Before it was called Santorini, the island was known as Kalliste which means “the most beautiful one” in Greek. It was in the 13th century when the Latin Empire called it Santorini which was named after the old cathedral ‘Santa Irini’ in the village of Perissa. Basically the name ‘Santorini’ is the contraction of the name ‘Santa Irini’. It’s interesting to know that even during the ancient times, the island was known for it’s marvelous and unparalleled beauty. True enough, because the moment you laid eyes on this island no one would think otherwise. Imagine how ecstatic I was when our boat was approaching the Caldera and the white-washed houses along the cliffs gradually became visible right in front of me. Amazing!
Santorini is more than just the breathtaking postcards of Oia sunset and the blue and white houses we saw over the internet. The island has a lot of hidden gems that are worth discovering. For that reason, Derick and I booked a full day sightseeing tour of the island through viator.com. The tour lasted for nine hours which covered important sites and attractions of Santorini like the Akrotiri Excavation Site, Perissa Black Beach, Megalochori Village, Elias Monastery in Mount Pyrgos, Wine Tasting at Santo Winery and Sunset Watching in Oia. [Click here to see the details and full itinerary of the tour.]
Akrotiri Excavation Site
The archaeological site of the Prehistoric Town of Akrotiri is a Minoan Bronze Age settlement that was located outside of Crete. The settlement was destroyed by the massive volcanic eruption during the 1600 BC. The whole city was buried in volcanic ash which preserved the remains of fine frescoes and some art pieces. The excavation revealed multi-level buildings, streets and squares, with remains of walls standing as three-storey high.
Visiting Akrotiri excavation is a must if you’re into history thing. The site gives an idea of how advanced the city was during their glory days. The people’s way of living during that period was quite impressive. I suggest to have a local guide who can explain everything to fully appreciate the place.
Lunch and Swimming at the Perissa Black Beach
From the Akrotiri excavation site the tour continued to Perissa for lunch and swimming stop. Aside from the historical importance of this place, Perissa is also known for its beautiful black sand beaches. The church above is not the Santa Irini’s chapel where the name Santorini was taken from. However the church became a beautiful landmark of the place because of its typical Cycladic architecture and charm.
We were given two hours to enjoy the place. Some of our tour groups went swimming and other had a hearty lunch by the sea. Derick and I chose the latter. Swimming wasn’t in our list of things to do during the tour because we still have other attractions to visit. Carrying wet clothes would be a major inconvenience for me. So we ditched the swimming part. Instead we settled into a nice Seafood restaurant and stuffed ourselves with sumptuous Greek dishes. We had Santorini Salad, Greek Plate and Grilled Calamari, something you shouldn’t missed when in Santorini.
After our lunch, Derick and I had a relaxing stroll at the beach. Perissa Beach may not be as beautiful as compared to other beaches I’ve been however the volcanic black sand and pebbles that Perissa has, made this beach unique.
Visit at Megalochori Village
Megalochori is not on my list of places to visit in Santorini. Frankly, I haven’t heard the place until our tour leader brought us there. I was very surprised to see how lovely this quaint little village is. The mixture of white Cycladic houses and churches and the labyrinth, narrow alley and streets is definitely a must-see.
The village has a several shops and charming tavernas to hangout to after exploring around. What I love about this village are the beautiful houses and mansions that has different wooden doors with charms hanging on it. Also the courtyards with bougainvilleas looks pretty amazing!
Megalochori is also the home of the renowned wineries that produces Santorini’s famous wine called Vinsanto. Vinsanto wine is made in passito style from grapes dried in the sun after harvest.
From the village of Megalochori we climbed to Mount Pyrgos which is known as the highest point of Santorini. At the top, you can find the monastery of Prophet Elias and an amazing 360 degrees view of the whole island. Mount Pyrgos is also the best location for catching the sunset.
Wine Tasting at Santo Winery
Before we ended our tour in Oia, we made a stop at the Santo Winery for wine tasting. Yay! I love wines! As part of our tour package, we were given three assorted wines to taste from. The winery has a great collection of wines which includes Vinsanto, the famous Santorini wine.
Because Santorini is known for their white wines aside from Vinsanto, I chose two different kinds of whites for tasting. My first white wine tasted delicious. It was smooth and subtle which I liked. The second one was a little bit dry and bitter, not my kind of wine honestly. For the final tasting we had the Vinsanto wine, the smell was good but when I took a small sip of it… it was too sweet. I love sweet tasting wines however this one doesn’t appeal to me. At least I got to try it and ticked it off my list.
Did I mentioned that Santo Winery has a great view of the Caldera? Yes, they have the best views indeed. Seeing the location for the first time made me ecstatic in taking photos than to sample their wines. It is actually one of the best venue to enjoy a glass of wine while watching the sun fade away.
Catching Oia’s Picturesque Sunset
The finale of the tour was to witness the picturesque sunset of Oia. We arrived Oia an hour before sundown. The place was packed with tourists with the same goal… to witness the breathtaking sunset. It was really difficult to find a good spot to take a decent photo without being photobombed. To have a better view, I suggest that you reserve a good seat at any restaurant that has a perfect vantage point of the sunset. It may be expensive but to witness a world famous spectacle like this one without any hassle is more romantic and definitely priceless.
The tour ended with many happy memories made. We also met new friends along the way. It was truly a wonderful experience and a great way to see Santorini during our first day there.