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Remembering the Unforgettable Beauty of Santorini

24 January 2013 12,516 views 72 Comments

It had taken me a long time to write about Santorini. Every time I tried to start before, nothing would come to mind. Words didn’t seem to be enough to capture the beauty of this small Cycladic island. Perhaps there are other places as beautiful, but Santorini (also known as Thira), remains the most beautiful and the most romantic place in Europe for me.

Oia, Santorini

The blue-domed buildings that is quintessentially Santorini is in the small village of Oia up in the mountains.

I was undergoing personal issues when I arrived in Santorini. I didn’t expect much in this place; I even thought I’d get more depressed. After all, a lot of people have told me that it was the perfect place for a honeymoon. Being newly single, I didn’t expect Santorini to offer me refuge.

Santorini, Greece

Wouldn’t you want to live in a house like this?

I was wrong. Not only did Santorini soothe my soul, it also made me realize that yeah, things were as it should be. There was no room for regrets or what-could-have-beens. What was important was for me to live the moment and to look forward to the days to come.

And that’s exactly what I did. In my four days there, I did nothing but walk around its silent and empty streets which, during early spring, were thankfully devoid of the hordes of people that are usually there during the summer season. I walked one path after another, encountering nobody except the occasional local.

Santorini, Greece

I encountered only a few people in my walks around Oia and Fira.

In Fira, I spent hours lying down and reading on benches overlooking the caldera, ate gyros (because they were cheap) at sidewalk restaurants, and listened to Mass conducted in Greek. In Oia, I saw firsthand those blue-domed buildings that have long symbolized this Greek island, and took a lot of pictures, hoping that I could capture the perfect image that would encapsulate all that is Santorini.

Santorini, Greece

Loved seeing the houses hug the cliffs in Santorini.

Santorini, Greece

In Fira, I entered a church like this to hear Mass conducted in Greek.

However, if I were asked what my itinerary was, I would be hard pressed to give an answer. I didn’t have a list of things to do or places to see (even though there are a lot of things you can do there!). When I walked around, I took my time. I wasn’t in a hurry. Time, actually, was of no consequence to me in Santorini; being there was more than enough for me.

Santorini, Greece

I spent hours lying on benches, reading or taking a nap…

Santorini, Greece

…while other days were spent just going around Fira.

I waved at and talked to locals, amazed at their friendliness to strangers. When they let me, I petted some of the numerous Aegean cats I saw on the streets, taking pictures of them framed against the backdrop of the caldera.

Santorini, Greece

A beautiful Aegean cat.

I walked one empty side street after another, amazed at how serene and beautiful everything was. I surprised myself when I thought that yes, I can settle someday, if it were in a place as beautiful as Santorini.

Santorini, Greece

Even highly touristy Oia was devoid of people!

The doorways of Santorini are something to look at, too. They seemed to be set off from the rest of the house, apparently leading off to nowhere. I loved their vibrant colors and the mystery they pose. They seemed to be always closed. Were there people living behind those doors? What was it like to live on a cliff and see beauty around you every time you walk out the door?

Santorini, Greece

Lots of doors were like this. Where were the people?

Santorini, Greece

The doorway that seemingly led to nowhere.

Even Caveland, the very affordable hostel in Karterados where I stayed, was a treasure. It had a long history; it used to be a winery before it was converted to a luxury hotel, and later on, a backpacker’s hostel (I found it through Hostelworld). I welcomed the daily 20-minute walk from Caveland to Fira, welcoming the cold in exchange for seeing new aspect of local life every time I passed by.

Santorini, Greece

I loved seeing this windmill every morning on my way to Fira.

Santorini, Greece

I could easily imagine myself working in this outdoor office in Caveland.

Now, almost a year later, the memories of my brief stay in Santorini still remain with me. Details might have been lost, but those don’t matter. What I will never forget was the utter rightness I felt when I was there, when everything in this beautiful Cycladic island welcomed me with open arms and gave me the respite I had needed for a long time.

This is my entry to the February 2013 Carnival of Europe which I am hosting, with the theme “Most Romantic Places in Europe.”

