Santorini – Beyond the Caldera
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the only things to see on Santorini are the villages on the cliffsides, like Fira and Oia, but those villages are by no means representative of all of Santorini – there’s a lot more to the island beyond the caldera!
I was pretty excited to hear that you could hire ATVs on Santorini, and I was glad I did, because I managed to explore quite a fair bit of the island during my 4-day stay there. When you’re on an ATV which goes at a max speed of 55kmph, Santorini suddenly doesn’t seem so small anymore… but it IS still the cheapest mode of transport if you don’t want to rely on the public buses, and want the freedom of being able to stop whenever and wherever you want.
During the low season, you can get an ATV for as low as 15 euros a day (excluding petrol), perfect for budget backpackers (and adventurous folks who like the wind in their hair). A word of caution though; ATVs are a little more fickle than cars, and are prone to having the engine flooded and affected by the cold or whatnot, so it might be really hard to start up sometimes. That, and having the wind in your hair isn’t quite as fun when you’re riding against oppressive springtime gusts of wind that prevent you from going any faster than 40kmph. I rented my yellow companion I nicknamed Bumblebee (ha ha) from Tony’s as recommended by the owners of the hotel I stayed at, so he helpfully came to my rescue several times when Bumblebee refused to start.
So yes, hire an ATV when you visit Santorini, if that’s your thing! Here are some of the places away from the caldera that I went to:
1. Red Beach
The Red Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Santorini during summertime, and its brilliant red colour is due to the volcanic rocks Santorini is practically made out of. Apparently there’s a White Beach somewhere nearby too, although I couldn’t seem to find it.
2. Black sand beaches of Perissa/Perivolos
Perissa is also one of Santorini’s most well known beaches, famous for its black sand. Perivolos is just next to Perissa, which makes them both sort of a extended, long stretch of beach. It’s pretty cool to look at and nice on the feet as well – they don’t “stick” to your feet as much as regular sand because the texture is more like really tiny pebbles, so it’s easy to clean off!
I highly recommend exploring one of the smaller villages in inland Santorini if you have the time, as you can get a better feel of an “authentic” Greek village there. I randomly stopped at Emporio en route to somewhere else just out of curiousity, and was not disappointed to feel a totally different vibe than that felt on the cliffside villages. It was absolutely quiet save for a few kids running around, a curious cat or two, and felt distinctly homey as well.
Pyrgos is the village located on one of the highest points of Santorini, and is said to have a pretty awesome view of sunsets as well – but I didn’t have the chance to put that claim to the test. Like Emporio, it is a little village with none of the glamour and manicured landscapes of Fira and Oia, yet is no less charming. The architecture there is very traditionally Greek, and shows off their love for the colour blue proudly 🙂
5. Monastery of Profitis Ilias
The monastery is a pretty old one built way back in 1712, and is located a little bit further up from Pyrgos on the mountain of Profitis Ilias, where it got its name from. The unique monastery makes for a good photo op and you can get a pretty nice view of the island from up there, but otherwise there’s not much else to see. I kinda just stumbled upon the monastery when I got lost looking for the next place on my list…
Betcha didn’t think Santorini would be known for ruins huh? Ancient Thira is a settlement built wayyyy up on the top of a mountain, and has stunning views to match. You can see the village of Kamari by the seaside when you look down, and you get uniquely surreal views of the city’s ruins against the backdrop of the Aegean sea. I know people used to favour building cities on high ground for ease of defense against intruders, but Ancient Thira felt pretty insane; not only was it a steep drop off a cliff on many sides, the winds blowing up there were the strongest I’d encountered in all of Santorini – I was praying that I wouldn’t be blown straight off the mountain half the time. People of times past were so hardcore!
Santorini is also known for winemaking, and one of its most famous exports is a sweet dessert wine called Vin Santo. If you do have the chance to drive around Santorini, you’ll see numerous vineyards like this throughout the island, and there are actually quite a few wineries you can visit, where you can take a tour of the winery for a small price and go wine tasting after.
I only managed to squeeze in a visit to one winery, which was Santo Wines Winery, recommended by Tony who rented me my ATV. Santo Wines is one of the most popular wineries on the island, as it’s highly modernized, and there’s a pretty huge wine shop/restaurant adjacent to it where you can have your wine tasting session as well. Apparently it’s awesome for catching sunsets too – check out the view!
I’m not sure how but I managed to not take any photos of the winery itself during my visit, but you can check out their website for more information on the place (or plan your wedding, looks like they do ceremonies there too!).
So that’s it for all the other places I went to on Santorini – up next, the last post on Santorini, about the one thing everybody says is a can’t-miss on the island 😉