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Greece

Savouring the Winter Delights of Santorini

We’d heard that Santorini was something not to be missed; that it was breathtaking and a bucket list destination. Did Santorini deliver? … 

As we were in Greece and close to the many Greek Islands, we decided to take a trip to the one we had heard so much about, Santorini. It didn’t look particularly suitable for motorhomes so we left our campervan in Athens.

Imerovigli

Our beautiful hotel ‘Heliotopos’,  on the cliffs in the town of Imerovigli, was centrally located on Santorini island and gave superb coastal views both to the north and south. The hospitality and the quality of home-made food were second to none, which certainly set the mood for us.

Entrance to Heliotopos Hotel through a framed entrance with a view to the azure blue sea
Heliotopos Hotel entrance

Hiring a small car, gave us the opportunity to see the furthest parts of the island. A three-day hire was the perfect amount of time for our five-day trip. It was a wise decision leaving the campervan behind, as our plan to tackle the little out-of-the-way places with their tight access ways, definitely required a small vehicle.

Oia

Our first stop was the renowned town of Oia. Could our winter’s day have been any better? 18 degrees C, the sun was out, only a hint of a breeze and no crowds to be seen. Just awesome!

Vivid white-washed dwellings with the typical azure blue trimmings of Santorini showing a church and windmill in the background
Vivid white-washed dwellings with the typical azure blue trimmings

It was captivating wandering through the winding walkways, all the time surrounded by vivid whitewashed limestone buildings with their bright blue trappings. This was something special. No doubt about it – it was hard not to nail a half decent shot!

A green small shrub in the foreground with a white washed building with a windmill protruding from its structure
Even in winter, the sights are breathtaking
Overlooking a bicycle type feature towards the blue sea from the town of Oia surrounded by white washed buildings
What a view!

During our walk around the many winding pathways of Oia, we heard a raised voice and clacking of hooves. Eager to investigate, we rounded the next bend and saw about ten donkeys ascending the paved steps. They were loaded heavily with stones for the nearby building works. Donkeys were definitely the preferred mode of transport for these steep cliff pathways as there was no way a motor vehicle could fit. It was common to see a procession of these untethered loaded donkeys, each following the next in single file, on their way to a job site.

Donkeys ladened with stones for building construction follow each other in single file up the stone pathway
Donkeys laden with stones for building construction

Sometimes even the owner’s took the opportunity for a ride up the cliff pathways.

Old man riding a donkey in the side saddle position up a paved pathway amongst white washed buildings
Donkey taxi

Vothonos to Kamari Beach

Leaving Oia, we drove around the less heralded northern part of the island, and down the east coast, back through Fira and onto Vothonos. We were given some great tips about places to visit from the owner of our hotel and adding these to our Geocache locations, we now had ourselves a full schedule.

Geocaching is great to do while travelling, as the hidden spots are often in places that the locals know about but aren’t advertised as tourist spots. One of our geocache locations took us to an old abandoned school built into a hill at Vothonos. Surprisingly there were still the old school tables and chairs in place.

The dusty over turned green student desks in a dilapidated class room
Disused school furniture at the abandoned Vothonos school

Every village on Santorini seemed to have at least one blue and white church –  immaculately kept and splashed in the typical Greek colours. During our travels, the locals swapped greetings with us wherever we went and it has to be said that the Greek people certainly carry a warm heart and a willing smile.

White washed church with its blue dome and 6 bells in a pyramid shape and the Greek flag flying in front.
One of the many beautifully kept Greek Orthodox churches

We drove through Pyrgos and then onto Perissa Beach where we walked along the dark, volcanic sands before heading up the winding drive to stop near the top of Mesa Vouno Mountain. This is where the Ancient Thera ruins are found. From here, we had fantastic views of Kamari Beach and managed to find a Geocache close by so definitely a worthwhile stop.

The dark sands of Perissa Beach extending to the cliffs of nearby hills
The dark sands of Perissa Beach
The windy bitumen road making its way up the sparsely forested Mesa Young mountain with the sea in the distance
The windy drive up to Mesa Vouno Mountain, which gave an outstanding view of Kamari Beach

Santorini’s Southern Side

From there, we set our sights on the pretty Akrotiri Lighthouse at the southernmost tip of Santorini. It was a picturesque scene. The land fronting the lighthouse gently falls away into the sea and the nearby hills stand watch from above. Here great views of the island’s western coastline and headlands could be seen, accentuated by the townships of whitewashed buildings along the cliffs.

White Akrotiri lighthouse with green dome sitting on the cliff edge overlooking the blue sea of Santorini
Akrotiri Lighthouse on the south-western tip of Santorini

Back to Imerovigli

Skaros Rock, a rocky protruding headland that used to be the medieval capital of Santorini, was walking distance from our hotel at Imerovigli. It was an easy downhill descent to ‘the Rock’. However, remember to keep enough fuel in the tank for the steep ascent on the way back. The medieval town of Skaros was built around Skaros Rock and it used to be densely populated. However, due to earthquakes the people gradually drifted away to take up residence in Fira, the current capital of Santorini.

The many rocky steps to up to Skaros Rock which has the ruins strewn around its base
Skaros Rock nearby to the town of Imerovigli

We walked to the far side of the rock and we were pleasantly surprised to find a remote chapel. The Chapel of Panagia Theoskepasti faces the horizon and is tucked completely out of sight from the mainland.

Stark white washed church overlooking the beautiful azure waters of Santorini
Tucked behind Skaros Rock was the Chapel of Panagia Theoskepasti

All too soon, our five-day, wonderful winter visit to Santorini drew to a close. It was nice to have a small hiatus from the van but to be honest, we were quite looking forward to getting back to our cosy home on wheels. It certainly feels like ‘home’ even though it is rarely in the same place for more than a few days.

Good to Know

We would highly recommend a visit to this beautiful island in Winter to avoid the crazy summer crowds.

Camper Parking

We left the van near Athens airport in Megaparking and booked online via Parkcloud.

Car Hire

Car Rental: We managed to get a small runaround for €25/day.

Accommodation

We found a fantastic winter deal at the  Heliotopos Hotel, Imerovigli, – a fantastic boutique hotel that we found absolutely wonderful. The staff could not do enough for us and were extremely helpful.
We would highly recommend a visit to this beautiful island in Winter to avoid the crazy summer crowds.

Location

Would love to hear your thoughts on the island or any tips you may have when visiting. Leave a comment below 🙂

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Lars

Author: Lars

Being an Australian boy brought up in the country, I learnt at an early age to enjoy the freedom and beauty of nature. Leaving Australia at the age of 20, although I didn’t know it then, would be the beginning of a life of adventure. So join me here on our travels and see the world through my eyes.

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