What comes to mind when you imagine your bucket list? Is it a sprawling city with sparkling lights and beautiful architecture? A country full of jungles just waiting to be explored and beaches you can’t wait to relax on? All of the aforementioned are also on my bucket list, but there is one place that stood out amongst the rest for as long as I can remember: Santorini.
Santorini is hands down, the most insanely beautiful place I’ve been in my life. It’s hard to put into words just quite how idyllic this island in the Aegean truly is. There are quite possibly a million bucket list “lists” floating around these days, but I’m here to tell you: this place NEEDS to be on your bucket list. It’s potentially why bucket lists were created to begin with. In fact, the term “bucket list” is actually derived from Greek term “krasi”.
Just kidding about that last one.
This island has held a top spot on my bucket list for as long as I can remember, and Zach and I were incredibly fortunate to have been able to cross this one off of the list during our honeymoon last year. You can read more about how we made this epic trip happen on a budget here, believe me, it is possible!
Not quite sure you’re on board yet? By the end of this post, you’ll be packing your bags and screaming OPA!! Oh, Santorini how I love thee. Let me count the ways…(the ways could be endless, by the way, but I’m sparing you and limiting it to my top four). I could go on until the end of time but alas….
1. The Scenic Wonder
The whitewashed rooftops, the aquamarine blue sea that meets with the sky to a point where you can’t tell where the sea ends, and the sky begins. There’s a reason that this island is as famous as it is. Every corner you turn on this little slice of heaven leads you to something potentially more beautiful than the last. The sea seems to be completely endless, and it’s quite awe-inspiring (and humbling) to stare out at it and imagine the years and history that it’s seen.
When we opened the door to our Airbnb for the first time there is only one word that comes to mind: breathtaking. The scene literally took my breath away, and I felt like we had just stepped foot into a dream.Sidebar: I’m a huge believer of the mantra that when you put positive thoughts, energy and hopes out there, they may just come back to you. Before we left for our wedding & honeymoon, I was overwhelmingly swamped at my day job. When I felt like I was nearing the breaking point, I Googled random images of Santorini, and picked one that was especially charming and set it as my desktop background for the next week as inspiration to get through the grind I was currently in. Fast forward two weeks and when we step out onto the balcony of our Airbnb, and we are in the EXACT spot that I had randomly picked as my screensaver. I had my laptop with me and grabbed it from inside our cliffside cave, and ran out to actually compare the two. I was actually standing in my screensaver, the odds of me picking that photo are a bit wild. Santorini is small, but it’s not THAT small. It was a surreal moment for sure, and one that I will never forget.
Based on what I’ve said above, you know that the iconic whitewashed domes you have seen splashed across every dream travel page on Pinterest really do exist, and you really can stay in them! The small village of Oia at the tip of Santorini exemplifies every wanderlusters dream. If you do make your way there, I wholeheartedly recommend staying in this portion of the island. It’s close to everything, you can walk everywhere, and you’ll have front seat access to the most epic sunsets you’ll ever lay your eyes on (more on this later).
2. The Epic Wine (and food)
Ohhhh man. I didn’t realize how much I actually needed Greek food in my life until we left Greece and I was craving it almost every single day. My tastebuds are salivating as I sit here reminiscing about all of it, in fact. The biggest takeaway is that the cuisine on this island is incredibly fresh. Every place we went, the seafood and veggies felt like they were picked and caught mere moments before, and there is a good chance they were! Y’all know my heart belongs with #WaWine, but let me tell you, the wine experience in Greece gave my beloved state a run for it’s money.
This particular viticultural region is more than 3,000 years old, and by the time we got there in late August, harvest was already complete (though that definitely didn’t stop me from wandering through the vineyards!) We made our way down to Domaine Sigalas, as it wasn’t too far of a trek from where we were staying and I had heard excellent things about this particular winery. If you end up here, don’t miss the Assyrtiko, it was by far a favorite of mine and one of the better known varieties produced in this particular region. This high acid grape has notes of grapefruit, citrus and lime and pairs perfectly with sunshine and happiness (also with the mounds of feta cheese and olive oil you will likely be served). This is definitely going to be my go-to white wine going into Summer 2017!
