Santorini

 

Cruising in the caldera, Santorini

Cruising in the caldera, Santorini

The Greek Islands is where Greece really comes into its own. The Greek flag; the simple striped and cross design of spectrum blue and pure white, all seems to make perfect sense when you are standing dumbstruck on Santorini, looking over the crystal clear waters and the blindingly flawless houses.

 

Oia, Santorini

Oia, Santorini

Santorini is the result of an ancient super volcano which spewed molten lava out in a ring, before falling dormant and allowing the waves of the Mediterranean Sea to fill in the crater, leaving a shattered ring of islands where the mountain’s rim once stood. The inside of a volcano’s crater is known as a caldera, and Santorini’s caldera is home to all of those picture postcard shots you’ve seen in travelogues.

 

Pool at Katikies, Santorini

Pool at Katikies, Santorini

Santorini, and the coastal towns which face the caldera really is the place of your dreams. We landed at Santorini’s smallish airport one morning, and were immediately whisked away by our driver to the accommodation at Oia (pronounced ee-ah). Oia is the northernmost town on Santorini, and affords spectacular views of the sunset across the placid Mediterranean waters.

 

Santorini streets

Santorini streets

Santorini is many things to many people – for some, it is a place to do things, for others, a place to relax. It’s an eating destination (fresh island produce is delicious), an art destination (private galleries line the streets), a photographer’s paradise, a place to be pampered, and above all, a place to go and simply do nothing but sit on your private balcony of a morning and read a book in paradise.

 

Church on Santorini

Church on Santorini

Our first day in Santorini was spent perusing the shops and chilling in the swimming pool, where I got some really, really great photos taken (apparently three months in Pakistan followed by a sojourn in the Greek Islands suits me). That night we went out for a seafood dinner. Greek food is right up my alley – salty and savoury, with just enough sweet dishes to round it out. We feasted on a spinach pie, haloumi (a local cheese), olives, and saganaki prawns (shrimp cooked in a gravy of tomato and pan-fried cheese). Breakfasts on Santorini were also a treat – generous cuts of succulent summer fruits, thick, creamy yogurt, thyme and orange blossom honey, ice cold coffee frappes… all served on our balcony at the Atrina Traditional Houses overlooking the ocean; heaven!

 

Oia, Santorini

Oia, Santorini

The next day we took a bus ride into Fira, the main town on the island, to walk around and take some pictures. Fira is large, but not overbig – it’s still a lovely, if busy place to see. We jumped on a cable car which belted down the side of the caldera to the water’s edge below, and then realised that the queue to come back up on the cable car was ridiculously lengthy. After some discussion, we realised that the most entertaining (if not the most logical) way to get back up the mountain would be to hire a donkey each. The donkeys looked more like horses, but either way they hauled our asses up the mountain, bruising one of my friends in the process. Hysterics done with, we sat down to frozen yogurt before taking the bus to Kamari, one of Santorini’s black beaches.

 

Sunset at Oia, Santorini

Sunset at Oia, Santorini

The local bus system on Santorini is very user-friendly, and cheap too – just E1.60 per person to get between towns. Kamari, on the southern end of Santorini near the airport, is a bend of black lava pebbles and rocks which make an intriguing (if not totally comfortable) alternative to a regular beach. The contrast of the black beach, the brown barren headland and the flawless blue sky made for a scene that photos just do justice to. That night, it was time for a gyros, a Greek kebab, loaded with salad, roasted chicken, yogurt and salty hot chips – good bad comfort food.

 

Sunset at Oia, Santorini

Sunset at Oia, Santorini

Our last day in Santorini was a perfect canopy of blue, delightful sailing weather, and a perfect way to round out our time in this lovely country. Mid-afternoon we set out with Santorini Sailing’s catamaran and around ten other travellers for a special cruise around the caldera, stopping off for swimming at a red sand beach (also a consequence of volcanic deposits), and then later off an island in the centre of the island ring. Back on the boat, we were treated to a perfect barbecue dinner, before dipping in the ocean one more time at a spot where the undersea volcano heats up the water to a bath-like temperature.

 

Cruising around Santorini

Cruising around Santorini

The catamaran eventually sailed back towards the port, but hung out off the island for a while to allow us to take in the sunset. The golden skies were reflected in the placid water, lending it a luxurious milky-golden sheen. The picture postcard blue of the Greek flag, the deep mysterious water and the endless sky gave way to a deeper indigo. Arriving back in Oia that night, the moon rose into the magical atmosphere over the chalky white and blue domes of the town’s churches, preparing us for another nocturn where we dream of the perfection of Santorini.

