Known for its white-washed buildings accented by sky blue doors, the Greek island of Santorini is breathtakingly beautiful. Let Greek resident Gabi show you around the magical Cyclades island of Santorini in this Everyday Postcard.
With seven continents, nearly 200 countries, and more than 7.5 billion people in the world, there is a lot to experience. The world is so vast and amazing that even the most avid traveler with a large bank account couldn’t truly do it justice in one lifetime!
Through the Everyday Postcard series, one of the world’s everyday wanderers shares postcard-worthy photos and real-life travel experiences to bring a piece of the big wide world to you.
After rising with the sun and exploring the Greek island of Santorini with her camera, Gabi stopped for a cup of coffee and wrote out this postcard:
I’m in heaven! Santorini is one of the most beautiful islands I’ve ever visited in Greece. The landscape is stunning everywhere you look! Those whitewashed sugar-cube houses and the characteristic blue domes contrast with the deep color of the seas and the harsh landscape of the cliffs.
I took this photo one morning while I was strolling along the tiny alleys of Oia, and I must admit that this is probably the most picturesque town I’ve seen in my life!
Would you like to join me in Santorini?
Meet Gabi Ancarola
For those of us who haven't visited yet, give us an overview of Santorini
Probably the most famous Greek landscape all over the world, Santorini is a fairly small half moon-shaped island, part of the Cycladic cluster of the Aegean sea. It’s about an hour by plane from Athens, and about five hours if you sail from the port of Piraeus. Santorini is a typical Mediterranean island with wonderful dry weather and plenty of sunshine during the summer.
How did you decide to visit Santorini?
I first visited Santorini by pure chance. To be honest, my original intention was to fly to Mykonos, but I couldn’t find tickets at the very last minute. There were a few seats still available for Santorini and I said to myself, why not?
It was Easter back then and I had no clue that there were going to be so many interesting celebrations during that period. I enjoyed every minute of that first trip so much that I now have an annual appointment with Santorini. I try to visit every year and I always discover new things to do on the island.
How did you get to Santorini?
The first time I flew from Italy with a low-cost company. There are flights coming from the rest of Europe during the high season, but also from Athens all year round. If you’re traveling from the States, you should check flights to Greece and then book a ferry or a domestic flight to Santorini.
Since I moved to Crete, however, I normally travel to Santorini by boat, usually departing from the port of Heraklion, the trip takes less than three hours and from Santorini it’s fairly easy to visit other islands since it’s kind of a ferry hub in the Aegean sea.
What's the best way to travel around the island?
Santorini is pretty small so you don’t have to cover extreme distances to reach one town or another. It’s very easy to travel using the public bus. The main station is in the center of the capital, Fira, and it can take you to the most famous spots on the island.
However, if you’re interested in seeing more off-the-beaten-track areas, such as the coast opposite the caldera, the beach of Baxedes, and smaller towns like Pyrgos or Karterados, it’s not a bad idea to rent a scooter or a small car. Those who prefer to avoid the wheel must know that taxis are not so expensive and it’s very common for tourists to share the ride, so it’s easy to save some money that way.
What sights cannot be missed when visiting Santorini?
There are a few views that are unique to the island and shouldn’t be missed. A walk along the streets of Fira as well as the small village of Oia can’t miss from your Santorini itinerary.
Oia is magical during the sunset, when hundreds of people gather on top of the old castle to witness the unique colors of the cliff. It can get a bit crowded, so it’s better to be there early to secure a place and enjoy the experience. In Imerovigli, you can visit Skaro Rock, the place where one of the five castles of Santorini stood in the past. It’s now nothing more than ruins and bare rock, but the views of the island are stunning from this area.
Those interested in history and the past of the island, should also check the archaeological site of Akrotiri. This is one of the most important ancient settlements of the Aegean, it dates back to the Bronze Age and it was completely destroyed by a famous volcanic eruption back in 1630 BC. The ashes of the volcano buried the settlement but also preserved it until it was discovered only a few decades ago.
However, don’t limit yourself to just the better-known spots. Explore the lesser known areas, such as the villages of Pyrgos or the windmills of Emporio. Also, make some time to discover the different art galleries and the exhibitions that take place on the island.
What is your favorite way to spend a day in Santorini?
I’m not a professional photographer but when I travel to Santorini that’s my hobby. The thing I love the most is to get up before sunrise and wander around the streets of Fira, the capital, or Oia, and to take advantage of the first light of the day and take pictures of the sea, the blue domes, and the windmills.
