Autumn holidays in Santorini
The sea is warm and the crowds are gone.
Santorini was born like a hollywood blockbuster. in 1620BC an enormous eruption caused several islands to collapse forcing the Aegean sea to pour into the resulting cavern. This in turn exposed the crescent-shaped volcanic rock which today is called Santorini. Some of the greatest views on earth can be enjoyed from hotels which hug the cliffs and provide awe-inspiring panoramas of the caldera.
Tempting as it might be to pay big money for the best sea view on the island, we would recommend a slightly different approach. Find a nice cafe from which to enjoy the views by day, and then retire inland for a quieter, cheaper nights sleep.
There are many delightful inland places to stay, and in the Autumn you can often take your pick from what's on offer. Our tip would be to check out the picturesque town of Oia in particular as it is reputed to have some of the most beautiful sunsets on Earth. Shopaholics will also enjoy Oia, with its fancy jewellery boutiques and charming narrow streets.
To get the best out of this popular island, you have to plan your season carefully. Spring is delightful, especially due to a carpet of wild flowers which pop up each year. However, the sea remains fairly baltic and prices can start to get high. In the summer everywhere is crowded, tiny village roads become gridlocked, and everything costs twice as much.
We would recommend visiting in early October. The sea is warm, the crowds are gone, and there's legendary wine to be tasted. Santorini became famous for it's wine during the Middle Ages under the strong influence of the Republic of Venice. The best known bottle is Vinsanto, and is made in a passito style from grapes dried in the sun following harvest. If you're interested in the wines, we suggest the Sigalas Winery tours. (www.sigalas-wine.com).
Santorini is awash with good quality restaurants and cafes. Finding a good meal for a reasonable price is a fairly simple task (apart from at the height of summer). Santorini expert (and food enthusiast) David Hoffmann recommends two restaurants specifically. Firstly the Selene Restaurant in the village of Pyrgos, and secondly Nichteri on Kamari beach. Nichteri apparently provides some of the best gourmet Greek food around, and has a wonderful atmosphere.
One of the other benefits to an autumn break to Santorini, is the availability of popular water-based activities. Sea kayaking, cave snorkelling and diving are all plentiful, but far too much like hard work in the 36C heat of the Greek summer.
If strapping on a wetsuit and disappearing into a cave seems fairly terrifying, you can sail around the volcanic bay for just over £100 (for a half day). SantoriniSailing offers some brilliant catamaran tours with access to thermal pools, stops at beautiful beaches and complimentary food and drink. If you prefer to stay out of the water all together you can go hiking and rock climbing. You can also enjoy many fine walks.
If you only get to visit one Greek island in your lifetime, few would fault you for choosing Santorini. It's also one of the few Greek islands with it's own major airport which lies about 4 miles southeast of downtown Thera.