Greece / Travels

The Greek Islands: Santorini

The travel day from Lisbon to Santorini was a long one. It started with a flight from Lisbon to Athens via Rome, arriving in Athens at about 8pm, then a few hours in Athens airport before an 11pm flight to Santorini. Our flight ended up being delayed by half an hour but we still managed to land only five or ten minutes late, meaning we turned a one hour flight into a 40 minute flight! We got in a little after midnight, and one of the perks of not being on a shoestring budget is not even hesitating to get a taxi from the airport at that time of night! I’m not sure if there’s even any other options past midnight.

I had told our accommodation we’d been arriving late, so our hostess waited up to let us into our room. There was a great view from the balcony across the island, but that would have to wait til morning.

Once morning arrived, one of my confusions from when I was looking at Santorini accommodation was cleared up. We were staying in Fira, the main village on Santorini, which is on the caldera on the west coast. Accommodations which have views over the caldera (ie. views right over the cliff towards the west) always brag about it. I saw several accommodations, though, which made no mention of caldera views but had pictures of sea views. The curious thing, however, was that these views were not over a cliff – they were from the top of a gently sloping hill with the sea in the distance. I realised our first morning what this was: it was the view from Fira across the island itself to the east coast!

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The view from our hotel across Santorini

Our first day was mostly exploring Fira and going for a walk along the caldera, taking in the views and taking photos. We spent a few hours at around lunch time in an irish pub watching the Cowboys vs Storm rugby league semifinal with about a dozen other australian rugby league fans (most of whom were Cowboys supporters). It was a great game (those at home will know the result: the Cowboys soundly whipped the Storm) and I had to feel a little sorry for the one Melbourne supporter in the room!

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The food we had on Santorini was consistently very good. We ate at restaurants along the caldera both nights – they were accordingly more expensive than other island locations, but to my surprise still cheap compared to western europe. The skies stayed clear meaning we could sit on the balconies and enjoy the sea breeze.

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Our second day was a bit more activity-packed. For most of the day we took a trip to Oia, a little village on the northern end of the caldera, which is known for spectacular sunset views. In all honesty I don’t really know why. We weren’t there for sunset, but the view from Oia was really not much different to the view from Fira.

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Oia

We had a great lunch on a rooftop terrace before heading back to Fira in time to get a sunset cruise. The cruises all depart from the old port, which is at the bottom of the caldera cliff below Fira. You have two options for getting down there – walk down the stairs, or get the cable car. We walked – it is longer than it looks! And the steps are all sloping down which is a bit of a workout on the legs.

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Our cruise (on a ‘traditional’ wooden sailing boat, although the sails weren’t up this day) started with a stop at the volcano in the middle of the caldera (Nea Kameni). This volcano was created by the huge volcano eruption which created the caldera – that part of the coast is basically one enormous volcano crater which the sea filled. This second, smaller volcano is still active, and in some areas around the rim you can still smell the sulphur. Our shoes ended up completely covered in volcanic dust. We walked past some weather and monitoring equipment which has been set up at the top of the volcano to keep an eye on it.

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The view from Nea Kameni back towards Santorini

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The next stop was at the next island out from the volcano (Palea Kameni). We stopped just off a little beach which has hot springs feeding into it, which creates a little warm swimming spot. The water is a pretty gross orange-brown colour though, and I still haven’t completely got the colour out of my white striped swimmers! Incidentally, this was the first time we had been swimming in over two years, having not been swimming throughout our whole time in the UK and for quite a while before we left Australia too.

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The thermal swimming spot at Palea Kameni

Then we were off towards the north end of the island, off Oia, to watch the sunset. Unfortunately by this point the clouds had come over and completely¬† shrouded the horizon. Our skipper decided to head back a little early because we clearly weren’t going to see the sunset and it was getting cold and windy. On the way back though, we at least got some pretty pink colours through the clouds.

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