Written by Bev24 on 15 Oct, 2009
In the hollywood movie with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, they talk about their "bucket list" the list of things they want to do before they "kick the bucket" aka die. Without a doubt, the fact that Santorini was on both Edar and my bucket…Read More
In the hollywood movie with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, they talk about their "bucket list" the list of things they want to do before they "kick the bucket" aka die. Without a doubt, the fact that Santorini was on both Edar and my bucket list was probably the common bond for us to do the Eurotrip together despite the fact that we live on different continents and had never planned for such a big trip by ourselves. Hey, we had one thing in common and the rest? Paris and Amsterdam? Didn't sound too shabby neither...;)We flew into Santorini via Athens the next day after Edar arrived on Monday morning. It was a 4.5 hour flight to Athens followed by a 2 hour transit and a half hour propeller flight to Santorini. By the time we arrived it was dark at 8pm and boy was it cold! We dropped off our bags, ran to the neighoborhood stands to get some local gyros(like falafels, oiled pita bread stuffed with sliced grilled chicken from the pit and stuffed with french fries and a local garlic sauce) for dinner and then called it a night.Each day, we woke up early and got our breakfast and took it up to the sunset terrace which was flanked on both sides by the gorgeous expanse of the bluest blue Aegean ocean. We stayed in the city on the northern most tip of Santorini called Oia. But Santorini in person is like something right out of a fantasy movie. A village awash in white cottages and blue domes perched precariously on a jagged grey cliff overlooking the infinitely blue Aegean ocean. We had seen it in movies and pictures and the real sight of it literally takes your breath away still!Our hotel, Aethrio was a cozy little hotel 5 minutes walking distance to the main town of Oia. After breakfast, we would stroll around the little town taking pictures and once the sun was high up and scorching in the sky, we would head back to our rooms, lay our sunbeds out and suntan in our bikinis. Thank God that despite it being cold at night and in the early mornings with a high wind chill factor, when the sun was out, we would get a full 5 hours of blazing sun to enjoy! There were only 4 songs on Edar's iphone i don't think we both will ever wanna hear again. It was hilarious cuz everyday, we would listen to the same songs on loop- Papparazzi by Lady Gaga, Forever by Chris Brown, Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus, some ballad by Mandy Moore and a haunting latin song from some movie soundtrack while we yapped and gabbed, catching up about gossip, celebrity titbits and talked about our lives, dreams and goals. Where we were going, what we were up to, specifically we spent a lot of time with me trying to figure out my next step and how we ended up here and me getting alot of good advice to just let go of having to know the final answers and to just enjoy my break!One of the days, we took a bus to the neighboring town of Fira. Fira is the capital of Santorini where the ships dock, donkeys take the tourists up to the city where they can head off to their different destinations on the island. It is where the nightlife and majority of the shops are. Though we were both glad to be in Oia which was more exclusive and sophisticated and not so rowdy and jammed with tourists. In the evenings, as we headed out for dinner, we would climb up to the standpoint where the sunset was best viewed. I had read several times that the sunset in Santorini is considered the most beautiful in the world-thats alot to live up to! True enough, everyday around 5ish, a crowd would gather there sitting along the walls or filling the restaurants with newlyweds or families having a memorable dinner watching the stunning sunset. Once the sun had completely set, the crowd would errupt in gentle applause as if thanking the sun for its magnificent performance and then bowing off stage for the next day.Greek food is quite rich. Full of feta cheese, yoghurt, garlic and meats. We stuffed ourselves with the yummy gyros which as 2.5 Euros (approx 3usd) a piece was a cheap and absolutely delicious way to fill our tummies. However after 3 consecutive days of gyros and rich greek cusines and no fresh food, we felt so unhealthy, we went out and bought some old strawberries and grapes. Plus we made ourselves run up the entire span of steps from the top of the cliff to the harbor. We did this the last 2 days and it was a pretty funny sight am sure for the other tourists watching these 2 Asian girls huffing and puffing up the cliff, forcing ourselves to do the "Santorini stairmaster" au natural but if made us feel a tad bit better each time after! Close
Written by MichaelJM on 05 Jul, 2008
Although it’s possible to get to this southernmost tip of Santorini on public transport it is a real pleasant journey by hired car as you can stop at whim and take in some of the breathtaking views over the bay.Along the route were a number…Read More
