Santorini, the volcano and the sunset

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It’s hard to believe that it’s already been a year since we were on our honeymoon. I think the reason why it took me so long to recap our Santorini adventures is that I wanted to remember them over and over again. Every time I sat down and tried to write this post the memories of those days started flowing and I ended up with a smile in my face and just a few sentences written. Also there is this feeling that words and photos don’t do justice to the wonderful places this world has.

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By the time we arrived in Santorini —the last stop in our three week trip— we were pretty worn, so we decided to surrender and took a three hour nap on that rainy and windy afternoon. With renewed forces, that night we walked by the Caldera from our hotel to Fira for dinner. And the next day, we decided to explore Fira and Firostefani for as long as the rain let us.

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That’s when we saw the first ‘taxi’ the Santorini way: an old man with a bunch of donkeys that carry tired (and/or lazy) tourists up and down the stepped roads of the island. It may seem picturesque and everyone will tell you that the animals are used to it and have been doing it for centuries, but we felt sorry for them and decided to do all the walking ourselves.

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The uniqueness of Santorini also lies on the houses and hotels that seem carved in the volcanic rock, hanging from cliffs. When you walk around Firostefani or Oia, you go through these narrow little streets flanked by buildings on both sides. Everythign seems tiny and squeezed together and you’ll see the patios and swimming pools three feet away. It is a voyeurist’s paradise, seriously. And every place is so unique and beautiful you end up looking anyway.

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On our second day in Santorini we finally saw the sun, so we woke up early and walked to the bus station in Fira where you can get on a bus and go to the major places in the island. We had decided to go to the colorful beaches. We headed to the Red Beach in the morning, and the Black Beach in the afternoon. Akrotiri, the Red Beach, is tiny and if you don’t get there early it will be really crowded. This isn’t a beach where I would spend the whole day, but it’s RED! So that’s a good excuse to visit. We sat at the feet of the cliff and once I got over my fears of a red rock rain from above, we stayed there watching the ocean until midday.

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We left Akrotiri and had a sandwich in a little place by the road before taking the bus back to Fira. There we hopped on the one that would take us to Kamari, AKA the Black Beach. We didn’t want to rent a car this time around because the roads in Santorini are narrow and snaky and run by the cliffs, so after our little car ‘incident’ in Paros we just went with the bus. As I said above, the buses take you everywhere in the island and distances are short, so they’re a very convenient option.

Colorful stones in Kamari Beach Santorini

Unlike Akrotiri, the beach in Kamari is wide and has lots of ammenities. There’s also the fact that, when you realise that the beach is not only black, you can spend the rest of the day looking for little stones in all kinds of different colors! 😉 There are lots of hotels, restaurants and shops in Kamari which makes it a very nice place to stay if you prefer a seaside resort.

Fira from the water, Santorini

For our last day in Santorini we decided to take a boat tour of the Nea Kameni Volcano which ended in the afternoon in Oia, to whatch the famous sunset there. Of course you’ll hear lots of opinions about these tours. We chose this one because, having so little time to stay in the island, it was a nice way of squeezing a few activities in one day that would have taken us longer to do on our own.

Santorini from the volcano

If you’ve never been on a volcano before, the visit to Nea Kameni is very interesting. It’s crazy to see the sulfur smoke popping out of the rocks and the heat of the soil under your feet. There’s also the amazing views of the island you get from there, of course.

Volcanic thermal waters, Santorini

The next stop on the tour was at the hot and sulfurous thermal waters formed at the feet of the volcano. This is actually a part of the tour that we would have avoided. The boat drops you at about 300 feet away from the thermal ‘pool’ and you have to swim all the way there in the freezing ocean waters. Once you reach the spot, you’ll find yourself bathing in this hot and rusty water that won’t let you see beyond your neck if looking down. So, if dirty water is not your thing, just stay on the boat, order a beer and sunbathe on the deck… I wish someone would have warned me!

Fishing boats in Thirassia, Santorini

Thirassia from the water, Santorini

Luckily, the lunch stop is much more charming. Thirassia is the island behind the volcano and, like Santorini, it was part of it before the eruptions. It’s inhabited mostly by fishermen, and you can go to town after lunch if you still got the strength to climb the never ending steps from the port. There’s also the donkey taxi option if you want.

Walking the setreets of Oia, Santorini

After a tasty lunch and basking in the Thirassian peace, we boarded the boat again to sail to our final destination: Oia, the town of the blue domes and scenic sunsets. Now let me be totally honest: Oia is as charming as it is over populated with tourists. And they’re all desperate to take a photo of the sunset. The best bet at this point is to run away from the tiny streets that overlook the Caldera and visit the other side of the town. Some of the buildings that were affected by the 1956 hearthquake are still standing and are as beautiful as they were in their glory days. There’s a perfect mix of destruction and conservation, all in gorgeous pastel colors.

Colorful buildings in Oia, Santorini

Saint Nicholas astle, Oia, Santorini

Back in the most famous part of town, you have to go at least for five minutes to the ruins of the old venetian castle of Saint Nicholas. My advice is to get there early in the afternoon before everyone starts piling their cameras on top of each other for the sunset photos. Tehre you can admire the panoramic views of the town, take a few pictures and move on.

Restaurants and windmills in Oia, Santorini

As I told you before, Oia is like a laberynth of little houses, hotels and restaurants. If you look down while you’re walking you’ll see something beautiful and interesting for sure: a swimming pool coming right out of a hotel and over the caldera, a terraced restaurant cover in bougainvillea or a church’s cupola sprouting from the ground.

Windmills in Oia, Santorini

Oia Windmill at Sunset

Walking through those street while running away from the increasingly crowded castle we found the perfect spot for resting and sunset-waiting. A terrace bar at the feet of a windmill. We sat down, ordered one of the best beers we have ever drunk and just stayed there, absorbing all that beauty and feeling grateful for being there.

Santorini Sunset

I don’t think we could have had a better farewell from Greece and the honeymoon. We would definitely go on the exact same trip again, but there are so many amazing places in this world that we’d love to visit, that perhaps we’ll have to wait until our 25th wedding aniversary. Who knows, I wish we can!

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