Often we come across beautiful international destinations aptly captured in movies and song videos. Santorini is everything and more.
How to reach Santorini?
We took the quick route in; a flight from Athens did the job pretty well and we reached the airport within an hour of departure. However, if you want to fall in love with the vastness of the Aegean Sea, the ferry to Santorini is a pretty good option, which takes at least four hours. Both the airport and the dock are pretty close to the main town of Fira, which is where most travellers choose to stay. There is a constant flow of Ktel buses at fixed timings, which are coordinated with the flight timings, giving you a hassle-free journey into the beautiful creation of nature.
Where to stay?
I would recommend an Airbnb Cave house called as Raki Cave. It is a five-minute walk from the main bus station in Fira, and super close to all the restaurants. But this isn’t even the main highlight. The moment you step inside this cave house, which can accommodate three people, you will realize how heaven on earth looks like and that too just for 30 Euros a head per day. Well, besides this, there are plenty of hotel rooms available to choose from as Santorini strives on tourism.
How to travel within the city?
People usually go for rentals which makes it very easy to roam around without being time-bound. However, the Ktel bus services came to our rescue, since neither of us wanted to risk driving on foreign roads and getting lost. There is a fixed schedule, wherein all the buses start from the main bus stop in Fira and take you to all the main attractions. Make sure you are familiar with the time slots for the weekdays which are different than those for the weekends. These buses are super pocket-friendly as compared to the proficient but super expensive cab services.
Akrotiri Archaeological site
For those who equate Santorini to only beaches, here’s a little surprise. There is this beautiful archaeological site, which is basically an excavation of the ancient city that existed before the volcanic eruptions led to the formation of the Caldera rim and the current semi-circular island of Santorini. The tour is fun, filled with insights of how the ancient city was built, and ends with a documentary which is basically the highlight. A guided tour is recommended to digest the history this site has to offer.
The red beach is a little over hyped, as it isn’t an actual beach with sand (at least the place the arrow board took us to, wasn’t). Then the logical question would be, why did we choose to go there in the first place? Well, that was because we still had enough time to catch the bus back from Akrotiri to Fira, and the red beach was just a 10-minute walk from Akrotiri.
After finishing with the Red beach, we took the bus back to Fira, had a light lunch from one of the many restaurants near the bus stand and caught another bus that took us to Megalochori village, around 30 minutes from Fira, where we got to marvel at the Venetsanos Winery. There are innumerable vineyards in Santorini, enough to drive a hardcore wine fan, crazy. They walk you through the grape fields and the entire process of making different types of wines, at the end of which lies the wine tasting session, entailed with the most mesmerizing view of the Caldera rim. The wine, winds and the view, made us want to pause that moment forever.
Volcano island tour
There are plenty of tours available with the local sightseeing agents. Here’s a disclaimer – all tours mostly start from the old port, which is a long way downhill, around 30 minutes on foot, so better leave your rooms accordingly as they are pretty punctual about the timings. On your way down, you will encounter donkeys, ready to carry you down till the old port. The volcano island isn’t as small as it seems and the trek itself is exhausting, so carry light snacks to keep that energy going. The crater is an active volcano which spits out fumes of Sulphur but is worth the climb. After this, they take you to the hot springs, which weren’t very hot in the chilly month of February and hence no one dared to swim. We got back to Fira, by ditching the stairs for a ropeway ride up.
Perissa (black sand) beach
This beach is worth visiting as the black-sand glows like sparkling diamonds. Luckily we got to catch a rainbow just as we reached the beach. Once again, we were in a daze of the beauty it had to offer – with the pale white hills in the background, in perfect contrast with the black sand and blue waters, above which the sky played in different shades of saffron and blue. This was indeed a picture, straight out of a painting.
The hike from Fira to Oia village
Travellers usually choose to take the bus from Fira to Oia, which takes about thirty minutes, but we took the road less travelled by and you’ll see why. We decided to walk the whole distance on foot. If you are confused as to how to journey through unknown roads in a foreign land without a guide, here is a piece of advice – keep the sea to your left and the white houses to your right, and you are good to go. Despite this, if you get lost, the locals and fellow adventurers will be there to guide you, for the entire caldera rim consists of different towns of Santorini and is barely ever devoid of human touch.
There are some uphill routes which can get a little exhausting, but the cool breeze and the vastness of the sea will be enough to keep you going.
Just as you enter the town of Oia, there is this postcard-perfect shot which captures the entire village in the backdrop. Do not miss this beauty.
There are plenty of restaurants (or tavernas as they like to call it) in Oia, but mind you, they charge double the rates as Fira. After the much-needed food and rest, we made our way to the Atlantis bookshop. It is a must visit place for all the book lovers out there as the little descriptions and nuances of the entire store in itself will soothe your soul.
Once we quenched our thirst for novels, we walked up to the sunset point, which even in the offseason was pretty crowded. The serene atmosphere entailing the marvellous sunset (considered amongst the top 10 sunsets in the world) gave us a sense of fulfilment – the perfect ending to the most exhilarating journey. We took the last bus back to Fira and dozed off to a land apart.
All in all, Greece is God’s own land which grows on you and rejuvenates the soul. As a traveller, I found discovering the inner beauty of Santorini in Greece, a promising experience and I hope you feel the same!