Although it’s possible to get to this southernmost tip of Santorini on public transport it is a real pleasant journey by hired car as you can stop at whim and take in some of the breathtaking views over the bay.Along the route were a number of road -side stalls selling local products and I couldn’t resist stopping off to try some of them. There was never any pressure to buy and the sellers just seemed happy to share their gastronomic delights with you. Although I’m sure that they’d have been even happier if I’d have made a purchase. I tried local wine, capers, caper leaves, honey and of course a variety of olives. All extremely tasty, but I wasn’t really in the market for buying food to take home. Just unashamedly tasting!I can’t pretend that the lighthouse is staggeringly beautiful in fact it’s extraordinarily average in appearance and stands on top of the cliff edge dominating the immediate surroundings. Mind you in functional terms that’s what it needs to do so it is clearly doing the job it was built to do. The building is not accessible so the real attraction of this area is the natural beauty of the immediate environment. You will need a certain amount of agility to fully explore the area as although there are rough tracks none of them are well constructed. So you do needed to be as sure footed as a mountain goat if you’re going to get off the main track.My wife decided to sit at the top of the trail and happily enjoyed the sea view whilst I headed off to catch a different aspect. The easy trail will take you into the shadow of the lighthouse, but if you’re prepared to pick your way down you can get much closer to the water. I felt adventurous so started to pick my way down the rough incline to a small headland. Initially it was perfectly straightforward but then it became necessary to use both hands to hold onto the rocks, which formed a narrow gully down to a lower level. This proved to be difficult with an SLR dangling from my neck, but I was now fully committed to my quest and gave not a thought to how I might make the ascent on my return. Not until, that is I’d reached the next plateau down. The view from here was superb and I was able to check out the different strata of the rock formation. Indeed in one place it resembled an artists palate with several different hues and colour ranges. It was fairly peaceful down here other than the sound of the sea and it would have been a great place (had I bought some binoculars with me) to do some bird watching. However, I was soon spotted by another brave soul who picked his way down to this level. I toyed momentarily with climbing down further to the water’s edge, but the sensible voice in my head pointed out that climbing in sandals would not be a good idea. I reflected again and decided the view would not be greatly enhanced so I just enjoyed where I was.The climb back up was not as bad as I had thought it might be and as I made the last step onto the rough terrain on the upper level I was stopped by a charming young woman who asked if I would take a photograph of her and her friend.. “Just to prove we’ve been here,” she explained.Faros is a brilliant spot on the island and on a clear day, and most of them are, you can get a view past the nearby island of Asponisi to Palea Kameni beyond Thirisia and up to the beautifully photogenic town of Oia. Superb and a trip that I’d commend to you. Close
Written by MichaelJM on 02 Jul, 2008
Oia is reputed as having one of the best sunsets and certainly if you’re on Santorini it is the ONLY place you should be if you want to experience a memorable setting of the sun. We’d had a long day’s tour of the island and…Read More
Oia is reputed as having one of the best sunsets and certainly if you’re on Santorini it is the ONLY place you should be if you want to experience a memorable setting of the sun. We’d had a long day’s tour of the island and we were getting quite sightseeing weary. However, it was a clear night (as most had been to date) and we were told that sunset would occur around 20.20hrs. So we took in a meal and then, having ascertained the best place to enjoy our viewing of nature’s show, headed for the old castle. It was just after 19.30 when we left the restaurant and having popped in a couple of shops on route we were sure that we’d be in plenty of time to get a comfortable spot from which to wait for the appointed hour.We took the left turn down the steep incline to the castle walls and were stunned to see that already the crowds were beginning to build. Not deterred I was confident (I’m always optimistic on holiday as it makes up for my normal cautious pessimism) and I strode down the narrow path before taking the steps up to the castle enclosure. It was absolutely rammed full and it was immediately clear that there was no way that this site would give us an uninterrupted view of the sunset. So I head off back to town but notice, just a few yards down from the castle a raised grassy bank. It’s not too hard to clamber up and from here I have the perfect view and no-one can get in my way as the walkway back to the town is a few metres below me. It turns out that this view was better than I imagined as I have a 270° view of from the town along the sea, across to the volcano, back out to sea and along the coast and back up the hills to the outskirts of Oia. Just perfect for watching the many different hues as the sun makes its way down the sky. The atmosphere is building up nicely and the crowds grow. This is almost approaching the assemblage for a rock concert and people are cramming themselves into almost every crevice. The tripod brigade are out in force jockeying for position and the range of cameras is from those old fashioned ones that “run off film” (I can hardly remember the time when I used to buy rolls of film for my holidays), mobile phones, point and shoot digital up to the higher spec SLR’s.As soon as the sun started to dip (and it seemed to take an absolute age) the cameras started clicking and bleeping. There were some superb views, as the sun began to descend and reflect on the sails of the small boats, but more stunningly on the white builds that cling precariously to the side of the rock that makes up the town of Oia. An eerie orange hue took over the town and on a beautiful clear night the sun was reflected almost perfectly in the gentle ripples of the sea. The crowd was almost silent as the sun continued its descent and watchers clicked off their camera shutters to catch that one memorable photo of this fantastic sunset.A final click of lens as the sun takes its final dip into the sea and as it does so several of the crowd burst into spontaneous applause. Some where heard to shout “unique” and “awesome” and I didn’t quite have the heart to say that they’ll be able to experience a similar event he following day. Sunset, at Oia, is fairly predictable so you’re almost guaranteed to see a marvellous light show. It truly is a great sight, but be warned if you're wanting to bid a hasty retreat you will strugg;le as everyone in the crowd has the same though and the narrow cobbled streets of Oia are soon congested as everyone heads out for the car parks. Just take it easy and enjoy the whole experience, After all you're on holiday and there is no need to rush anywhere. Close
