Thursday, April 17, 2014

ADD Adventures to: {{ SANTORINI, Greece }}

Before I came to Greece, I did try a little to get some input as to where I should go during my trip. I posted on Facebook asking for tips, reached out to locals on the Couchsurfing website, asked my Greek friend, and asked a couple other Greeks I met in the months leading up to the trip. Of the advice that I was given, there were two recurring things:
  1. Don't spend too long in Athens. It's full of history, but other than that, it's not really a place to pass too much time.
  2. Go to Santorini and Mykonos.
I had it in my mind that I'd be spending my week island hopping, sleeping in the sand, and exploring Greek gastronomy. I knew I'd visit Athens for a couple days, and wanted to try and hit one or two islands during the week. So when everyone, including locals, kept telling me that Santorini was their favourite, I decided to stop playing hardball, and just accept that the best-known island was also, apparently, the best. So I decided to go to Santorini.

My friend and I took the ferry at 7:30 from Piraeus (just 15 minutes from Athens by metro) on Monday morning, and after about 7.5 hours, we arrived in Santorini. The ferry stopped at Piros and Ios on the way, and was a very pleasant ride. We bought the cheap economy seats for 37.50, and got there early enough to get a small, round table, with four chairs. The way this works, is that it's like a cruise ship. Not quite so big, but still large enough to be in the same family. The top level has cabins (the most expensive "seats"), so you can actually have a room, bed, and etc. Then on the other levels there are first class airplane seats set up as though there is an incredibly long bus lining the side of the ferry. These are a bit more expensive, but give you a comfortable seat and plenty of space. Then there are the cheap seats, which leave you in the common areas of the ferry. The outside decks, the bar/restaurant tables and chairs, and the tables, benches, chairs, and areas that are in the halls and passageways. After the first stop in Piros, most of the people got off the ship, and a couple locals told us that we could switch to the A-seats (the first class airplane seats), and wouldn't be bothered by someone coming around to check tickets. So after spending the first few hours in makeshift beds, we were able to take some plush seats, and escape the noise of the common area. (There were A LOT of children and pets on the ferry).

After arriving in Thira (Santorini is actually composed of five islands, one of them being an active volcano), we were picked up at the port by a big van, and brought to the hotel/hostel where we have been staying. Here we met our host, checked in, and left our stuff. After a little down time, we decided to take a walk to the black beach that's just down the walkway from our hotel, and then spent some time walking around the neighborhood. We have been staying in Anny Studios in Perissa, and it has been a really great experience! You can read about Anny Studios and the Perissa area here!

On Tuesday, we decided to rent a quad and explore the island. This suggestion had been given to us by the people at Anny Studios, as well as by our friend in Piraeus. And when we were told it was only 15 euros for the whole day, we knew we'd do it. The people at Moto Mania came and picked us up from Anny's, and took us to the rental place. They have an endless assortment of scooters, bikes, and quads, and set us up on a new quad, with enough power for two people to make it up the mountains, for just 25 euros for the day! They were incredibly nice, and gave us loads of information about where we should go, and what we should do. So we set off on our big adventure!

We took the quad to the Red Beach. I'm not sure if it's because our feet were cold, but the little, rocky beach was incredibly painful to walk on. Be sure to have solid sandals if you go there, especially because it's a little hike down. Easy, but you don't just walk down a clear-cut path. Some minimal rock climbing is involved.

Then we went to the lighthouse. The lighthouse itself isn't that impressive, but the view from the edge of the island sure is. We spend a solid time climbing around, roaming, and enjoying the view.

After leaving the lighthouse, we decided to follow the roads, and make our way to Fira, one of the most visited parts of the island. It proved to be a really beautiful place, with more life than Perrissa Beach where we were staying, but was the typical: edge of an island that has been turned into a place for tourists. It was all restaurants, shops, hotels, more shops, more buying, more selling, consumerism at its finest. It's definitely a place to go when you're in Santorini (and I've heard there's still nightlife there during the off-season) to take a walk, look at the view, and enjoy some traditional tall, iced, Greek espresso! And to see the donkeys taking people up and down the thousand-or-so steps that lead down to the water's edge and port of Fira!

