Santorini, Greece

(Bridget)

Not to be too dramatic about this place or anything but Santorini has got to be one of the highlights of our European travels so far.

After a couple of nights in Athens after our ‘sailing’ trip, Alex, myself and two of our friends boarded the earliest ferry and cruised off to Santorini. As we had to book the ferry in advance, we chose to travel on the slower version as the quicker ferry is likely to get cancelled in windy conditions and not getting to Santorini because of the weather was a risk we were not willing to take.

We arrived in the beautiful port of Athinios around lunchtime and were picked up by a shuttle organised by our Air BnB host. As we were staying about as far as it is possible to stay from the harbour, I was very pleased we got to travel straight to the Air BnB rather than mucking around on a bus that would take 5x longer.

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The Air BnB that we picked was a beautiful apartment on the cliffs along from Oia, with spectacular views across the whitewashed houses clinging to the cliffs and over the sparking ocean below. As soon as we walked through the door we knew we had struck gold with our choice, and were very much so looking forward to our 3 days of luxury to cap off our holiday.

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Our host was extremely helpful, having organised the powerful quad bikes to rent for a day and booking us the best spot for dinner that evening. The boys were extra excited about getting more powerful quad bikes to drive for this part of the adventure as the ones we hired on the other islands found it difficult to make it up the hills most of the time. Our friend Mon and I were less than excited about the added power as we were quite happy to cruise rather than race around the islands.

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After whipping together a delicious lunch of Greek salad, deli meats, fresh bread and olives, we decided to make the most of the afternoon and set out on a quick explore of the island on the quads. Once you get out on the road, you begin to appreciate just how rugged a landscape this island was. Before we got there, I had no idea this island used to be a volcano that had such a violent eruption that it basically blew itself apart, leaving only portions of the outside remaining. The majority of the roads in Santorini scale the ridges left by the eruption, so you get spectacular views down sheer cliff faces over barren volcanic rocks. It was quite something.

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In the evening we sat on the terrace watching the colours change with the sunset then headed to the restaurant Oia Gefsis where our host had reserved us a table right on the edge of the terrace with the best view of the sunset. It was perfect. The food that was served seemed like quite rustic, traditional Greek food, a little bit of a departure from the fresh seafood and meze we had been eating for most of the trip before. It was delicious.

The next day we headed off early on the quads in search of the necessary freddo espresso before circumnavigating around the island. We found a bakery that sold coffee in Fira, the main town, but man, did this disappoint. It was probably the sweetest coffee I have ever tasted – I think there was more sugar than coffee. So after one sip, I gave up and accepted the fact that it would likely be a coffee-free day.

Our first destination of the day was the beaches over near the south western corner of the island. Once we made it there, it was absolutely packed with people. Honestly the beaches in Santorini are nothing to write home about as they are just a rocky shore by the ocean but they do make for some pretty dramatic scenery. Red Beach was a beautiful cove which was fringed with a volcanic red cliff – in some points fairly precarious with recent slips roped off.

Above the beaches was the cute hilltop village offering spectacular views (as does everywhere on the island). We initially tried in vain to get the quad bikes up the hill and fairly quickly realised that was a bad idea as the road became almost vertical and narrow. At the top we found La Ponta, a Venetian tower which held bagpipe concerts. Curious.

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After we gave the quad bikes back around lunchtime, we headed into Oia to explore. This town is very touristy but given its prime location, it is still absolutely stunning. One of the famous things to do in Oia is walk down the hill with the donkeys and jump off the rocks at the base of the cliff. I was not particularly keen once I had seen how rough the volcanic rock was right up to the edge of the water so I just watched while Alex jumped. One the way back up the hill, it is quite common to hire a donkey to take you back up to the top. I felt bad for the poor animals as they were just out in the baking hot sunshine all day so did not partake in that, but I did enjoy the stream of people riding past, a lot of them quite drunk and having a bit too much of a hilarious time with their journey up the hill.

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In the evening we cooked at home so that we got to enjoy more of the spectacular views from our terrace. It was such a nice evening watching the sun set behind the cliffs. We were lucky enough to have a spa pool which we decided to turn into a hot tub for the last night. It was the perfect way to spend the last few hours of holiday.

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We woke up early the next morning to catch the sunrise from the hot tub with a coffee. This was an experience well worth the loss of precious sleep and for anyone who knows me, positive comments about anything occurring before 8.30am are few and far between.

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For the rest of the day until our flight in the afternoon, we mooched around Oia, stopping for lunch at Nico’s Place which came as a recommendation from our Air BnB host as the best souvlaki on the island. It wasn’t quite the same as what we got in Athens but this was more meal sized and still very delicious. It was also great to sit out on the terrace in the shade away from the vast majority of tourists which gravitate towards this little town.

That pretty much concluded our visit. Obviously, leaving Santorini at the end of this dream trip was not easy. This is one of the only places I know for certain I will be making the effort to return to in the future. It is on another level altogether.

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Until next time,
B&A

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