 Aleah Taboclaon is a freelance writer and editor. She likes running (completed one marathon, training for the next!), diving (PADI open water diver), and traveling with her Kindle. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus. You can also email her; she would love to hear from you!

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  • Jeff Titelius said:

    Talk about living in the “moment” and “slow travel”! Your experience defines both perfectly! It must have been glorious to wander about at your leisure and soak up all the local color and charm that Santorini has to offer. And your exquisite photos capture your experience brilliantly…no hordes of tourists, just the locals, the neighborhoods, the charming houses and the sublime Mediterranean at your doorstep! Truly inspiring, I really enjoyed reading this introspective look of your time in Greece.
    Jeff Titelius recently posted..Bramasole Tuscan Extra Virgin Olive Oil—the Elixir of Life

  • Muza-chan said:

    Great photos, I love Santorini too…
    Muza-chan recently posted..A Japanese Song per Day: Tiaraway – From silent sky

  • Aleah said:

    @ Jeff: It *was* a wonderful experience for me. Rather than think that I was lucky to be there at the right time, I would say that it had been meant to be :D My pictures are okay; then again, you can point your camera anywhere in Santorini and you’d get good photos!
    @ Muza-chan: Thanks!
    Aleah recently posted..Remembering the Unforgettable Beauty of Santorini

  • Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista said:

    Aleah you’re pictures of Santorini are stunning! The blue domed houses are so Greek. I’ve always been a sucker for the views from Santorini. I wonder why I’ve not visited yet?
    Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista recently posted..Its A Door Thing

  • Razlan said:

    Such a blast from the past. I was in Santorini in 2008 and told myself when I am blessed with finding my better half, this is where we will exchange vows.
    Razlan recently posted..The One With Gold Mine – Comforting Chinese Food In London

  • Aleah said:

    @ Debbie: Thank you. It’s very much worth it to go there, wherever you are. It’s ironic though. Your blog name is “European Travelista” and you haven’t been there? haha
    @ Razlan: Lots of people would really want to get married here. Such a romantic place! I’m sure you’ll get your wish someday ;)
    Aleah recently posted..Remembering the Unforgettable Beauty of Santorini

  • cindy@thetravelgal said:

    You have written a beautiful piece about a place that looks absolutely lovely. Thank you!
    cindy@thetravelgal recently posted..Photo Thursday: Contrasting Travel Ideals on Display in Paris

  • Alice said:

    Oh Aleah, heartbreak can be so painful. I’m so glad that your little trip was able to heal your pain. Santorini looks like a beautiful place!
    Alice recently posted..My First Wine Tasting Experience

  • Aleah said:

    @ Cindy: Thank you. Santorini *is* lovely!
    @ Alice: Yeah, I’m glad too that everything turned out well in the end!
    Aleah recently posted..Remembering the Unforgettable Beauty of Santorini

  • Cathy Sweeney said:

    The blue of the domes really jumps out at you! Gorgeous place that I’ve yet to visit. Your photos capture the colors, beauty and charm of Santorini — just like I imagine.
    Cathy Sweeney recently posted..King Ludwig II and Herrenchiemsee Palace

  • Missy said:

    Such a shame you do not have that “true, endless, and almost-non-existent kind of love” to share the most romantic place with. :(

  • Aleah said:

    @ Cathy: You should definitely visit Santorini. My pictures don’t do justice to its beauty!
    @ Missy: As you said, it’s non-existent ;) Good thing you have found your own! *envious* haha
    Aleah recently posted..Remembering the Unforgettable Beauty of Santorini

  • Claire said:

    When I go to Santorini (yes, I’m claiming it! ^_^), walking for days to see the houses, churches and windmills will probably be enough for me too. I don’t think I’ll get tired of it. =)

    Your photos make me sigh and dream. =)
    Claire recently posted..Palina River, Capiz: Cruising With Nature And Kind Fisherfolk

  • traveling morion/jeffrey rilles said:

    OMG Santorini is one of my dream destinations!

