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My Trip to Europe: Santorini

For the complete trip, check out Dublin ->Paris -> Athens -> Rhodes -> Santorini -> Rome -> Dublin return!

On the ferry from Rhodes, I woke around 5 AM to the sunrise and the crew walked around the cabin at 6 AM waking up all the passengers saying they couldn’t lay down. Sarah needless to say, was mad. In another hour or 2, we were docking in Santorini. I had asked our hotel to pick us up from the port, but no one was waving signs with our names when we arrived. Annoyed, we got on the first bus that said it was heading to Fira. We just stared out the windows the entire time we were on this legendary island, wondering if it was as beautiful as everyone said. What we saw from the port to Fira was very similar to most islands (and California/Colorado we thought). Soon we were in Fira’s main square and found our hotel just off of it. After a sit down with our hotel manager who gave us orange juice, and then a map with all the sights pointed out (and free breakfast for our entire stay which was a nominal fee at booking), we were no longer annoyed with no sleep and no ride. So, we left our bags and went off to explore until we could check into our room.

We hadn’t had a good night sleep in 2 days (and I was still sick) though, so we went to the first open restaurant we saw that had any decent prices. It was a cute place called Mylo’s and it was great. It was on the edge of the cliff giving you panoramic views of Fira and the sea.

We both ordered waffles and for both of us, they were the best waffles we had ever had. I still have no idea how simple waffle batter could be so much better than any other waffles I’d ever had. This did explain a lot for us, though.

You could buy plain waffles in vending machine and at kiosks in Paris and all over Greece. We now understood why. After a great breakfast, we now had a little energy and were set to explore Fira and Firostefani until we could check into our room.

church banners outside the church

The streets were deserted and then we realized that it was Sunday morning when we walked by a main church.

So, restaurants and shops were closed except onces in the extremely touristy main alley in Fira mostly.

We just walked along exploring and taking tons of pictures. Shops, home, streets, everything. It was blistering hot though and we were exhausted.

So, at one point, we just sat in the path and leaned against a stone wall, which was ice cold for about 30 minutes, slightly sleeping.

We trekked on checking out things here and there and reached the point of too much difficulty and headed back.

We stopped at shops looking through jars of hand-picked world-famous Santorini tomatoes, jars of wine and pasteli.

We were now physically weak though, so it was time to figure out the maze of streets in order to head back to the hotel.

Steps are numbered from the bottom of the port to the top of Fira’s main square

When we reached our hotel, Villa Toula, we just collapsed. It was finally a good hotel room (unlike Rhodes and Paris).

Our hotel

So, I won the big bed with rock-paper-scissors, we cranked up the AC and really slept for the first time in days. Around 7 PM, we woke up and headed out for dinner.

Sausage, dolmades and stuffed tomatoes hit the spot. We finally felt good and went out shopping and wandering for a little bit before the sunset. Santorini is famous for 2 foods: wine and tomatoes. The wine (particularly Vin Santo) is renowned and much cheaper to buy directly on the island. Tomatoes are famous, because they are one of a kind found only there. Some are sweet, some are savory, but all are delicious. You can even eat the paste the tomatoes are made into straight.

Donkeys to the port

Donkey Owners

I bought some Vin Santo wine, tomatoes and other treats and then we headed to the cliff sides for the sunset.

We walked from one end of Fira to another looking for the best spot to watch the sunset.

We decided to go to Franco’s, a famous American bar that plays only classical, orchestra music. It was a glorious way to watch the first ‘world’s best’ sunset.

Crowd watching the sunset from the street

I ordered some Vin Santo and Sarah got baklava. It really is a mind-blowing sunset. Personally though, I love the miraculous color spectrum of the Colorado skies. But in Fira, you overlook this expansive still sea and you can see all the way to the northern and southern tips of the island.

You feel like you’re at the top of the world. After ambling around the streets at night seeing what everything looked like lit up, we went home. We were still tired, so we had to get plenty of sleep.

The next day, we woke up for our breakfast from the nice hotel owners. Then, we hopped a bus to Ia, the northern tip of the island. Ia is probably what you’ve seen in almost every postcard and photo from Santorini.

We took the back alleys from the bus stop heading toward the very northern tip of the island. We wanted to avoid the touristy stuf for right now and see the old doors, homes and walk through the white winding back alleys.

We reached the point where the streets converged, where people would walk a high point for photo ops.

It’s a high point where an old medieval or Byzantine church (I wasn’t sure) partly destroyed. It was gorgeous.

You could see the colorful Oia to the left and the white and blue to the right.

We were already blazing hot though, so we began the long walk down the steep zig zagged path to Amoudi Bay. We passed an old church and knew there was no way we’d be able to walk back up. We saw a few people trying to along the and they were dying from the heat and the work out.

The bay is gorgeous with little boats all around in the transparent water. Then, there are restaurants that are literally on the edge of the water all the way around.

To the left, if you walk along a dirt path and climb some rocks on a cliff edge, you come to little cove. They are huge igneous rocks, some you can cliff jump from. It’s a perfect spot for swimming and there’s also a little island perfect for cliff jumping.

