Despite not yet being the tourist season, Santorini is a pretty special place. The stark white buildings set against the red and tan earth are truly a sight to behold. When most people think of Greece, they imagine white buildings with blue shutters set atop cliffs and mountains. At least, that is what I had always pictured Greece to be. I found out in Athens that this was not the case. I was, however, thrilled to hear that the island of Santorini, and particularly Oia within it, were much closer to this view.
Amy and I awoke early Tuesday morning and made our way down to the main port of Athens. We hopped on a huge ferry that would take us first to the islands of Paros and Naxos, then on to our final destination of Santorini some seven hours later. Amy and I passed the time by playing rummy and people-watching; groups, large and small, from all over the world, seemed to be headed to the islands of Greece. We stepped off the ferry in Santorini and immediately boarded a bus which wound its way up the sheer side of a mountain until we finally reached the top, and with it, Santorini. We made our way into Fira, the largest city on Santorini, only to learn that we had missed our bus to Kamari by a mere ten minutes. We had to wait over an hour for the next, so we walked a short way into Fira and had a beer and a gyro. The rest of the day consisted of a bit of sightseeing, checking into our villa a few miles outside of Fira, and a great dinner at Café Mistral in Kamari, where our villa was located.
Wednesday was an adventurous day. Amy and I rented an ATV for 24 hours and drove all over Santorini. The town we are staying in, Kamari, is about 10 minutes outside of Fira so we drove our ATV to Fira for some sightseeing and a quick lunch. We started out towards the Red Beach, all the way on the other side of the island, but on the way we passed signs for Santo Winery and decided to stop in. It is these types of improvisations that so often turn out to be the highlights of a trip. Amy and I sampled four wines, recommended by the bartender, and loved each one. We sampled a couple of whites, their specialty, followed by a red and Vinsanto, an extremely sweet dessert wine. Amy snapped a couple of quick pictures of cruise ships anchored off the coast of Santorini and we were on our way. We cruised on down to the Red Beach in Akrotiri, the most southerly point on the island. The Red Beach was one of the neatest things I have seen the entire trip; over thousands of years, the ocean has worn away the side of a cliff, exposing the red rock face. The sand on the beach is, in turn, red. It’s a pretty cool thing to see, and one you won’t see many other places in the world.
We headed to Oia around 5:30 PM. I was incredibly anxious to see the white and blue houses set into the mountainside like I had seen on postcards. Oia did not disappoint. It has been called the most beautiful city in Greece by many people and you will get no argument from me. If you have seen a postcard from Santorini, it has most likely come from Oia. It was just as I had imagined; amazingly white houses stacked one on top of the other on the mountainside. I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the blue roofs; judging by the white houses and blue roofs and shutters, I enjoyed imagining that everyone in Oia is a diehard University of Kentucky fan!!!
Making our way back to Kamari was the biggest adventure of the day. It was dark outside, and we had only our dim ATV lights to guide us back along the 40 minute ride on the curvy, windswept mountainside. We made a short stop in Fira for one of Greece’s famous iced coffees and an apple and cinnamon crepe. Thoroughly satisfied, we finally ended up in our villa in Kamari. It was a long and incredibly successful day, the best type of day to have in a foreign country. Tomorrow promises to be another such day, filled with ATV rides, visits to volcanoes, and a dip in a hot spring or two.
Amy and Me in Santorini.
Amy enjoying the red at Santo Winery in Santorini, Greece.
At the Red Beach.
Oia. One of the most amazing places I have ever seen.