Greek Island hopping is one of the most popular holidays for European travellers. The Greek Islands have beautiful beaches, rugged coastlines and a glittering ocean to offer people who want to enjoy a summer of dreams. We’re not going on a trip through the Greek Islands (scarce resources of time and money!) but we did spend a little time on Santorini, probably the most well-known and popular of Greek island destinations. Research has told us that the island was a circular island but in the middle of the second millennium BCE there was a huge volcanic eruption of Thera that blew most of the island away leaving the main crescent landmass and two other smaller pieces we know today.
Santorini is a 30 minute flight from Athens that we woke up at 4am to catch. We had breakfast at a cafe near our hotel, and I tried Greek coffee for the first time. Traditionally it is made by partially burying a long-handled copper pot in sand over the embers of a fire. The coffee is already ground when it goes into the pot, so after a gentle simmer, you’re left with a robust and reasonably strong brew. Coffee was served with delectable candied grapes that went perfectly with the coffee. The first meal in Santorini will immediately inform you that you’re in a tourist spot that demands much higher prices! The portions are still reasonably large however, so perhaps it’s only exceedingly good value on the mainland?
After breakfast, we walked further along to explore Ekklisia Theoskepasti; a rocky outpost sticking out from the mainland. In order to get there we followed a path downwards and past the Chapel of Panagia Theoskepasti. Once we got out onto the rock, we go fantastic views back at the main island with its iconic white houses and blue rooftops, while also getting a breathtaking view of the ocean spreading out below. At certain points it was crazy windy, and other times it was perfectly warm when large boulders blocked the brunt of the wind. I would highly recommend going there for the excellent views and to get a little exercise in what is usually a do-nothing kind of holiday.
We dined on salads which are the perfect food for enjoying under a blue sky and look out to the sea. Something about a Greek salad is so simple but perfect. The olives and capers along with crumbling feta give a variety of salty hits while the onions provide crunchy zing, and all of that is brought together with a generous dousing of olive oil – one of my good friends.
In the evening we explore Oia, a town further north of where we were staying. As across all of Santorini, the buildings there were crowded on top of one another up the cliff, connected by winding paths that had a couple of steps up or down anywhere as required. There was an abundance of souvenir stores where we whittled away time before heading to a popular lookout point to catch the sunset. The wind had really whipped up and it was actually very cold. Once the sun had dipped below the horizon and we had enjoyed a golden view of the island, we hurried along to a restaurant called Karma for dinner. We were lucky to get a table before everyone else came in almost immediately after and filled the restaurant. It’s a nice spot with decent food and typically friendly Greek service.
The following day was beach day with both red and black sand beaches on offer. It was so fun to clamber over rough rocks to reach the Mars-like red sand beach, and stroll along the black sand beaches further along the coast. At lunch I ordered squid and was surprised to discovered that meant an entire grilled squid. A cat strolled around the restaurant and happily gobbled the squid I offered to share with it. We cooled off with a complimentary ice cream afterwards and headed back along the beach to walk off lunch. Back at our hotel we also took a freezing cold dip in the pool. It looked sunny but the temperature wasn’t really warm enough for a swim, we just really wanted to swim while on Santorini!
Since the weather was better on our second day, in the evening we returned to Oia to watch the sunset again, this time from down by the water. There is a zig-zag stairway leading from the base of the cliff up to where we had been the evening before. We walked up part of it to get a good vantage point for photos but had to endure the smell of donkey poop which littered the path the entire way. It was awful and I have no idea why it was there. We got some nice photos though so I suppose it was worth it? We ate dinner at Sunset Ammoudi which was right beside the water. It was expensive, but delicious. We chose a fish and consumed the entire thing once it had been expertly grilled for us. We ordered baklava for dessert and then received a complimentary dessert after that – it was kind of odd but I guess we should have known by that point! Super full (again), we headed home, enjoying how gorgeous the island looked by night.
On our last day we went to Moni Profitou Iliou; the tallest point on the island. At the top is monastery with a small garden that was a little bare at the time. From there we could see down to the beaches we had walked past the day before, and also down to the airport where we would catch our flight back to Athens. It was a really beautiful day and the spot was fantastic to see so much of the island.
After lunch we went to the airport where the final check-box of any trip to Greece was marked; a delay of 3 hours to our flight into Athens. The airport was very small and communication was minimal. Thankfully Richard had the foresight to book a flight into London with plenty of time to spare so we only had a run a little bit when we arrived in Athens to make our flight home.
A note on getting around: there are buses but they are irregular so most people tend to hire quad bikes or cars. We opted for a car which was handy to keep our bags with us and allowed us to keep our own schedule. Driving on Santorini is a little perilous however, with incredibly narrow roads and pedestrians everywhere because there are often no footpaths. Using Google maps is also tricky on the island because it often tells you use roads that turn out to be footpaths! A quad bike might have been more manageable if you’re able to.
Our Greek holiday was a lot of fun and I’m thankful we got a chance to get there. Santorini is as beautiful as all the pictures promise with white and blue buildings clamouring for sunshine on the uneven cliff faces, and the beautiful mediterranean providing the world’s most soothing background music. Definitely a place to put on your list (but let’s be real, it’s already on there!).