I can honestly say that the Greek island of Santorini is one of my most favorite places I have ever been. I don’t know if it was the architecture, the atmosphere, the landscape, the people, or simply the beauty of it all, but the short period of time we spent there was more than sweet. Sometimes I like to close my eyes and imagine I’m still on the back of that little scooter, the wind in my hair, zipping in and out of those intricate little alleyways around the most charming buildings I’ve ever seen.
Our Santorini story began in Athens, where we boarded the Blue Star Ferry. The journey would took seven hours, so I enjoyed a morning of napping, reading, and gazing out the windows. We didn’t think getting a private cabin would be necessary, so we upgraded from economy to VIP. The two lounges were the same, the only difference being the VIP area was one deck higher and more expensive, and therefore less crowded. When I went down to the economy deck to buy lunch, it was absolutely teeming with tour groups and families so we deemed this upgrade well worth it. Toward the end of the ride we went out to the deck, where there were gorgeous views of the islands waiting. We were lucky to have perfect weather and the view was a great way to welcome us to Santorini. Disembarking the ship felt like participating in a cattle herding, although a fairly orderly one. We had rented a villa through VRBO, and they arranged for a driver to meet us at the port. We found him easily and he was very pleasant despite not speaking much English. He dropped us off in a parking lot in the town of Oia, which is where a porter met us to help us get our luggage down to our villa.
This was the longest, windiest walk of my life, but also one of the most enjoyable (more enjoyable, admittedly, when we weren’t carrying our luggage). The views of the water were stunning! There were nearly 200 steps that led to our adorable cave-like villa that would be home for the next two days. It had a full kitchen with a table and chairs, beds for three people, a washing machine, and lots of feline friends who welcomed themselves in when we left the door open for longer than five seconds. The only thing missing was a TV… and honestly I don’t think we even realized until our second day there because who needs a TV when you are in such a beautiful place!
Oia was a great town to stay in. There were tons of cute shops and restaurants with stunning views. The iconic blue dome churches could be seen from so many angles, and the water surrounded the coastline in such a beautiful way. Even though this town is all the way on one end of the island, we were able to get around to the whole thing by renting a scooter. In order to do so you need an international motorcycle license, and because many tourists who come to the island do not have these, the rental places get around this by offering four-wheelers to those guests. We think of four-wheelers as vehicles for off-roading, so it was very odd to see so many of them in traffic on the main roads! Luckily, my husband does have an international motorcycle license so we got the true scooter experience. I have spent many hours on the back of his motorcycle and this was definitely a different ride! No helmet, no face mask, no padded jacket, just us, the breeze, and the sunshine.
One of our first stops was the Santorini Brewing Company, a must for my beer loving husband. We had a great chat with the workers there and got to take a peek at the brewing equipment before tasting some samples and buying some souvenirs. We got to taste Greece’s very first attempt at an IPA, though I was honestly more charmed by the adorable donkey logo.
Next we made our way to the highest point on the island, which is the site of the Monastery of Profitis Ilias. We did not go inside but the views from the top were just beyond stunning. I had more than a few mini heart attacks as we navigated the steep, winding road on our scooter.
Eventually we made our way to the complete opposite end of the island from where we were staying in Oia to the Akrotiri Archaeological Site. The ancient city of Akrotiri was buried under volcanic ash sometime around 1620 BC. After it was mostly excavated, a building was built around it, along with ramps and platforms, so that guest could admire it. It was very pleasant to explore in the comfort of the shade and so interesting to see the homes and tools from this ancient world. Just a short walk from here we found Santorini’s famous Red Beach, which was very red and very beachy. We opted not to walk down to it and instead just enjoyed the views.
Back in Oia, we made the long journey down to Amoudi Bay, made not quite as long thanks to our scooter. It meant that we could get a parking spot all the way down the hill rather than have to walk it! Then there was one flight of stairs that landed you on a dock lined with seafood restaurants. After making your way through that, the walk becomes a bit more strenuous, with rocks to scramble over and a somewhat long, very narrow bridge with no railings. The water in the bay itself was positively freezing, and while my husband braved it and swam all the way out to the jumping cliff I was content to watch from a distance.
We ventured out to the town of Fira for dinner one evening, and realized that it is truly where the nightlife is. Tons of shops, clubs, bars, and restaurants line the narrow roads. We had a late dinner with a nice view of the water before doing some shopping. It has become a tradition for us to buy a piece of artwork everywhere we go, and it was here in Fira that we found a fantastic souvenir- a painting on wood of a couple enjoying the view of the iconic blue dome churches.
Rather than take the ferry back to Athens, we boarded a flight. And considering the time it took to check in, go through security, stand shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of other people in the one room airport, board the plane, fly to Athens, disembark the plane, pick up the luggage… it really wasn’t any less of a hassle than the seven hour ferry. But the journey was worth it. I loved every little thing about this island. I don’t usually consider myself a “sit around and relax” vacationer, but I could see myself sitting around in Santorini for a while!