  • Aleah said:

    @ Claire: I’m confident you’ll get to see Santorini one day. Keep on dreaming (and doing!) :D
    @ Jeffrey: It really is a beautiful place!
    Aleah recently posted..Remembering the Unforgettable Beauty of Santorini

  • Photo Cache said:

    What an incredible post, well written and full of beautiful images. It’s easy to see why Santorini is on everyone’s bucket list. Cross fingers I’ll see this someday.

    PS. I have a thing about windows and doors. I totally adore them.
    Photo Cache recently posted..Bangladesh: National Martyr’s Memorial

  • Peter said:

    Peter here,

    As I scrolled down the page, I tried looking at the best photo, but I found moving from one to the other. I think you have great photos here. It is a nice thing you are doing. Also I read your profile…I am a freelance writer too…Great and God bless the work of your hands.

  • Aleah said:

    @ Photo Cache: My pictures are okay, but they don’t do justice to the beauty of Santorini. You should definitely try to go!
    @ Peter: Thank you :)
    Aleah recently posted..Remembering the Unforgettable Beauty of Santorini

  • Leigh said:

    What a beautiful post Aleah and what a lovely way to travel – without a hard and fast agenda. Your photos truly capture the beauty of the place too.
    Leigh recently posted..A Visit to Wintry Winnipeg

  • Pauline said:

    Beautiful photos! You didn’t have to worry about not having the words to capture the bauty of Santorini! Your photos say it all!:)
    Pauline recently posted..1,000 square meters of Tubbataha Reef Damaged by USS Guardian

  • Aleah said:

    @ Leigh: Thank you. It’s not hard to take good pictures there :)
    @ Pau: Salamat, but my photos don’t do justice to the place! hehe
    Aleah recently posted..Remembering the Unforgettable Beauty of Santorini

  • Vera Marie Badertscher said:

    I agree that Santorini is extremely photgenic, but I don’t agree that your photos don’t do it justice. Your photos are gorgeous and you captured the color, the light and the very essence of that magical place.
    Vera Marie Badertscher recently posted..Nostalgic Trip to Florida’s Cypress Gardens

  • docgelo said:

    i wish i would have personal issues too that will lead me to santorini! :D

    aleah, this is another inspiring post!
    baka mapanaginipan ko ang greece mamya dahil sa blog at photos mo!

    i’ll surely google back your posts about greece and other beautiful countries in europe once i get a chance in this lifetime to travel and bring my family there. *wishful thinking*

    as i’ve always mentioned, you’re blessed!
    docgelo recently posted..CHIANG MAI SERIES : DOI SUTHEP

  • Aleah said:

    @ Vera: That’s very nice of you to say that :) Thanks so much! Santorini is really full of color.
    @ Gelo: Am sure you’ll see it in happier times than me haha You would really enjoy it, esp with your wife. So beautiful. As a photographer, your enjoyment would be 100 fold!
    Aleah recently posted..Remembering the Unforgettable Beauty of Santorini

  • Jackie Smith said:

    Fantastic photos – you caught the island’s magic. Loved the cat photo in paarticular. Our stop in Santorini wasn’t as magical – a harsh, cold wind blew dust and dirt most of the time, we were bombarded with tourist touts that thought we must have been from one of the cruise ships and had appropriate ‘good deals’ for us. . .but we’ve vowed to return and find some of that special place you’ve described so well.
    Jackie Smith recently posted..Beyond Waikiki

  • johanna at ZigaZag said:

    You make Santorini sound absolutely idyllic and I love your writing voice. Definitely a place to visit off season but how very beautiful it looks.
    johanna at ZigaZag recently posted..3 Places you just have to try for Lunch in Busselton WA Australia.

