Were there ever a time to visit Santorini it would be off season in the middle of a pandemic. Sleepy and Santorini aren’t words you would have ever heard in the same sentence pre-Covid, but that’s exactly how we found it. The winding backstreets of Oia are all yours to enjoy at any time of day, dining hot spots don’t need to be pre-booked and the roads are entirely traffic-free. We knew this was a unique opportunity and one that needed to be seized. An island that usually receives over 2 million visitors a year, would never be this crowd-free again. If it weren’t for the endless accommodation options, you could almost fool yourself into thinking that you were visiting an undiscovered destination.
Gloriously quiet, we ambled the cobbled streets of picture perfect Oia soaking up the views over the Caldera. We stumbled across the famous three blue domes without the throng of girls in maxi dresses queuing to have their photo taken. As lunchtime neared we wandered down the steps to Amoudi Bay and sat at a table on the edge of the water and feasted on chargrilled bass, lightly battered calamari and a Santorinian salad which we washed down with an eye wateringly bitter lemonade. The owner shared tales of endless traffic jams and sardine-packed backstreets and we felt all the luckier for experiencing this unusually quiet spell.
Of course off season does have its downsides and at the end of October the weather can be a little unpredictable. The sunshine graced us with its presence in sporadic spells in between rain showers and thunder and lightning making for some very dramatic cloud formations. Another day took us to Vlychada beach which shocks at first sight with its volcanic landscape, but after a lovely lunch at Theros beach bar and an afternoon lounging under a straw umbrella it soon starts to grow on you. We found a delightful taverna serving up traditional fare so tasty we returned three times. Each time we selected different dishes from the menu, among them fava topped with fresh herbs and fried capers, traditional Kalogeriko pasta tossed in truffle mushrooms and aubergine wrapped in mint cheese and served in a tomato sauce, each dish bursting with flavour. When the sun came out we stole moments by the pool under macramé umbrellas and on an overcast day we took the opportunity to venture on the 10km costal walk from Fira to Oia where the scenery looked as dramatic as the Scottish isles in parts. At times it felt like a ghost town and dining in empty restaurants isn’t the most upbeat holiday ambience, but all in all I relished the chance of seeing this side of Santorini – moody weather included.