I've been looking forward to visiting Santorini for a long time- ever since it was featured in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (lol). It is just as gorgeous in person as it is on film. The island is huge, and its caldera rim is magnificent. It has several villages and beaches to visit, not to mention its famous white washed houses and blue- topped churches. I stayed in the main town, Fira, which has the good nightlife and tons of shops and restaurants. The bus station there connects you to the good beaches, ruins and other towns.
On my first day I explored Fira in the blazing hot sun. After a couple hours of orienting myself and gazing out at the beautiful views, I was ready for the beach. I had just missed the bus to Red Beach so I decided to check out Kamari, the island's black sand beach. It was an extremely long stretch, full of lounge chairs to be rented, and restaurants and stores on the road along the beach. The best part of the area was the huge hills and the wine roads nearby. Ancient Thira is close to Kamari as well, but the ruins were closed by the time I got there. After sitting on the beach for a while, I decided I really wanted to see Red Beach. I mean, it's red! So I took the bus back to Fira, then to Akrotiri, where Red Beach is located.
It is amaaazing. What is red you ask? The cliffs and rocks. To get to it, you even have to hike a ridge of rocks -but it's totally worth it. The cliffs are unlike anything I've seen before and the water is great. You can tell there were once bars and stores here, because there are caves carved into the hills, but all that's left is broken furniture they were too lazy to carry off. It is a stunning beach with black sand and pebbles. Next door is white beach, where there are white cliffs.
The next day I took a tour that is quite popular in Santorini. First stop is the volcano, which is the youngest island in the Mediterranean, considering it sort of sprung up about 350 years ago. It is an active volcano that has been dormant for about 60 years. The boat docks and you hike up for 30 minutes past black lava rocks to the active crater. It offers an awesome view of Santorini, Palea Kameni and Nea Kameni, but it's steep and hot up there in the morning sun! I was sad that I didn't actually get to see red hot lava floating around but maybe that wouldn't be safe lol. Still it was my first time on a volcano, so it was pretty cool.
Next the ship dropped us off at the other side of the volcano to swim in the sulfur hot springs. It was incredible! When I say sulfur, I mean warm, yellow, slightly smelly (think rotten eggs) water. But omg it was awesome. There was a little cove to swim in and the rocks in the water were turning yellow, like the water. The water was *warm,* even outside of the cove. There was the odd pocket of normal cold-temperature water though, which made it all the more interesting! All because of the volcano.
Next was the island of Thirasia. The towns were at the top of a huge hill and it looked like quite a walk in the sun. I had just climbed a volcano and I was saving the infamous donkey ride for Oia. So I beached it up for like 3 hours. I would have rather had more than 30 minutes at the hot springs but oh well. The beach wasn't really a beach (it was rocky) and my one attempt in the water landed me on my butt lol. So I stuck with sun bathing. On the bright side I got rid of my watch tan!! The major sunglasses tan is still around though :(
Last was a boat ride to Oia, then I was on my own. Oia (pronounced ia) is classic Santorini. It's the picture you always see. Gorgeous. Maybe the most gorgeous, charming place I've seen. I totally fell in love and I was there 4 hours!! First- getting to town from the port. The port that was featured in Sisterhood of the traveling pants!! Think Alexis Bledel swimming at the dock/ port. Anyway, it was time for a donkey ride! Walking up the steps suck. And, well- it's a quintessential experience for just 5 euros. It was fun... the Greek man behind me, egging on the donkeys in Greek to keep going... Trying to hold on and take pictures!! There was a group of 6 of us and my donkey ended up last- I guess we lost the race lol. It was cool!!
Oia. Wow. The view overlooking the port is the best. White-washed houses, more blue-roof churches, glistening water and islands in the distance. There's an old Venetian castle too, and we were told it's the best (free) place to watch the famous sunset. I arrived at 5:30 so I had 3 hours to explore, shop and take a billion pictures before the sun was to set. They have tons of jewelry featuring pieces of lava so I ended up buying earrings with lava included in the design. It was at this shop where I asked about places where they filmed 'Sisterhood of the traveling pants' (Lol I love the movie! Kate, who I met in Mykonos, agrees that such a movie is where you get your idea of what Greece is like - Oh and Mama Mia!) The shop owner said they definitely filmed in the port and at a house further down the pedestrian street, but that some was not filmed in Oia and possibly not in Santorini. Hmm.
Aanyway, lots of cute shops and touristy things. Tons of amazing looking hotels and resorts too! We are talking pools on the caldera's edge, traditional houses with blue shutters etc. It looked blissful and i will be staying at one of these establishments when I come back in 2-4 years lol. Otherwise there were lots of churches, including one being set up for a wedding. I think they got married at sunset.
The sunset. Oia's is famous. Naturally I got to the castle an hour early, with 30 other people, to watch it and it only got busier. By 8:30 there were groups of people all over the area above the port, watching the spectacle. It was gorgeous! The sun, round and orange, slowly disappearing, while the islands in the distance were illuminated. People clapped after the sun disappeared lol. It was a good show. Thanks, mother nature!
The bus ride back to Fira was gorgeous too, as nighttime approached. Of course there were also some fireworks along the way. Random!
I had such a good time that I decided to hang around the next morning at my hostel's pool and take a cab to the airport. Otherwise I would of had to take an early bus and wait around. It's tough leaving paradise! Clear blue skies, amazing beaches and pools... I will miss Greece. I didn't have enough time there. But it is back to city life and sight-seeing! The trip has gone so fast thus far and I'm afraid the trend will continue. I have a few stops in Eastern Europe, then it's time for Germany, the UK and Ireland!
I'm having such an amazing time! I hope the blog is doing it justice.