I had some pretty high expectations for Santorini. When you search it on Google, the pictures that come up are breath taking. The snowy white and smooth rounded buildings with sky blue dome roofs over looking an endless sea. Im going to tell you right now, it is everything and more than I had imagined it would be. I was blown away by the beauty of this island, the kindness of the locals and the winding streets that are easy to get lost in. It is packed with shops and restaurants making it a perfect stop for tourists. Although it is extremely busy with people, I didn’t mind it at all. The scenery in itself keeps you in awe, weaving in and out of everyone eager to take the next corner in anticipation of what’s on the other side.
It is also a photographers dream. I couldn’t stop taking photos, thinking the next photo was more beautiful than the last and realizing you are taking the same photo over and over again. I couldn’t get enough of the shape of the buildings, the contrasts and depth everything brought to pictures. The way the bright white towns covered the tips of the mountains making them almost look like snow. It was very easy to use up my cameras battery pretty quick.
We took the public bus into Fira, about 20 minutes away from where we are staying in Perissa. A hostel this time as the Airbnb’s were much more expensive than usual. We had read about a hiking trail from Fira to Oia (prounounce Eee-yah) to watch sunset which Oia is famous for. Once you arrive in Fira, it’s about an hour through the busy streets along the cliffside to the hiking trail. From there it takes a good 2.5 hours to walk to Oia. It is a stunning walk and a must do when visiting Santorini. Our hostel told us it was a simple flat walk, which wasn’t always the case and I made the mistake of wearing sandals. Once you get about halfway, just passed Finikia, the terrain gets a bit more tricky. Loose gravel and steep uphill climbs, I swore my sandals weren’t going to survive.
During the walk, the scenery changes so much. From black, volcanic rock with the iconic white and blue buildings to untouched, green mountain peaks and empty red cliffsides. We passed a few hikers as well as lines of donkeys used to get the lazy tourists to the top of Oia. They looked so sad tied together, heads hung and ears low, I couldn’t help but feel bad for them. When a man sitting at the bottom offered a donkey ride to the top, it took all my energy not to say something negative. Although, I do try to see it from a different perspective, based on their culture and way of life and remind myself that this is how he probably makes his living. I have to convince myself that those donkeys are well loved and taken care of. Its the only way I can walk by without my heart breaking in two, because in my mind, no one can love animals as much as I do…no one.
We spent the evening walking through the streets of Oia finding the right spot for the sunset. It definitely did not disappoint. You can watch it from almost any spot along the west side of the island from Oia all the way down to Akrotiri. Oia is most famous for watching the sunset from but expect heavy tourist traffic among the streets. Coming out of the middle of town felt like exiting from a concert. Shoulder to shoulder, moving along like cattle.
We spent some time at the ocean near our hostel. The water was so refreshing and warm, the black sand reminded me of Iceland. Barely able to keep my feet on it for too long without them burning, I had to run to the water pretty quickly. Mark and I were entertained by the gangs of dogs roaming the streets here. All in pretty good condition, some even wearing collars running along the beach cooling off in the water, searching around the tourists for scraps. Just like around Athens, you see water and food dishes to keep the strays fed. One mutt in particular spent the entire time chasing and barking after every single quad or motorbike that rode by. These are the main transportation vehicles here, especially for tourists, so we couldn’t help but laugh at this dog and the people riding by cursing at him. The dog seemed to really enjoy himself and even from as far away as we were, we could still see the smile on his face as he trotted away waiting for the next one. Pretty proud of himself for protecting the beach.
Our last day, we headed back to Fira with our bags so we could catch the bus to the ferry terminal from there to our midnight boat to Rhodes.
Greece ia not short on restaurants so make sure you try the local bakeries, pita and gyro places. We have not been disappointed with anything yet and have once again fallen in love with the food, despite our efforts to go back to eating carb-less.
We caught another sunset and enjoyed another cheap Gyro after shopping. I will truly miss this place and most definitely want to come back in the future. This island has shown me that I can still fall in love with those highly sought after tourist destinations.