How Santorini Adds To Character, Setting, and History


Santorini is easily one of the most beautiful and inspiring places I have ever been.  It’s equally picturesque, full of interesting people (both locals and tourists), and stuffed to bursting with varied things to do.

Below are a few things I either did on the island or caught my attention so fully I had to write them down.  They’re fun and intriguing little anecdotes that I’m sure will make great additions to the characters/setting/history of many of our stories.

If you want to see what I have to say about Athens, you can check that out here.  But now we’ll move onto…


In bullet form (who doesn’t love bullet points?!):

  • The history of Santorini’s size and shape is quite incredible.  It’s amazing crescent layout – with cliffs overlooking a large caldera on three sides, which can measure up to 1,000 feet high – comes from one of the largest and most violent volcanic eruptions in recorded history.  Santorini used to be a large, perfectly circular island; About 3,600 years ago one of Santorini’s active volcanoes erupted so violently (called either the Minoan or Thera eruption) it sank the entire island into the Aegean Sea to a depth of 400 meters.  The sea rushed into the center of what used to be a single circular island, leaving just the outer crescent shape of Santorini standing above water, in addition to a smaller island around the perimeter called Theresia.  One popular theory states that the Minoan/Thera eruption is the source of the legend of Atlantis.


  • Our Airbnb host, Nick, is one of the most interesting people I’ve met in a long time (sorry to anyone else reading this who I’ve recently met – you’d understand if you met him).  Born to a father from Athens and a mother from London, he went to an international school in Europe, followed by Oxford.  After working for a few years in London for a multinational, he went to UC Berkeley to get a Masters in Electrical Engineering.  He then spent seven years traveling for work (he was gone 180 days a year). After all that travel he decided he needed to get out of the corporate work life, and he moved to Santorini, where he inherited his grandfather’s villa.  He and his wife now run five properties, and because Santorini only has a population of about 2,000 people in the winter, he knows every business owner on the island; his name opened doors and secured reservations anywhere we wanted to go (he actually had a standing table at every restaurant in Oia, the northern settlement on the island, and the one you see in most of the pictures).  If you’re on the island trying to get into someplace that’s full, just go ahead and say you’re with ‘Nick’; there’s a pretty good chance it’ll work.


  • We ended every night sitting on our porch in Santorini, staring up at the midnight stars.  We had so much fun looking at those stars I even downloaded an app that lets you point your phone at the heavens and see the constellations – I’m an expert at spotting Scorpius now.  What is it about foreign places that makes you want to do things you could easily do at home (but don’t)?


  • The history of Oia’s cave houses is another fascinating anecdote.  It used to be a fishing village, and the houses on the cliffs were a sort of representation of their caste system.  The fleet captain had the house on top so he would have to walk down the fewest stairs to get there, and the lower you went the lower you’d find peoples’ ranks were, with the deckhands all the way at the bottom.


  • Ammoudi Bay on the north edge of the island is an absolute gem, but hell to get to.  You have to hike down 360 stairs (and then eventually hike back up in the blazing 85 degree sun) to get to sea level.  Then you can walk around on a path broken by rockslides and crumbled clifftops to the tip of the island, where you can slide into beautiful turquoise water, swim across a narrow channel, and climb up the stairs of a tiny island with a centuries old church on it.  There’s a terrace about 20 feet above the water for you to jump off of and plunge back into the sea.  End your excursion at one of the seafood restaurants right at the bottom of the stairs, where everything is caught that very day, and you can literally pick the exact fish you want to have cooked for you from a big glass display.


And now… pictures.  Funnily enough, the featured image on this post is one I got online – but if you look at the very bottom and see a light blue gate you’re actually looking at the entrance to our Airbnb (thanks, Nick!).  Here are some of mine:

The view from the tip of Oia is not to be beat.
Our porch view was no slouch either (thanks Joe and Karen!).
Walking down the hellish stairs to Ammoudi Bay came with a few perks.
Not the highest quality picture, but right there is the church set into its tiny island that I spoke about above.  The little terrace is the point at the bottom, and the view looking back up at the main island is jaw-dropping.
Did my best impersonation of a professional photographer during our sunset cruise (thanks again Alex and Wil!).
Yours truly may be smiling, but I was dying a little bit on the inside.  The hike between Oia and Fira is grueling, but the views are worth it!

What about you?  What’s your favorite anecdote or quirk from a recent trip that’s stuck itself in your mind?  Have you used anything (or anyone) you found abroad in one of your stories?

9 comments on “How Santorini Adds To Character, Setting, and History”

  1. Loved Santorini but we were on a cruise so didn’t get to spend more than a few hours seeing the sights. My daughter and I hiked the stairs but took the gondola back down.

    I’m envious of your AirBnB stay and will put it on my list to look into for my next trip to the Greek Isles.

    Beautiful pictures, wonderful post and an appreciated reminder of my visit there.

    Oh, and before I go, what’s the name of the star gazing app? I’d love to give it a try. 🙂

  2. Santorini: sun glinting off white walls, roofs reflecting the blue of the sea. Enchantingly beautiful … and what has stayed in my mind? Late breakfast on the terrace of a restaurant overlooking the water and the best Greek yogurt I’ve ever tasted 🙂

  3. I like the third bullet point…what I’ve been noticing is that my hubby and I are doing things we could have been doing all along now that we are retired! Really same thing!

    I mentioned the bellhop in Maui in my Maui time post (not abroad, but another world). He’s the guy that thought I looked like a movie star…or writer! It was the designer Italian sunglasses and tote full of books and computer.

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