I went to Greece to reunite with my high school friends and what an epic reunion it was! Our first stop in the Greek Islands was Santorini, and we were blessed with blue skies and beautiful weather for the duration of our short stay.
My friends from high school in New Zealand were all doing their individual trips around Europe for different lengths of time and we all managed to plan ahead and meet up in Santorini on the same day. We stayed in an awesome AirBnb house (more like mansion!) in Fira, which was the main town located more or less in the centre of the island.
On the taxi drive from the tiny one-room airport to Fira town, I was surprised at how barren and deserted some parts of the island were. With sporadically placed houses and not much green vegetation in sight, it was a far cry from the endless online photos of sprawling white stone towns. But in reality this was to be expected, as Santorini itself is an old volcano and volcanic rock and soil is not the best foundation for plants to grow – it was a landscape that reminded me a lot of Rangitoto Island in New Zealand.
The price tag for the 15 minute drive from the airport to Fira was also a surprise at 28 Euros, since my friends told me that theirs was 20!
Although it was technically autumn in northern parts of Europe, we would have called the balmy island temperatures there positively summery. The locals told us it was too windy to hit the beaches, but we were determined to go sunbathing, so our taxi driver dropped us off at Koloumpos Beach.
It wasn’t the prettiest beach of the island with its stony sand, but we were perfectly happy to chill there for a few hours waiting until it was near sunset.
Another sight we weren’t expecting to see were the number of stray dogs and cats, with kittens even roaming around on the beach. They all looked quite healthy though, not skinny and mangy with matted fur like you might expect. I hoped that somebody was feeding them regularly.
After the beach we were stranded on the side of the road for a while, waiting for a bus that our taxi driver had insisted would come every half hour – but we soon found out that he was talking about peak season, not this time of the year where there were only one or two buses daily.
We subsequently tried to wave down cars or tour buses that passed by, but to no avail. We were losing hope until a friendly Frenchman pulled over and offered us a ride, exclaiming: “Don’t worry, I’m gay!”, as we all gratefully piled into his car.
The lovely Frenchman dropped us off at Oia, which is the picture perfect town you see in almost all Santorini photos on the internet. With white washed houses, winding alleys full of boutiques and the gorgeous view onto the Aegean sea, this was what we had come for.
This was also the town where all of the island tourists flocked to. The narrow streets were bustling with people shopping, taking photos and heading towards the tip of the island like we were.
Since we were there after peak season, we had gotten used to not seeing other tourists around as much, but being in Oia was like getting a taste of what it must be like in midsummer.
The Santorini towns were built on points high above the sea, like Oia which was built more than 100 metres above sea level. A lot of the houses were built into the sheer cliff face, with the magnificent view of the Aegean and caldera spreading out below them.
Around 6.30pm we headed towards the very tip of Oia along with every other tourist on the island to witness the famous sunset. Tourists were crowding along the streets, rooftops and rocks to secure a good view, with some even in boats on the water below.
At 6.45 the blazing golden sun dipped slowly below the horizon, and in a matter of minutes it was gone but the moments leading up to it were pure magic. I can’t remember the last time I watched a sunset, let alone a sunset as spectacular as that!
In our quest to find authentic Santorini souvenirs (not just the tacky ones mass produced and sold in every island shop) we hit up a lot of the local places looking for something unique. We eventually stumbled upon a gem of a shop at the very point where we went to watch the sunset.
This shop was full of hand made jewellery, paintings and these stunning turquoise and blue bowls. We all fell in love with these bowls and bought a few each, with one of my friends even caving in to buy a magnificent plate on the wall of the same design.
The shop owner told us that her grandfather made these by hand on the island, and no bowl or plate of his had the same design. It was a perfect Santorini souvenir!
The next morning it was time for us to leave on the ferry to our next island adventure, but we all agreed that we would have liked to have spent more time here, or in Oia at least.
One of our favourite places to eat in Santorini was a place called Pelican, which served huge fluffy breakfast waffles and amazing fruit bowls drizzled in island honey. The tables outside were under grape vines and the atmosphere was just lovely – we ended up going there more than once!
So our time in Santorini and our first taste of Greek island life was coming to an end, but we were also looking forward to the next one and what we would find there. We were going to miss our AirBnb mansion, but little did we know that the best was yet to come…
So, did you like the look of Santorini? Would you go there?
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