Only when you swim to the island can you see an old church carved into the rock. It’s beautiful complete with the pebble work on the ground that you see all over Greece.

View of the cliff jumping platform and church from top of Oia

You have to either climb onto the island with sheer force hoisting yourself out of the water or you can climb a rope, which also takes some strength coming out of the water. But once you’re up there, it’s amazing. I checked out the church a bit and then walked the pebble road higher to the diving platform. It had been made into a perfect circle and was lined with worn pebbles. Sarah wouldn’t go cliff jumping, but I was more than willing doing it several times. With my sinuses at their worst, the only thing that helped was the extremely salty sea and jumping into the water just clears them out in the most painful, but thorough way. We just hung out, but Sarah was wanting to leave. She had sunburns from Rhodes and we were now getting weird bubbles under our skin (her more than me) which turns out is sun poisoning. I told her though, the only way we can avoid the sun is to sit in our hotel room. So we would have to tough it out with sunscreen. We walked back to the port of the bay and looked for some food and water, but it was all too expensive. We needed to get to the top, but there was no way we were walking up it.

Houses and narrow streets in Amoudi Bay

Sarah riding the donkey

So, we rode donkeys to the top for €5. It was one thing Sarah had been dying to do. They butted heads and raced each and I was sure one of us was going to hit a wall. We didn’t and it was cool. We were dying for shade though, so we ducked into the first taverna we saw right in front of the most photographed churches on the island.

I ate tiropita and Sarah ate moussaka pie. Then, we just walked through Ia, buying some food, some wine and taking tons of pictures. We got tiropita and spanikopita again and were now ready to explore the town.

This is the most famous part of Santorini and I now see why. It’s gorgeous wide streets on the edge of the cliff make you feel like you’e on top of the world.

You can look down onto perfect blue stillness and on colorful simple buildings (and expensive hotels).

It’s as picturesque as it gets. After some more burning sun and sweat though, we needed more shade than ducking into the store, so we decided to head home.

On the way to the bus though, I bought some moonshine Vin Santo and then we went back home. Walking to our hotel, we always passed a dumpster. There are so many stray cats, that they would all scrounge for food here. It broke my heart, especially when I saw a pregnant cat desperate for food.

So, after we showered and were ready to hang out in Fira again, I couldn’t without getting them some food. There are only mini gas station-like stores with no cat food, though, so I bought a few tins of anchovies and spread them out around the dumpster, so they would all get to eat without fighting. The mother-t0-be got her own can of food. Sarah called me Gretel (from Hansel and Gretel), because I also did the same thing in Rhodes and I’d just throw food on the sides of the road as we walked. She said the animals could follow my trail of food. I was ready to go out now, though.

near Fira’s main square

We walked the edges of Fira that we hadn’t been to yet, where there were no crowds (which was really cool) searching for a place to watch the sunset from.

Church entrance

Greek Orthodox symbol

We also checked out the main church a little bit. There was a service going on though, so we didn’t want to be horribly uncivil and interrupt a church service.

Me watching the sunset

We decided to watch it from one of the famous and busy spots, Fira’s main square.

Palea Kameni and Thirasia

It was beautiful watching the sunset over Thirasia and Palea Kameni.

Then, we headed back to our hotel to get on the computer to let people know we were alive and checked out Greek TV. It was alright, not as good as French TV, and so headed out to enjoy the night.

The next day, we wanted to go to the beaches on the southern part of the island and a winery. We took a bus, hoping to stop at Santo Winery first near Pyrgos. They told us the bus went there, but being the awesome transportation system it is, they didn’t stop there or yell out asking if anyone wanted to stop there. So, we got off at the next stop, Megalochori, hoping to backtrack or find another winery.

It was all too far though, so we just got some awesome gyros and caught the next bus to keep heading south to Akrotiri, the red beach. We passed tiny towns on extremely windy roads as we got close. I loved them, reminded me of Rhodes. At the bus stop, there’s a boat to take to the red beach for €10 per person. People somehow thought this was the only way and shelled out tons of money. We just walked, which was much cooler. We saw old abandoned dock houses, restaurants, shops and some stands as well.

Then, we climbed up a huge hill then down an even steeper, more slippery cliff to the beach. Everything is entirely red due to the volcano. It’s really novel to everyone there, because everyone in Rhodes and Santorini told us to go there. But both of us being from Colorado, it looked exactly like a place we grew up by, Dotsero.

It was nothing new to us, so we just watched people baffled over red rocks and mountains. The water was also dirty, not dirty how I know it in LA, but just filled with dirt and weird straw things I had never seen.

So, we were happy to get going after awhile. After a quick stop to buy new sandals after my favorite ones broke after the hike on the beach, we walked back to the bus stop, got some waffles and just enjoyed how peaceful it was.

It was just a perfect spot, very small, far from everything on the beach in the summer. It was just one of those perfect summer moments. Once on the bus, we made it very clear that we wanted to go to Santo Winery and they were much nicer than the bus workers before stopping for us right in front the winery.

