Greek Island Hopping: Santorini

(June 2014)

Santorini was the island I was most looking forward to on our 3-island itinerary. The image of those beautiful blue-roofed churches automatically springs to mind when you whisper the word Santorini and I’d imagined they would be dotting every street corner as we wandered through picturesque cobbled streets.

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Our first impression however was a little different. We arrived in the late afternoon aboard a huge ferry amidst hundreds of eager amateur photographers each wanting to capture the perfect shot of the island as we approached. Now I’m all for getting some good snaps to keep as a memento from my trips but some people seem to take this to the extreme and miss the beauty of seeing something through their own eyes instead of through the lens of a camera.

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Once we were finally hustled off board like cattle, we made the slow descent up the winding hill and on to the town of Fira, where we would be staying for the next two nights.

Once we arrived at the hotel, we quickly unpacked and headed straight to the pool to relax for a few hours after the long travel day. Later, buoyed up from sipping pool-side Coronas, we showered and dressed into more suitable Santorini attire and wandered towards the Old Port where beautiful restaurants lined the cliff-edge overlooking the sea below and offering the perfect view of the infamous Santorini sunset.

Not surprisingly, these restaurants weren’t the most budget-friendly but we’d hardly been following our budget all holiday so we figured why start now? As soon as we walked through the arching doorway to Sphinx restaurant, which was set within a restored mansion, it was obvious where we would be dining that night. Every item on the menu sounded amazing but being so close to the sea it would seem silly not to take advantage of the freshest fish imaginable so i opted for the seafood linguine and Charlotte the pesto pasta with a glass or two of Prosecco, naturally.┬áThe food was delicious but it was the view that truly made the experience.

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With just one full day left to enjoy Santorini, we’d already booked a full day boat trip departing the next morning and so we retired early to bed that night.

All Aboard

The bus was due to leave at 10am to take us down to the port, so we made our way up to the main square at around 9am to enjoy a leisurely breakfast at Cafe Vithos. Then it was time to board The Phoenix.

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For just 26 euros, the boat tour was due to take us firstly to the Volcano, then to some hot springs, for lunch at Therasia before finally stopping at what was undoubtedly the highlight of the tour – Oia – where we’d see the sunset once more from the very edge of the island.

Once aboard, we quickly clambered to the front of the boat to secure the ideal sunbathing spots on the deck. Thankfully we were amongst the first on board because it soon became apparent why the trip was so cheap, as more and more people climbed aboard and unfortunately not everyone had as comfy seats as we did.

We spent the next hour slowly sailing away from Santorini’s mainland before eventually docking at the volcano at around midday. As we’d booked our trip so last minute and with the hotel rather than the boat tour company, we hadn’t actually been given much information about what to expect and so when we reached the volcano to discover that we would actually have an hour’s hike up and back down again, we realised that we perhaps weren’t best equipped for this with our sun dresses and Havaianas on. Still, two ‘strong-willed’ girls weren’t about to let something as minor as footwear put us off and we stomped up the hill at London speed, racing past the crowds and passing our tour group as we stomped back down.

Next it was on to the ‘hot springs’ which were in a reality just a warm bit of murky water next to the volcano. It was nice to jump off board and cool off in the sea after our speedy walk though, but I was mainly eager to move on to the next stop, Therasia, for the promise of lunch.

Fed and watered, we then set sail once more, heading back to the mainland to Oia. Once we’d docked at the port, we soon realised that there were only two ways up to the town of Oia – by foot (up 240 steps) or on the back of a donkey (which we could already smell from a few hundred yards away).We opted for walking which we later regretted as we panted and puffed our way up the hill.

Pink-cheeked and out of breath, we recovered the only way we know how – with a refreshing beer on one of the many rooftop bars. It soon became apparent though that we’d have to purchase more than just a beer if we wanted to secure our seats for viewing the sunset so instead we wandered out through the town looking for the perfect spot. As we walked, still hot & sticky from the day’s exertion, we longingly daydreamed of cooling off in a pool, cocktail in hand, as the sun set. When we spotted a sign for a pool bar just a few metres ahead, we couldn’t belive our luck and almost ran towards Lioyerma Pool Bar & Cafe where we found two loungers perfectly positioned for the evening’s ‘display’.

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Once the sun had set there was no time to soak up the atmosphere as we made a quick dash through the crowds to find our bus back to Fira, already late for the departure.

Salty-haired and shivering from our still damp clothes, we were in no fit state to enter one of the more glamourous Santorini restaurants for dinner that night and so wrapped in our towels, we took a table in Cafe Vithus (our breakfast spot) and enjoyed a warm cheese and ham toastie followed by a Nutella crepe.

Souvenir Shopping

For our last day in Santorini we did what girls do best – hit the shops! We’d been admiring the bronze Pegasus figurines all week and so decided to treat ourselves, as well as purchasing some gifts for our friends and family back home.

Weighed down with souvenirs, we recouped with a final Greek salad and then took a few Coronas back to the pool where we lay for the next few hours, soaking up the final rays of sunshine before it was time to head back home to London. Thankfully for me, my next trip was only 4 short weeks away as I would be returning to Barcelona with my best friend Beckie…

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