We spent a dreamy long weekend in the Greek Island of Santorini.
In just under 4 hours we were slipping out of the airport and into our tiny little car where for just £5 excess a day “we could smash it up!” Luckily it didn’t come to that but we would recommend hiring a car if you really want to explore all this island has to offer.
Checking into our small but perfectly formed Air BnB located in peaceful Firostefani we immediately relaxed into the restful pace of the place. Where else can you open your doors onto a direct view of a volcano AND watch the sun go down at the end of each day from your own private daybed? Although there are a number of super upmarket options available in the area, we loved staying in a traditional cave (not as dingy as it sounds).
Firostefani is ideally located being less than 10 mins walk to the capital Fira (and its numerous bars and restaurants) and about 20 mins drive away from just about everything else. After dumping our bags we dived straight into the traditional Aktaion Taverna for simple tasty sharing plates. Order the aubergine rolls stuffed with feta mousse and mint, fava beans with capers (similar to hummus) and the nutmeg heavy mousaka.
Wanting a bit more action for our first night in town we made the short trip to Fira and watched the sun set (about 7pm, beg Oct) at Argo. Everything stops for the sunset. Locals and tourists alike take a moment to appreciate the beautiful daily spectacle, before jumping back into action and handing out cosy blankets for those that want them (it gets a little nippy once the sun goes down).
The Prawn Saganaki was dreamy – juicy prawns, cooked in a clay pot in a tomato sauce with plenty of melted cheese. A fabulous take on a traditional Greek dish. We didn’t find Santorini to be particularly big on night-life – presumably all the swooning honeymooners are having an early night.
Up early the next day, Galini is the dream breakfast spot. Perched on the caldera, it serves up eggs every which way as well as healthy smoothies and generous bowls of fresh fruit, granola and of course, Greek yoghurt. We’re a little ashamed to admit that we popped in every morning of our short stay! Everything on the menu is delicious but the hot eggs are a must order.
Jumping in the car, we sped along windy roads to visit the Red, White and Black beaches on the South coast. It doesn’t matter where you start, for a fiver a small boat will appear every half an hour or so to shuttle you over to the next one, saving you the effort of schlepping back to the car all day. Make sure you’re at the White Beach for lunch though, we feasted on Shellfish and Crayfish Orzo at the super stylish Akro restaurant.
You can’t visit Santorini without seeing Oia. A small town on the most north-westerly tip of the island, this is where you’ll be able to replicate those famous blue dome church photos. it’s best to arrive early and leave long after sunset to avoid the crowds. We made a full day of it, finding a café to hang out in and wake ourselves up with a few rounds of Café Freddo (iced black coffee with a frothy top).
Embarking on the 300 steps down to Amoudi Bay will help you work up an appetite for the five traditional seafood restaurants you’ll find there. With imposing rock face against the vibrant turquoise seas, this really is the most picturesque spot for lunch.
Locals and tourists alike agree that Taverna Katina is the number one choice if you can get a table. Choose your fish from the counter and watch it being simply grilled on the BBQ with a little salt and pepper. The swordfish was incredible, and great value. We also got a slight addiction to the deep fried tomato balls & smoky baba ganoush – ordering it at pretty much every meal. Add a carafe of cold white wine and you’ve got the ideal afternoon set up.
Just before sunset, all window seats come at a premium and cocktails in Santorini ain’t cheap. We managed to stumble upon bohemian café, Vitrin Creperie, serving ice-cold beer and crepes that just so happened to have the perfect view of the sun setting into the sea. Watch the streets fill with amateur photographers getting just the right angle for the perfect snap.
Once that’s all over for another day, let the crowds congregate in all the overpriced spots on the Caldera and exit stage left to super romantic Karma. What it lacks for in views (and who needs them once the sun sets?) it makes up for in ambience. The candle lit court yard served up some of the best food we had, a slightly modern take on the traditional Greek ingredients we’d tried elsewhere, without being too fancy pants. The courgette stack with ricotta and dill was wonderful, as was the lamb chops.
On our last day we went inland to the small village of Pyrgos (literally meaning tower). Make your way towards Franco’s for incredible views of most of the island and stop a while with a Franco Champagne cocktail or a fresh lemon soda (add plenty of sugar!). A light lunch of bruschetta and tricolour made a nice change from the huge Greek feasts we’d been having.
From Franco’s we made our way to Santo Wines – and were left speechless. We were expecting a little vineyard where we might get to try a couple of local wines. What we got was a breathtakingly beautiful terrace (I mean, it was just incredible), and an extensive tasting menu which you can pick and choose from to create your ultimate wine list or just go with the pre-selected option of tasters (18 glasses means you get to try them all) and add some cheese to soak it all up.
Crisp whites, oak aged, santo sparkling, and super sweet dessert wines – you’ll find them all here. We didn’t really want to leave, ever. And the best bit – our bill was way less than we expected it to be.
Having explored Santorini to the max, we spent the last night on our day bed, glass of wine in hand, watching the sunset. Where else?
With a flight time of just under 4 hours, Santorini is our new go to destination for a long weekend of rest and relaxation and October is the ideal time to visit, with less crowds and balmy temperatures.