  • Aleah said:

    @ Jackie: Ah, I was so lucky then I was in Santorini during early spring. It seems so different from the one that you experienced. Hope you could go back and see a different side of it!
    @ Johanna: Yes, I would recommend you visit during spring when there are not so many tourists. It’s really wonderful!
    Aleah recently posted..Remembering the Unforgettable Beauty of Santorini

  • Mary @ The World Is A Book said:

    What a beautiful post, Aleah! Santorini has long been on my places to visit and your gorgeous pictures just made it inch up to the top of the travel list a little bit more. I’ll keep it in mind to visit in the Spring because it looks like you have the whole island to yourself. Glad it offered you solace when you needed it. I can totally live on those cliff houses too :)
    Mary @ The World Is A Book recently posted..Five Fun and Free Things to do in Santa Barbara with Kids

  • Malaysian Meanders said:

    Beautiful photos! I can’t pick a favorite because they’re all so good. It sounds like a very relaxing time.

  • Aleah said:

    @ Mary: Yeah, try to avoid it during summer as there will be a lot of people. I loved it when there was almost no one there!
    @ Malaysian Meanders: It was! Thanks, Michelle.
    Aleah recently posted..Remembering the Unforgettable Beauty of Santorini

  • Sky said:

    Aleah, thank you so much for taking us to Santorini. As we close our eyes and imagine the pictures that you took, we could hear the sound of the waves of Aegean Sea and the cool breeze and the blue domes. Whew! Can’t wait for our future honeymoon in this lovely island.

  • Dennis said:

    While I didn’t have deeply “personal issues” going on while visiting Santorini last year, I can’t help but feel awkward among honeymooners (as you noted) who were quite easy to spot – holding hands, kissing all the time. hehe!

    There were areas full of tourists (especially those coming from cruise ships) but one that really gave me a quiet moment was walking from Fira to Oia. That was a very scenic hike!

    Anyway, you do have a great eye for capturing the incredible beauty of this island!
    Dennis recently posted..Serengeti: Day 2

  • Aleah said:

    @ Sky: You would totally enjoy Santorini. I hope too, that you get to celebrate your honeymoon there!
    @ Dennis: Thankfully, there were no cruise ships visitors when I was there. But yeah, the way to Oia from Fira is really nice. Very beautiful!
    Aleah recently posted..Remembering the Unforgettable Beauty of Santorini

  • Marisol@TravelingSolemates said:

    Hi Aleah, as you know Santorini is a deeply special place for me:) I’m glad that it gave you the healing you needed at that time. I have a feeling you will return — in a happier and more romantic time:)
    Marisol@TravelingSolemates recently posted..Vietnam: The Colorful Hilltribe Market of Bac Ha

  • Reena @ Wanderplex said:

    Gorgeous pics! I was there not long ago and I was completely swept away by how stunning the island was. It’s one of those few places in the world where I went in with tremendously high expectations and it completely lived up to them (and maybe even surpassed them!).
    Reena @ Wanderplex recently posted..Online reviewers who blackmail hotels and dupe travelers

  • Jessica said:

    Great post and beautiful pictures. I actually went there this summer, and loved reliving some of it now through your photos.

    Check out my new travel blog if you’d like, thanks!
    Jessica recently posted..A Taste of Barbados: The Best of the Best

  • Aleah said:

    @ Marisol: I’ve read your post on Santorini. So romantic :) Yeah, I wish I could go back in a happier mood too!
    @ Reena: I feel the same. There are some times that my expectations of a place are dashed by the reality of it, but Santorini was definitely not one of them!
    @ Jessica: Thank you, will check out your blog soon :)
    Aleah recently posted..Remembering the Unforgettable Beauty of Santorini

  • Mary said:

    Just lovely.
    Mary recently posted..One Does Not Simply Fly Into Mordor

  • Amanda said:

    It looks SO stunning. Santorini has been on my to-visit list for ages, and it looks like I’ll finally be getting there (and to some other Greek islands, as well) this coming September. Posts like this make me extra excited about it!
    Amanda recently posted..Taking it Slow on Caye Caulker

  • Aleah said:

    @ Mary: Thanks!
    @ Amanda: Wow, I am so envious! I’d like to go back there someday. It’s nice you get to see the other islands as well. I only had time to go to Santorini. Enjoy your trip!
    Aleah recently posted..Remembering the Unforgettable Beauty of Santorini

