I can't believe it's been nearly half a year since my very good pal who lives in the US, and whom I haven't seen since being pregnant with Liam, decided to meet me in Greece for a girly week together and a long overdue catch up, sans our hubbies and children.
We stayed in Rethymnon on the island of Crete for our holiday, and on a whim, decided to fulfil a long-time dream of mine to visit the island of Santorini.
From the Port of Rethymno it was an easy three-hour ferry ride to Santorini, where I learned that the island is officially known as Thira. I can't remember now how the name Santorini came about, but locals mostly refer to the island as Thira.
Santorini is basically the remnant of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in history, which destroyed what was formerly a single island, resulting in its current shape which is a small, circular archipelago. The island's capital is Fira, where most tourists end up, a city of white-washed, cubical houses which is a trademark of the island today, mainly made out of volcanic rocks and ash.
We learned that Santorini comes alive only during the summer months, and survives solely on the tourism trade. For the rest of the year, most of the island is shut down and few people stay behind, with locals traveling mainland to look for work or attend school.
The island not only has spectacular views, but is certainly one-of-a-kind in its architecture and history. It is not difficult to traverse the streets of Santorini in a day, but be prepared for a lot of walking, and a lot of climbing up and down steps. For parents with little ones thinking of a visit, be forewarned that this is not a stroller-friendly city with its narrow walkways and multitude of steps.
There is much to see on the island, with a couple of notable museums and churches, but what you will see most of all are shops of all kinds. Shops selling jewellery, clothes, toys, souvenir items and handmade goods abound. These shops jostle for space with restaurants and cafes on every corner with mostly Greek and Italian food choices. Grab a seat at any number of eateries strategically located to provide you with an unforgettable view of the Aegean sea below.
Santorini is breathtakingly beautiful, although you do have to be prepared to walk with throngs of tourists during the summer months. If you're traveling in July/August, I'd also recommend taking sunscreen, a hat and plenty of water as the heat on the island gets pretty intense during the day.
What else can you do on Santorini? You can take a boat tour of the volcano with a stop in the island's hot sulphur springs, if that's up your alley, or perhaps hit one of the volcanic beaches with its signature black sand if you have the time. We didn't do any of these because we were only there for a day, and I found it was enough to wander the meandering streets of Fira and Oia where there was something to discover at every turn, and soak in the sights - while stopping to rest with a cocktail or two, of course!
It was truly a dream come true to have been able to visit Santorini, even if it was just for a day - a dream made even better because I got to do it with a special friend.
This is a very special place indeed, and neither words nor pictures can truly do it justice. I certainly hope to be able to return someday where I can spend more time soaking in the island's magnificent view, architecture and history.