I’mma be upfront with you all.
You know all of those beautiful cliff-top images of white washed walls and blue domes that we all expect from Santorini? Yep, none of that here. We didn’t make it to the village of Oia – pretty much a traveller’s sin, if the guide books are to be believed.
BUT GUESS WHAT! You can still find stunning views, cute stray cats, overpriced glasses of wine and opportunities to take awesome photos of yourself looking out over a cliff (i.e. have an awesome time) all over the island. Read on for photographic evidence of this, as well as a few of our volcano-hiking, sunset-viewing, donkey-dodging adventures in our 8 short hours on Santorini.
Santorini was the first stop on our cruise – we drifted up around 1pm, and were off the boat by 2 – I had made B book us on a ship tour so that we could be first off, because I was determined to make the most of our 8 hours (spoiler alert – we didn’t make the most of it. More on that later).
Our cruise tour was an active volcano hike, followed by swimming in volcanic hot springs (you can book similar in the port for just 18 euro). We were picked up from the port by an adorable little sailing boat called Hermes, fully equipped with an adorable little tour guide named Tania, and taken to the active volcano, Nea Kameni, just across from Santorini itself. The hike to the top was trickier than expected (so much slipping on gravelly paths) but wasn’t too difficult, taking us about an hour to go up and back, including regular stops for brilliant history lessons from Tania – just long enough to get sweaty and out of breath and kid ourselves that we’d burned off the pina coladas and bread basket from the night before.
Awesome views(including that one at the top of the post) and putting our hands in volcanic pockets ensued:
From there we headed to the “hot springs.” I panicked about this the night before – the tour had said for strong swimmers only, as we would have to swim a “significant distance” to the springs. The distance turned out to be about 40 metres (the 6 year old on our tour powered through it like a champ), and the springs turned out to be a creepy island that radiated heat through the water – the closer you get, the warmer the sea (*science*)- and had a single inhabitant with a few goats, a dangerous dog and a couple of suspicious wooden huts. But hey, the water was perfect swimming temperature, the island had character, and very few things in life beat jumping off a boat into clear water. I honestly can’t recommend this tour enough.
After that, a little exhausted and a lot hangry, we were dropped at the bottom of the cliff below Santorini’s capital, Fira. There are three ways of getting to Fira from the old port:
- Catch the cable car
- Ride a donkey up a narrow, winding path up the cliffs
- Walk up the narrow, winding donkey path and hope you don’t get run over.
The poor little donkeys are treated very, very badly, and there was no way I was walking in front of them, so cable car it was.
And this, if you ask B, is where it all went downhill. Someone had his heart set on going to Oia, someone else didn’t think we had time. In hindsight, we did – this is why I say we didn’t really make the most of our time – but I didn’t trust the local taxi drivers to get us there and back before our ship literally sailed, so I spent the rest of the evening veing very in-his-face about making the best of Fira.
Which wasn’t hard, because honestly, as stunning as Oia looks, you could spend an evening – or an entire weekend – in Fira and still have an incredible time. Cobblestone streets, whitewashed buildings, colourful doors that seem to lead to nowhere, endless icecream stores, and so many rooftop bars and restaurants that if you ate somewhere different every night, you’d go several months without ever seeing the same view.
We had epic froyo sundaes to relieve the hanger, found a cute church and cuter stray cats, found the highest point in the town and followed some music until we worked out where it came from. B also rage-shopped and bought two pairs of Armani sunglasses (real ones, not tourist fakes… or so I’d hope at those prices) which I’ll only now admit look good on him.
We had dinner at Zafora’s (one of those places where you know you’re paying for the view, not the food #stillworthit), had the local wine specialty called vinsanto, and saw one of the greatest sunsets of my life (which I failed to get decent photos of).
Our time on Santorini ended after dark, being some of the last people back on the ship, along with a drunk Irish guy drinking Mythos in the queue, a hilariously sweet middle-aged lady who was so terrified of the cable car she put nail marks in my arm, and a newly engaged couple with one of the biggest rocks I’ve ever seen.
Much like all the drunk girls I’ve ever met in club bathrooms, I hope they’re all doing well