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Published: July 22nd 2013
I’ve dreamed of going to Santorini ever since I learned it existed. I remember seeing pictures of the blue dome churches with the ocean behind them on the walls of hotels and restaurant bathrooms in Los Angeles. In 2003 I had the opportunity to go while studying abroad but I didn’t see if fit to go without a partner. Well that was a long time ago. The man and the time have arrived. We weren't on our honeymoon but it seemed like everyone else there was and it was easy to see why.
We took a speed boat that got us from Iraklion to Fira in about two hours. It was 56 euro but there were no other options. The slow ferry is only on Sunday. Along our tour through the Cyclades we tried to buy our ferry tickets one or two days ahead of time for piece of mind. We saw lots of people buying them before getting on the boat. It was a fairly easy system to use on the fly. My only complaint is the expense.
When we approached the port on Santorini I could already tell we were in for a
treat. Looking up the steep black cliffs at the small white town on top like left over snow from winter, I wondered how on earth we were going to get up there. During our stay on the island we went up and down the switchback road several times and every time I was in awe of the drivers maneuvering. We met Irini, the proprietor of Nemisis Hotel, in the lobby around 12:30pm and she helped us plan our stay.
By 2pm we were getting on an ATV to tour the island. We took advantage of every minute on Santorini. First we took a tour of the beaches on the south side of the island which Irini told us would be calmer. As we rode with the wind in our faces we were struck by how lucky we were to be in such a beautiful place. In every direction we saw water, orchards, fields and lots of churches all white and blue just like in the pictures. Our sense of adventure was at its peak. It seemed like our vacation was just getting better and better.
We visited three different beaches: Parissa, Eros and the lighthouse. At
the first two beaches we parked our ATV, jumped in the water and soaked in the sun and view on the black sand beach. On the way to the lighthouse we made a wrong turn and ended up on a narrowing white street going up hill. A local signaled to us to turn around but the alley was so narrow, turning around seemed impossible. We backed into a small inlet and eventually turned around. I snapped as many pictures as I could of the tiny white houses all around us all with the quintessential blue shutters. Luckily my seat had a backrest and handle so I could use one hand to snap pictures.
After the lighthouse we raced back to make it to the old church in Fira for the sunset. Irini told us where to get Souvlaki’s (Gyro Pitas) and we were on our way. Irini was like our Theo on Santorini. The sunset from the old church not only took my breath away it took my speech away too. I couldn't say anything for a while. The white stone layered buildings peering over the cliff on volcanic rock and the two islands in front of
us, one being the volcano that created all of it, blessed us with a sunset that I will never forget. Watching the sunset is a full-scale activity on Santorini. Everyone plans out where they are going to watch it.
Food in Santorini runs the gamete from fancy 5 star dinner on the caldera at 80 euros a plate to a quick grab and go Souvlaki for 5 euros. I can't tell you how good the fancy dinners were because we didn't have any but the Souvlaki's were delicious. On Crete everyone told us that food and water would be way over priced on Santorini. That was not our experience. There is a Carrefour market in town and it has great prices. As long as you avoid the fancy restaurants Santorini is quite affordable, unlike Mykonos but I'll get to that later.
In the morning we headed out on our ATV to explore the northern part of the island. There were nice views and lots more churches along the way but all the beaches were rocky and the ocean was rough. After checking out the beautiful town of Oi, which also had a dramatic drop off, we
decided to go to Kamari beach. It was all the way across the island but only took us 25 minutes to get to. Kamari was a sandy beach with little wind and perfect for swimming. We swam out to some rocks and picked one to jump from. On our way back to town to return our ATV and prepare for a sailing trip we stopped to get gas. It was super cheap. Apparently ATV’s get great mileage.
Our sailing trip on Afrodite was perfect from start to finish. We sailed to the old port, then to the volcano to hike to the top, then onto the hot springs for a swim. Gabriel did a back flip off of the ship. The ocean water mixing with the thermal pools made the water more of a warm springs but it was still very relaxing and beautiful nonetheless. We docked at Thirassia for a very nice dinner then sailed out to the open sea for the sunset. It was a gorgeous sunset.
We got back to Nemisis just in time for a night on the town. After a quick cheers on our balcony with the last glasses
of our Cretan wine, we headed into the maze of well lit white alleyways looking for a jazz bar that Irini told us to go to. We walked into the tiny bar and checked the drink prices. Since they were a little our of our backpacker budget we decided to keep moving. We visited several tiny bars including a Scottish bar, an Irish bar, a Town Club (my least favorite) and a place called Two brothers where we danced up a storm. It was so much fun!
We were a little tired and hung-over the next day but nothing could stop us from taking in the awe-inspiring view from the caldera one last time at a café. It had become our tradition to buy a bottle of wine from each island and drink it on the next so we stopped in a mom and pop wine shop and bought some Santorini Rosea. It was the best wine I’ve ever had which I think is saying a lot for someone from California. The son of the wine maker who sold us the wine told us we could bring the bottle back and refill it from the barrel. Too
bad we were soon to be on a ferry to Naxos
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