Today I’m up early and ready to join the tour I booked to explore a few cool places on the island of Santorini. I don’t have time for breakfast so I stop at this amazing bakery on the main road that’s always busy. I head over to the meeting point at a church up the road, and the bus is late to pick me up. I’m getting nervous, but I figure I’ll wait it out because sometimes this can happen. And after waiting over an hour, my worst nightmare comes true. No one is coming to pick me up! Every time I book one of these tours, I always worry that this will happen and it finally did. I head back into Fira where the tour company office is located. I explain to them what happened, and I get on the phone with a guy (who is possibly the tour leader? I have no idea!). Regardless, he is EXTREMELY rude, basically giving me shit for not being at the pickup point. Turns out, I was sent 2 different pickup points. I booked the tour through a third party, Get Your Guide. They were sending me emails leading up to the date to meet at the church. The actual tour company had sent me a different pickup location 2 months prior and I just figured I was to go with the most recent info from GYG. Anyways, it turns into a yelling match on the phone with this rude dude and he ends up offering me a spot on the tour for the following day. I already have another tour booked, so I ask for a refund. Again, he’s yelling at me saying they don’t give refunds for no shows. The whole experience is stressful and frustrating. It’s not like I wanted to miss this tour! I immediately contact GYG and they have no problem issuing me a refund. For reference, the local tour company is Kamari Tours. Avoid them if you can!
I figure I can probably recreate some of the itinerary of that tour on my own, since I’m now more comfortable with getting around Santorini. I take the bus to the southwest part of the island, and my first stop is the Red Beach.
The sand is made of black and red pulverized volcanic rock. The path down to the beach is steep and rocky and I don’t trust my skills so I admire it from above.
Next, I head over to the museum of the prehistoric city of Akrotiri. It was a small fishing and farming village, but flourished with trade from nearby Crete and Cyprus. A massive volcanic eruption in the 16th century BC buried this settlement in volcanic ash, which left most of the remains well preserved. When excavations started in the late 1800’s, they discovered frescoes, pottery, furniture, 3-storey buildings and advanced drainage systems.
Most of the artifacts have been moved to the Museum of Prehistoric Thera. And what’s really interesting about this site…they found no uninterred human remains. Which means there was an evacuation of the village before the eruption. How long before is not known. Today they have built a covered structure around the site, and you can comfortably wander around the village on the elevated pathways and check out this really cool archaeological wonder.
I get back on the bus for a short ride to a small town called Megalochori. It’s a typical village with winding alleys, whitewashed houses and churches.
There is not a lot to do here and I try to find a place to sit and have a coffee but none of the places I check out are serving decaf. Haha time to move on. I find a cafe on the road outside of town that makes me the sweetest decaf freddo Cappuccino I’ve ever tasted. And it was perfect!
I’m not sure what else to do around here so I do a quick google search and I’m a short walk away from this thing they call the Heart of Santorini. I head over; it’s down a random dirt path that leads to a cliff and a sign pointing down. Great! As I step around all the tiny lizards flying out under my feet, I take the steep rocky path down to this “heart”, going very slowly and carefully. So…..it’s a naturally carved heart shaped hole in a rock!
And ok, it’s pretty cool and you can snap some neat pics here.
It’s also SUPER windy.
If you walk a bit father down the dodgy path, you can visit the Agios Nikolaos church and I wish I could do it but I’m just not feeling confident. I can see it from up here though.
I head back to the main road and towards the bus stop and I see a sign for Gavalas Winery…….hmmm wine not?
It’s a small family run operation, with 5 generations of winemaking!
I stroll in and there are a couple of group tours in the rooms, but I am still able to score a seat to try a glass of Aidani wine. With some bread and cheese to nibble on! The atmosphere is warm and welcoming so it’s worth a visit.
With my slight wine buzz I head back to the main road; my map says that Santo Wines Winery is close so instead of waiting for a bus, I walk there! It only takes 20 minutes but there are no sidewalks so I have to be careful.
Santo Wines is much bigger and fancier and the views out into the caldera are just stunning.
It’s a great place to score a table for dinner and wine, watching the sunset.
I try a glass of sweet Vinsanto, with some chocolate to nibble on. So good.
They also have an amazing gift shop but it’s a little pricey for me. I take the bus back to Fira and by this time I’m super hungry since I didn’t have lunch. I go back to Lucky’s souvlaki and grab a takeaway chicken souvlaki and crash at the hotel for the evening. Despite the frustrating start to the day, it all turned out perfectly.
The next morning I am up early for another day tour, and this time I make sure I have the pickup location correct. Haha don’t want another fiasco like yesterday. The bus winds down the cliffs to the water because today I am going on a caldera boat cruise.
As I board the large boat, it’s rocking back and forth and I’m a little worried I might feel seasick and I’m not prepared. When we get going, the ride is smooth so that’s a relief! There are a lot of people on the boat today, but no one with whom I really want to talk to so it’ll be a solo day. The views of Santorini from the boat are pretty cool.
We arrive at Nea Kameni, an active but sleeping volcano.
It’s a bit of a steep climb with lots of loose volcanic rocks so I am extra careful.
There is no shade, so it’s extra hot and necessary to stay hydrated .
The guide takes us around and explains some history and science stuff regarding volcanoes, as we climb closer to the top of the crater.
It’s a massive area and hard to describe so here’s some pics.
We have a bit of free time to explore and snap some pics but I’m worried about getting back to the boat on time because I need to go slow to get down. Don’t want to fall off the volcano! I go slow and focus extra hard not to wipe out, and then successfully make it back to the boat.
The next stop is a swim stop, where you can jump or climb off the boat to swim in the hot springs.
I decide to go for a swim but the warm waters are too far away from the boat for me to comfortably swim without drowning. Haha. Even though I love the water, deep water makes me a bit panicky.
Back on the boat again for a short ride over to the neighboring island of Therasia.
Arriving at it’s shores, there are many shops and restaurants as well as a few shallow but rocky spots to go for a swim. There is a staircase leading to the top of the island and the town, but I’m not up for doing that in this heat. There’s like 200 steps. Haha
I sit down at a restaurant called Labros, and order a kalamari souvlaki for lunch.
It is soooo good. I have a few cats hanging around so I share some of my fries of course! We have a couple hours here to relax and look around.
Then it’s back on the boat for more amazing views of Santorini as we head back to the port.
It is my last night here, so I catch the sunset from the cliffs of Fira and it’s beautiful.
I grab a takeaway wine from Boozery because wine in a plastic wine glass is a perfect way to end the night.
I stop at a small restaurant called Obelix and order the tomato fritters. I’ve been wanting to try them, but I end up not liking them. Oh well. Haha
I have a relaxing evening back at the hotel and get a good nights sleep before the last stop on my Greece itinerary…Mykonos!