Groovy in Greece – Santorini Day 1 & 2

Today I’m bidding farewell to Crete, and it’s way too early to find anything open for breakfast. Also, I’m a little concerned about seasickness so a full belly wouldn’t be fun at all. I walk down to the ferry port from the hotel and arrive early for my 8am departure for Santorini. I drag my suitcase up the ramp onto the boat, and there is a specific area to leave your luggage. The ferry will make multiple stops, so it’s best to follow this guideline and make a mental note where you leave your bags. I could take my bag up into the seating area but it’s too hard to carry it up the steps and no one else is doing that, so……

The ride takes around 2 hours, and it starts out choppy and I’m not looking forward to the ride but luckily it isn’t too bad. Because the waters in the Aegean Sea can be rough, ferries are often cancelled or delayed which isn’t a fun thing to experience while on holidays in Greece. As we pull into the port of Santorini, I run down to beat the crowds and grab my bag as I get near the front to disembark.

Once I arrive, I don’t really know where I’m going but it’s easy enough to figure out. The local transport consists of large coach buses, and I look for one marked Fira- the town I’ll be staying in. It’s way cheaper than taking a taxi. Santorini is a very tall rocky island, so the ride up to town is a narrow windy one and it amazes me how these huge buses can navigate the roads.

The main bus station on the island is in Fira (which makes it a good reason to stay here), and I use my GPS to locate my hotel which is only a 10 min walk downhill from the station. I roll up to Villa Gardens, and I’m able to check in early.

The room is spacious with a large balcony.

Only shitty part is I have to haul my luggage up a flight of stairs; the hotel guy is nice enough to help out. Phew!

Room with a view

At this point I’m so hungry so I find a spot just up the road called Magma City café for brunch. I order a giant omelette and my daily freddo cappuccino. I don’t have anything planned for today, so I just wander around the small narrow streets of Fira for a couple hours. Santorini is part of an island group that is a caldera, formed after a large volcanic eruption. The island is still considered to be an active dormant volcano. In the 17th century, the Minoan eruption destroyed a large part of the island and is said to have inspired the legend of Atlantis (you can visit the Lost Atlantis Experience Museum for an interesting display of that myth). Santorini is a major tourist hotspot but despite the crowds, I think it’s a place you need to visit at least once on your lifetime. The scenery is breathtaking, with views upon views, pretty little whitewashed villages, gorgeous sunsets. I start my exploration at the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral; it has a cool bell tower and many beautiful frescoes inside.

I continue into the maze of pedestrian only streets, and have a look in a few of the shops. It’s always busy here in the summer; the cruise ships dock for the day and bring an excess of crowds to the towns. I get as far as the cable car (a popular way to get from the cruise port) and if I keep walking, I’ll be headed towards the next town – that’s a trek I’m going to do tomorrow.

For now, I’m super ridiculously hot and tired so I head back to the hotel to cool down and have a nap. Everything is soo expensive here, but tonight I’m going to hit a nicer restaurant for dinner. There’s an awesome selection of places on the edge of the cliffs that provide the amazing views but I’m not that rich. Haha. I pick a place called Elia Tavern, a multi level restaurant with a garden rooftop.

The service here is amazing; the guys are so attentive and sweet. I am dying to try the famous Santorini salad, and it does not disappoint. Probably the best salad I’ve had on this trip.

It features the also famous Santorini cherry tomatoes, cucumber, capers and caper leaves, and fresh kefalotyri cheese. Drizzled with olive oil and oregano. It is so damn fresh and tasty; I have never tried capers before and now I love them (the leaves are also really yummy). There’s not much I feel like doing tonight, so I head back to the hotel for an early night.

Sunrise from the hotel

This morning I decide to take a different route up to town that involves going through a maze of houses and small hotels.

There are signs pointing the way, but I also want to challenge myself (this becomes a fun game as I take this route for the rest of my time in Santorini – I only mess it up once! Haha). I find a cute little place for breakfast called To steki located close to the main square in Fira. I have a big chocolate crepe and freddo cappuccino; the staff is really nice here and the pricing and portions are decent.

I head back into town through the narrow streets to the path along the rocky cliffs for my hike to Imerovigli. It is a somewhat challenging uphill hike, and the insane heat makes it less bearable. But it’s totally worth it because the views are amazing. I’m in no rush so I take my time, and there are some shade stops along the way thank god.

Looking back at Fira
I’m headed to that village, Imerovigli

I walk by the famous Three Bells of Fira. Pretty!

I pass through the town of Firostefani, making a quick water stop. I finally arrive in Imerovigli and the plan was to stay here for lunch but I’m not really hungry yet.

I stop to have a look at Skaros Rock, and I want to hike out to it but come on, I will die in this heat!

There are ancient ruins of an old Venetian fortress on the rock, so that’s neat. I decide that this is as far was I will go and turn around to head back to Fira. It’s much easier now, walking downhill!

I get back to the central bus station and hop on a bus over to the other side of the island to a town called Perissa. This side of the island is flat as opposed to the rocky cliffs on the opposite side. This means I’m headed to the beach! While on the bus, I make friends with some fellow Canadians (two couples) from Ontario. They are also headed for the beach so we end up renting umbrellas next to each other.

It’s only 10 euro to rent a 2 person umbrella with chairs so that is totally reasonable. We are sitting in front of a restaurant called A for Akteon and they provide us with food and drinks.

Perissa Beach is a black lava sand beach, made that way because of the island’s volcanic activity. What I was not expecting……the sand is sooooooo hot oh my god. I make the short walk from my chair to the water for a swim and it is almost unbearable. And then your feet sink in to the sand and it’s like walking in hot lava. Haha.

I stay for a couple hours and catch the bus back to Fira. I had considered renting a quad bike or a car for a few days but the bus system here is pretty efficient and more cost effective. The guy at my hotel pointed out a broken gate next to the property, the result of a quad bike crash. Nothing serious, but he recommended not renting one. Haha. Taking the bus/walking everywhere is much cheaper and much less stressful.

I relax for a bit at the hotel and refresh and get ready for my evening in Oia, a picturesque village famous for its sunset views. The bus station is complete chaos – everyone wants to get to Oia, no one knows which bus to take, people are aggressive to get on a bus. To get there and get a viewing spot, it’s a good idea to leave a few hours before sunset. As much as this whole process is extremely annoying, it’s one of those things that you just have to do. And really, the town is gorgeous.

One of my favorite pics I took here!

I wander and have a look around and people are already picking their prime spots for sunset watching. It’s just nuts. I find my spot, and settle in and wait for an hour for the sunset.

Kind of boring except for the excitement of a few people trying to hijack our spot and one guy giving them shit and telling them to get lost. Haha. The sun finally sets at 7:30pm, and yeah, it’s pretty spectacular.

After that, it’s the big rush back to the bus station and parking lots.

I know it’ll be a pricey dinner if I stay here, so I manage to get through the crowds and get on one of the first buses back to Fira . There are stairs from the cliffs of Oia to Amoudi Bay, down by the water. I don’t have time to do this tonight, but it’s supposed to be a cool little place to grab a bite to eat or go for a swim. I haven’t had dinner yet, and I’m looking forward to trying Lucky’s Souvlaki, located in the main square in Fira. It’s cheap, and tastes amazing. It’s always busy here too; it takes close to half an hour to order and get my food. Totally worth it. I grab a beer from one of the shops and have my dinner back at the hotel.

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