Gorgeous Greece: Santorini

After a few days in Athens, we took a ferry to Santorini, a small island in the Southern Aegean Sea.

6828_533567185504_7034319_n Depending on your budget, you have several options to get to Santorini from Athens: (1) You can take a 45 minute flight on Aegean or Olympic Airlines. At the time we were traveling, this option was very expensive.  (2) You can take a “normal” ferry.  This option is the least expensive but takes 9 to 10 hours!  (3) You can take the “Blue Star” ferry, which is a little faster (7 hours), and only slightly more expensive than the normal ferries.  (4) Or, you can take the option I chose, the high speed ferry.  This option takes approximately 5 hours.  At the time we were traveling, this ferry was expensive, but not nearly as expensive as a flight.

6828_533568018834_3184394_nAnother word to the wise about the ferries – if you are traveling during peak season (summer) you will want to purchase your ferry tickets in advance.  Other times of the year you may be fine purchasing your ferry tickets upon your arrival to Greece, or even the day you want to travel, but this was not the case in August!  We met several young travelers who did not book their ferry tickets in advance were stuck on the island!

El Greco Palace Resort & Spa

El Greco Palace Resort & Spa

Unlike our stay in Athens, we decided to spend a bit more on our accommodations in Santorini and chose El Greco Palace Hotel & Spa in Fira.  The hotel was lovely (we even had our own small private pool) and the location was perfect for us.  We chose to stay in Fira (the island’s capital) to be close to the action (nightlife, shops and restaurants).

Fira

Fira

The hotel was also just steps from the ledge of the Caldera (the volcanic ledge left after the volcano erupted which created the island).

In front of the Caldera.

In front of the Caldera.

While out and about in Fira, we decided to descend the 588 steps that zig-zag down the front of the caldera.  To do this you can climb the steps on foot, take a cable car or ride a donkey.  We chose to take donkeys down the caldera, but in retrospect, I am not sure whether I would recommend this option to anyone else.

First and foremost, I worry about the treatment and the conditions of the donkeys that are used to transport tourists.  However, it was also a very nerve-racking experience!  The stairs are steep and uneven and the donkey’s handler hurried them down the steps at what seemed to be a perilous pace.  On occasion, our donkeys slipped down a stair or two eliciting screams from my friend Diana and I.  (Judging by the screams of other tourists, I know we weren’t the only ones).  If you decide that the donkeys are the best option for you, I would recommend that you ride them up the stairs instead of down.

On the stairs leading down the Caldera

On the stairs leading down the Caldera

After our donkey fiasco we had worked up an appetite!  As I previously stated, our hotel was just outside the hustle and bustle of the city center.  We found our favorite restaurants to be the ones on the way into the city center (rather than the more expensive, more touristy places in the city center).  The portions were huge, the prices were fair and the barrel wine flowed cheaply.  For me, Greece had some of the best food I have ever experienced during my travels.  Fresh salads, generous portions of lamb, indulgent baklava and house-made feta kept us well-fed and happy girls.

After spending some time in Fira, we decided to head up to Oia on the northern part of the island.

The scenery is gorgeous in Oia!

A “typical honeymooner activity” is to watch the sunset in Oia.  Oia is said to have the most beautiful sunsets in the world – a tough standard to live up to, but let me tell you, the sunsets in Oia did not disappoint!  When visiting Oia, I would recommend that you head to a restaurant with a great view a few hours before sunset (the spots with the best views fill up the fastest), sit back, sip some Greek wine, relax and enjoy mother nature’s show.

Oia's famous sunset

Oia’s famous sunset

However, it’s important to note, Santorini is not just for honeymooners.  Although, it is a magically beautiful and romantic place, there is a lot going on for such a small island.  We spent hours each day shopping (the island had many jewelry stores selling hand-made pieces) and spent our evenings experiencing the vivacious nightlife.  We became fans of Greek wine, so we also spent an afternoon touring Santos Wines Winery.   After several glasses of wine, we decided to head to the Red Beach.

The Red Beach is nestled between the cliffs - the white dots you see are sun umbrellas!

The Red Beach is nestled between the cliffs – the white dots you see are sun umbrellas!

As you may have guessed, the beach’s sand was red.  If there was a better way to get to the beach, we didn’t find it since we literally hiked down the cliff to the sand in our flip flops.  Once there, the color of the sand did not disappoint, however, the beach itself did.  The beach was very small, meaning that you were basically forced to sun bathe almost touching the stranger next to you.  Also, there was nothing (that we could find) around this beach.  No vendors selling food, drinks or water.  This said, it was still worth the trip to have such a unique beach experience.  After the Red Beach we headed to the Black Beach.  The color of the sand was slightly less impressive than our first stop, but the Black Beach was far more spacious and was connected to a board walk which was littered with restaurants serving food and cool libations.

The Black Beach

The Black Beach

After several days in paradise, we took the high speed ferry back to Athens and caught a flight from Athens to the isle of Corfu where we spent our last week in Greece.  Check out my post on Corfu for details on the rest of our trip to Greece!

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