Our Babymoon was actually one of the best holidays we’ve ever had, but prior to travelling to Santorini, we didn’t really know much about the island – other than the fact it was magnificently beautiful and the views were worth a bob or two too. With that in mind, I thought it would be useful to share some insights from our travels and a little run down of what there is to see, in case like us, you have a niggle to visit Santorini but aren’t quite sure what to expect when you get there….
I’ll start with Imerovigli as that’s where our hotel, La Maltese, was and so it’s the area we know the best. Located on the highest point of the Caldera Imerovigli literally means ‘viewing point’ in Greek. True to its name, the village offers spectacular views out over the ancient volcano and along the western coast line. At sunset the sun burns bright orange before sinking into the sea behind the volcanic islands of Palia and Nea Kameni. It really is a magical experience and ever so romantic.
Imerovigli is also extremely central to all of the goings on in Santorini. From our hotel you could take a beautiful walk around the narrow winding streets of the Caldera into Fira (the island’s capital) or a short bus ride into the village of Oia (the main tourist area on the island). Although the village is quite small, due to its location within the heart of the Caldera I really think it’s a must see destination if you want to gain a real taste of Santorini life.
2. Skaros Rock
From Imerovigali you can also climb Skaros Rock, accessed via a short track down the cliff side and through the hotels. Originally a fortress the rock was inhabited during medieval times, but later destroyed during an earthquake in the 19th C. Although all of the surrounding scenery is breathtaking, the views from the rock are pretty spectacular and you can see all the way across to Oia. There’s also a little church at the foot of the rock which is definitely worth an explore.
Writing about this now at 27 weeks pregnant I couldn’t imagine trekking down the rocky path to access Skaros, however I did it two years ago and felt so much better for it! As I said in my previous post, I think the sea air had something to do with my newly found agility but I would always say listen to your body as only you know how you feel. The path is long and hot, so if you think you might struggle I would recommend taking it easy if you are pregnant.
Fira is the largest town on Santorini with narrow winding streets and a wide selection of boutiques and bars, it has a really chilled, laid back vibe and is a great place to sit and watch the world go by. We walked into Fira most days for a spot of lunch and nose around the little boutiques. It’s perfect for people watching or having an afternoon cocktail (or ice cream in my case!). I think if we’d have visited more within peak season it would have been pretty lively as we seen lots of bars and even nightclubs beginning to open their shutters ready for the summer season.
Fira also has a great open space where you can sit and watch the sunset if you haven’t been lucky enough to secure a table in one of the many bars or restaurants. One word of warning however is that it’s also the place where the huge cruise liners dock and empty their passengers for the day, meaning the narrow streets fill up pretty quickly. Even in April you could notice a difference when a cruise ship was in, so this might be something to consider if you are planning to travel in peak season.
4. Walk from Fira to Oia
One thing I would recommend if you are feeling particularly energetic, is to hike along the cliff tops from Fira to Oia. There is a little winding path that takes you the whole way and the views are outstanding. Because I was pregnant we opted to take the path in sections rather than doing the whole thing in one go and we missed out the section between Oia and Imerovigli as there didn’t appear to be anywhere to stop off for refreshment if I was to become too hot. If you are the walking type and fancy seeing some unspoiled parts of the caldera up close, then I definitely think it would be a fun thing to do.
Looking south towards Fira from Firostefani
The narrow winding path starts outside the Hotel Atlantis in Fira and makes its way through the white washed buildings and cave houses of Firostefani and Imerovigli all the way to Oia. On route you will pass many sights such as Skaros Rock and the Three Bells of Fira, as well as some of the most exclusive hotels on the island.
View of Oia in the distance looking north from Imerovigli
From the sections we explored, I’d guess that the whole trek would take around 3 hours – although obviously that would depend on how many times you stopped. The path is steep in parts but nothing too onerous and the views work as a great distraction to take away the pain in your legs. I’ve added a couple of photos below of the section between Firostefani and Imerovigli as I think that area is the prettiest, however the area between Oia and Imerovigili has a rugged and unspoiled charm about it too.
With its pastel hues and marble streets (yes marble), Oia is the iconic Greek village that springs to mind when you hear the word ‘Santorini’. Nestled high upon the cliff tops of the north-west tip of the island, Oia is an Instagrammers paradise, but as you might expect, those picture perfect views come at a price as it is also the busiest and most expensive village too.
Although Fira is the island’s capital, Oia does seem larger with lots more going on. The streets are lined with boutique shops and cute cafes, and in amongst the narrow and winding streets you’ll find an array of quaint little hotels with bath tub sized swimming pools squeezed into the mountain side. As you might expect everything in Oia points towards the sea, meaning there is a large selection of cafes and eateries offering picture perfect views over the Caldera. Because we visited in April, we were able to secure a table with a sea view in most places which made our visit even more special.
This picture was taken from a little Greek Taverna where we stopped for lunch
We visited Oia on two occasions, the first as a day trip using the local bus service that we caught from outside our hotel and the second for an evening meal on the day we’d hired a car. Weighing up both occasions, my advice would be to get to Oia early! Whilst the streets are beautiful and the views are incredible, it’s really hard to get the perfect photo when there are hundreds of tourists around you trying to do the same shot! On the day we visited by car, I think it may have been change over day because the streets were relatively empty. This was not the case when we went back a few days later and so again it may be something to bear in mind when your choosing the timing of your visit. Oia is unique, lively and breathtakingly beautiful but I’m glad we opted to stay in Imerovigili.
