The second Greek island I visited was the classic touristy island of Santorini! I can definitely see why people love to visit Santorini, it really is gorgeous with its beautiful sunsets and picturesque white buildings. It's also a pretty large island, so there are a variety of activities that you can do. I spent 3 days here, I could have maybe spent a couple more days here, but it is quite touristy and crowded, so I think that 3 days is a good amount of time as there are many other Greek islands that are quieter and just as beautiful. We were here around mid-May, so it was definitely warm enough to be in shorts/dresses, but a little chilly to swim. We took a ferry to the port in Santorini from Crete, and a driver from our Airbnb came to pick us up. I think that although we found our stays on Airbnb, they were all hotels / guesthouses that were posted on Airbnb, but no complaints there! Anyway, once we settled into the Airbnb/hotel located by Fira and grabbed some lunch nearby, we decided we would hike along the caldera to Oia to catch the sunset!
Hiking from Fira to Oia
I remember thinking that this hike would be short, maybe a little rocky, hike at 6km. Turns out it's actually 6 miles, not kilometres, which pretty much doubles the length, haha! The hike starts in Fira, our Airbnb was maybe a 15 minute walk from the center of Fira. We started off by walking through Fira a bit, it's not super large, and you start the hike by just following the path North towards Oia. It was slightly overcast during our hike, but not raining and quite warm, so we went ahead with the hike, hoping that the clouds would clear up by the time we arrived at Oia for the sunset. The hike itself isn't super strenuous, some hilly and rocky parts but nothing too intense. A couple km past Fira, there is Skaros Rock, which you can climb up to (which I did not do due to my fear of heights LOL). Anyway, it's a beautiful hike so I'll let the images speak for themselves. It did start raining as we were nearing Oia, but we were able to find some ledges to hide under haha, and it didn't rain too hard, luckily.
Once we arrived in Oia, the sky cleared up after the brief shower almost immediately! We had arrived a couple hours early for the sunset, so we walked a bit around the city before finding a spot to watch the beautiful sunset.
After walking around Oia for a bit, we were tired from our longer than expected hike, so we decided to find a spot to hunker down and watch the sunset a little bit early, while sipping on a couple beers. As it got closer to the sunset, it did get quite crowded around us as everyone gathered to find a nice spot to watch the sunset, luckily we had a great spot where we could sit as well. While we waited, a couple came up to us and asked me to help them film a video for their honeymoon! They were from South Africa and traveling around Europe for their honeymoon, and doing their wedding dance at each location, so it was fun to be a part of that! :)
Anyway, after the sunset we were starving, so we grabbed some gyros from a place close to the bus stop (both Pitogyros and Niko's Place are very popular), before heading it back to Fira, we really did not want to walk the 6 miles back! There is a bus that connects Oia to Fira, as well as different hot spots around the island of Santorini, which is actually quite large compared to some of the other islands. This is an alternative way of exploring the island instead of driving (which you will need an international driver's license for), and safer than renting a motorcycle or ATV!
I spent the 2nd day exploring some different parts of Santorini that weren't just Fira or Oia. But first things first - gotta eat some dessert! Dessert for breakfast, that is... We stopped by a bakery that was on our way into Fira, called Erotokritos, where I got a giant piece of baklava for breakfast, it was delicious! :D Before catching a bus out to the rest of Santorini, we explored Fira a little. Something to note about Santorini is that cruise ships love to go there, and when they do, the cities and docks get really really crowded with the cruise passengers, which is not ideal. I think in peak summer tourism time, there are multiple cruise ships every day, so you can't really avoid it unfortunately. There were lines all over the narrow streets in Fira of people waiting to take the cable car down to the docks and back to their cruise ships. Anyway, before catching a bus to our first destination, we stopped by Lucky's Souvlaki for more gyros, I don't think I'll ever get sick of those! Gyros are also pretty cheap, so that's nice too, and they go along nicely with a refreshing Greek salad! Honestly, Greek food felt so much lighter than all the heavy carbs and meats we had been eating daily in Italy, so it was definitely a nice change in our diets.
Our first stop was the Yellow Donkey brewery - it is on the East side of Santorini, close to Kamari, and we were able to get there by taking a bus from Fira. I'm not a huge beer fan - but the brewery was super cute. Next door was the Canava Roussos Winery, so we went to check that out as well and have some samples while enjoying the warm weather.
After checking out the brewery/winery, we walked into Kamari. It was maybe 20 minutes to walk to the city, and we took our time checking out cute stores in the city and deciding on where we would eat dinner. At the end of Kamari, we hung out for a bit at Kamari beach, which is a beach that has black volcanic sand, so it's not exactly super soft white sand. The water was a little cold for swimming, and it was quite windy, so we just sat and relaxed for a bit on a beach chair.
