Having spent time looking around the world for my perfect wedding venue, I decided to try somewhere different and stumbled across a small typically Greek Island called Santorini. In my travel career I have sent many people to Santorini, however I had never looked into this island as a choice for my own holiday. Little did I know that I was about to reveal a gem…
Santorini has beauty that you will not find anywhere else in the world and somehow has managed to keep the character of its historic cliff top villages. Trawling through wedding venues can be tiring and we were looking for something different, somewhere that was not in the main wedding areas and this ticked all my boxes. After deciding on Santorini as our destination, I thought a trip to check out the area was needed. We had fifty guests all travelling with us and wanted to ensure that we planned our week with our guests well and that we were organised for our big day.
On arriving in Santorini I realised just how small this island was; the runway was short and the airport was the tiniest airport I have ever seen. This came with its benefits as it was quick and easy to gather our cases and jump into a taxi to our resort, but it also had its flaws. The return journey was slightly different as there can be up to five flights all going out around the same time and as the island can be quite windy the planes can get grounded. This was an experience as our flight was delayed, however most of the flights that day had been cancelled, therefore the airport was a little chaotic. This for us was an experience. The airport is very laid back and quite amusing to sit back and watch the Greeks laid back attitude as it helped pass the time.
We travelled in May to visit the resort as this is when the season just starts, therefore the temperatures can vary from year to year. The 1st few days were cloudy and very windy however as we got towards the end of May the weather started to be perfect – there was still a mild wind but this was refreshing. After speaking to locals we found the island is quite windy all year round and in July it can still get wind as high as 30 knots. With an average temperature of 30 – 40 degrees in the peak season a breeze is appreciated by all.
As the island is so small, so are all the roads, hotels and apartments. Let’s say you won’t find an all inclusive resort on this beautiful island. Having no all inclusive hotels is what made it a perfect choice for us, as this is what makes it different to the larger sister islands that surrounds it. We stayed in the resort of Kalmari which is on the flight path; you can see the planes come in and the transfer is only 15 minutes so perfect for a short break if you don’t mind the occasional aircraft noise.
We decided to hire a car as our wedding venue is at the north of the island and Kalmari is the south, and this journey takes twenty minutes depending on traffic. Car hire is very reasonable and the starting cost is around thirty five euros per day, but don’t expect a big vehicle as most cars for rent are small style Fiats; however when you drive the island you understand why. These are great as they are nippy and perfect for the tiny roads, with the island being so small they do the job perfectly. You can also hire quads, buggies and scooters and these are a popular choice, but beware the local driving on the island is a little erratic!
The main resorts of Santorini are Kalmari, Pessrissa, Firastafano, Fira and Oia. All of these resorts are very different for their own reasons. Kalmari is a small village with a promenade that runs along the seafront for approx, one – two miles and it has a volcanic black sand beach. If you are looking for a perfect hotel pick, the best choice would have to be one of the seafront villas in Kalmari or a Pettit hotel built on the cliffs of Oia.
Choosing Kalmari as your resort, you can wake up and have your breakfast while you watch the tide and the area has enough restaurants and bars to keep you occupied without being too lively or too quiet. Pessrissa, Fira & Firastafano are around fifteen minutes from Kalmari and Fira is the capital of Santorini. Fira leads onto Firastafano however they are two separate towns and it takes around 10 minutes to walk between them. This is an amazing walk with breathtaking views along the windy cliff paths. These areas are where all the famous pictures are taken, the blue top chapels and the white wishy-washy buildings with the narrow streets and steps. It is not for those with walking difficulties.
Staying in Fira is for those looking for a lively atmosphere and most of the hotels are small and built within the rocks with sea views. The hotels are personal but you need to be aware that many cruise liners dock at Fira and to reach the resort from the sea it is done by a cable car or donkey. Often when a cruise liner comes in it can off load up to 2000 passengers making Fira very busy and over crowded during the day time.
Firastafoni is similar to Fira however is quieter and has lovely restaurants with roof top terraces, it has views of the Volcano and Hot Springs, plus a beautiful spot to watch the sunset. For those looking for the ultimate experience and don’t mind splashing out then Oia is the perfect resort. It is very upmarket and you can see this from the boutique shops situated along its narrow streets. All the hotels have a wow factor and are very individual and unique. Most have infinity pools and you can find many hotels tucked into the caves with spas that have amazing sea views.
Santorini is a place of romance, beauty and tranquility. The hotels in the resorts of Firastefano and Oia are perfect for those looking for a romantic break or to just rekindle your spirit. It’s a place that I am so pleased that I picked for my wedding; a place that I can visualise in my memory for many years, an area that has a sunset that takes your breath away. It was the perfect setting for my wedding day. For those clients looking for a lower cost break, then Kalmari is a great place; it is in an area that can be used as a base while you explore Santorini or its surrounding Islands.
Christina Purcell is managing director of the Wed With Us Group.