Written by MichaelJM on 29 Jun, 2008
We were told that the bus journey to Fira was an easy one to manage and so set off to the modern day capital of Santorini by bus. We had been advised that the buses ran to GMT (not Greenwich Mean Time but maybe…Read More
We were told that the bus journey to Fira was an easy one to manage and so set off to the modern day capital of Santorini by bus. We had been advised that the buses ran to GMT (not Greenwich Mean Time but maybe Greek Maybe Time) and so set off in good time preparing ourselves to sit at the roadside for a fair time. It wouldn’t matter because there were seats in the bus turning bay and we could enjoy the sun and the slight breeze that was emanating from the water’s edge. However, we didn’t have time to enjoy the view of the sea or bask in the sun because the bus arrived only minutes after our arrival. We’d seen a bus travelling down the narrow dusty road to Perivolas but assumed it was a tour bus – it looked too modern and “up-market” to be a service bus. That proved to be absolutely false as this smart coach was the standard service bus and contrary to public belief the timing was immaculate. We were sat in our seat by 9-38 and the bus was manoeuvring its way back up the lane just before its due time.It was an uneventful, if not long winded, journey as the bus made a couple of significant stops off the main Perissa/Fira road but as it was all new to us we were happy to take in the scenery and enjoy the villages as we passed on by. The whole journey took around 30 minutes and at 1-70 Euro for a single ticket I do not think this was bad value. It’s certainly a great way to orientate yourself to the island and we both felt it would give us a bit of confidence when we hired a car the following weekThe seats were comfortable and the bus modern and fully fitted with air conditioning. The island’s “bus hub” is in Fira so any trip to anywhere else will require a change of bus in the capital. So when we reached Fira we together with all other passengers disembarked (those passengers going on to other parts of the island located their new bus via the small enquiry office, which was on site).For our part we checked out the conveniently sighted map of the town - a large arrow indicated where we were and we saw it was only a short walk up the hill to Fira’s town centre. Before I write more about Fira I can confirm our bus (an express) left the depot prompt at 16-15 on our return (buses continue to run until 21-00) and arrived at Perivolos just before 16-40, again spot on time. Although sorting out which bus is the one for your journey is a little bit tricky as they don’t all seem to siplay the destination on the front and it seemed that every time a bus arrived at the terminus there was a surge of passengers pressing towards it. A bit like a rugby scrum it seemed to me. But despite the chaos at the bus station we managed to get on the right bus and have a relaxed journey back to the resort.Public transport on the island is cheap and it seemed to us fairly reliable and efficient. Close
Written by MichaelJM on 27 Jun, 2008
We resent paying the high prices of the large established rental companies and on one of our walks about had seen the offices of IRIDA. You will find them on the edge of Perissa and Parivolas on main Perissa road towards the co-op supermarket…Read More
We resent paying the high prices of the large established rental companies and on one of our walks about had seen the offices of IRIDA. You will find them on the edge of Perissa and Parivolas on main Perissa road towards the co-op supermarket and it looked like they had a reasonable fleet of new looking cars.Their standard small car will cost you twenty Euros a day with full Collision Damage Waiver and although if an accident is your fault you must pay the excess if three hundred Euros (this seemed to be standard across the companies) you can pay extra daily insurance to cover this eventuality, we did not but fortunately a couple in our apartment complex had taken that precaution. They had driven halfway up the cobbled road to ancient Thira and then decided to abort, turn round on the narrow road, which must have been a nightmare, and they had managed to dent the care in this transaction. They had paid an extra nine Euros for the increased cover and must have been relieved and grateful that they had taken that step. There is no hard sell and the front man (it turns out he was the owner) gently explained a little about the cars. Their small car (a Kia Picanto) comes complete with air conditioning (a must un Greece in the height of the heat) and he happily agreed to deliver and collect the car from the hotel. It was three Euros more expensive than the cheapest deal we had found but their cars did look in better condition and in all honesty we liked the attitude of the IRIDA Company. He asked for a small deposit of five or ten Euros and confirmed that the Kia (a popular car on the island) would be delivered to our apartment on the Wednesday morning at 9am and collected at 9am on the Friday.He arrived bright and breezy at 8-45am and we signed the contract. As I was paying in cash he quietly insisted that he keep