We visited the next few sites on a day long adventure around the island where we hired a car. We didn’t plan a route in advance, preferring to see where the day took us, but most points of interest are marked on the map and so are easy to locate. Hiring a car was really simple as the hotel sorted everything out and at around €45 for the day (plus petrol) it was pretty economical too.
6. Santo Winery
We visited Santo Winery on the recommendation of a friend and the views were incredible. Santo is the largest wine business on the island and because it’s an employee / grower owned co-operative, they seem to get the best pic of the grapes too. Despite me living in Greece for over a year when I was younger, I didn’t realise that Greece had such a delicious wine selection and Santo Winery definitely set me straight in this respect! The Winery provides a wine tour and wine tasting experience, or you can dine in at the restaurant with a tasting board and beautiful meal overlooking the Caldera too. Whilst Santo Winery is a little off the beaten track (you’d have to get a taxi there if you didn’t have a car) it’s definitely worth a visit if you are out to celebrate a special occasion.
Because I was pregnant we couldn’t take advantage of the wine tour or the wine tasting menu (sob), so we opted for lunch and a wander around the on site wine shop instead. The staff were ever so friendly, and we got to taste a couple of the wines that were on sale, even treating ourselves to a special bottle of red to tuck into when Ettie was born. You can see me clutching it excitedly in the photo below!
Unfortunately we lost the bottle when we moved house and so I still didn’t get to enjoy any Santorini wine (sob again!) – but I say it’s all the more reason to go back 😉
7. Kamari Beach
Kamari is a beach resort on the eastern shores of the island. Although it was quiet when we visited in April, it was clear to see that the area would be pretty lively in peak season. The beach, made up of black volcanic sand is overlooked by a huge cliff, which we were told lights up in the evening. Lined up along the entrance to the beach is a line of beach bars and cafes playing chilled out music which gives it a slight Ibiza vibe. Most of the bars serve local Greek food as well as burgers and pasta dishes. We stopped off for a lovely Greek salad and enjoyed an afternoon people watching before jumping in the car again to head to our next destination.
If you intend to spend a day soaking up the atmosphere of Kamari, I’d recommend packing beach shoes as the sand is pretty pebbly and will hurt your toes!
8. Perissa Beach
Perissa Beach is another beach resort located on the eastern shores of the island, just a little drive to the south of Kamari. It’s a much longer beach than Kamari giving plenty of opportunities for sunbathing and is also much quieter, making it a perfect place for relaxation if you wanted to spend a day away from the crowds in Fira or Oia.
Like at Kamari, the beach consists of black volcanic sand which holds the heat (be warned!), although unlike Kamari the sand is a lot less coarse making it much more comfortable on your feet (however I would still recommend beach shoes!!) The beach is lined with a variety of bars and restaurants all of which have sun loungers available, however because we’d already eaten, we opted for a quick dip in the sea (which was lovely and warm due to the black sand) and continued our journey around the coast.
9. Akrotiri Lighthouse (Faros)
Located on the southern tip of the island. The Akrotiri Lighthouse is a great place to visit if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the Caldera. It’s very quiet (and windy), and there isn’t a lot to see other than the buildings itself, however its isolated nature is all part of the charm. You’ll pass a number of traditional Greek villages and homes on the way to get there, and there are some great trails around the cliffs if you’re feeling adventurous.
If scenic sea views and Greek rugged charm are your thing, then it’s probably worth a visit if you have a car, however I wouldn’t make a special trip. We enjoyed it though and are glad we chose it as a stop!
10. Red Beach
The Red Beach is arguably one of the most famous beaches of Santorini due to its red sand and vivid colours on the cliff side. Located on the southern shores of the island it is close to the ancient settlement of Akitori (and the lighthouse – see above). In stark contrast to the beautiful and elegant views from the Caldera, Red Beach is pretty rugged and unkempt, however the waters are crystal clear and perfect for snorkeling.
Access to the beach was pretty entertaining considering I was 28 weeks pregnant, as you have to park up and make your way along a gravel path down to the water’s edge. It was fine once we got there, but a little nerve-wracking at times and I was very happy i’d chosen to wear trainers as opposed to flip-flops!
Despite its rugged appearance, the beach gets pretty crowded in peak season and I have seen photos of the small area of sand covered in rows and rows of sun loungers – however there are no facilities so be prepared to pee in the sea (or behind a rock!). If you are after some isolated rugged charm, then Red Beach may be for you, however if you’re on the look out for a more glamorous Babymoon, then this location may be one you could avoid and not be too disappointed!
So there you have it, Part Two of my Complete Guide to Santorini for those looking for an extra special Babymoon. I said it in my last post, but we really did have the most relaxing time when we were there. It was the prefect way to connect as a couple before the craziness of having a new-born descended upon us. I know that we will cherish those memories forever.
The Three Bells of Fira