At about 9 am, when the streets start to get crowded, I stop for a coffee with a view and just sit and enjoy looking at the caldera as well as at the island when it wakes up. All of a sudden the streets fill up with tourists eager to capture the most stunning views, running up and down to find the three blue domes, the windmills of Oia, and those magnificent old doors opening to the sea. With the years, I’ve learned about every secret and strategic place to take the best photos of Santorini. It took me hours of walking and investigating, but it was well worth it.
After my morning coffee, I head south. I love to spend time on the beach even when Santorini is not really famous for its shores. Yet, I really enjoy spending time at the black beach of Perissa. This village has a very laid-back atmosphere, a couple of beautiful blue domes too, and you can eat some of the tastiest gyros on the island.
In the late afternoon, you can usually find me in the village of Akrotiri. I love to hike down to the Red beach to enjoy the majesty of sunset. Here, the walls of the cliff have a deep rusty color that lighten up as if on fire when the sun goes down in the horizon. If you thought that taking photos of the whitewashed villages was rewarding, then you should get to this tip of the island! In the late afternoon, the atmosphere changes dramatically, it really looks like you’re on some other planet!
In the evening, after the sun has gone down, I can either go for dinner in a relaxed village, such as Imerovigli, or I can have some fun in one of the different bars of Fira or Kamari.
What was your favorite moment during your trip to Santorini?
My favorite moment on my first trip to Santorini was during Good Friday, in Easter. That evening we visited the small village of Pyrgos, which was completely illuminated by candles and fire torches. The village stands on the top of a soft hill, and at night it looks like a giant birthday cake flickering in the darkness. It was amazing!
One of the best parts of travel is experiencing the local flavors. What was your favorite meal in Santorini?
Greek food is a blessing, no matter where in the country you are. Greek cuisine is usually very fresh and based on seasonal produce, so certain dishes will be available depending on when you visit. Santorini is mostly famous for three things. Its tomatoes, its aubergines (eggplants), and a dish called fava. Fava is a kind of spread, not very different from hummus, made with yellow split peas, onions, and an abundant quantity of extra virgin olive oil. It’s great when paired with grilled pita bread and some fresh oregano on top.
Santorini’s vegetables are cultivated on volcanic soil, that means that it’s very rich in minerals. This gives the products a very characteristic taste that’s hard to find anywhere else. Tomatoes from Santorini are small and delicious, and are also the main ingredient of ntomatokeftedes, very simple but tasty tomato fritters seasoned with plenty of local herbs.
The island is also famous for its grapes and unique wine labels. Assyrtiko, Aidani, and Athiri are three well-known local grape varieties. They produce excellent wines that are being exported all over the world. If you’re on the island and have a passion for wine, it’s a good idea to book a wine tasting experience in a local winery or to check the interactive wine museum in Vothonas.
Did anyone travel to Santorini with you?
A few times I traveled to Santorini with my kids, who adored all the archaeological museums and sites you can visit. However, I’ve also traveled to the island alone. When I visit with the family, I prefer to stay on the South coast. The villages of Perissa and Kamari are less crowded and have beaches that kids can enjoy.
If I travel alone, I can be more flexible. I can either stay in a cave hostel in a small village, or I can splurge and book a room with a private pool and a caldera view. Contrary to the popular belief, Santorin can be an affordable island, it’s good to know that there are plenty of budget places to stay if you’re ready to choose less popular areas and you don’t always need to spend a fortune to eat, as long as you don’t eat by the caldera.
What's the weather like in Santorini?
Like most Aegean islands, summers tend to be hot and dry, with very few showers. The high temperatures are usually mitigated by the meltemi, a strong but dry north wind that really helps coping with the summer heat. Winters are cloudy, cold, and rain is not unusual.
Did you bring home any memorable souvenirs from your trip?
Of course, I love to collect the “Evil Eye” from every Greek island I visit. The Evil Eye, is locally known as mati (which means eye in Greek). It’s said to protect you against negative vibes and it can be found painted, embroidered, or designed on any kind of object. I usually buy one or more to hang on my kitchen wall.
What's one thing travelers can't forget to pack when they visit Santorini?
Extra sim cards for your photo camera! Really, you’ll find yourself shooting at everything, any time of the day! There are so many pretty sights to capture that you will definitely need that extra storage space. Pack an extra battery as well and keep it always charged inside your camera bag.
If you’re traveling and summer and do not plan to go to the beach, don’t forget sunscreen with a high UV factor. Even when you’re walking on the streets you will get sunburnt easily, always including a hat and sunglasses. If you’re planning to walk a lot, avoid flip flops and opt for some more comfortable walking shoes. Most villages are built on the edge of a cliff, so you’ll find winding paths and tons of stairs, so it’s better to pack a pair of comfy shoes.