my driving licence as security. I was a little uncertain but could understand the need for them to hold some personal details (it’s usually a credit card). I checked what I would require if stopped by the police – a somewhat unlikely event as it turned out as we did not see a single police car or officer whilst on the island – and he assured us that the contract was all that we required as evidence of insurance and ‘our right to drive’. After the instructions were given on how to operate the care we set off along the drive to the main road. In recent years I have got used to an automatic car and so I was sure that I had stalled the car on more than one occasion but having managed the first tight junction and got used to driving on the right hand side of the road I was brimming with confidence. That is until we took a wrong road in the town of Emporio. I’d only been driving about 15 minutes and we ended up on the narrowest of tracks that weaved its way with tight turns through the back streets of the town. At time the buildings seemed (no, indeed WERE) perilously close to the car and I was certainly not enjoying the drive. But there was no going back because the road was far too narrow. So we drove for what felt like ages until we hit open countryside and the courtyard of a smallholding farm. I reversed and after several manoeuvrings managed to get the car pointing back towards the town. Now I had to run the gauntlet of buildings yet again and, having successfully made it back to the main road, vowed that we would need to ensure that we didn’t take another “wrong turning”.Generally there are no problems with parking but care needs to be taken in Thira and Oia as here, we were told, the authorities will often tow away cars parked on the streets of the town. We were careful to ensure that we parked in an official car park in Oia (we’d travelled by bus to Fira but that’s another story). The map provided by the hire company showed us where the petrol stations are. As the island is small it’s not a massive problem but we put in 20 euros worth at the first petrol station and didn’t need anymore for the rest of the car hire period.Remember on Greek islands there is a no tolerance policy in relation to the consumption of alcohol and if you’re found with any alcohol in your system it will mean that any insurance claim in invalidated. Abstinence truly is the best policy. Close
Written by pointofnoreturn on 01 Aug, 2007
Oia's sunsets are among the most beautiful sunsets in the world. It's something that every single person on the island looks forward to seeing. With that being said, it's prudent that you arrive early before the tour groups to get a good spot to hunker…Read More
Oia's sunsets are among the most beautiful sunsets in the world. It's something that every single person on the island looks forward to seeing. With that being said, it's prudent that you arrive early before the tour groups to get a good spot to hunker down for the rest of the evening. In May 2007, We showed up at the old castle of Oia around 7pm and there were small gatherings of people waiting for the sunset as well. We were soon joined by every single person you'd imagine plus a herd of Greek dogs battling out for a prime seat! It was quite windy so it's advisable to bring a light jacket since the castle is just right over the ocean and subject to the breezes.By the time 8pm rolled around, the sun already started to set. It takes about 30 minutes to an hour to enjoy the wonderful experience depending on the season. The sky changes from a pinkish-blue hue to a deep orange-red glare as the sun slinks down behind the sea. It was really a breathtaking view and totally worth the experience of sitting on a hard rock seat for such a long period of time!The next evening, I had the opportunity to enjoy a sunset all by myself - this time it was away from the castle up high in Oia. I found a small secluded area just below the main town square/bus station of Oia near Ammoudi. There was no one around - just me and a couple of crickets. I had the whole sea to myself and I could see every detail of the sunset and it was one of the most unforgettable experiences in my life. When you're in Oia, make sure that you do NOT miss a sunset. Show up early, bring a light jacket and some snacks, find yourself a spot and take lots of pictures! I already have blown up one of my pictures of the Oia sunsets and hung it in my room!TIP: A lot of people that are watching the sunset alongside with you will be returning to Fira right after most likely. The buses will be crowded and uncomfortable and if you're planning to return to Fira, hurry back to the bus stop to get a decent seat! Close
Written by chewyorange on 15 Oct, 2006
This tour is the best tour I have ever been on. The price is right, and the tour lasted from about 2:30pm to 9pm. We were staying in Perissa, and a bus came and picked us up in Perissa and dropped us off at night,…Read More
This tour is the best tour I have ever been on. The price is right, and the tour lasted from about 2:30pm to 9pm. We were staying in Perissa, and a bus came and picked us up in Perissa and dropped us off at night, for no extra charge. You get to go in a large air-conditioned coach, beginning at Fira town. The tour takes you to the oldest church on the island, where a 100 year old woman has been looking after it for most of her life. See the old offerings and frescoes in the church and take in the beautiful views and flowers. The tour gives you plenty of time to take pictures and marvel at the scenery along the way.
Next is a trip to the fortress town of Pyrgos, enclosed by a medieval wall. Check out the tourist shops, stop for a gyro, or climb the confusing stairs to the top for a small church and more great views. Along the way, buy some tomatoes from the vendors or get your picture with Marika the donkey and her Greek owner!
