Iconic places around the world are iconic for a reason. One place to visit that is usually on everyone’s mind is Santorini, Greece. Most of us have seen the pictures at one point or another; whitewashed buildings with blue trimming, perched high atop the cliffside overlooking a silky body of water, almost completely enclosed by the land of the island. As the day begins to end and the light becomes dim, you see a secret beauty that pictures can only hope to catch; but they don’t get the colors right. There is no substitute for the eye. As a ball of orange and red sinks into the sea, the haze in the distance changes tones. Blue becomes red, yellow, and orange. Maybe a sign of purple. The colors reflect off buildings that watch as the sun does this everyday. For almost an hour the sky tells you what had occurred, as it retains these enchanting colors for what seems like an unnatural period of time. This is the magic of Santorini’s sunsets and why they are legendary.
Where can you see these sunsets? Oia is the the most famous town for sunsets because it rests at the most northern point of the island and has an ideal place from which to watch. Anywhere along the cliffs, however, will probably give you just as wonderful a view. We had the opportunity to watch from both Oia and along the Caldera at Skaros Rock. If you can climb to the peak of the Rock for sunset you will arguably have an even better view of sunset, as you can watch it in seclusion while looking upon the city of Oia, rather than from within Oia surrounded by the thousands of others that flock there for sunset. Be aware though that climbing atop Skaros Rock is not easy. The climb involves a rock scramble that requires some confidence and strong hand holds on the rock. Long legs help too, and standing at only five feet tall (1.52 meters!), that didn’t do me any good. But, guess what? The sunset is still beautiful from beside Skaros Rock too!
Santorini is very touristy. There is a lot of hype for this island and, therefore, accommodation can be hard to find and quite pricey if not booked in advance. The towns of Oia and Thira are arguably the most expensive places to stay. Kamari, in my opinion, is a far better option. This is probably the best place for beaching. The beach is a black sand beach and offers plenty of coastline, though not a huge amount of distance between the boardwalk and water. This boardwalk extends for a long distance and contains food establishment after food establishment, mixed in with a slew of hotels. The boardwalk is busy and well lit at night, full of bars and beach-front restaurants. Because of this, hotels just around the corner are ideal for the traveler that wants to be close enough to the action, but far enough away that they sleep in absolute silence at night.
Blue Waves Hotel is a fabulous place less than 5 minutes walking from Kamari Beach. We were first picked up from the port by a taxi arranged by Blue Waves Hotel. We had docked after midnight and Blue Waves Hotel had left us a key at reception for when we arrived, despite not having a receptionist at that hour. The taxi driver actually went into reception, got our key for us, and opened up our room, which was more than just a room. The “room” had its own little patio with chair and table, air conditioning, a large and comfortable bed, sectioned off kitchen complete with everything we could need to cook or make coffee, and one of the most interesting bathrooms I have seen. The bathroom was unique; the surfaces were all smoothed as though carved out of rock and blended well from floor to counter-top. The bathtub was massive and could easily fit two full grown adults for a relaxing soak. What we appreciated the most was the kitchen, which could easily offset some costs of eating out on such a tourist-friendly island, or provide a place to cook for those that missed cooking. A little down the walkway from our room was a nice swimming pool with bar that seemed comfortably lively at night and a terrace overlooking the area.
Looking at Blue Waves Hotel during the day, you will immediately see the reception sign, which is surrounded on either side by grand bushes of pink flowers. The receptionists, and those that work in management were quite sweet. We dealt mainly with a man named Ioannis. At the reception, any question you may think of will be answered with a smile. From here, we found out how to use the bus system, where to walk the Caldera, and how to get to other beaches along the coast.
We visited Red Beach our third day on the island. The beach is worth looking at for those that want to see something different. The unique landscape is made of red and black volcanic rocks, and made for a great backdrop to the clear waters. Due to the small size of the beach, finding a place to sit was extremely difficult. It was quite overcrowded and almost completely devoid of places to lay a towel. I’d recommend swinging by to admire the landscape, and then moving on to a less populated beach.
After Red Beach, we made way for the Caldera walk; it starts in Thira and takes you through two little towns on the edge of cliff, which are similar to Oia, but far less touristy. The views are amazing, and from this walk you can see the little glamorous Greek buildings and town details you long for when thinking of Greece. I recommend this walk for those that have at least two days or, more importantly, sunsets in Santorini. One day for the Oia sunset, the other for the sunset at Skaros Rock.
After walking part of the Caldera, we made our way back to Blue Waves Hotel to pick up our bags that they kindly let us leave there after we checked out. At this point, we had decided to spend a third night in Santorini and would just camp on the beach since we had no hotel reservation (5 FT Tip: It’s important to keep in mind that this is technically illegal). But, when we were collecting our belongings from reception, Ioannis came in and asked if we had a place to stay. Before we could answer, he said that he had a cancellation and a place for us if we wanted it (turns out it was the same room we had been given!). Apparently, the guests were delayed and not showing up until the next day, so he gave us the keys after laughing and saying that we didn’t have to illegally camp anymore. A very pleasant note on which to depart Santorini indeed.
**Special thanks to Blue Waves Hotel for kindly offering me a complimentary stay. As always, all opinions are my own.