Afterwards, we headed to dinner in Kamari, we wanted to go to a restaurant that had some authentic Santorini-Greek food, and fortunately we found one, but I can't for the life of me remember what it was called unfortunately, nor can I find it on Google Maps, so maybe it's been closed? Anyway, it was super tasty - we had some saganaki and something called a "Santorini salad" as opposed to a Greek salad as an appetizer, stuffed cabbage rolls, souvlaki on pita bread, and a complementary dessert with dessert wine! I definitely hope the restaurant is still around, I would love to go back the next time I'm in Santorini.
After dinner, we were planning on going to the open air cinema in Kamari, they were playing the Shape of Water, which I hadn't seen yet but had just won an Oscar, so I was super excited to see it! On our way to the cinema after dinner, we saw the most beautiful sunset, the colours were sooo bright - pictures definitely do not do it justice. I'm starting to believe that all sunsets in Santorini are always just gorgeous. By the time the movie started, the sun was down and
I was a little worried about bugs, sitting outside, but there actually weren't any mosquitos out, or at least I didn't get any bites that night. The weather during the day was quite warm, so in the evening it was the perfect temperature to watch a movie outdoors, all I needed was a light sweater to cover my arms. The movie was good, and afterwards we took a cab back to our hotel near Fira, as Kamari is pretty far and it was too late to try to figure out the buses.
Volcano Tour and More Sunsets!
Swimming, Volcano, Bookstore, Wine tasting, Oia
For the next day, we had booked a volcano tour. The islands of Santorini are actually parts of a massive volcano that exploded a long time ago.. I don't know all the history but you can Google it. Anyway, the tour we booked takes you out on a boat to some hot springs by Palia Kameni (very small island by Santorini), and then on a short hike on Nea Kameni (the other slightly larger island in the middle of the Santorini caldera).
The tour started at the docks down by Fira - to get there, you can take the cable car (which can have a long line if there is a cruise ship docking), or you can walk down the steps. We thought we would take the stairs down, as it isn't really that far, but honestly I don't recommend it. There are lots of tourists riding donkeys down the stairs, and there's no separation between the donkeys and people walking so it's kind of scary when suddenly you turn around and see donkeys chasing towards you... or maybe that's just me. But there is also a lot of crap on the steps from the donkeys, so it smells pretty bad too. The donkeys also don't look like they are treated that well, but anyway, I did not enjoy almost getting run over by donkeys. Once you get down the steps to the dock, there are lots of boats offering different tours, but we found the one we had purchased from our hotel and boarded the ship. The first stop was the hot springs off the coast of Palia Kameni. The hot springs are cool because they are natural, but they have a lot of sulfur, and the water is a red-brown colour that can dye your bathing suit if you're wearing a light colour. Once we got close to the hot springs, we jumped off from the boat and swam towards the hot springs - it was fun!
After the hot springs, the tour took us to Nea Kameni, which has a short, mostly uphill, hiking trail where you can see some craters and remnants of volcanic activity. It also has a nice view of the main Santorini island!
Once we returned to the docks in Fira, we decided to take the cable car up - mostly because I did not want to deal with the donkeys and donkey crap again. Also, walking up the stairs is more tiring than walking down the stairs haha! Anyway, back in Fira, we went to a cafe called LukuMum to enjoy a Greek dessert called loukoumades, which is basically deep fried dough balls covered in honey, yummy!
We decided to head to Oia for the afternoon to explore it a bit more for our last night on Santorini. We took the bus from Fira this time, instead of doing that long hike, and went to check out the Atlantis Books bookstore, which is a super cute and cozy bookstore.
We also aimlessly wandered around Oia a bit more and got some more beauiful shots of the beautiful city with all the white walls and colourful accents. Santorini is so insanely beautiful, but the crowds can really be annoying, but I think it's definitely worth it to visit and see it for yourself.
We found a cute little creperie called Vitrin that had a rooftop patio that had a nice view of the sea, so we decided to watch the sunset from there. We literally went as soon as it opened (like 2 hours before sunset) to get a spot on the patio, otherwise you won't get a seat, but they also let people stand on the balcony during the sunset if you order something. They had a wine tasting menu, so we did that with some cheese and snacks while we waited for the sunset. It was another beautiful one, this time it was more orange-red than the pink-purple that we had last time, and it was like the sky was on fire! So beautiful... I could spend a whole month in Santorini watching sunsets.
That concludes our last night in Santorini! After heading back to our hotel, we packed up to get ready to catch our ferry the next day to the next island - Mykonos!