Among all the countless islands of Greece, Santorini is the most popular one. It is also known as the most romantic travel destination.
Two million tourists visit this island yearly. But why? What is the magic of Santorini? Is it the all-white wave-like buildings on the cliff? Or is it the marvellous blue domes? Perhaps, it is the melodious name that originated from "Saint Irene".
To find out, we flew to Santorini from Athens during the Covid-19 pandemic last month.
It did not take long to fly from Athens to Santorini. Upon landing, we took a taxi to Fira - Santorini's capital. The stark white houses and full moon in the night sky amazed us immediately.
Although Greece is a cost-efficient country in the EU, the Greek islands are not. Food and accommodation can be very expensive even during off-seasons.
And we went there during the peak season - October, which is said to be the best month to visit this Mediterranean island.
But due to the pandemic, there were fewer tourists and we got our hotel rooms for almost half the regular price. With a swimming pool and good facilities, the room cost us only 20 euros, which normally costs 50 euros per night.
From Fira, a bus leaves every 20 minutes to various locations like Oia - the most popular city of Santorini, the black and red beach areas, the ruin of Arkotiri, etc.
For the first two days, we solely wanted to explore Fira.
The local historical museum has many things on display to prove Santorini's connection with Atlantis, but we were more interested in the beauty of the present.
We explored the narrow cobblestone roads, cliff-side white villas, museums and seafood restaurants.
One morning, we went to the old port of Santorini for which we had to climb 550 large stairs - a total of 1,100 large stairs up and down.
However, donkeys can be hired for six euros to go up and down the stairs. And you will not be alone with the decorated donkey; a shepherd will accompany and guide you.
After quite a tiring walk under the scorching heat, we reached the old harbour where many small, wooden ships were anchored to take the tourists to the nearby sleepy volcano. But I was more interested to see the transparent water and playful fish.
There were several interesting souvenir shops and cafés, which made our long and demanding walk worthwhile.
We took the local bus twice to Oia - the most famous place in Santorini for its sunset point and curve of the blue domes of the church.
Surprisingly, it was full of tourists each time and sometimes you even could not walk properly on the narrow streets due to the crowd. You have to wait in cue for 15 minutes if you want a photo taken at this popular location.
Oia was almost like Fira - full of white houses, cliff-side restaurants and squares filled with colourful bougainvillea.
We watched the highly recommended sunset with a few hundred other tourists.
When the sun was vanishing in the horizon beneath the sea, every single person was frozen by the surreal beauty.
We counted our Santorini days carefully so we could enjoy the full moon. And by our surprise, we also got to see the giant red moon at the horizon.
One afternoon, we wanted to take an adventure tour by discovering a place not mentioned in the guide book.
As a result, we walked through the villages and grape fields for a few hours and discovered a barren beach with strange and bizarre yet beautiful view of curved sandscape and blue water.
A restaurant waiter told us that usually, 15 people work there in October but only two are working this year due to the pandemic. They are hoping that the number of tourists will increase during winter if the situation improves.
And yet, we saw quite many people at the black sand beach in Caldera - all donning masks and the local shops were especially strict about it.
We also visited a few museums and art galleries, where they tried to prove the existence of the lost mythical continent of Atlantis.
The days were really hot and since the white walls are everywhere, sunglasses were mandatory as the sunlight reflects and hits your eyes.
Santorini is a truly serene place. You will be surrounded by blue seas and fairytale-like white building everywhere and the distant volcanoes make the landscape more dramatic.
I will remember the perfect sunrise and the red full moon of Santorini for years to come. And while sending postcards to friends, I wrote exactly these words: You will love this island more once you are here.