The next town is Messaria which is more like a ghost town. The original was destroyed in the earthquake over 50 years ago, and the tour allows you free time to explore the ruins and see the underground homes, and even the new restoration of a church, which has a beautiful mosaic entrance. At the small restaurant right before the town, you get to have a free sample of wine and a free tomato pancake-like snack!
The bus then takes you to Imervogli town, situated above Fira to see the famous blue domed churches and one of the most beautiful views you will ever see. Next, hop on the bus to take you along the windy road to Oia, where you have free time to shop and have dinner. Pick out a good spot to watch the sunset and prepare for the end of the tour.
After the sun has gone down, the bus takes you back to your departure point. A wonderful day, and a wonderful guide made this tour the best!
Written by jenandfrank on 03 Nov, 2005
Oia:Pronounced e-ah. Oia is the more exclusive part of Santorini. Very scenic and picturesque. This is where people flock for the sunsets and enjoy walking through town past the seemingly endless supply of open-air restaurants, jewelry and art shops. The streets are very narrow and…Read More
Pronounced e-ah. Oia is the more exclusive part of Santorini. Very scenic and picturesque. This is where people flock for the sunsets and enjoy walking through town past the seemingly endless supply of open-air restaurants, jewelry and art shops. The streets are very narrow and crowded with pedestrians. There are no sidewalks, as the streets are off limits to cars. A quiet "neighborhood" with no late night noise that you will find in Fira. Definitely a more romantic setting than Fira.
Sunsets in Oia are a big thing and people from all over the island migrate here to watch "the most famous sunsets in the world". In September the sun set around 7:15 pm and we had to leave our hotel at around 6:30-6:45 to get thru the crowd, walk thru Oia and find a place to stand once we got there. My best advice would be to go left at the fork (the only fork you will see) once in the middle of the town. Going left will take you to a "castle" area that is never as packed as the other areas. (see picture) Obviously some days are better than others but overall it's a nice way to start the evening, and very romantic. There are many sunset cruises (that you will see sailing). If that is something you are interested in check with your hotel. It looked like they all left from Fira.
Fira (Thira), pronounced fear-a, is more touristy than Oia. It is the capital of Santorini. There are many shops, cafes and restaurants all on somewhat of a lower scale/level than what you will find in Oia. By that I mean things are generally less expensive and the overall quality (generally speaking) is less. The taxi "hub" and the main bus station are located here just south of the main square called, Plateia Theotokopoulou - across from the New Archaeological Museum. Fira is a great place for views of the volcano. There are a lot of walkways along the cliff which have shops and restaurants and all have great views of the caldera, volcano, Oia, etc. This is just a great area to absorb your surroundings - sort of surreal. Unlike Oia, the streets do have cars on them and therefore you must walk on sidewalks when available or on the street with the cars. There is a cable car (see picture) that takes you from the top of Fira to the bottom (port) areas for about 3 Euro per person. Unfortunately it was not working when we where there but to be honest I am such a chicken I question whether we would have taken it anyway. Churches in town do not allow visitors that are “improperly dressed”; including shorts and sleeveless shirts. Although pretty, these churches are not like what you'd find in Italy for example and therefore if you find yourself in town and under-dressed it isn't a major attraction that you will miss. Most of the cruise ships dock off the coast of Fira and tender their guests here. That being said the shopkeepers are open all day and into the early morning to accommodate potential buyers. There were quite a few internet cafes. We went to P.C Club in the main square. It was located above a bar/café and internet cards were sold at the bar area.
There are many Wineries in Santorini. Coming from the U.S where each coast has hundreds of them, it just didn't seem appealing to go. The grapes are grown low to the ground, and almost look like rows of weeds. Not very pretty, nothing like Napa. It is interesting to note that the soil is a combination of pumice and volcanic ash. The wineries themselves are small and most are open by appointment only. Check with your hotel first, as many of them offer their own personal wine tastings and/or can recommend their favorite places to visit. You will either need to rent a car/scooter or have a hotel driver shuttle you around as many of them are not close together. We had a different white wine from Santorini every night with dinner and were pleasantly surprised at the quality.
We took the bus from Oia to the Red Beach which is on the outskirts of Akrotiri at the complete opposite end of the island from Oia. The cost was 1.40 Euro per person and the ride was about 20 minutes from Fira. The bus drops you off at a dead end with a café on the left and that is about it. If you follow the people and occasional sign, you will walk (right) along a beach, passing small restaurants. From there you walk uphill on a gravel path and about 15 minutes later you will be on a "mountain" looking down at Red Beach. The path continues down from there, again all on gravel. The beach is nice with lots of red lava and dirt. Overall it is more hype than its worth and we were somewhat disappointed once we got there. It is way off the beaten path and to add insult to injury the next bus was about an hour and a half later.
