Tony Bennett got it wrong – I left my heart in Santorini. I had a mere 7 hours to get the most out of the city as part of a guided shore excursion. Not complaining (since being in the city was a dream and a half for me). I know it won’t be my last visit to this whimsical beauty in the Aegean Sea.
Our tour began by being tendered from our Royal Caribbean Jewel of the Seas to the port. The tour bus took us up the winding roads to the top of the cliffs. Along the way, I learned some fast facts:
- Thera/Thira is the official city name but “Santorini” stuck.
- Saint Irene Cathedral (Santa Irini) is the base off the name.
- Formed from a volcanic eruption.
- Sees minimal rain (they can go for months without it!)
- To create their Greek wines, they developed a unique basket system (more on this later).
- Donkeys are hired at the port to take travelers up the winding trails.
- Local whitewashed/limewashed stones make the iconic white buildings.
- Many buildings and dwellings are built into the ground or hillside.
The wine industry is flourishing in Santorini. As previously mentioned, they have a genius way of growing grapes in a climate that doesn’t see rain. Santorini has resilient plant life that has adapted to the heat, surviving on little rainfall and the morning dew.
Santorini’s grapes are native to the area (Assyrtiko, Athiri, and Aidani). While the vines grow, workers twist them into a basket-like structure, keeping the grapes in the inside of the wall of leaves. This method protects grapes from drying or being overly exposed to heat.
We sampled the varieties of wine (yes, at 10am. lol.) paired with the mezzes provided. Their most popular is the Vinsanto, a sweet dessert wine that combines all three of the grapes mentioned above.
Santorini is the picturesque town that you’ve seen in posters and travel books. It’s a whole other feeling to finally be there. The white walls, the pops of colour, and not to mention the famous blue domes atop their churches – it’s all beautiful. But instead of trying to describe it, I’ll let these photos do the talking for me.
The Introvert’s Dream
Quick side mention to this incredible book store that is built into the ground. You climb down stone stairs to get to it – this, alone, make it the coziest and most whimsical bookstore I’ve encountered thus far. Shelves align the stone walls, layered by a selection of titles. Book or travel-inspired art hangs from the ceiling. Lighting illuminates every side room and shelf.
Leaving the building led to my favourite timed photo. A resident bookstore cat sits perched on a shelf by the stairs. Meanwhile, above him, a sign reads “Rent a Cat, 5 Euros.” How adorable is this?
The Winding Road Back
Our tour ended near a busy street. Here, we meandered our way through narrow cobblestone streets and back to the cable car. Making our way down to the port was lovely and efficient. We also got to see the donkeys taking passengers up the roads. Santorini is famous for their buildings but also for their sunsets. As we cruised away, we got to see the orange glow on the white buildings. Definitely one of the most unique cities I’ve visited in my journeys so far. I will certainly return, and this round with more time to spare and more caves to explore.
Been to Santorini? Where should I check out the next time I return? Connect with me and let me know!