794 A long weekend in Santorini is long enough to capture the mood, and be totally spellbound by its beauty. The island really lives up to its expectations. Voted repeatedly “best sunset destination, “best island in the world”, “best island in Europe” , “top Mediterranea holiday”, “most romantic getaway”, “most photographed places in the world”, I could instantly see why.As soon as we reached our holiday villa located on the highest point in Fira and stepped onto the terrace, our heartbeat stopped beating for a few seconds. We were unprepared for the beauty of what lied ahead of us. Whyhave we waited so long to visit it? Santorini is what remains of a dramatic volcanic explosion some 3,600 years ago and which created the current geological submerged caldera. Visible above water is the circular Santorini group of islands, consisting of Santorini, the main island, Therasia, Aspronisi , and the Kameni islands at the center with its hot spring waters. According to the Greek historian Herodotus, Santorini was initially called “Strogili” which means ‘round’ due to its circular shape and it is how the island looked like before the catastrophic volcanic eruption that completely changed the shape of the island.Subsequently it was named “Kallisti” – “the most beautiful”. The name Santorini was given by the Crusaders which named the island after the chapel of Saint Irene (Santa Irini).Nowadays, the official name of the island is Thera, but it is mainly known as Santorini which is how the Greeks refer to it, too. Santorini is the most visited island in Greece with around 2 million visitors a year. We traveled to the island in October 2021 and, despite pandemic travel restrictions, it was well attended. I cannot imagine what it may look like in high season or with no travel restrictions. I am glad we stayed during a relatively calm season as I cannot fathom being ‘trapped’ by herds of tourists, especially those arriving daily by cruise ships, in the picturesque but narrow cobblestoned alleyways. Where we stayed We rented a Passepartout Homes accommodation, Santorini Mansion, a luxury private villa in the capital Fira, with outstanding views of the Caldera and an outdoor panoramic hot tub. Minutes on foot from the town and 15 minutes drive to the airport, it is perfectly located to explore Fira, and the nearby villages of Imerovigli and Firostefani. Rates from €1500/night, rich breakfast included. Villa sleeps up to 8 guests. Where we ate Franco’s Bar in Thira: great cocktails at sunset, stunning view of the caldera, nice selection of Greek classics, friendly service. Seltz Champagne Bar & Restaurant by Fleur de Miraval inside the historic five stars luxury hotel Katikies in Oia. Sophisticated Greek specialities, sushi and fine wines. Throubi located inside Andronis Concept Wellness hotel in Imerovigli, this gourmet restaurant is perfect for those seeking a fine dining and romantic experience. Volkan on the Rocks in Firostefani, a cafe, lunch, brunch and dinner restaurant offering Greek cuisine and great views of the caldera. In the evening, the terrace transforms itself into an open air cinema under the stars showing some ‘cheesy’ but all time favorite movies such as Mamma Mia or My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Where we sunbathed Seaside beach club located along the black sandy beach in Perivolos, Agios Georgios. Comfortable sun loungers sofas and cabanas, with excellent service. Champagne and sushi bar. Forty One 41 beach club in Perivolos. Another great option. A trendy club with comfortable sun loungers, cabanas, champagne and sushi bar service. What we did Take the cable car in Fira down to the old port and hop on a boat to Nea Kameni National Park, a tiny island at the centre of the Caldera. it is surrounded by warm, sulfur waters containing iron and manganese as well, known for their healing properties. Enjoy a bath in the hot springs. An unusual fun thing to do is to head to a fish spa and have your feet nibbled by tiny fish in a bowl. There a few salons in the capital. You can try visiting Fish Spa Kagal Wellness Centre. Expect to pay around €15/20 for 30 minutes. Our best tip Leave your high heels at home. Even if dining at a fancy restaurant in evening attire, wear sneakers or Birkenstocks! There is no way you can walk on the steep, cobblestoned paths in stilettos. You’ll thank me later. More villas in Santorini HERE.