After getting our fill of Fira, we decided to hit the road again, and make our way to Oia to watch one of the most famous sunsets in all the world. And it did prove to be quite beautiful. Anytime you can watch the sun set into the sea, that's a good moment in life. Especially when it coincides with you bearing your soul to God and tell Him, "Ok, look, I'm desperate here. I really need to know where I'm going to go next year. What do I want to do? Where should I go?" Just to catch a random, out-of-nowhere whiff of something that reminds you of a place (Sevilla for me), leaving you with total peace, tranquility, acceptance, and an answer to your plea. (Sevilla!) We didn't see much of Fira, since we weren't up in the village where people usually watch the sunset, but looking up at it from below, it's a beautiful place.

We ended up getting the quad back to Moto Mania just a couple minutes before the closed, and both agreed, it was one of the best things we could have done on the trip. Really, I can't recommend this more. It is such an easy way to fly around the island. You have access to everything, since it fits on all the roads, and it's easier to park a quad than a car in any of the busier areas. Plus, if you have to, or want to, do a little off-roading, you know you can. ;)

The next day, also as suggested, we did a little boat cruise/tour. We opted for the 17 euro, six-hour trip, and were taken from the Port of Fira to the volcanic island of Santorini. It's still active, and a guide takes you on a moderate-but-short (30-45 mins) hike to the different craters of the canoe, giving you information along the way. It was really remarkable to be standing on an active volcano, hiking it, and seeing the black volcanic rock all around, and smoke rising from a crate that lays 2000km below sea level! And even cooler when she told us that if we put our hand in one of the holes, we could feel the heat, and we did! Also, the, the views from that thing were incredible.

After the hike on the volcano, they take you to the hot springs, which you can see in the photo above. It's the slim spot of water, between where we're looking from in the photo, and the small island just next to it. Now, I'll be honest, they sold us an idea on this one. The hot springs will not be hot for another month or so, so when I was the first one to jump off the boat, into the sea, and swim the 30 meters to the hot springs, just to discover there was barely a temperature difference, I was like, "Ok, well. I definitely won't be needing the whole half hour you're giving us to swim here." And I couldn't find any of the healing mud to at least give myself a cleanse either, but I did see a couple girls digging some up and rubbing it on their arms. I can imagine that when it's a little later in the year, the experience would be divine. It was still an experience, but not the "first time swimming in a hot springs, let alone in Greece," experience I'd expected. But, oh well. ;)

The last real stop on the trip is to the other inhabited island of Santorini. There is one small village on it, and they told us it's what all of Santorini was like before tourism became a thing. You have to walk up over 300 steps to get to it, and she warned us beforehand that it would feel like 600, considering the slope. She didn't lie, but it was definitely worth it to catch a glimpse of a village with a vibe like that. We spent most of the stop eating an accidental lunch, but did make the climb just before we were expected back at the boat. (We'd brought food as to not spend money, but saw skewers, and thought to get one and a beer to have before the climb. It ended up being a full plate lunch. nearly everything else in Greece.)

 {{ our boat }}
 {{ my friend's octopus }}
{{ view from the way up }}

The final part of the trip was to loop us by Oia so people could get off, and we caught a beautiful glimpse of the village from the sea. It was emitted a special energy from afar, and I was sad we hadn't spend more time there. But so happy to be able to see and feel it :)

Other than being oober tourists and doing all the recommended things, we spent a lot of time eating and just relaxing. My friend and I discovered that we're eating soulmates, and therefore had no problem ordering enough food for a group of eight, just for the two of us. Really, the food in Greece is incredible. So much produce, and so much fish. And so many other delicious things. I'm so happy I didn't become a vegetarian, because missing out on eating lamb in Greece is not something that you'll ever find on my Life List. :-/

Santorini proved to be a really great place to go. I definitely think I went with this "it's going to be the best place ever" thinking, based on what others had told me, and it was really special, but we also wanted to party a bit, and that didn't happen. Which of course is fine, but would have also contributed to us getting a real Santorinian experience, and it a higher rating in my travel books. But if you go to Greece and are going to check out islands, I'd say Santorini is one to hit. It has a lot to offer, and it's a really beautiful place, with good food and good people. What else does a person need? Not much I say!

Thanks, Santorini, for welcoming us the way you did. Keeping us safe, and incorporating us into your terrain for a bit of time!

Blessings, Love & Light to all! :)

To read more about Greece in general, click here!
To read about Athens, click here!
To read about Piraeus, click here!
To read about ANNY Studios in Santorini, click here!
To read 6 Tips & Tricks for Travelling Greece, click here!

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