I would say that 90% of the island's walkways are some form of gravel or cobblestone. That being said - No Heels!!! I wish someone would have told me that before I went because I packed everything but flats. Between the stairs, the uneven walkways, the cobblestone streets (especially in Oia), etc.. You have to be an idiot to wear shoes with heels. That idiot was me. As with the rest of Europe, everyone smokes here and we did not find any "no smoking" sections at restaurants. There were ample signs in English and we never had any problems with menus. Santorini is known for their tomatoes, white eggplants and capers. So make every effort to try all three, you will not be disappointed. If you own an MBNA credit card, I would recommend using that versus an Amex card. MBNA is the only card (that I know of for sure) that does not charge a service fee for using your card overseas. Worth a phone call to your credit card company in advance at the very least. A very romantic island that requires a consistent physical element on your part since there are no elevators and just about everything is built into a cliff. Not really a place for kids considering there is nothing to do with them or anywhere to take them. Overall we found Santorini to be expensive and the tourists to be predominately American. The weather was beautiful even in mid-September with warm days and a strong sun. Its borderline off-season so it's lacking the larger crowds and hoopla you'll find in mid-summer but everything is open so you miss out on nothing. This is a perfect place to relax and reconnect with your better half. I now understand why people say Santorini is one of, if not the, most beautiful islands in the world.
Very Highly Recommended.
Santorini is part of the Cyclades Islands and is the southern-most island in the Aegean. It is also known as Thira although I didn’t hear one person refer to it as such. Total population is around 14,000 persons. When you think of Greece, with cliffs,…Read More
Santorini is part of the Cyclades Islands and is the southern-most island in the Aegean. It is also known as Thira although I didn’t hear one person refer to it as such. Total population is around 14,000 persons. When you think of Greece, with cliffs, white washed buildings, blue domes - it is Santorini that you are picturing. Via boat from Athens, it is about a 9 hour ride but by plane it's only about 30 minutes. To be fair I will say that driving from the airport or the port you do pass some very unpicturesque areas. Areas with barren and dry land, half built houses - almost like non-touristy parts of the Caribbean. However, upon arriving into the resort areas, it is really incredible. I mean picture perfect.
The ferry from Crete to Santorini was interesting to say the least. After much grief from our concierge in Crete, we bought our tickets and went to the port in Irakilion. We caught the "fast ferry" which was supposed to take 2 hours and ended up taking 3 ½ - with no announcement as to why we were running so late. The inside of the ship was like an airplane but larger and slightly nicer. (see picture below) Borderline pandemonium to enter and they were not strict at all with checking ids, looking at tickets or enforcing seat assignments. Basically if you found a seat - you sat in it. The smoking section was reserved for the bar area only which was nice since there was limited fresh air moving thru the ship. There were at least two (that we saw) snack bars that served beverages and light snacks. They had small TVs hanging from the ceiling which played Greek news and Greek soap operas at high volume the entire ride. Very annoying, especially if you were trying to sleep. I rarely get sea sick and this ride was not an easy one for me. The water (although it looked calm outside) was very rough during our sail and the boat swayed quite a bit. After arriving in the Santorini vicinity, the captain came on to make an announcement and the staff started to walk thru the aisles to get you up and motivated to the bottom deck. It was like a cattle call. Everyone was being rushed downstairs. We stood anxiously in the hull of the ferry for what seemed an eternity... the huge bay door opened and then ... bedlam. I felt like I was about to storm the beaches of Normandy. There was a mad rush to disembark. Total chaos! The ferry does not officially dock; it keeps the motor running in reverse and fights the current while people get off. Crew members lined the sides of the gangway, actually pushing people to the center so they don’t fall off. Definitely an experience. Just when you get your stuff together and want to take a picture in front of this gigantic red and white boat - it's gone.
Once at the Athinios port in Santorini, cabs are hard to find, so I would pre-arrange transportation or plan to catch the public bus which will take you to Fira for 2 Euro per person. Our hotel had their driver waiting for us which made this a very nice ending to a long trip. The port is filled with people trying to sell tours and a few small gift shops selling trinkets. We found many people taking this ferry for a day trip from Crete (or other islands) so if your travel plans do not include a stay in Santorini, this is an option.
