy in the middle of summer.
But the sunset is much better to admire from the steps, in the opinion of my hostess and so she sends me down to Ammoudi Beach, where you are closer to the sea than anywhere else in Oia.
But this is not so much about sunbathing as it is about the ultimate sunset experience, since this is where the daily catamaran tours to the islands of Santorini start. There are also sensational fish restaurants that serve the „Catch of the Day“ fresh from the sea.
You are spoilt for choice between the elegant Sunset, and the more rustic Fish Tavern, which offers perhaps the most beautiful view of the island.
The only drop of bitterness are the approximately 240 unpaved steps that lead up to the old town. In summer there is a donkey shuttle, but in late autumn it is already stowed away in the stable and waiting for spring.
Therefore, a trip to Santorini is a sporty experience, as the next day should prove to me. Already my hostess warned me benevolently before the 12-kilometer-long hike to Fira. It’s going to be hot and exhausting, she said with such persuasiveness that I’ll leave the way there to the cab to drop me off in the lively old town of the island’s capital.
There are restaurants that look over cliffs, the domes of the churches are blue and beautiful as well, but all in all Fira does not reach the radiance and perfection of Oia. It is rather the starting point for the legendary hike along the crater rim to Imerovigli and Oia, which takes about 3-4 hours and promises all kinds of variety.
We start with the winding alleys of the old town and museums in Fira, followed by exclusive hotel villas, which look particularly picturesquely over the abyss in Imerovigli, the romantic chapels, which appear again and again along the way as well as the steep volcanic rocks of Moyzaki Bay.
At the end I am really out of breath, because the path is a perpetual up and down, which leads through a prehistoric volcanic landscape in the last third and offers great views of the sea and the caldera. As a reward for such an effort, a homemade cake from my hostess is already waiting in my Ifestio Villa with a view that is a little too kitschy even for Instagram.
They say: Santorini must be seen once in a lifetime, but sometimes once in a lifetime is just not enough.