For a festive time, think of the spectacular Greek Islands, specifically, Santorini, ever beckoning visitors to her heart-stopping shores, offers guests her welcoming hospitality.
If you arrive in Santorini by ferry, you are greeted by hills plunging into the Aegean blue. Probably the most dramatic of all of the Greek Islands, Santorini offers not only natural delights, but culinary and cultural as well. Musician, Yanni’s rendition of “Santorini” expresses the exuberance of its landscape (not to get too new-agey or anything—Yanni can be corny, especially when he matches his outfits to his surroundings on album covers, worth a listen).
The most exclusive area of Santorini is the Cliffside region on the northwestern side of the island. On the Cliffside, are the cities of Fira and Oia. Fira, the capital of Santorini, is the island’s largest shopping district. While some of the shopping consists of tourist bric-a-brac, there are also artistic shops where you can buy local artists’ creations. With many narrow and quaint cobblestone streets, make sure you bring your walking shoes as Fira is more pedestrian-friendly than auto-friendly (though there are numerous tour buses all over the island; for a lesson in skilled driving, watch the bus drivers negotiate the narrow streets and turns—truly amazing).
Oia is north of Fira, and is known for its stunning sunsets. Be warned, however, that when the cruise ship crowd enters Oia, especially to watch the sunset, the village is packed! Ask local residents when the best day and time is to go into Oia. As far as shopping goes, Oia, like Fira, is a combination of tourist bric-a-brac and lovely, artistic creations.
Between Oia and Fira, lies the small village of Imerovigli. Imerovigli is the highest point on the island, and in many people’s view, has the most dramatic sunsets. With exclusive hotels throughout Imerovigli, it may be cost-effective to consider a home exchange. The lovely Cliffside village is an exclusive, sought-after destination for many. Imerovigli epitomizes the famous architecture of the region; the clean, white homes coupled with views of the azure sea gives one a feeling of new beginnings and possibilities difficult to articulate here. The homes and the hotels on the cliff are very steep, so be prepared for the most part to climb stairs.
Off the coast of Imerovigli is the truly unique geographic formation—Skaros. Skaros was the former capital of Santorini because of its strategic location and resistance to raiding by pirates. You can access Skaros from the Cliffside path. Remnants of the medieval architecture still remain; it is difficult to conceive of how the architect could design and the artisans build anything like it on such steep terrain. On the nether side of the Skaros facing the sea is a Greek Orthodox church, which seems to beckon a welcome to all who approach the Santorini coast. While most could climb near to the top of Skaros, it is recommended that only the young and/or deft scale the last part. It is truly steep! Even if your residence/hotel does not face Skaros directly, it makes for a wonderful photo at sunset with such an interesting geographical formation in the shot.
You should not miss a stroll from Imerovigli to Fira along the Cliffside pathway. One passes numerous white homes and hotels contrasted with fuchsia bougainvillea and blue shutters and gates. The famous but rare architecture is a joy. Also, dotted along the pathway are restaurants with stunning views—somewhere between heart-stopping and heart-breaking.
If Santorini is on your bucket list, you simply must visit. From what a couple of Santorini seasonal workers report, slightly off-season September is the best time to go.