Day 3 in Santorini was a big one, because it was the day of our WINE TOUR. We booked our tour through Santorini Wine Adventure. Going into the trip, I knew that I wanted to visit some of the wineries, but wasn’t sure if it would be worth it to do a guided tour. Guided tours tend to have a big markup and you are “stuck” with a set agenda and are somewhat at the whims of the other group members. However, the reviews on this company on Trip Advisor really changed my mind. The company has a five-star rating, but what really stuck out to me was the fact that the tour guide themselves were called out specifically in a lot of the reviews. Usually when I read tour reviews, I look for nuggets on aspects of the trips that were enjoyed, so I can use that to plan my own thing but the glowing reviews of this host had me intrigued.
Santorini Wine Adventures offers a few different options, you can do a simple winery tour, a winery tour + visit to Akrotiri (a ruins site), or a winery tour + cooking class. Akrotiri was also on our list of things to do, so we decided to combine and do the “Trails of History and Wine” tour. The price was €125, which seemed a little expensive but I felt like we were getting a lot for the price, including visit to 3 wineries, 1 brewery, snack plate of meats and cheeses, entry and a tour guide at Akrotiri.
We were picked up at 9 am and were the first group to board (1st choice of seats, hell yeah). Our first stop was Akrotiri. If I’m being completely honest, I was a little underwhelmed with Akrotiri. I had seen it referred to many times as the “Pompeii of Santorini”, which, um, no it’s not. And the comparison isn’t really doing Akrotiri any favors. Nick and I enjoyed Pompeii so much, so I think the comparison set my expectations just a little too high going into this tour. Had I gone into it with an open mind, I may have enjoyed it much more. The site is not NEARLY as large as Pompeii, it’s basically one warehouse sized building. Also the ruins haven’t been “dug out” as much (that’s probably not the right term) so it’s hard to get a mental picture of what the buildings/roads/etc. actually looked like. The way the building is set up, you are looking down into the ruins, rather than walking through them like Pompeii. Also, most of the artwork has been taken out and is on display at the National Archaeological museum in Athens, and there aren’t large replicas in its place (like in Pompeii). The tour guide has a laminated picture of the paintings that they hold up throughout the tour, but it doesn’t quite have the same affect. Overall, meh. It was an OK way to start the morning but I don’t think I would strongly recommend visiting here. And I don’t think it was really worth the price difference from the regular wine tour (€85 vs. €125).
After that we were on to our wineries! We made a pit stop before we hit any wineries to look at the “vineyards”. Because of the wind on the island, grapes are unable to grow traditionally on vines here. Instead, they wrap the vines and make these little grape nests, to protect them from the wind. Another challenging aspect is the lack of rain in Santorini (it seriously didn’t rain a single time we were there). Our guide explained that the grapes are “watered” by the dew at night.
We started at Boutari which was really cool. It was a large space and very modern looking inside. The decor was all wine themed (obviously) and it had a lot of the cool little grape nest things everywhere. At this tasting, we really focused on food/wine pairings, which was cool because I didn’t know anything beyond the basic white meat=white wine, red meat=red wine. We tried a variety of meats and cheeses and took turns trying them with each kind of wine to see how it changed the flavor of the wine. The takeaway from this portion was that there are no bad wines, only bad pairings! When Elias said this, our group took great delight in explaining to him what “Boone’s Farm” was and he was appropriately horrified.
The second winery was Gavalas, which has a fairly no frills tasting. We did get to see some of the older wine making tools and barrels they had on site, which was really neat! We had four different wines, including a Vinsanto, they were all really good. The most popular Santorini wine is Assyrtiko, which is similar to a Sauvignon Blanc (my favorite), so I was pretty much in heaven.
We also made a stop at Santorini’s only beer brewing establishment, Santorini Brewing Company. Beer brewing is relatively new to the island (and Greece in general), but these beers were excellent. We tried a couple of their beers leading up to the tour and really liked all of them. I was partial to the Yellow Donkey, Nick was into the Red Donkey. We hadn’t been able to find Crazy Donkey (which is their IPA), but our neighbors had and said it was really good. After the tour, we can confirm! All of the donkey beers are really good.
For our third winery, we went to Artemis Karamolegos which was REALLY beautiful. The wine may be skewing my memory here, but this might have been my favorite of the day. Their outdoor area was large and shaded and it had a really lovely atmosphere. We also saw a few of the other Wine Adventure tours here, one that looked to be on the “regular” tour and one that was setting up for the cooking class. We got to try another four wines and were also served our meat and cheese plate. I totally thought the plate we got at Boutari was going to end up being our snack plate, so this was a lovely surprise. The size of this snack plate was awesome and totally served as our lunch. Also, you can totally tell that we had many tastings by this point, because my commitment to taking photos of all the wine completely fell apart.
We had a great experience on this wine tour, and I do feel like it was worth it to book a tour, rather than drive to a few wineries by ourselves. However, I don’t think I would include the Akrotiri tour given the chance to do it all over. If you do the regular wine tour, there is an option to do it in the afternoon and through sunset time. I think this sounds like a REALLY awesome way to have a fun wine tour and experience the famous sunset in a unique way.
After our wine tour we headed back to our patio for more sitting and drinking and looking at amazing views (after showing all of our new friends from the tour the best place to go watch the sunset).