  • RobRob said:

    Wow! With every story, post, article I read…every show I watch…I am ever more convinced that Santorini is the place to be. Just…be. It’s great that you seem to have had the island mostly to yourself; always nice when you’re feeling melancholy and have the time to just soak into a place. And the pictures! They really capture the stunning scenery and quaint elements of the villages. Great post – thanks for sharing!
    RobRob recently posted..Driving Luxury Loyalty at Fairmont

  • Larissa said:

    I have not yet made it there, and confess that I’ve been concerned about the crowds. Now that I know it’s virtually empty in the off-season, I’ll have to reconsider-thanks! :)
    Larissa recently posted..Free things to do in Florence

  • Aleah said:

    @ RobRob: Thank you. Santorini is beautiful when it’s off season. Others have said it’s not as lovely when there are hordes of tourists around :D
    @ Larissa: You should definitely go during early Spring. It’s so wonderful!
    Aleah recently posted..Snapshot Sunday—Love Locks in Europe

  • Kay Dougherty said:

    Your photos are fabulous and it’s so wonderful to see these places devoid of people. My sister and I definitely have Santorini on our “to do” list but need to pick a time when it’s both warm and not crowded – does such a time exist?
    Kay Dougherty recently posted..Places we’ve loved: Binibeca Vell, Menorca, Spain

  • wandering educators said:

    Gorgeous! I’d love to go. :)
    wandering educators recently posted..A Lesson in Italian Salami & Sausage Making

  • Aleah said:

    @ Kay Dougherty: Yep, the best time is early spring (late March). It’s not so cold anymore but the tourists are not there yet. You will also enjoy discounts from hostels as it’s off season.
    @ Wandering Educators: You should, Jessie!
    Aleah recently posted..Snapshot Sunday—Love Locks in Europe

  • Nancie said:

    How beautiful! I can see how this island could touch your soul. Where were the people? Having an island like this to yourself is not a bad thing, but a little strange :) Love the cat!
    Nancie recently posted..Travel Photo Thursday — January 31st, 2013 — Chiang Mai’s Fabulous Felines

  • Salika Jay said:

    Amazing photos Aleah!
    Salika Jay recently posted..Kefalonia: If It’s Good Enough For Captain Corelli

  • Aleah said:

    @ Nancie: It was strange. And it was wonderful too. I saw a LOT of cats there!
    @ Salika Jay: Thanks! It’s an amazing place!
    Aleah recently posted..Snapshot Sunday—Love Locks in Europe

  • Cat of Sunshine and Siestas said:

    Greece was the very first European country I ever visited, and I’ve been pining to go back ever since – especially to have a go at the islands. I can never find a viable option that fits within my vacation time or that doesn’t totally break my budget…but I have a renewed interest!
    Cat of Sunshine and Siestas recently posted..Applying to to the Auxiliares Program: How to Apply to be a Language Assistant in Spain

  • Aleah said:

    @ Cat: I heard the other islands are also highly recommended. I would definitely be back too!
    Aleah recently posted..Snapshot Sunday—Love Locks in Europe

  • Linda McCormick said:

    Beautiful images! And such a great story, too. Sometimes finding solitude is exactly what the soul needs :)
    Linda McCormick recently posted..Universal Standards for Sustainable Destinations – Coming Soon!

  • Micki said:

    Oh, I love this. Santorini looks like the perfect place to find solitude. Love the photos, too, especially that mischievous kitty :)
    Micki recently posted..How to Travel the World like Brad Pitt: Five Celebrity Retreats You Can Afford

  • Aleah said:

    @ Linda McCormick: Thanks, and yeah, we do need that occasionally :)
    @ Micki: There were a lot of cuties there. I think I’d taken more pictures with cats in it than people haha
    Aleah recently posted..Snapshot Sunday—Love Locks in Europe

  • Best of Travel Photos—My 7 Super Shots - Solitary Wanderer | Solitary Wanderer said:

    [...] Santorini is indescribably beautiful. Full of pastel-colored stone houses, being there made me dream of having a simple, quiet life in an island, with nothing but tranquility around me. Santorini is beauty personified, from the friendliness of its people to the quiet elegance of its surroundings. I’m not for staying in one place, but Santorini made me realize that somewhere out there, there’s a place which can make me want to establish roots. [...]

