29 September 2019
The rhythmic trot of donkeys’ hooves woke my sister and I this morning for dawn. It’s our third day in Santorini, the jewel of the Greek islands, and I still need to pinch myself to check that I’m not dreaming. While I arrived knowing Santorini is famous for its beauty, nothing could have prepared me for this magical island I would hop onto, yet float through.
Made up of a volcanic group of five Cycladic islands, Santorini is separated by a submerged bay or caldera which was formed from a history of explosive eruptions. The large main island forms a perfect viewing arc around the still active volcano named Nea Kameni, which means ‘young burnt island’. We visited Nea Kameni by boat earlier in our trip to swim in its hot springs and climb to its smoky mouth.
The main town of Fira, right along to Santorini’s north-western tip at Oia, is blanketed by white block buildings with occasional blue doors. They spill down the cliff’s edge towards the caldera. Housing elegant bars, authentic Greek restaurants and ancient hotel villas, all the buildings are curved, adding a softness to the island of love. Cobblestone paths and mazes of staircases tease us with the next destination, yet it’s easy to stray off track in the topple of identical lanes.
It’s as if the lava below forms a steamy haze across the island, captivating its wanderers into a dreamy trance. By day, travellers circle the shores on quad bikes on a quest to visit all of the beaches: white, black and red. We park our bike, laze under a bar umbrella, replenish ourselves with plate of Mediterranean freshness, and then it’s off to the next colour of sand.
By night, visitors assemble on the cliff’s terraces, bars’ balconies and each level of steps to see what is it that Santorini is most famous for: its sunset. It’s something so simple that can be seen daily anywhere in the world, yet this repetitious event is completely mesmerising in Santorini. With cameras ready, a silence of stares transfix on where the sun dips below the horizon just behind the rumbling volcano. Skies as sweet as cotton candy mist into gradients of yellows, pinks and purples: a musk into dusk. Then mirroring the emerging stars above, the cliff is decorated in a twinkle of fairy lights. They lead us through the night and into the next day, waiting for the sun to repeat its colourful rotation of the skies all over again.
From Santorini, with love
Written by Lara Pacillo