Greece is one of those places where there seems to be several names for everything and it can be a little confusing. Santorini is generally how the tourism industry refers to the island however officially, it's actually called Thira. (Sometimes we see the classical name of Thera as well.) The actual island is the product of an enormous volcanic eruption which created the Caldera that we see today. The volcano rests under water in the centre (Nea Kameni above) and theories suggest that it's eruption was the source of Plato's Atlantis.
The island itself is bigger than I had expected with quite a few little towns dotted all over the place. The Caldera view (the interior) tends to be the most popular sites for tourists to visit because, let's face it, it is pretty stunning.
Fira is the landing spot for the majority of cruise tourists and it's a busy little town full of your typical tourist shops and restaurants. There are plenty of hotels and plenty of tiny alleyways to explore and spend your money. It was probably our least favourite site on the island - just a bit too crowded and a bit too touristy for us.
Imerovigli was where we stayed at Absolute Bliss. My masseuse explained to me that because it's the tallest point on the caldera, the guards used to keep watch for pirates approaching the bay. The village is tiny and much, much quieter than it's counterparts, Fira & Oia but it's also home to a handful of hotels & restaurants. It was our favourite spot to take in the sunset.
Imerovigli just after sunset with Oia in the distance
Oia, known as Ia (Ee-ya) to the locals, is most famous for it's gorgeous sunsets. Literally, hordes and hordes of people line the streets of Oia every night to watch the sun dip into the Aegean sea. The town itself almost felt like a bit of a cross between Fira and Imerovigli with quite a few hotels, restaurants and shops but we felt it to be a bit more charming than Fira.
Looking at Oia from Imerovigli
A couple of days into our stay, rain was in the forecast and it gave us the perfect excuse to rent a car and explore the other side of the island. The terrain plateaus behind the steep hills of the caldera to make way for wineries, fields & beaches and it's beautiful in a completely different way.
We stopped by Kamari, known for it's black beach. There were several restaurants and hotels lining the shoreline and we were told on hot days, it's packed full of people who rent sun loungers and swim in the sea.
We also visited the Red Beach near Akrotiri which was quite stunning to see the deep, red juxtaposed against the bright, blue sea. We stopped for a beer nearby and sat right along the water and watched the waves crash over the seawall, splattering the tables.
In the end, I was quite happy to have the time to explore Santorini further - had it been hot and sunny, I'm not sure Joe could have convinced me to leave the terrace.
+Car/Quad/Scooter rentals are a dime a dozen on the island. Our hotel arranged for our car - it cost 30€/day (certainly much cheaper than a taxi) and it was dropped off and picked up directly from our accommodation.
+Parking lots are found all over the island and the majority are free of charge.
+While the island is small, traffic can be a bit slow due to extremely large tourist buses navigating narrow roads and corners.
+After touring the majority of the island, we were so happy to have chosen a hotel in Imerovigli and if we returned, we'd stay there again!