Santorini

June 2016

I flew with RYANAIR from Athens to Santorini. There are several other flight and ferry options, but given that I only had a few days, I didn’t want to spend two on a ferry, and I wanted a full day on the mainland so that I could do a day trip to Delphi. That made RYANAIR my best choice.

My hotel was in Kamari, known for the Black Beach. Despite being close to the airport, there are no direct buses. Since I arrived after midnight, a taxi was my only choice. The taxis in Santorini have fixed prices, which are fixed pretty high… Definitely use the local buses when you can.

I stayed at the Hippocampus Hotel. It was FANTASTIC. Close to the beach, family run, beautiful pool, and a delicious breakfast. I definitely recommend it.

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I had three full days in Santorini. Day 1 was a lazy day. I lounged around in Kamari and then explored Fira in the evening. Kamari is very laid back.

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As Fira is the capital, it is more lively. More people, more shopping, and a better view.

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The Fira/Oia side gets the sunset, which makes them very crowded areas during the evening. Those are also the cities where you will see the famous white buildings on the cliffs and the view of the volcano in the sea.

You can do a tour to the volcano and Thirasia for about 35 Euros (including hotel pick-up and donkey ride). I didn’t do it simply because I visited the volcano in Pompeii. That said, if you have three full days like I did, I think you have plenty of time to do the tour and not feel rushed. You’ll still have time to explore the towns and relax by the water.

There are options to watch the sunset on the boat as well. I did not have sunset luck in Santorini. There weren’t the color changes in the sky I had expected, but it did warm up the color of the buildings. Anyway, based on my experience, I would save the money and find a spot in Fira or Oia to enjoy the view on your own.

Day 2 included a trip to the Red Beach and an evening in Oia.

You’ll take the bus from Fira in the direction of the Akrotiri Ruins.

Side Note: The drive towards Akrotiri is BEAUTIFUL. Great reason to rent an ATV to explore the island on your own.

I didn’t visit the ruins, but that’s the best stop to get off the bus for the beach. The Red Beach bus stop is just another 20 seconds down the hill, but that will lead you to walk not-so-easily along the water before taking you back up some stairs to a main road. If you get off the bus at the ruins, you’ll just walk along the main road all the way to the beach.

Hungry? There are lots of fish restaurants along the way.

The best part of the Red Beach is the view from above. DSC_0731.jpg

The beach itself is more black sand than red sand, but there are red specks. It is recommended to visit in the morning. Be mindful that there is almost no shade. The water is also not as clear or clean as I had expected from the view. It may have been further out, or if I’d visited earlier in the morning. Wear good shoes for walking as the trek down to the beach is a bit loose with little to nothing to grip. Also, while the beach may be sandy, it is rocky when you enter the water. It is best to wear water shoes. The Black Beach in Kamari is all pebbles, so water shoes are a must there as well.

As every tourist does, I tried to chase the sunset in Oia that evening. As the sun went down, the donkeys made their way back up the path and through the town. In the distance, the buildings of Fira look like snow on a mountain.

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Up until this point I kept thinking, “Where is that postcard image? Where are the blue roofs and the windmills in the sunset?” Fellow bus riders were wondering the same thing! The answer? Oia. There are a couple churches with blue roofs sprinkled around the island, but if you want to see THE PICTURE, you need to go to Oia. Even then, you need to wander down through the steps, nearer the bus station than the windmills. It certainly isn’t obvious and you won’t see it from the main street.

My last day was another lazy day. I swam at the Black Beach, swam in the hotel pool, and went out for a tasty fish dinner in Kamari. Craving a delicious gyro and a salad for lunch? Definitely stop at George 2.

Now. Is Santorini all it is cracked up to be?

My time in Santorini made me feel very thankful for all the beautiful places that I have visited in the last year. I love that nearly everything is a pure white, and the cliffs are impressive. It is beautiful and definitely has charm, but it also a tourist vibe. It’s a vacation destination, even for the Greeks, so everything is directed towards tourism.

Southern Turkey has much prettier water. Ending my school year with a Blue Cruise in Southern Turkey last year was more enjoyable (and a LOT cheaper) than ending this year with Santorini. I’m glad I went to Santorini, and I think everyone should for about two or three days, but I don’t feel an urgent need to return.

Next stop: Hawaii… Following a treacherous four-day journey…

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