Disclaimer – My lodging in Santorini was sponsored in part by FlipKey, a vacation rental service. This post is about my experience watching the sunset from the balcony of my rental house in Santorini, but as always, all opinions (and the resulting sun tan) are my own.
The Greek Islands are famous the world over for their sunsets. The small, barren spits of land bobbing in the emerald waters of the Aegean provide a prime location to watch the sun as it ends its day on one side of the earth and begins a new journey on the other.
While island hopping in Greece, I made it a priority to stop and watch the sunset each evening wherever I was. But nowhere in the Greek Islands (and possibly all of Europe) is the sunset more celebrated than on the small volcanic island of Santorini.
The town of Oia (pronounced ‘ee-ah’) sits on the north tip of the moon-shaped island. In the hours before sundown, the crowds descend on the town, packing the narrow alleyways, scrambling on rooftops, and climbing onto the walls a Venetian-era fort to catch a glimpse of the horizon each evening as the sun makes its descent down to the water.
Cruise ship crowds, tour groups, and visitors from other cities on the island all jostle for space and the best views, with many arriving hours before the sunset to secure the best spot of real estate to watch the show.
At times the crowds can be oppressive and the scene can become a bit chaotic. Shoving and shouting between over-eager parties can somewhat diminish the majesty of the sunset, which seems a bit ridiculous. After all, it’s just the sunset, isn’t it? Hasn’t this been happening everyday for the last six billion years?
So why are scores of tourists bussed in each evening to watch this spectacle? There are a few factors at play:
Oia is one of the most spectacularly beautiful cities I’ve ever seen in broad daylight. Its blue domed churches have graced post cards and paintings, but its beauty and charm extends to its cliffside cafes, narrow alleyways, steep stairways, and magnificent captain’s houses. The charming city hanging precipitously onto a cliff creates an intriguing foreground for the sunset.
The Natural Setting
Water and sunsets go together like Forest and Jenny. Many of the most spectacular sunset vantage points around the world are set on some body of water. But what makes Santorini’s ocean sunset different is unique geological setting of the island on the edge of an ocean-filled caldera. The sun isn’t just setting over an expanse of water – its setting into the caldera with its numerous small islands, remnants of an ancient volcanic explosion.
Santorini is famous as a sunset destination and that in and of itself attracts visitors eager to snap their photo to show friends at home. Good or bad, this is a major reason why so many flock to the northern edge of the island to check a Santorini sunset off their ‘been there, done that’ list.
While there is no ‘best’ location to watch the sunset in Santorini, there are certainly many popular places crawling with visitors. But I’m not one for battling crowds, showing up hours early, or waiting in lines just to take a picture.
So instead of staying elsewhere on the island and bussing in for the sunset, I booked a house right in Oia overlooking the caldera using FlipKey, a private vacation home rental service. While others battled for the best vantage points, I sauntered out to my balcony with a glass of wine, sunk into my chair, and enjoyed the show as the sun completed its journey for the day.
As the sun fell lower in the sky, the sea lit up, glinting and dancing with each wave. And when the last sliver slid below the horizon, the crowds erupted in uproarious applause, saluting the daily occurrence with reverence generally reserved for a rock concert or broadway show.
As the people filed away to catch their busses, I stayed out on my balcony a little longer. The pinks and reds in the sky soon gave way to purples and indigos, and the light of the first stars began to poke through the sky, signalling an end to the day.
And it was at precisely this moment, after the sun had gone down and the crowds had left, that Santorini was at its most beautiful.