€ = Euros
If you dream about turquoise waters, island life, beautiful whites homes with painted blue rounded roofs, you’re probably thinking of visiting Santorini, Greece. If it’s on your bucket list go now. The photos on the internet entice you enough to visit, but seeing the island first hand is magical.
For those of you that love boats, and the fresh smell of the sea I highly recommend taking a ferry ride from Athens. You’ll need to take a metro from Athens to Piraeus to catch the ferry. Its a nine hour ferry boat ride, so bring a book, an mp3, and some sunscreen. There are several classes of travel available on the boat. We got seats the second class seats, which were uncomfortable, old, smelly, reclining chairs that you might find at your grandparents home. We took the Blue Star Ferry, and paid 45€ a piece. We wound up sitting outside on the deck of the boat for the full-time. For those of you not interested in taking a nine hour ferry boat ride, you can take plane for around $54 USD. The trade off though is having to go back to the Athens airport, and going throgh security. It only takes an hour by plane.
We spent the first two days at the Reverie Hotel. The owner, George, met us at the ferry terminal and drove us to the hotel. Through broken English he pointed out some attractions. This was our most expensive part of Santorini, costing us around $135 p/ night. The accommodations were excellent though. Breakfast included eggs, bread, and Greek yogurt for 8€, $8.50 USD. They also make two homemade liqueurs. One is Rose, the other is Rakomelo. We preferred the latter as it was a bit spicer, and the rose was a little too soapy tasting for us. They are both complimentary with the rooms. Kelly was the front desk girl that helped us a lot when we arrived. She’s friendly, helpful, knowledgeable, and speaks perfect English.
The first thing we did the day after we arrived was hiking the trail between Fia, and Oia (prounced E-yah) for our anniversary. The path starts off easy enough. There is a foot path that you can start from almost anywhere near the coast of the shore. Walk up the cobblestone streets, winding around homes, and hotels painted white and blue contrasting the homes with the sea. The cobblestone path eventually gives way to dirt, and gravel. There is no shade, and is hot. If possible start early, take sunscreen with you, wear a hat, and take plenty of water. The trail is moderately difficult for avid hikers. The time it takes to travel the distance is 2.5 hours, however, you’ll want to give yourself at least four to stop and take photos along the way. Its 11km and not for anyone out of shape, or with any serious health concerns. After arriving in Oia we walked around the town, stopping for lunch then catching a bus back to Fia for 1,8€. $2USD.
We stayed the rest of out time in Santorini at the Argonnaftes Bed and Breakfast. Its about a 500 meter walk from the Reverie Hotel. When you walk up to the entrance you’ll feel like you’re entering an eccentric artist community. Our host, Efie (pronounced Eff-ie) is the daughter of the bed and breakfast. She’s smart, quick on her feet, and gave us more points of interests to explore. It was hard going from a luxury hotel to a less comforting bed, but the room was only 75€ p/ night, and still was close to all attractions. Their continental breakfast was 7€, and didn’t include egg or Turkish coffee. They still had that relishing Greek yogurt, and fresh baked bread with filtered coffee.
Akrotori Ruins are interesting, but not a must do on Santorini. Especially if you’ve already done Athens. It’s 2€ and a half hour bus ride. Leave early for Akrotori to skip the long lines as the days goes on, and the tour buses come through. Tickets for entrance fee is 12€. Its an indoor excavation site where you’ll find more ancient cities, and pottery. At one time during its civilization, it had been destroyed by a major olcanic explosion. You can hire a guide for yourself at 14€, on top of the entrance fee, or take your time walking around the ruins reading all of historical information. If you’re not interested in the ruins, the red sand beach is right around the corner. We didn’t visit the beaches as they were still cold for our Hawaiian blood.
Pyrgos is a must see if you go to Santorini. Its up higher in the mountains, just as picturesque as Fia or Oia, and a lot quieter. It seems like the touists haven’t quite found this town yet which makes it better for you. We took the bus from Akrotini to Pyrgos, which was another 2€ a piece. Instead of dropping us off at the town village, we were dropped off at a gas station with a 20 minute walk a head of us. As we worked our way to the Castle, we stopped for lunch at Rosemary Restaurant. Greek food is amazing. We had the tsuki and tomato balls. Just a short climb up from the restaurant you’ll find the Castle. You can pay to enter the Cathedral about 2€ a piece, or walk around the outside. While most of the Castle is shut down, I did meet a man who lives in the ruins. He invited me in to take a look at his apartment. Even though it probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do, I poked my head inside for just a moment or two. It was surprisingly modern with low ceilings.
As we were leaning Pyrgos for the famous Santorini Winery, we stumbled upon a small shop full of evil eyes and hamsa’s. We struck up a lovely conversation with Athina, the shop owner. We spoke about Hawaii, marriage, her divorce everything. I absolutely loved her energy, and begged to take her photo for this blog. She reluctantly agreed.
Our final stop that day was to the Santorini Winery. Santorini’s best known for its wine, and sunset over the caldera. They had three wine samplers. 6 glasses of wine for 12€. 12 glasses of wine for 23€, or 18 glasses of wine for 32€. Naturally we choose the 18 glasses, and a cheese platter for 23€ In hindsight, 18 glasses of wine may have been too much, but when you have three hours until sunset you might as well enjoy yourself. Wine glasses were not full glasses and only 40 millimeters. Still enough to give you a headache the next morning. Taking a bus back to Fia after sunset is impossible as we learned the hard way. Suck up 15€ to catch a cab, and bring a windbreaker.
We spent the last day in Santorini wandering the market places, trying to walk off a hangover from the Winery the night before. What better way to do that than to stop at a pub to sample some local beer called “Crazy Donkey”, as donkeys are a way of transportation here.
*** Speaking of transportation, car rentals, ATV and moped rentals are available in Santorini, but they are very dangerous to drive. Ask any of the locals here, and they’ll tell you to stick to the bus. Driving in Santorini is a lot like Southeast Asia. There’s no order and pure chaos.