Basking on Black Beaches in Santorini
Photos by John Roberts
Even if you've never been to Santorini, you might easily recognize the stunning island in Greece from numerous pictures showing the iconic blue-domed whitewashed buildings overlooking the blue waters of the caldera below as the sun sets.
No doubt, this is the lasting image of this top travel destination. Just type "Santorini" into Google and click images. This is what you will see. Go ahead. I'll wait right here while you do it.
These shots are generated out of the scenic and popular towns of Fira and Oia. Those hotspots are not to be missed during your visit to Santorini.
Because I was making my second visit to the island, I wanted to try something new and more relaxed.
The black beaches of Perissa and Perivolos provide a fantastic off-the-beaten-path way to spend a vacation on Santorini. The island is small, so you can still get anywhere you want with a cheap taxi or bus ride to any attractions or activities you desire — like hiking trails, churches, windmills, nightclubs, restaurants and those iconic towns of Oia and Fira, of course.
But setting up in Perissa or Perivolos, neighboring spots within a 10-minute walk of each other on the south end of Santorini, offers several advantages.
I was able to score a cozy motel room just steps from the beach for $39 a night on Airbnb. The room rates are incredibly low compared with other spots around the island. The Greek islands overall are a fantastic deal, and tourism is vital to Greece as the country battles through an economic crisis. My room was small and all I needed as a solo traveler on this trip, but dozens of reasonably priced resorts line the beach areas, as well as tons of restaurants.
The towns and beaches are quiet and generally without massive crowds. You can always find a spot to plop down on the beach for the day. If you want to use an umbrella-covered lounger, you might have to pay 5 to 10 euros to the attached restaurant.
You also can secure your lounger if you order a meal or a beer, like I did. Most restaurants offer delicious authentic Greek cuisine at ridiculously low prices. You get Wi-Fi access, so you can keep in touch with friends and show them how much fun you are having at the beach in Santorini while they are stuck in their cubicles.
Perissa and Perivolos are mostly about the beach scene and relaxing. More nightlife and clubbing is available in Perivolos, which also is home to a dive center that offers daily snorkeling or scuba trips. Other nearby sites to visit include the church of Timiou Stavrou. It's one of the oldest on the island and located in Perissa Square.
From the church, which is about a 30-minute walk from the beach area in Perissa, you also can find a path that will lead you on a strenuous 60-minute walk up to Ancient Thera, an amazing ruins site on the mountain Mesa Vouno. Structures found there date from the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods.
Back at the beach, make sure you have good water shoes, sunscreen and a hat. The sun is intense, and the black sand heats up like you wouldn't believe, making walking barefoot on the beach intolerable in the middle of the day. But the water is clear and refreshing, covering smooth volcanic rock as you wade in just a few feet from shore.
Many visitors also rent quad bikes (four-wheelers) to tool around town and into the mountains. I enjoyed a daily jog to look around and work up a sweat before jumping into the waters and grabbing a beer with my breakfast.
Darn right I drank a morning beer — it was a black-sand beach vacation on Santorini. Opa!
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