This is the last part of my island hopping adventure through the Cyclades. From Mykonos I went to Paros and from Paros to to Naxos. Today I am going to Santorini. Click here if you want to start reading at the beginning of Cycladic adventure.
Day 11 of 15: from Naxos to Santorini
My stay in Naxos was too short, but to be fair: I say this every time I leave one of the islands. But Naxos is big, the biggest of the Cyclades and this time I really did not have enough time. I think I will return to Naxos one day and combine my holiday with other and less known Cyclades islands that are still on my bucket list.
I leave Alkyoni Beach Hotel and say goodbye to the friendly staff. The transfer bus takes me to the harbour. I have to wait for about half an hour before I get on the ferry boat to Santorini. Waiting with me are familiar faces, people who hop (just like me) from one island to the other. The ferry boat will take about 2 hours to Get to Santorini. Once on board we pass Paros, Ios and Sikinos before we arrive at Santorini. The arrival is quite spectacular. The ferry sails right into the middle of the caldera having the island Thirissia on starboard and Santorini on port side. I see the amazing cliffs of the old volcano and the picturesque mountain villages on top. All passengers have moved to port side of the boat, so they can admire Santorini and take photographs. The weather is very hazy and so will the photographs be, but still… what an arrival!
At the harbour a transfer bus awaits me and other passengers to take us to our accommodations. It is very chaotic at this little harbour, too many people, buses and taxi’s and too little space. I can only imagine how it must be here in high season. Although I would have loved to stay in one of the villages facing the caldera, I booked myself into an apartment at Polydefkis in Kamari on the east side of the island. The bus needs to zigzag all the way up to the top. We have a great driver who take us safely to our accommodations. The views during the ride are amazing and I realize this island is different from all other Cyclades in every possible way: the landscape, nature, the atmosphere, the beaches… Santorini is different and a world on its own!
After a short transfer I arrive at Kamari. It is a touristic holiday resort and for a moment I am not sure if I made the right decision by wanting to stay here. But I wanted to be near the beach and when I check in at Polydefkis I feel so much better. I booked myself an apartment with a separate bedroom and I get one in a quiet corner and I even have a beautiful view. The owners are lovely, very sweet people and make me feel at ease. Polydefkis has a swimming pool, bar, breakfast area and in between it is full of colour and green. Polydefkis is like a tiny village and it feels very comfortable. The last few years they have been renovating the apartments and lots of repeaters stay here. Across the road I find a supermarket and get myself some drinks, crisps and fruit. It is already the end of the afternoon and I relax for a while on my balcony and read my book.
In the evening I go for walk and explore Kamari. The beach is a black pebbled one, clean and full of comfortable sun beds. Alongside the boulevard I see plenty of bars and restaurants, so no need to worry about not having a place to eat! I walk south towards the end of the beach where I find the Agios Nikoloas church. It is closed, but I sit down for a while by the rocks and enjoy the view. I cannot walk any further south, there is a mountain in between Kamari and Perissa. The weather is a bit odd and it is bit windy. Being on the east coast I cannot see the sunset, so I walk back towards Polydefkis and ask the owner where I can have a good meal not too from away from the apartment (I am lazy). She directs me to Kati Allo, just a few steps away. I have a mixed platter of Greek food, a bit of everything and get treated to a delicious dessert. I go back to my apartment and just relax on my balcony, read a bit more in my book before I go to sleep.
Day 12 of 15: touring Santorini by car
Breakfast at Polydefkis is good, there is lots of food to choose from. I ask the owner where I can rent a car. Normally I book something through work, but this time I did not know what I wanted to do, so left it till the last minute to decide. Just around the corner of Polydefkis is the bus station that goes up to Fira/Thira, but I want to see a lot more from the island, so a car is a better option. The owner directs me towards an car rental station where I get a pretty good deal. It is a tiny, old car, but I hardly pay anything, am fully insured and I can park this tiny car just about anywhere on the island. I do get warned not to turn on the air conditioning ;-). But I normally do not use air conditioning anyway: I open up the windows for a breeze.
I leave Kamari and drive past the villages of Episkopi Gonias and Exo Gonia to Pyrgos, where I stop and park my car. Pyrgos is located at the highest point of Santorini and from the village there is an amazing 360 view. I see green valleys, little villages and the sea on both sides of the island. Pyrgos is a traditional village ands not so much developed yet, although I see people being busy building accommodations. I also see donkey’s carrying marble. Hmmm… I am not a fan of working animals, although I have to say this one looks really well looked after. I walk around on the narrow, winding paths. There are stone houses, neoclassical mansions, pretty churches and the remains of the castle.
Before leaving Pyrgos I buy myself a sandwich and a drink, I do not feel like sitting down somewhere and just want to continue my tour. From Pyrgos I drive further south. During my drive (also earlier this morning) I see beautiful and expensive hotels and a lot of wineries; Santorini has good wine and vineyards are found everywhere. I drive through the village of Megalochori and stop a few times to admire the amazing view at edge of the caldera. I would not mind to stay in the hotel you see on the photograph below.
I continue my drive to Akrotiri Lighthouse. If you read my other travel blogs you know I have a thing for lighthouses. The road ends at the lighthouse and there are very few parking spots and I am happy with my tiny car and manage to park it in between 2 other cars. At the parking a man has a small fruit stall, so I get some healthy snacks to munch on. I go for a walk to admire the lighthouse. The other lighthouses I visited on this trip, on Mykonos and Paros, were both closed. This one is manned, but not open to public; I guess it must be an important lookout post. During my walk around the lighthouse I see plastic pollution and still do not understand why people do not clean up their mess. The lighthouse looks well maintained and I walk to the top of the rock behind it to take more photographs. Somehow I always feel like I never make enough photographs 😉
From the lighthouse I drive to the archaeological site of The Prehistoric Town of Akrotiri. Years ago I saw a Jacques Cousteau documentary on TV and learned about this important prehistoric settlement of the Aegean. It was buried under volcanic ash and in 1967 modern excavations started. It was closed to public for many years, but thankfully it opened its door again and I cannot wait to go in and see for myself. I park my car across the road and have to pay for the parking, but fair enough I guess. I pay an entrance fee to visit the site which is covered by an impressive roof structure. The entrance fee is worth it! I have seen many excavations in Greece, but I think this must be the most impressive place I have seen so far.
The excavations have been done so beautifully and you can admire it all when walking around the entire site! I could keep on writing about this place, but I suggest you look it up online; there is so much to learn. P.S. If you are interested to visit other archaeological sites and museums at Santorini, you can buy a combination ticket which is well worth the money.
It is about 4pm when I leave Akrotiri. From the excavation site I decide to drive to Imerovigli. It is one of the 3 famous mountain villages on the north/west coast of Santorini and known as the Balcony of the Aegean. It lies about 3 kilometres north of Fira. The village is built on the highest point of the caldera cliffs, about 300 meters above sea level. I park my car just outside the village and start my walk. The sun in shining, the temperature is just perfect and the scenery amazing! Imerovigli is stunningly beautiful and the white churches with the blue domes are world famous. I am happy to have a second battery for my camera with me and a good battery in my phone, because I end up taking a lot of photographs. After walking for about an hour I sit down at Aegean restaurant where I have a delicious salad before I continue my walk and almost reach Fira before I go back.
Imerovigli is not as touristic as Oia and Fira and that is why I chose to come here to hopefully catch a beautiful sunset. The most popular attraction of the village is the famous, immense rock called Skaros that lies by the sea side. It was one of the five fortresses of Santorini and the most significant one. I do not have time for a hike towards it, but it is a popular spot to enjoy the sunset. There are numerous churches and chapels in Imerovigli, like the Panagia Malteza and the chapel of Panagia Theoskepasti, built on the cliff edge in front of Skaros. I just walk around the village and follow whatever catches my eye and stop once the sun sets to just enjoy the moment there and then. What a perfect ending to a perfect day!
After the sun has set I slowly walk back to my car and drive back to Kamari. I am tired but so content. I look forward to another day of exploring this picturesque and photogenic island.
Day 13 of 15: Oia and Fira
This morning I decide to drive to Oia. The plan was to leave the car at Fira, take the bus to Oia and walk back to Fira. You see, there is a beautiful walking path that connects the 3 villages, it is about 10 kilometres long. But I remember how much time I spent in Imerovigli yesterday, stopping at every corner to take a 100 photographs, so I am sure I will run out of time. I decide to drive straight to Oia and take the road that goes through the middle of the island and I reach Oia from the north. It is another beautiful sunny day and it is getting quite warm actually. I manage to park my car close to the Agios Sostis church, one of the churches which is not painted white, but it does have a blue dome on top.
I walk into the village and am immediately captured by its beauty. Oia (which is pronounced as Ia) is the most famous village of Santorini. It is known worldwide for its amazing sunsets and churches with blue domes. I think it is the most beautiful and picturesque village of the island and I go nuts with my camera. The location of the village is so impressive, by the cliffs and offering a truly spectacular view over the volcano, Palia and Nea Kameni and the island of Thirassia. I wish I could come here in winter, when all is quiet… it must be amazing to take photographs in winter.
Oia is just a traditional village. I start my walk through the narrow streets and see an incredible book store, called Atlantis books. I am tempted to go in, but know I will end up carrying heavy books with me, so I resist the urge. I walk around to the western part of the village and admire the view; below is Amoudi Bay and Oia Castle. Amoudi Bay you can reach by road by the way. I continue my walk and sit down at a cafe for a drink and hear a Greek man saying to a friend that most people come here for the famous sunsets, which is a shame because the morning/early afternoon sun offers the best light to take photographs. I agree 🙂 although I am blinded most of the time because the sun reflects on all that is white.
I continue my walk past white houses, tourist shops, taverns, cafes and then I finally reach the famous blue domed churches of Agios Spyridonas (St. Spiridon) and Anastasis (Resurrection). The view just breath taking and the image I have in front of me is the image so many people in the world have when they think about Greece.
I stand here for a while and take at least 50 photographs of the churches and bell tower. Many tourists are in search of these famous blue domed churches, but my advice is to just walk around Oia, admire all that comes your way and you will find these famous churches just as you go. I continue my walk, see the church of Panagia Platsania and end my walk through Oia at Agios Georgious (Saint George) church; then I start to walk back. Oia: you are beautiful, not so quiet as I thought or hoped you would be, but you are so worth it. Before I reach my car I walk past an explosion of colour; I wish the bougainvillea would grow like this where I live, but that is wishfull thinking… Just like I cannot expect the North Sea to look like the Mediterranean.
I take my little car and drive to Fira, the capital of this island; it is only a short drive. Finding a parking spot here is not so easy, but I manage at one of the parking lots alongside the main road. It is lunch time and I want a short break before I start another walking tour. It is about 35 degrees Celsius this early in season and walking up and down the stairs and narrow streets of Oia already made me a bit tired (OK I am so very fit as well!). I sit down at the centre of Fira at Karvounaki and order a gyros pita. I chill for about 15 minutes, drink a coke and have regained energy to discover Fira.
The atmosphere is different here. Imerovigli to me was peaceful, Oia stunningly beautiful but touristic and Fira is just full of live in every possible way. I am lucky since there are no cruise ships in the caldera any more, which means less tourists in the villages. This is very rare, since Santorini is a popular stop for cruise ships.
Fira used to be called Thira in ancient times. It may be less picturesque than Oia, but it is still very impressive. Again I go west first and walk past hotels, suites and villa’s. I can imagine staying in one of them, sitting on my balcony, in my private pool or tub enjoying the view over the caldera while having a glass of bubbly wine in my hand… Keep on dreaming! 😉
I walk towards the Cable Car station. Tourists arriving by cruise ships use it to go up to the village and back down to the ship. Very few people walk up the path and probably for the better, since it can get very hot here in summer and there are hundreds of steps to be taken. I suggest you walk down and take the cable car up. Some tourists still book a donkey ride, but I can simply not support this, do not understand their owners and hope they will forbid it someday soon! The donkeys take on more weight then they can handle and going up is just a horrible job for these beautiful animals. I do not think any further explanation is needed.
I visit the church of Agiou Ioannou (Saint John the Baptist) and opposite lies the Catholic Monastery of Dominican Nuns. The interior of the church is absolutely stunning and am happy I am allowed to take photographs (no flash of course and dress decent when going into a church). The 2 batteries of my camera are almost empty but thankfully I still have enough battery left on my phone, which has a decent camera in it.
I treat myself to a large ice cream at Zotos, I think I have deserved it walking around in this heat for hours and hours. It is absolutely delicious and could easily eat a second one, but I will not! I continue walking through the streets untill I reach the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral. I go inside to have a look. It is located on the caldera edge in Fira and it can be seen from many parts of Santorini. It was built in 1827 and unfortunatly it was badly damaged in the catastrophic earthquake of 1956. But they fully renovated the Cathedral soon after. The church offers beautiful mosaics, an impressive bell tower and rolling arches that create a peaceful courtyard. The interior has beautiful frescoes!
It is past 6pm and I start to walk back though the village towards the parking. I am really tired. I return to Kamari around 8pm, return the rental car and just opposite the rental car station of I order a Greek salad. I go back to the apartment where I have a shower and try to sort out the photographs a bit, since I have taken so many, but I fall asleep quickly.
Day 14 of 15: relaxing day
It is my last day at Santorini and the last day of this holiday. I want to see more and ask the owner of Polydefkis how long it will take me to walk up the road that leads to Ancient Thira. She offers to take me up, says its quite a climb and then I decide I should just relax today. Tomorrow I return home and the day after I start work, so I am going to chill. I enjoy a late breakfast, put on my bathing suit and find myself a comfortable sun bed at Kamari beach. I listen to music, read a bit and doze off now and then. At the end of the afternoon I go back to the apartment, have a shower and pack my suitcase, so I do not need to stress in the morning. I do not feel like going to a restaurant. Instead I order food at a takeaway and eat my last Greek dinner on the balcony of my apartment. I love sitting here on this balcony and I feel so relaxed. I need a quiet evening to finish this amazing holiday.
Day 15: time to go home!
I say goodbye to the owners of Polydefkis; they are truly the sweetest couple I have met on this island. I am glad I came to stay here. I have booked this accommodation so often for clients and am happy to have seen the place myself. I arranged a transfer to the airport and wait in the very busy airport lounge, where it is warm and too small. Leaving Greece is always emotional for me; it always reminds me of the moment I moved back to The Netherlands after having lived in Greece for almost 14 years and I had to say goodbye to my friends on Rodos. But I will keep coming back and absolutely loved doing this trip.
I went from Mykonos to Delos, Paros, Antiparos, Naxos and Santorini. I fell in love with Paros and Naxos, but I enjoyed Mykonos and Santorini just as much. I am happy I came here in May; it is not too busy this time of year and nature is in full bloom. I think I got the most out of my 2 weeks, although there was plenty left to see. I have about 5000 photographs to sort out at home and I can start dreaming about my next Greek holiday destination. There are still many places in Greece left on that bucket list of mine!
Thank you Paolas Town, Kalypso, Alkyonis and Polydefkis for making me feel at ease. I enjoyed staying with you and I hope you enjoyed the stroopwafels.
Travel Blog by Elisabeth, One Lucky Traveller
May 28, 2018