by Leona Sky
The beautiful, tiny white and blue island that legend claims to be Atlantis is where we are heading. That is where we decided to spend our holidays. Even though it has been a pretty smooth flight, we are looking forward to finally getting out of this plane. Our fellow passengers seem to think alike. I am looking out of the window longing for the landing runway to appear, but all I see is a huge rock coming closer. The girl in the seat in front of me starts to scream. Her dad tries to comfort her, but his “Everything is fine.” does not sound convincing. The plane finally turns before we experience a bumpy landing. Everyone is applauding and shortly after we´ve collected our luggage in the tiniest airport I have ever been to, we find ourselves sitting in a taxi heading for our Anassa Deluxe suite in Kamari. Don´t expect taxi drivers to have and or work with a taxometer – you are in Greece. Always negotiate the price for your trip prior to departure. Otherwise fares might differ by a factor of 3 (at least that´s what we have experienced). The only honest taxi driver, who even told us how much tax he paid, using a meter was Nectarios (he drives taxi #20, TAZ 2702, phone: 6980844446). Make sure to give him a call and support his attitude by booking him or his cousin.
After a 10 minute ride, we arrive at Anassa Deluxe Suites, Kamari. The hotel manager is very friendly and laughs her head off after asking us about the landing experience. She tells us about the must-do´s and shows us to our beautiful, spacious and spotless room with a balcony overlooking the pool. We are provided with orange juice and cake before heading for the beach 100m down the road.
The water is clear and cool with the black gravel beach giving us a hard time walking barefoot. Sitting on one of the big wave breaker stones overlooking the sea with a breeze in our face is amazing. Except for the beach access, plenty of hotels and an esplanade lined with plenty of little taverns, cafés and night clubs, Kamari doesn´t have much to offer. Apart from many different clothes and souvenir shops, you will definitely find both inexpensive as well as luxurious places to eat. Don´t miss out on the delicious Feta Saganaki with Tzaziki….YUMMY! And make sure to watch the amazing sunrise!
Most of the restaurants also offer two sun beds and a parasol for 5-7€ per day including free WiFi access. If you want to take a lunch break in between you simply take your receipt with you and return pinning it back to one of the parasols later on.
You might also want to visit the Open Air Cinema or hike up the hill to check out Ancient Thera. Even if you are not interested in the (in my opinion pretty poor) remainings of an 11th century BC Dorian settlement, the strenuous hike is well worth it. My boyfriend stopped swearing after the third or fourth turn because of the breathtaking view. It takes about one hour to get to Ancient Thera. Please note that you would have to hike up even further (from Ancient Thera on, you are looking at nothing but a very narrow track) if you wanted to watch the sunset.
To go swimming at a more remote and sandy beach, we took the boat from Kamari to Perissa (4€/person one way, leaving and returning regularly) and walked (about 20 minutes along the beach) to the little village of Perívolos to spend a day at a very nice, sandy beach with free sunbeds and parasol drinking fresh fruit cocktails.
Due to the size of the island (only about 72 square kilometers = 28 square miles with a population of less than 10,000) and both convenient (air-conditioned) and cheap (1.60€ or 1.80€ depending on the distance per person, one way) public transport, there is absolutely no need to rent a car. If you decide to do so anyway, you will have a hard time finding parking spots. Buses leave regularly (every 15 or 20 minutes) and even though there are plenty of bus stops, you can always ask the driver to let you hop off anyway along the way to e.g. get to one of the famous wineries of Santorini. Due to lack of time, we missed out on a wine tasting, but according to the owner of the hotel we stayed at, Santorini Wines is not only offering the best wines, but also the nicest view overlooking the Caldera.
One thing you should definitely not miss out on is a day in Fíra, the island´s capital. Regardless of where you want to go, you will be more than likely to change busses is Fíra. Make sure to not only visit the mosque and the church, but also stroll around town checking out the numerous tiny shops offering souvenirs, art, clothes or Santorini fancy foods like pistachios, nuts or olives. If you are not into shopping, you might just make yourself comfortable in one of the many different cafés, taverns or lounges and simply enjoy the amazing view and watch the cruise liners come and go.
Fíra is also the departure point for island cruises that either take you to nice beaches (red or white beach) or the hot pools and the islands of Nea Kameni and Thirasia. We decided on the later and booked a day cruise on a boat called “King Thira” (35€ per person excluding lunch and the 2€ entry fee to Nea Kameni National Park. Looking back, this trip was definitely one of the highlights. The view from the very top of the volcanic island of Nea Kameni leaves you both breath- and speechless.
