Travel to Greece: Soaking in the Splendors of Santorini
By Judy Freedman
Now that the weekend was behind us and we had experienced city life in Athens, it was time to spend a week soaking in the splendors of Santorini. My first trip to Greece with my sister N and daughter A was about to get even better.
We packed our bags and headed for the Athens airport for a short flight aboard Aegean Air to Santorini. (Note 1: You can also take a ferry to Santorini, which is less expensive, but a friend recommended flying as a quicker, calmer option. Note 2: It is cheaper to book your luggage fee online before you get to the airport.)
Upon landing, our transport was waiting to drive us to Nicoletta's Loukia Cave House, our Airbnb booking, high up on the hill in Oia. Oia is one of the most popular and picturesque villages on Santorini and is at the northern tip of the 15-mile-long main island.
The Loukia Cave House was perfect for the three of us and could have accommodated up to six. The house had everything we needed for seven glorious days in Oia—comfortable beds, hot water for showers (as long as you remembered to turn the hot water on before you showered), a kitchen for cooking, a patio for sunbathing and daily maid service.
One BIG thing to remember in Santorini is that toilet paper must not be thrown in the toilet—it must go in the trash. The sewer system throughout the island is not very advanced. That's why you need the daily maid service. Got it?
Not wanting to stay inside while the sun was shining, we lathered on sunscreen, put on our hats and visors and ventured out to explore Oia. Despite the crowds of tourists from multiple cruise ships, we found our way to the town center to scope out the shops and restaurants and bask in our spectacular surroundings.
According to travel writer Rick Steves, "Santorini is one of the Mediterranean's most dramatic islands: a flooded caldera (a collapsed volcanic crater) with a long, steep, multicolored arc of cliffs, thrusting up a thousand feet above sea level.… Perched along the ridgeline is a gaggle of perfectly placed whitewashed villages punctuated with azure domes that make this, undeniably, one of Greece's most scenic spots."
It was so beautiful that I wished I could have put my iPhone on autopilot so it would have been ready to point and click at a moment's notice. "Ooh, ah, ooh, ah, it's so breathtaking," I'd find myself constantly saying. I also wished I had a wide-angle lens to capture the breadth of visual impact. (This is why, dear readers, you must book a trip and go see Santorini close up.)
Greek Food at Its Best
Did I say I love Greek food?
I do. I do.
And dine on Greek food, we did, we did.
Our first lunch was at Lotza, close to the entrance to the village, with a gorgeous caldera view. We shared Greek salad, spanakopita and shrimp saganaki, along with spicy feta dip and crusty bread.
Thankfully, A had made our dinner reservations in advance of arrival. "We're going to Laokasti," said A. "It has a very good rating on TripAdvisor." We enjoyed grilled octopus to start, and I ordered a traditional roasted lamb shank and potato dish for my entree. Yum, yum, yum!
Hiking From Fira to Oia
On Tuesday, after a restful night and Greek coffee for breakfast, we hopped on the local bus to Fira, the capital of Santorini. One of the popular things to do is to hike between the two villages—either from Oia to Fira or, as we did, from Fira to Oia. The views are amazing.
I will tell you that this three- to four-hour hike (yes, I said three to four hours) is not for the faint of heart. Go early morning to avoid the heat. And bring lots and lots and lots of water. And wear hiking boots or shoes or sneakers that have a good grip.
Leaving Fira at 11 in the morning (not as early as we should have left), the hike seemed like it would be long but not too demanding. There were cobblestone streets with a defined path. It was the second half—through the mountains—where the terrain got more uneven and dusty and the sun heated up.
Having finished our water bottles, we stopped at the donkey stand at the midway mark to fill our backpacks with more liquids. Should we climb on a donkey and let it carry us the rest of the way to Oia? No, no, no. We were three adventurers—or so we thought.
Our feet were tired. Our clothes were drenched with sweat. Would we make it back to Oia? We were high up on the cliffside—there was no turning back. With about four miles completed and only one to go, we huffed and we puffed.
We huffed and we puffed some more.
We huffed and we puffed a whole lot more.
The clock struck 14:00 (2 p.m.), and we reached Oia.
We did it! Yes, we did it!
Exhausted and ready for lunch, we thoroughly enjoyed Greek salad, fried zucchini and tzatziki at Cafe Flora.
More to Come
"Once you set foot on the island you will never want to leave," said Nicoletta's daughter Christina. She was right. Tomorrow and later in the week we would unlock more Santorini secrets, including a food and wine tour around the island, a day trip to the black beach, and a sunset catamaran cruise on the Aegean Sea.
P.S. In case you missed my earlier posts about Athens, check them out below:
This post originally appeared on aboomerslifeafter50.com.