The “Old” Santorini

There’s the “fancy” Santorini, which faces the picture-perfect sunset. But there’s also the raw part of the island, which has its unique and very intriguing charm. It is here, inland, that you will find traces of the “old” Santorini. In the subdued villages of Megalochori, Pyrgos and Emporio, at religious festivals in blue-domed chapels surrounded by vineyards, among the ruins of ancient Thera on the summit of Mesa Vouno, a giddying rock-face flanked by the black beaches of Kamari and Perissa. I found Emporio the most interesting. The village is built in the lowlands, at the foot of Profitis Ilias Mountain. The village was probably named Emporio (“trade”), because it used to be the center of the commercial affairs in the past. Nowadays, Emporio is a peaceful settlement with beautiful houses and yards, many of which have been renovated, making the place very attractive. You can find plenty of shops, cafes, bars and traditional taverns with savory dishes and fine wines. There are some luxury hotels and villas or charming traditional houses and rooms for your stay. An asset of Emporio village is the fact that it is close to the volcanic beaches of Perissa and Perivolos. The medieval Kasteli, one of the five fortified castles of Santorini, is located in the heart of Emporio, and while you walk on streets, you realise the whole village is built around it. Inside the castle there is a church that dates back to the 16th century or earlier. Meanwhile Pyrgos, strategically built in the heart of the pre-volcanic hinterland, affords panoramic views, yet located that bit further from the famous caldera, it has been spared from the terraces, balconies, infinity pools and master suites that adorn the much glossier Oia. Pyrgos is not swamped by sunset spotters, nor is it the first choice among the hordes of cruise-ship passengers. For a great lunch and stunning view at the entire island, visit Franco’s Cafe!

One of the most underrated Santorini spots is the lighthouse. In the lovely, tranquil village of Akrotiri you can find the lighthouse located on the extreme southwest part of the island, 18 kilometers away from Fira. It is considered one of the best and most beautiful lighthouses in Cyclades. Attuned to the rest of the island, it is an admirable building with whitewashed walls standing on the edge of a high cliff right above the sea. It is, by all means, an idyllic setting. The lighthouse is situated in a peaceful place, surrounded by sea, ideal for blissful, romantic moments. It is highly recommended that you visit it during sunset when the warm light of the sinking sun floods in the lighthouse. It is an excellent sunset-watching spot and the fact that it is not commonly-held makes it more special. It is the spot the locals prefer to spend their evenings and cherish this magical hour. All these, along with the scenic view it offers, will fill you with nothing but entrancement…

All photos by Edward Kanarecki.

Santorini – Oia, Thira & Firostefani

Ammoúdi Bay dinner setting.

Santorini, if done right, is the ultimate setting for a carefree holiday. First thing’s first – and this may be controversial – avoid staying in the most well-known town of Oia. It’s by far the most touristy spot on the island, regularly flooded with cruise ship day-trippers – even in the post-pandemic world. It also has a large swath of cliffside, couple-filled boutique hotels. Rather than settling in the area, just meander over there for an afternoon or a dinner. In general, Thira, Firostefani and Oia, which are located on the western side of Santorini, are three towns which you can climb through within two hours. There’s no way you can’t spot the sunset from these three, so it’s really worth reserving a table at one of the local restaurants (I will share a few great addresses in the upcoming posts!). Thira, Santorini’s biggest city, has some lovely designer outlets and there are a fair number of cool bars and nightclubs here, too. If you’re looking forward to a calm ambience, stay longer in Firostefani (which neighbours with another adorable village, Imerovigli – that’s where we’ve stayed!). Oia, Santorini’s star, is the ultimate Greek Island village – all white houses and domed churches tumbling over the lip of the caldera. It’s also the most postcard-ish of all. From Oia, it’s worth going down to the Ammoúdi bay, where you will eat the freshest fish with the finest view.

From top left to bottom right: mules and donkeys are regular sight on the roads of Santorini; the postcard view at Oia; sun-bathing octopus down the Ammoúdi bay; one of the vintage boutiques in Oia.

Wherever you sit down for a coffee or refreshing cocktail in Oia, there’s a view. A spectacular view!

One of many domed churches in Firostefani. Sadly, most of them were closed…

If you’re looking forward to some local shopping, forget Oia, and go down to Thira. We bought some gorgeous ceramic plates and tsarouchi slippers made from wool. Very Loewe!

Somewhere between Thira and Firostefani… the villages are so close to each other that it’s difficult to distinguish between them. The blazing sunset and the view at the deep blue sea unites them all!

All photos by Edward Kanarecki.

Santorini Summer

I’m beyond happy to (finally) post my favourite moments from the Santorini trip I took back in June! I’ve never been to Greece before, but this gorgeous and mysterious island of the Cyclades made me realise what’s so unique about the so-called “Greek holidays”. The whitewashed villages huddled on the cliff around the volcanic crater aren’t just a postcard view, but stunning reality here. The history of this island is rich, yet violent: the abrupt eruption buried Akrotiri around 3,600 years ago, the centre of a great Bronze Age civilisation, whose streets, squares and frescoed homes were astonishingly well-preserved beneath a cloak of ash. Archaeologists have unearthed poignant details of lives interrupted: pots of barley, a basket of sea urchins, a golden ibex in a clay chest, perhaps an attempt to appease the wayward gods. Of course, like anywhere with an active volcano on the horizon, that could happen at any time. Perhaps this underlying vulnerability is what gives Santorini its raw intensity, its quietly devastating beauty. And of course, Santorini, with its blazing sunsets, is known to be one of the most romantic places in the world. So, for a great starter, here are some of my sun-drenched shots, just to convey the ambience of this gorgeous, close-to-nature, and even spiritual place.

All photos by Edward Kanarecki.