The airport was about a 40 minute drive from our hotel, Katikies in Oia. Small and servicing only two airlines; Aegean and Olympic. I have heard strong opinions both ways and I can tell you they are VERY similar and we found neither was better than the other. We flew Aegean from Athens to Crete and Olympic from Santorini to Athens. Both were clean and very well maintained planes with a courteous staff and both were similarly priced. Olympic is run by the Greek government and Aegean is a private company. All of the inter-island flights are prop planes that seat approximately 35 people. Olympic was much easier to book a ticket on though as we were able to buy them way in advance on Expedia.com. Aegean's site was always down and so we had to purchase those thru our concierge which of course dealt with a travel agent, so there was a small convenience charge added. The airport in Santorini is very small. You walk in and there are two long counters with 5 or so areas for agents. The lines are long and the agents are very careful with weighing your bags. Thankfully we knew this in advance and packed accordingly. Go to the airline's websites for specific weight restrictions depending on time of year. These weight restrictions were enforced as many people were complaining about additional fees for luggage!! After checking in you wait on a single file line to go thru "security". This is one man, one belt and one electronic arch to walk thru. The same guy that watches the x-ray belt is the guy that checks you out if you are buzzed after getting past the arch. That means the line is slow moving and the security is not very tight. So you pass security and there you are - at the gates. They have shuttle buses that pick you up to take you to the planes - all of which you enter from the runway and have to climb up a set of exterior stairs. The waiting area does not have ample seating. There is one duty-free shop at the gates and one "food stand" before the security line which was closed when we were there. www.olympic-airways.gr or www.aegeanair.com/aegeanen/home/index.asp To me a far better option then sailing.
The entire island has approximately 35 taxis, so as you can imagine they are hard to find. We were told by our front desk that they needed two hours notice if we needed a taxi to take us from Oia to Fira which is less than a 30 minute drive. To reach a taxi while on the island you can call, 22860/22-555. The cost was 12 Euro (before tip) to go from Oia-Fira via taxi and 1 Euro per person by bus. The buses here run frequently and are much cheaper. Buses run between every 30 minutes to an hour for all routes during the hours of 7 am to 11 pm. Fares are collected on board by a conductor during your ride. Unlike other countries, change is available. Many people rent scooters (about 20 Euro per day) and to be honest I think it's just too dangerous - almost like playing chicken. The roads here are all cliffs and all tight, hair pin turns. There is no guard rail and no room for error. The local drivers are very aggressive and they all pass each other. Our cab driver passed a large bus on a turn one night without thinking twice about it. From that point on I knew we weren't going to take a taxi again. Many hotels have drivers as well, so if money isn't an issue you can check that out. Walking from Fira to Oia is NOT an option. It is fair to note that renting a car is an option but silly. We were quoted a price of 75 Euro for one day for a compact, automatic car. Moreover, there seemed to be very little parking available. I would say the bus is the best mode of transportation on Santorini. They were clean, safe, and cheap and relatively hassle free.
Ran out of room - check out Notes & Thoughts Part 2
1800 - Oia, 30 22860 71485 or http://www.oia-1800.com/ We had booked reservations here months in advance through our concierge and specified that we preferred to sit upstairs in the roof-top garden. The night we finally arrived, the restaurant claimed that it was going to rain…Read More
1800 - Oia, 30 22860 71485 or http://www.oia-1800.com/
We had booked reservations here months in advance through our concierge and specified that we preferred to sit upstairs in the roof-top garden. The night we finally arrived, the restaurant claimed that it was going to rain and therefore the rooftop was closed. (There was not a cloud in the sky!) Accordingly, we were seated in a very tight, small table that was next to the main walkway/street in Oia. To be brief, the main walkway in Oia is like a cross between a busy NYC street with a feel of one of the "shopping" streets in Venice (past St Mark's Square). It's an old, narrow, concrete pedestrian-walkway packed with tourists window shopping. Therefore, sitting at a table that was next to the walkway is far from ideal - especially when you are paying these prices for dinner. We left and figured maybe we'd come back, maybe we wouldn't. Needless to say it never rained. Two days later we returned and the rooftop was open. The restaurant is housed in an old captain's mansion built in 1845 and is very charming both inside and out. The rooftop is a very nice, open space with white lights and lots of plants and flowers. There was such a large staff, I think they out numbered the 30 or so tables. They were pleasant yet somewhat slow. (Remember I’m a New Yorker) The view was alright, not great. (Ambrosia’s is far better)
1800 is somewhat set back from the Caldera so that your view is partly obstructed by the roofs of other buildings. They serve an eclectic Mediterranean/Continental cuisine with a 4.50 Euro per person cover charge. We were automatically brought bottled water to the table, and charged 3 Euro for it. The cover includes a delicious fava spread with breadsticks and rolls. We ordered two salads to start; pear, proscuitto, lettuce and brie which was 17 Euro and tomato, cheese and cucumber which was 14 Euro. Two of the most expensive salads I have ever eaten. My husband said his pear salad was phenomenal. For entrees we had the lamb shank and the mushroom risotto with parmesan crisp. Both were excellent at 23 and 20 Euro respectively. We were too stuffed to even attempt dessert. I was shocked that this up-scale restaurant allowed cats to roam. I would have thought they would have a staff member taking care of that but they didn't and once again we were watched by every stray cat in town during dinner. Overall a very romantic, pricey, dress-up restaurant. Reservations a must. Our bill was 109 Euro ($131.00). Located about 10 minutes from Katikies on the right hand side, behind a high black gate (you will miss it if you are not looking for it). First seating is at 8 pm daily from April-October. Accepts all major Credit cards. Recommended.