We had already made plans for dinner two nights ago, we made reservations for a sunset dinner. A lot of the restaurants in Santorini have a 7:00/7:15 dinner seating so that you can watch the sunset sans crowds. We tried to book this our first day in town, but a lot of places were booked up, our third night was the first available reservation we could find at Pelekanos (we did only check like, two places). This was a really cool way to watch the sunset. We got to have a relaxing dinner and enjoy the sunset and take all the pictures we wanted. We weren’t shoved around at all, not even once. I highly highly recommend doing a sunset dinner. If I could do it all over again, I would have a sunset reservation at a different restaurant every night. The food and service here were really good, so I would even recommend this restaurant specifically. Great all around! We ordered a Greek salad (are you tired of hearing me say that yet? We couldn’t get enough), Moussaka, slow cooked beef in a pot and lamb.
Side note: I was less drunk after a day of sampling wine and wine with dinner than I was the previous night, after two large beers. Wtf, self.
On day 4, we didn’t have any set plans, in fact we didn’t even set an alarm. Nick and I woke up “late” around 9 and decided to go off in search of a real breakfast. That is one thing that I feel like we didn’t really master during our trip, what are the good options for breakfast? We subsisted on granola bars, fruit, and sometimes a pastry from a corner shop. But a lot of times, our activities started early (the wine tour started at 9 for example), so what are people supposed to do for breakfast? Is this just the fat American in me? Do normal people not prioritize breakfast? I don’t know. Nick and I ended up finding a cute place that opened at 10 and got ourselves some real breakfast with a side of caldera views. I got my normal frappe, a greek yogurt with fruit and nuts, and Nick got a banana chocolate crepe that was enormous.
After breakfast, we went back to the apartment and worked on a game plan for the day. One thing left on our list was the Red/Black/White beaches, located on the southern side of the island. The famous Santorini Red Beach is frequently featured on all kinds of “best beaches” lists, so we were excited to explore it! The day before, we asked Elias what is the best way to view those beaches. He recommended a water taxi service that is run out of the port right by Akrotiri that runs €5 for a round trip . He even went down to the port and asked for their time table while we were on our Akrotiri tour! The water taxis run every half hour. We decided to do that and went to find a rental car to drive to Akrotiri.
It was fairly easy to find the boat, and we paid our euros, hopped on and waited for the boat to fill up. There were several restaurants lined up by the boat area, and lots of yachts pulling up with groups of fancy people coming to land. It was fun people watching for sure!
The boat goes by the three beaches in the following order: Red–>White–>Black. We didn’t have a set game plan as far as which beach we wanted to get off at, and this was a mistake. There isn’t a lot of time to get on/off the boats and the guides really push you to be prepared and get on and off quickly and efficiently (rightfully s0). Because of this we ended up hemming and hawing until the last stop, the Black Beach. The Red beach looked beautiful, but actually pretty dangerous. There is a large cliff hanging over the beach, and there was actually a land slide a few weeks prior. You are also let off in relatively deep water at the Red Beach, and if you are like us, you have your backpack of a towel, phone, money, change of clothes, etc. that you don’t really want to get wet. You could definitely do it, but would have to plan the logistics a little better than us. The white beach looked awesome, the drop off was in medium height water but there were no beach bars for food or drinks. The Black Beach was nice, but very rocky and the black rocks were pretty hot. There was a restaurant with chairs that you can rent.
If we were to do this again, I would either bring water/snacks and get off at White Beach, or make a day of it and rent chairs at the Black Beach. Since we weren’t sure we wanted to hang out for a long time, we didn’t want to cough up the cash to pay for a chair and just laid on our towels.
After 20 or so minutes we decided to just catch the next boat back and grab some lunch. Unfortunately the boats were on a different schedule than us and we probably waited upwards of an hour for the next boat back. When we got back, we decided to hit up Nikolas Taverna. This place was mentioned by a few of the travel apps I was using and the menu looked great. Guess what we ordered? You are corect, more greek salad. And also tomato fritters, calamari, and moussaka.
This was another of our favorite meals of the trip, and it reminded me of our lunches at Rhodes. Really good seafood/food at a great price.
We took the other road back to Oia and got to see a different side of the island, which was really cool. We drove by a few of the other beaches with lots of hotels and inns. Kamari Beach looked like the coolest, at least from a distance with lots of beach front and chairs.
We got back to our apartment and hung out some more on the patio (theme of the trip) and decided to grab something quick for dinner. We had a later lunch and also had another 4 am flight on plan for tomorrow. Nick and I ended up getting gyros from Pitogyros and they were REALLY good. After so many nights of long, more elaborate meals, a quick street gyro really hit the spot. We enjoyed a beer while waiting for our sandwiches and then headed back and tucked in early. After honoring our patio with a few final beers of course!
A few final thoughts on Santorini: There were a lot of times throughout the trip where I thought “Wow, I can totally see why Santorini is so popular” and probably just as many times where I was resenting that popularity (bc of crowds, high prices, hard to get reservations, etc). This, of course, is totally to be expected at a place like this, but I think we got a smidge spoiled by the ease and relaxed vibe of Rhodes. I enjoyed every one of our four days (and am glad we didn’t go any shorter) but I can say its a place I don’t feel like I need to return to. On my next Greek island vacation (hear that, Nick?) I would choose to explore some different islands instead. But I will always fondly remember this patio, one of my greatest life decisions: