Santorini. The most picturesque of all the Greek Isles, as I had been told over and over again by friends and family that had been there and loved it. I will admit, my expectations were high heading into our third and final tour with The Travel Insiders. We chose a tour called, “The Highlights of Santorini – The Black Pearl of the Aegean.”
This was our only tender port so I did have a little heartburn about getting off the ship and up the cable cars by our tour’s assigned meeting time…I am a little, teensy bit OCD about being on time so I tend to get really crabby when I am late.
We did eventually get off the ship and to our meeting spot and we were about 10 minutes late…this means that I was almost in hives stressing about it, but I tried not to be too crabby!!! (That only worked for part of the day!)
We got our tickets for the ride up the cliffside and hopped on the cable cars. My mother is terrified of these things so I am pretty sure she kept her eyes closed the entire time, but if she hadn’t, she would have seen a pretty steep ride up the side of a volcano.
Okay, it’s a little steep…but a quick 5 minutes and you are up to the top where you now realize that you are standing on the rim of a volcano. From the town of Fira you can really see how the cone of the volcano used to look and you realize that your ship is parked right in the middle. I know a bunch of really smart science and geology people have proven this volcano to be dead, but there is a minute when you look around at the throng of tourists and wonder which one you will toss over the side of the cliff in case an emergency sacrifice becomes necessary.
We met our tour guide and she walked us around Fira showing us some lovely views and giving us the history of the caldera and how the island came to be so popular. We wound through very crowded streets to get to our coach that would take us to Oia.
After a bit of a harrowing ride along sheer cliff walls, we arrived in picturesque Oia. This is what everyone thinks of when they think of Santorini. This is the white washed buildings with the blue domes, this is the endless vistas over the caldera, this is beautiful.
In case you were wondering, yes I did notice the For Sale sign and yes, I do have that number written down!
Once in Oia, we were given plenty of free time to walk around, shop if we wanted and of course take pictures!
You can see how incredibly close to the sheer dropoff these houses were built. I know quite a few Greek nationals and I promise you, many of them are a schosh crazy…seeing how close to death these folks choose to live? I get it a little bit!
This may, in part also explain the abundance of churches for such a small island, between the cliffs and the volcano, I could certainly see wanting to stay on good terms with the Almighty!
After wandering around for a bit, shopping if we wanted, or desperately searching for a bit of shade, we meandered back towards the bus. Our guide promised us a treat on the way back to the bus and she was not wrong! Gelato!!
We stopped at Lolita’s Gelato and it is cute, kitchy, very greek. BUT…and this is the most important part…the gelato is fantastic! i don’t know if I would say it was the best I had on the trip, we did spend several days in Venice, but it was the best we had in Greece. And we tried some in every port. My son was on a mission to find the best gelato so he was certainly well equipped to make a determination. We tried all the fun flavors, Cuban Lover: a blend of coffee and chocolate (my favorite); Zabaione, Stracciatella, and the flavor that they are famous for: Greek Viagra. This is gelato flavored with honey and pistachios and it is fantastic. If you can get past saying the name, it is totally worth it!
We then moved on to Pyrgos. This traditional village is supposedly the least spoiled by tourism and still has many features of the medieval village such as narrow streets, fortified walls and secret passageways.
Many of the houses are still inhabited mostly “as is,” small and built on top of one another.
This village also has the best vantage point of the island. It isn’t “untouched” by accident…the villagers could see an invasion coming for miles. Remember those walls? This is a fantastic example of a fortified city still around for us to see.
Yep, you can see for miles and miles and miles.
That’s Oia…way over there. It took us about 30 minutes to drive here from there in the motor coach.
After some time for picture taking, we headed for a quick stop at the Black Beach of Kamari.
There are cafes and shops and things here that I am sure would make a lovely stop by themselves. However, we were running out of time and really, I had to put my feet in the water so I could say I had been in the Aegean and Ionian Seas.
This is from the beach looking back up the road we had driven on to get here. The sand is indeed black, and I did put my feet in the Aegean. A word of warning…if you go to a black sand beach in the Mediterranean in August, spend some time before hand studying with the fire walkers so you are prepared to withstand your walk from the side walk to the water. Just saying.
Back in the coach to head back to Fira to wait in the incredibly long line to get to the cable cars down the mountain. There is a path to walk, but it is hot and covered in donkey poo and there is no place to rest on the way. I knew mom wouldn’t make it, so I waited the two hours to get to the cable cars. This is likely not as bad when there are fewer ships in port, but still…its better than sitting on a donkey the whole way down!
For me, Santorini was the supermodel of the Greek Isles. Pretty (stunning actually), but kind of superficial. This was also my one disappointment with the tour I had taken, because of the time crunch we did not get to see the Venetsantos Winery, which was one of the main reasons I wanted to be on this tour. Ah well, next time!
Here is the port area where you catch your tender back to your ship hopefully still waiting where you left it, in the middle of a collapsed volcano cone!
And there is the cable car track and the path back up to Fira…yeah, not walking it! Back on board I was devastated to learn that SOMEONE drank all of the Aperol on the entire ship and I (I mean…someone) would now have to find another refreshing beverage to get me through the sea day tomorrow, and then…KINGS LANDING!!! Well, I guess some people call it Dubrovnik.