Oia, Santorini

Oia, Santorini

 

Essential Stats

Culture shock: 4/10

Language difficulty: 2/10

Quality of food: 7/10

Cost: 9/10

Physical demand: 3/10

Advice and warnings

Santorini is a safe place to be, and the biggest threat to your health and safety is sunburn. Be sure to pack sunglasses, as the white buildings can be blinding in the sunlight. As always, use common sense, and be aware of pickpockets in crowded places like bus stations.

Check Smart Traveller or the British Foreign Office for more comprehensive warnings.

Visas

Most Australians may enter Greece without the need for a visa, but Pakistanis and Indians must apply for a Schengen visa, which grants entry to several European countries which are part of the Schengen agreement. Pakistanis must pay 180  – the process takes around one month. Applications in India cost €60, and take less than 15 business days to process. Apply through your nearest Greek diplomatic mission (IslamabadIndia VFS Service).

Getting there and around

Emirates flies to Athens via Dubai daily.

Melbourne (from $1,660 return)

Lahore (from PKR 99,491 return)

Sydney (from $1,775 return)

Chennai (from INR 56,533 return)

From Athens, you can fly Aegean Airlines to Santorini from 188 return in high season, and much less in winter. Alternatively, Blue Star Ferries takes 8 hours and costs €37.50 each way.

Accommodation

We stayed at the delightful (but not exactly cheap) Atrina Traditional Houses. If you’re looking for something a bit easier on the wallet, there are plenty of great budget and economy options available through HostelWorld.com.

Comments (10)

  • Wajid Ali Reply

    She is a beauty, Santorini! You mentioned a volcano, which one was it? Or still is?

    July 14, 2014 at 5:06 pm
    • Tim Blight Reply

      Thanks for reading Wajid!! The volcano is actually the whole island! The island’s banana shape was once the rim of the volcano’s crater, before the volcano fell dormant and sea levels rose. Now all that is left is the rim of the crater, surrounded by water! Thankfully it hasn’t erupted for about 3000 years…

      July 18, 2014 at 9:04 pm
  • Fay Blight Reply

    Impressive writing Tim- felt that I was with you on that spectacular trip. Very enjoyable to read- thank you!

    July 15, 2014 at 8:18 am
    • Tim Blight Reply

      Thanks mum!! I hope you can make it there yourself one day, especially now that you don’t have to take a boat to get there!

      July 18, 2014 at 9:05 pm
  • Katie Reply

    I agree that sojourn in the Greek Islands suits you – your pics are fabulous! I’ve always wanted to visit the Greek island, particularly because of photos like that. The boat ride looks nice as well, and of course I need to try Greek food!

    July 16, 2014 at 11:18 pm
    • Tim Blight Reply

      Thanks for reading and thanks for the comment!! Yes, I could seriously get used to this lifestyle, and Greek food is delicious!! You must visit some time!!

      July 18, 2014 at 9:07 pm
  • Anna @ shenANNAgans Reply

    OMG… What an experience swimming in bath-like temperature water that is heated by undersea volcano. Maybe thats because I am frozen with the below zero temps of late. Tis relatively inexpensive to get to Santorini huh?
    Awesome post Tim! Happy weekend to you. 🙂

    July 18, 2014 at 2:38 pm
    • Tim Blight Reply

      Hehehhe yes the frozen temperatures probably aren’t helping, but Santorini is one of those places that tickles your feet anyway! I hope you can go there one day – it’s not cheap, but it’s definitely worth it!

      July 18, 2014 at 9:08 pm
  • Jessica of Curiosity Travels Reply

    I’m heading to TBEX in Athens in October and I’m thinking of heading to Santorini after! This was super helpful and the photos, ugh, gorgeous!

    I do worry about the price, ekk! Any other islands you’d recommend instead? Is Santorini a must?

    July 19, 2014 at 11:04 am
    • Tim Blight Reply

      Hehehe yes it is totally stunning, and it might be cheaper in October too! Unfortunately I was only there for a short time – it was a ‘cash rich time poor’ trip – so I didn’t really get to see anywhere else. I know parts of Crete are supposed to be gorgeous, and possibly cheaper. Mykonos and Ios have lots of hostels but are also party islands, so I don’t know if they offer the same kind of ‘paradise’ experience!

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

      July 22, 2014 at 10:06 pm

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