Santorini was a picture a minute, a postcard everywhere you turned. What tourism literature often doesn’t make mention of is how rustic the rest of the island is. Lots of vineyards, cute small houses, rolling hills, volcanic rock extrusions, and flatlands. We had a good time (albeit a sweltering hot time) zipping around the island in our Smart cabriolet, which was fun. We asked if they had GPSes, to which we were met with a puzzled look, “We can check… but why you need GPS? Just follow the signs!” and they were of course right. It is a two-lane road type of island.
I would love to go back again when the weather’s more pleasant.
In case you’re thinking of visiting, here are my list of must-do’s :
1. Stay in Oia, and then stay in Imerovigli.
Oia is super charming, peaceful (except when tourists descend on it like vultures at sunset), and picturesque. There are lots of great little, characterful shops and restaurants here. Imerovigli offers a different perspective of Santorini, with more dramatic cliff views and lesser tourists. We particularly enjoyed Aenaeon Villa’s views – we also peeked into the neighboring San Antonio Suites and thought it was a lovely property too. These two properties sit at this kind of natural bridge across the water, and enjoys both the ocean breezes coming from the South (I think) and the caldera breezes coming from the North – ultra gorgeous.
2. Have lunch or dinner at La Scala in Oia.
This casual restaurant does the best appetizers – tzatziki, eggplant salad, smoked herring fillet and zucchini quiche were amazing (believe us, with 7 nights on the island, we tried lots of eateries!). Avoid the mains, as they are so-so. Order 4-6 appetizers and go to town on them :-)
3. Have spaghetti at Selene in Pygros, and buy local produce from its tiny deli.
Selene’s all day cafe / wine bar has a nice little menu. My favourite item was the spaghetti with tomatoes and basil, so simple yet out of this world delicious! The calamari was amazingly fresh too. The meatballs sandwich was tasty as well. We bought several bottles of 3-Euro locally-grown organic olive oil from the attached deli, as well as 5-year-old Santorini balsamic vinegar.
4. Rent a zippy little car to get around, or if you’re a daredevil, an ATV buggy.
Taxis are not readily available on the island, and buses can be very full in summer, so driving or buggying would be the best and most liberating ways of seeing the rest of the island. ATV buggies are great if you want to catch some sun and are assured of your riding skills :-) We recommend Vazeos Rental in Oia, which was in turn recommended to us by our villa owners. Apparently their vehicles are well-maintained – and true enough we had no issues whatsoever with our Smart Cabrio rental.
5. Venture into Fira for Naoussa’s moussaka.
Naoussa is on Lonely Planet’s recommended list, so lots of tourists visit this relatively-hard-to-find restaurant in Fira. Service here is very warm and efficient, and food was decently tasty. The star – and reason to go – is the moussaka. The waiter proudly said they make the best moussaka in Santorini and at first we were skeptical – over the next few days we come to realize he wasn’t kidding!