  • My Top 3 Travel Memories - Solitary Wanderer | Solitary Wanderer said:

    [...] almost didn’t go to Santorini. I’d always thought of it as a place that’s too expensive for a backpacker like me. [...]

  • May said:

    Your photos are lovely. I wish to visit Greece some day, and Santorini is definitely on the list of places to swing by :)

  • Most Romantic Places in Europe | Solitary Wanderer said:

    [...] the early spring of 2012, and I couldn’t have found a more perfect place and time to be. The unbelievable beauty of Santorini, sans the horde of tourists that usually invade it during the summer season, brought much-needed [...]

  • Aleah said:

    @ May: Thanks! Santorini is a really lovely place!
    Aleah recently posted..The Most Romantic Places in Europe

  • Laurel said:

    Love your photos and glad to hear that Santorini healed your heart. Some places are so romantic that they can actually be depressing when you are alone, but Santorini looks like the opposite. I love all the white and blue and the Agean cats.
    Laurel recently posted..Whale Watching in St Lucia, South Africa

  • Jen said:

    Beautiful pictures. I’d love to go there someday.

  • jill said:

    I’m loving your pics. It looks like the kind of place where a photographer’s dream comes true.
    jill recently posted..Chasing Lava Flow in Big Island, Hawaii

  • bursa kuruigneleme said:

    santorini is really great island but i suggest you that you had better see Alanya, İzmir, İstanbul … in Turkey. All of them have got great historical places, lovely beach and great nightlife :)) thank you for infotmation that it is about santorini

  • Solo Backpacking Trip in Europe | Solitary Wanderer said:

    [...] first, I didn’t want to go to Santorini. I thought it was expensive and a place best reserved for a honeymoon. I was glad I went, though; [...]

  • Solo Travel Planning Tips for Women | Solitary Wanderer said:

    [...] Try going to places at a time when it’s usually not popular, and you’ll see. I went to Santorini months before tourists were expected, and I had the best time of my [...]

  • Where to Eat in La Union | Solitary Wanderer said:

    [...] A 5-star resort located in San Fernando City around 20-30 minutes from San Juan, Thunderbird Resort Poro Point is a must-visit, not only for their building designs which are Santorini-inspired, but more importantly, for their Saturday night Japanese buffet from 6pm to 10pm. (Read my post: The Beauty of Santorini) [...]

  • The Cats of Europe - Solitary Wanderer | Solitary Wanderer said:

    [...] saw a lot in Santorini, too. While most were aloof, some would come when you call them. I don’t know if it’s [...]

  • Tips to Travel Cheaply | Solitary Wanderer said:

    […] best hostel I’ve stayed in though, was Caveland Hostel in Santorini. There was only me and a young guy in a huge room, and when he left, I had the whole room to […]

  • Maleha said:

    I love your blog, like you I love to travel also. Santorini is one of my dream places. How did you get there? like you I also want the inexpensive travel :)

  • Aleah said:

    @ Laurel: I agree. I’m glad I went there despite my initial hesitation.

    @ Jen: It’s much more beautiful in person!

    @ Jill: Yes it is. :)

    @ Bursa: Someday, I’ll get to visit Turkey. I need to save up for it first haha

    @ Maleha: Check my Europe posts, you will find a lot of helpful posts. :)
    Aleah recently posted..The Hot Springs of Chiang Dao, Thailand

  • Christine |GRRRLTRAVELER said:

    I feel like I must’ve commented on this post… But if I did, I’ll redo it… Your photos are gorgeous and Santorini is a place I definitely know I want to visit. In my mind it always seems like a dream with the most amazing panoramic cliffside views of the sea. Glad you found peace there. =)
    Christine |GRRRLTRAVELER recently posted..Review: The Towel Topper

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