Hiking up the 130m high crater is said to be quite strenuous (20 minutes), but I couldn´t stop taking pictures on the way to the top. If you want to go for a swim (suitable for experienced swimmers only!!!) in the hot pools afterwards, make sure to wear an old bikini or shorts, because of the ferric sulphate in the water. It turns anything orange and neither my washing machine nor myself were able to remove the stain to date.
Upon arrival on the island of Thirasia, you can either hike up the 250 steps to the deserted village of Manolas or spend 5€ on a donkey ride. With my boyfriend being a donkeyphobic, we decided to hike. Since the steps are made for donkeys and not for humans, you need to take at least two steps before reaching the next step. We were exhausted upon arrival in Manolas, but the view was absolutely stunning and made up for the exertion. Since most Greeks have left the island of Thirasia, there is nothing else to see, but run-down houses. If you sit down and have some food, you can check out the simple, but friendly “Panorama” restaurant right at the end of the steps.
Our final stop was Amóudi, the tiny port situated right below the sunset village of Oía. From there you either climb about 200 steps again or take a donkey.
Guess what we did…right… Even though Oía is mostly known as the best place to watch the very beautiful Santorini sunsets, you should make sure to visit the village itself, too.
There are more than 90 churches in Oía alone (most of them are tiny, privately-owned ones, though) with the main one at the square of Nikolaou Nomikou being well worth a visit. Except for sunset time, the village of Oía is less crowded than Fíra and there are plenty of different taverns. One of the affordable ones offering delicious food, friendly staff and Caldera view is “Thalami”. You won´t be able to watch the beautiful sunset from this restaurant, though.
The best spot to do so in Oía is the ruin of a small castle at the very tip of the village right at the end of the steps when walking or riding up from Amóudi. One should know that this is not a secret though….hundreds of tourists meet there (did I mention that it used o be a tiny castle?)…so you need to be there at least 30-45 min before the sun sets (if you want to find a good photography spot, make sure to be there even earlier…). People jump onto the roofs of houses and restaurants at the tip of the island to get a good spot and people might get quite pushy.
Once the sun has set, people start clapping as if they had attended a show. Whether you consider it a show or not – the sunsets are really amazing.
We not only wanted to attend the sunset party in Oía though, but were checking out different spots. There is numerous nice spots when walking along the Caldera from Fíra to Oía passing the villages of Firostefani and Imerovigli. The view along the way is stunning.
A particularly nice and remote spot where no one else but us watched the sunset is just outside Imerovigli when walking towards Oía. The view along the way is stunning – the island is simply beautiful! I especially liked the tiny white churches with the blue domes.
Don´t be disappointed to find most of the hotels to be plain white 😉 It just leaves you speechless. Back to the sunset: you can sit on the wall next to the trail and while watching the sun dive into the ocean. Besides, watching the sunset from the castle of Pyrgos was stunning, too.
Pyrgos is much less touristy than any of the other villages on the island. It´s known as the artist´s village and when walking the beautiful, narrow streets, you will soon find out why. Busses to and from Pyrgos leave less frequently. A taxi ride from Pyrgos to Kamari is 9.00€ (if a meter is used, 15€ or more if not).
Last, but not least, anyone spending their holiday in Santorini should visit the archeological site of Akrotiri. After having been closed for almost 7 years due to a terrible accident, the site has finally re-opened. The entrance fee of 5€ is well spent even if history hasn´t been one of your favorite subjects at school. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves walking the nicely (and partly even fully) re-constructed buildings. After this great insight into the island´s history, we walked over to Red Beach – apparently one of Santorini´s nicest beaches. The beach is pretty, the red rocks cool, but it does get pretty crowded, which I don´t fancy. You should not miss out on eating freshly caught fish with tasty Santorini wine at Delfina restaurant.
Husband and father go fishing and the lovely wife grills the fish while you enjoy the view from your table basically right in the ocean. Expensive, but an awesome experience and one of the best meals we had on the island.Time passed by way too quickly and after only a week, we had to fly back home =( We thoroughly enjoyed our time on this beautiful island and would love to come back to Santorini one day =) (
About the author: Leona is a former biomedical scientist who took out to help make the internet more “picturesque” ( https://mylinkcloud.com/ ). In her blog MakeSureYouKnow she shares anything crazy, cool, interesting or funny (art, apps, online services, strange facts etc) found on the web. You can also follow her on Facebook or Twitter.