Confession: I’ve never been to Santorini. I’ve always avoided places where young couples insist on rose petals being placed on floors rather than vases and the island is a prime hotspot for such crimes against botany. Whenever I have free time to plan my own travels, I tend to pick places where I can find something local and unique, with as few people happy to wear “I Love New York” t-shirts as possible. I like to get lost, or find a different “me” in a new city.
It’s why I’ve jumped off the island of Bali over to Nusa Lembongan, or headed for remote stretches of the Mexican highlands rather than its beloved sunny beach resorts.
But this summer, I’m throwing in the towel – joining all the loved up masses and heading to check out Santorini. Because really – it’s just too f**king beautiful to miss out on any more.
After putting a trip to Santorini off for years, for all the reasons discussed above, I’ve given in, and I’m going during peak season. Why? I’ve seen too many pictures that don’t look real, even though I know that they absolutely are.
With perhaps a little persistence from my partner, I came to realise that some places on earth are so naturally stunning, even people can’t ruin them and you can’t let other people keep you from seeing them with your own eyes. Santorini is undoubtedly one of them, no matter how many tourists send donkeys to the chiropractor. And yes, Laura is a massive ABBA fan.
Deciding to go was a leap, but finding a place that would do the experience justice with jaw dropping views at a price under $1000 a night was an even greater peak travel challenge.
Every hotel on the island purports to offer very best views and the effortless luxury we collectively crave, but Oia, Fira and Imerovigli, the main “cities”, on Santorini bring starkly different takes on these promises, even if they all involve white washed concrete and deep blue seas. In short: Oia and Fira seem to be where most of the main action is, while Imerovigli is a 10 minute walk out of the hustle.
In my eyes, this island is about all things “non hustle”, so I went with Imerovigli. A few reasons: Fira is where the cruise ships dock, and is generally the busiest and most mainstream tourist centric of the Santorini towns. It’s known to be loud and attract more of a party scene than one looking for serenity might admire. A party is scene perhaps nice at times, but I don’t want to live in it, at least not here.
Oia is known for iconic sunsets and the most renowned architecture, but so is everywhere. Because people are told to go there, it tends to get crowded in the evenings and resorts cleverly extract extra bucks to enjoy the views. Oia sounds like a great place to pop along during the day, which we totally will, but most people tend to say that for mornings and evenings, you can’t beat Imerovigli. With that in mind, that’s where we’ll lay our heads.
Imerovigli is the most laid back of the three, but offers easy access to Fira if you want it and most importantly – it’s the highest elevation. I’m there to go “holy sh*t” when I look down the side of a cliff into the boundless blue ocean, and the higher the elevation, the more I imagine myself to be saying that. From everything I’ve read, being right next to Skaros Rock is pretty cool in itself, especially as the rock can block the sunset for people to the left in Fira, but not our location.
Side convo: does anyone else go over the top on research?
I always laugh at my travels because if you, like y-o-u ask me where to go, I’d all too easily spout off a few places and convince you not to think twice. When it comes to picking my own accommodations and spots however, I’m a total mess. I study pictures, reviews and other resources like I’m trying to earn a doctorate in the destination. In the course of my Santorini dissertation studies, many of the most stunning pictures turned out to be from Imerovigli.
Furthermore, I found a place called The Vasilicos, with only seven suites, a sister winery, its own chef and outstanding reviews. It was booked when we ideally wanted to go, but I actually became slightly obsessed with the place to a point that I ended up shifting my travel dates to book a last minute rate on alternative dates. It wasn’t cheap by any means, but in Santorini terms, for a high end experience it was on par or below, price wise. I’m not sure I’ve actually ever been so excited to stay somewhere.
Like many of you, I have my own ideas, hangups and barriers with travel. But as I get over my silly convictions about not being part of the crowd, I realise more and more that there are places which are so beautiful you can’t help but join them. It doesn’t matter how cool, uncool or popular something is if it’s that way because a freaking volcano exploded and sent volcanic rock cratering into the earth to dig out insane hillsides. Even ships full of tourists won’t be able to spoil this one for me.