Two places stood out in our eyes food wise. Everything we ate was beyond memorable, but these were repeat visits, so they make the list. Our favorite spot to graze over meze (appetizers) was Sunset Tavern at the bottom of the steps in Oia. As you can see below, you are literally inches from the water, and if you get there in time to snag a seaside seat, you’ll experience dinner and a sunset show that is sure to leave a lasting impression. What more could a girl ask for? Oh, great food? Yeah that’s there too, so you’re covered.
If you’re in the mood for something a little more quick and easy, you absolutely must stop by Pitogyro. It’s a grab and go style place right near the center of Oia (and, it’s also close to the bus terminal). I can’t actually count how many times we went here. It may/may not have changed our lives and views on gyro’s forever (not to mention they were less than $2 a piece! Score.)
P.S. if you’re as obsessed with olives as I am, you will be in heaven here. Every single place we went had a plethora of olives available and you better believe I took advantage of that!
Sunshine, Santorini, and vines=the recipe for over the moon happiness
3. The Storybook Sunsets
THIS. These sunsets are reason enough to make your way to this place. These are the type of sunsets you buy a postcard for and write home about. They seemingly transport you from your reality, and into a fairytale that you’ve only dreamt about. We didn’t end up doing one of the many sunset cruises offered around the island, but we’ve already chatted about adding this to our must do list when we go back one day (if you couldn’t tell, we’re slightly obsessed with the magic of Santorini, so we will absolutely be back.)
I will say, it was wild to see how many people gathered in Oia for the sunsets. It’s like zombies waking up from the dead, no joke. This is especially true if you go at the heigh of the tourist season. We were rounding the corner on the end of the busy season, and it was still a bit eye-opening to see how many people came out for these. Because this village is at the very tip of the island, visitors will make their way from every corner and alley to watch the sunsets. It was actually pretty intense, so pack a picnic (maybe some of those epic olives we talked about and a bottle of wine from your wine tasting earlier) and grab your spot early. You won’t regret it.
If you want to beat the crowds, make your way down the stairs at the end of Oia and there are about 4 different places to grab a table so you have a private dinner and a show. Welcome to paradise, my dear.
4. The Sunbathing, Swimming, and Cliff Jumping
It seemed every morning we developed a routine of making coffee with our Airbnb’s french press, and followed up with reading on the balcony while we savored that delicious Santorini sunshine. It was beyond heavenly, I still dream about those magical mornings lounging in the caldera. However, when we finally pealed ourselves away from our books, it was time to see a bit more of what this slice of adventure had to offer. We’re on an island after all, so where did we head? You guessed it, time to hit that refreshingly gorgeous water.
Santorini does have beaches, but the majority of them tend to be quite rocky. This turned out to be splendid news for Zach and I, as we happen to love cliff jumping. Right around the corner from our favorite spot at Sunset Tavern, we found the most epic (and not crowded) cliff jumping and swimming area.
The water was such a beautiful shade of blue, we couldn’t help but spend the entire day sunbathing on the rocks, only to follow up with more cliff jumping. Rinse, repeat, and you’ve got yourself one heck of a day if I do say so myself.
Cliff jumping in Santorini? Go ahead and check that one off the bucket list, my sweet.
*Bonus Bucket List Item: Rooftop Dancing
I may have (read: definitely) saved one of my favorite items for last. I can’t say enough wonderful things about the location we stayed, in the charming village of Oia. Oia is located in the caldera of Santorini, meaning it sits on land built by a volcanic crater, how cool is that?? The caldera in Oia also happens to have some of the best sunset watching spots on the island, and the rounded whitewashed rooftop that have filled my daydreams ever since. Where we stayed in the caldera was surrounded by other people close to our age from all over the world. I’ve chatted about how we made friends with our neighbors, the Olympians (NBD), but our neighbors below we’re equally as friendly!
We decided to ditch the sunset crowds one night and watch mother nature’s nightly show from our very own balcony. Cue our Italian neighbors below playing some tunes that we couldn’t help but dance to, and I ended up on their rooftop dancing and twirling in circles as the sun went down. I still am not sure that moment actually happened to me, and can’t wipe the grin off of my face when I think of it.
Word to the wise: it’s probably good to make friends with people before you decide to dance on their rooftop 😉 But what’s that expression all the kids are using these days, YOLO is it? Do they still say that? Oh well, we YOLO’ed it up this night, and have zero regrets. It’s called a bucket list, after all!
Added *added* bonus bucket list item: watching two people take wedding photos as we sat on our balcony