Ambrosia - Oia, 30 22860 71413 or http://www.santorini-gr.com/ambrosia.htm
Located in the center of Oia, on the left hand side in the upper level of a white building (near the main church). Again, you must keep your eyes open for the sign or you will pass it - not to be confused with "Ambrosia & Nectar". Very quaint restaurant with unobstructed views of the Caldera. They serve Mediterranean and a Modern Greek cuisine. Everything on the outside terraces (two levels with a total of 10 tables) is decorated in white with lots of candles. The terraces actually jet over the water and it is so romantic. It feels as if you are dining while floating above the caldera. There is also dining inside a vaulted ceiling room that is filled with antiques, candelabras and burgundy walls. We initially had reservations for a Saturday night but after the headache at 1800 we walked to Ambrosia to see if they were willing to fit us in and then did. They gave us the best seat in the house in fact. 5 Euro cover per person includes a sundried tomato & feta cheese spread that they are "famous" for and a blue cheese yogurt spread. Both were excellent and served with a choice of two breads. After sitting, we were automatically brought a bottle of water and were charged 3 Euro for it. We ordered the Santorini Salad and the Aubergines for appetizers. The salad was basically a gourmet Greek salad with olives, capers, cucumber, yellow peppers, some lettuce, tons of feta wedges in a vinaigrette dressing and it was excellent. The Aubergine was layered with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and covered in a yogurt sauce - excellent as well. For entrees we ordered the Veal and the Fresh Veggie Pasta. The veal was served in layers with goat cheese and tomatoes and covered in a cream sauce with whipped aubergines on the side. The fresh pasta was okay, I think a bit dry, but the linguini was homemade. To be honest I was so full at that point, it didn't even matter. A bottle of house wine was 20 Euro and it was delicious. The desserts looked incredible and very eclectic but we were too full. The service was absolutely excellent and friendly and overall the meal was delicious. Our total bill was 110 Euros ($133.00) which included 2 appetizers, 2 entrées, bottle of water, bottle of wine and the tip. Trust me when I tell you they were robbed. Dressy attire, reservations required. Not a place for children. Major credit cards accepted. To me the best overall place (food, atmosphere, view, service) in Santorini for gourmet dining. Open daily from April-October. Very Highly Recommended.
Anemones - Oia
We stopped here for lunch on our first day in Santorini. Our hotel room was not ready and this was the closest place to eat. The menu was a decent size including crepes, salads and pizza. Although we had been eating so well in Crete, I don't think we had high expectations here - especially since it was a last minute-just pick something kind of place. After walking up a large set of stairs you realize the view is worth the visit. All outdoor/rooftop seating with views of the Caldera, covered with several umbrellas. The wind up here gets fairly strong, but it was a nice warm breeze and allowed us to really relax. Although there were only 5 tables filled the restaurant had at least 30 + tables. The service here was one waitress who was a bit of a grouch and spent most of the time we were there complaining to customers about other customers. There is a .50 Euro cover and that included some bad bread thrown in a small basket with paper napkins and the silverware. We ordered a Greek crepe and a personal pizza. For some reason I was dying to taste the Greek version of pizza. The crepes were served in a rectangle-shape and were huge and surprisingly good. The pizza was covered in fresh sauce, lots of vegetables and local cheese (not mozzarella). The portions in general (what we ordered and what we saw others having) were enormous. The pizza could have easily fed two people. I will say I was very disappointed in the olive oil though, especially after having just left the land of amazing olive oil - Crete. Their oil was very generic, similar to what we get at home in the States. This place is fine for a casual lunch. It was fairly inexpensive and the views couldn't be beat. Plenty of cats around though and they feel free to hop on spare chairs near you. Accepts MasterCard & Visa. Somewhat Recommended.
Aris Restaurant - Fira, 0285-25408
Located in the lower level of the Loucas Hotel in Fira towards the Old Port with very nice views of the volcano & Caldera. Serving traditional Greek and international cuisine. This place is not for the elderly or handicap as we had to hike down about 75 steps. The cover was 1.50 Euro and they served both white and whole wheat bread that was fresh, accompanied with a garlic spread. We ordered taziki, fava spread, pork souvlaki, chicken souvlaki and a bottle of water. The souvlaki came with corn and broccoli. Our bill was 38 Euro after tip. I have read a lot of reviews that this place was "excellent" and the "best in Santorini". I totally disagree. The service was good, the food was fair (the pork was a bit overcooked) and the price was on the expensive side considering this is basically a taverna. I would not go out of my way for this restaurant. Owned and operated by the Ziras family who are very accommodating. Casual atmosphere. Great views. Reservations not required for lunch but recommended for dinner. Somewhat Recommended.