We headed to the deck and got a taster’s package. They gave us 6 wines, cheese and olives and bread to dip into the exquisite tomato paste.

Tomatoes on Santorini are unreal. It was a perfect place to hang out with spectacular views.

We did for awhile, I bought some Vin Santo-filled chocolate for my sister and then we started walking to Pyrgos.

About $10/gallon gas

I wanted to go to the Profitis Ilias Monastery, the highest point on the island, but it was a treacherous hike about 2.5 miles away. So, we decided to walk about half a mile to the bottom of Pyrgos and look around.

And then, we’d climb to the summit of the town, where the remains of a Venetian castle were.

Going through alleys devoid of a grid again, we walked by shops, churches, the town square and more by following directions that were written on the ground to the kastelis.

We also saw a guy riding a donkey to the top of the town. We reached the top where the main church stands with old Byzantine features.

Pyrgos main church

Church door

The square is beautiful but it’s not quite the top.

Steps to the summit of the Venetian castle remains

Looking North on Santorini

You can climb to the very top of the castle remains and see over the island and lean against the top of the church.

Some castle remains

We watched the sunset from here taking tons of photos. It was the most peaceful sunset I had watched, probably because we were sitting alone on top of a medieval Venetian castle in a tiny town, and I like small towns more than anything.

Overlooking some castle remains and Pyrgos

Afterwards, we strolled through the backway tunnels of the Venetian castle trying to find cool stuff and a way down.

Old medieval Venetian tunnels

The sky was a gorgeous purple and we walked back and forth a few times finally realized the bus stop was in the main square, which looked really cool.

We took tons of photos of doors and waited around now sure what time the bus would be coming. It was about 9 PM now and we were still in our bathing suits.

The bus came after awhile and we were back in Fira. We just wanted to take it easy tonight after a long day, so we showered and then walked Fira. We got gyros and some amazing gelato and hoped to find great frappes. I bought my cats some food and we found low-key things to do.

The next day, we woke up early to do any final things we wanted to do. We wanted a different breakfast from the hotel’s toast and odd sandwiches, so we went to a cafe right by our hotel that we passed 100 times.

We got waffles and frappes for the last time. We then went souvenir shopping buying my nephews some toys. I was going over everything I had bought when I realized that I didn’t remember packing my sister’s gift. So, I went back to the hotel, hoped they hadn’t cleaned our room yet, but they had.

So, we walked to get our final bottles of wine to bring home with us and then hung out at the hotel for wi-fi that we weren’t sure when we would have again. Soon we left for the port. And after us (and some Canadians) having to fight with more annoying Europeans about cutting in front of people who had been waiting for an hour, we were on the crammed ferry. It hadn’t been like this on our midnight ferry to Santorini and we had 9 hours of this.

We sat up top, outside for the first portion of the ferry. Once people unloaded at Mykonos, we went inside looking for comfy chairs. We were boxed into a small area though, and some older, rude Greeks tried to usurp what little room we had. We astonished them by telling them no and they hated us for the rest of the ferry trip. We were’t going to be crammed simply have them not hate and also because they thought they could take advantage of young, American girls, though. So, we made friends with a guy next to us, talked about movies and music and soon me and Sarah were sharing her headphones again, making fun of her music and falling asleep. We were going stir crazy on this packed ferry by the time we finally arrived at 2 AM.

We didn’t know how we were getting to our hotel though, because taxis were on strike and we weren’t sure if busses were running at this hour. People were telling us that they weren’t, although I thought they were. Nervous, because our hotel was about 7 miles away, I asked a cop and he wasn’t sure either, but pointed me toward the bus station. We got lost, asked for directions and she said “but it’s closed right now.” We were nervous and had no clue what to do if it was. But none of those people had a clue what they were talking about. Not only were the busses running, they were running double-time in attempts for the city of Athens to accomodate the tourists left stranded. We got a free ride to about 3 blocks from our hotel, where we rushed through the street (didn’t want to take any chances at about 3 AM) to our hotel. We weren’t happy to have such as a long, bad traveling day knowing we would have to do it the next day, too.

We woke up for breakfast but then went back to sleep until we had to check out. I wanted to show Sarah the Acropolis Museum (which was closed the first time we came to the city), but we needed some rest. I was still sick, but sadly couldn’t go swimming to help my sinuses. We packed up, checked out and did the 1 mile walk back to Syntagma Square, which was now peaceful as the police had forcibly removed the protestors who had been camping there for weeks (and accidentally arrested 2 French tourists in the square as well).

Our last frappes

We went back to Athens airport for the last time, getting our final frappes for the trip. Our flight to Rome left around 6 PM and I said goodbye to Greece for the third time, but we were on our way to Rome.

Leaving Greece

For more on cities visited, check out my posts on Dublin, Paris, Athens and Rhodes!

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  • Andrew Darwitan - July 30, 2016 - 10:41 pm

    Such a wonderful place. No matter how many times I look at it, Santorini just brings back so much memory of the beautiful villages and panoramic caldera!ReplyCancel

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