If you visit Greece, be sure to spend a few days in Santorini. Perched upon imposing cliffs, you have the option of riding a donkey or taking a cable car ride to the vista.
Like all Cycladic Islands of Greece, it’s a sea of white and blue homes, businesses and churches. Over 100 years ago, building codes were made to enforce this color scheme and that decision has paid dividends.
The white and blue matches their flag and represents the blue and whitecaps of the ocean.
When visiting, we highly recommend a private tour. We booked ours using Viator, it was supposed to be a 6 hour tour of the island but as we noticed with all our time in Greece and Turkey — tour guides are warm and want you to have the best experience possible. That usually means that they add a couple of hours to your tour (at no additional cost) to ensure you see everything!
Starting our tour in Oia – we were surrounded by whitewash buildings with blue tops.
There are lots of small boutique shops and a cool little bookstore called Atlantis Books. You walk down a set of steps and land in a funky 2-room bookstore — it’s a must see!
Our tour guide (Nicholas) told us he lives in a Cave Home (I guess you can call him a Cave Man). Yep – the home was built in the side of a hill and this is not an uncommon thing for the area.
Being underground, it does not require heating or A/C — it stays naturally cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The monthly rent for a 2 bedroom cave home that is beach front? $500 per month! He stopped by and showed us his home:
Black and Red Beaches
Being from the Gulf of Mexico, we are used to white sandy beaches. Santorini’s beaches are either black or red and favor pebbles over sugar-like sand. This would take a bit of getting used to, but the locals say they prefer it over sandy beaches.
Driving around the island, you see lots of shrubs with vines. Wait — these are grapevines!
Since Santorini has a very dry climate with very little rain, they teach grapevines to grow in a circular fashion that makes a basket that traps moisture. The island is full of these vines with a bustling wine scene. We visited several wineries while there (Artemis Karamolegos, Avantis Wines, and Santos).
One of the smaller wineries is called Faros Market. They have a donkey named Marco Polo that you can feed before starting your wine tasting!
Our guide Nicholas took us to a special spot to end the day — sunset from a church that requires a 10 minute hike down a hillside.
Just before dusk, the donkeys make their way up to the top of the mountain to close out a busy day of transporting tourist from the bottom of the mountain.
Then night falls and Santorini comes alive. It’s so easy to enjoy the view!