after our epic day in athens, when we exhausted ourselves trying desperately to see everything we possibly could, we woke up for our first morning on santorini ready to continue the extreme touring madness. we found this to be an excellent strategy for travelling in greece. we wore ourselves out at the beginning and enjoyed relaxing later on in the trip.
i was stunned by how much there was for us to do on santorini. the island has such a reputation for being a relaxing paradise, i think it occasionally gets a misleading rap for being just a pretty view. while you’ll certainly still enjoy yourself on santorini if all you want is cliff-top scenery, there were definitely more amazing activities than we were able to squeeze in to our time on the island. while we were there, we had to skip the local wineries, and we did not make it to any of the black sand beaches or the ruins of ancient fira. we didn’t try our navigational skills on a four-wheeler, nor did we get to do the hike between fira and oia. oh well, just means we will have to go back!
now in light of all those amazing sounding things we missed, what we did do was absolutely fabulous. our first day, marios from hotel Antonia (i seriously cannot oversell how helpful marios was) booked us tickets on a boat trip to see the volcano of santorini. on our way to the port, we picked up a hot sundried tomato and feta breakfast pastry from a gelato shop. it was unbelievably delicious (we went for another the next morning too). we had no idea what to expect from our boat trip, and thus, flip flopped and swimsuitless, we boarded one of the gorgeous tall ships taking tourists out into the blue caldera, to the sounds zorba the greek and other traditional music.
when our boat docked at the black, ashy volcanic island in the center of the santorini caldera, we learned that we could hike to the top for some natural history lessons, sulfur stank, and breathtaking views. though we hardly had the footwear for such an occasion we trekked to the top of “new burnt island” where a panorama of the entire island of santorini waited for us. but 360 degrees around we were able to see more than just santorini. across a suspiciously brownish orange channel of water, we could see “old burnt island,” which looked like something out of a tropical middle earth style fantasyland. the island of therasia lay not too far off as evidence of the atlantis-legend ancient eruption that sunk most of santorini. it was, as the tour guide promised, breathtaking.
after our hike we were taken to swim in the brownish orange channel, which is the hot spring created by the active volcano. we weren’t as prepared as most of our shipmates, but decided to jump off the boat in our underwear anyway to swim in the lukewarm water. a saltwater-in-contact-lens fiasco took place, but other than me looking like a victim of violence for the mascara-smeared afternoon (thank goodness for big sunglasses) the boat tour was a total hit.
in the afternoon we rode the bus down to the village of akrotiri to visit the famous red sand beach. akrotiri is a hidden gem on the island in my opinion. it seemed like the village is probably busier in summer months as it has a very “beach town” feel. it is a small trek from the bus stop to the red sand beach and there are some really wonderful sights and smells of fresh agean seasfood along the way. it’s quite the rock climb getting to the beach, and the “sand” is really more like pebbles, but the view was one of the best of our entire vacation, if you ask me, and the beach itself was definitely one of the coolest places i have been in my life. there are mysterious doors into the cliff that i can only hope lead to incredible cave dwellings where steve and i can stay next time we go.
after the beach we stopped for a drink with growltiger the one eyed cat of akrotiri (as christened by myself) and by the time we got back to fira we were absolutely starving. fortunately marios (that magical human fountain of knowledge) had hooked us up with the what’s-what and we headed out to carboload on homemade bolognese and tomato fritters at o souvlaros, a very sweet little family owned taverna in fira, where our english finally did us no good! fortunately pointing to the menu worked out fine, and let me just repeat the phrase “tomato fritters,” because no amount of gushing about how amazingly delicious they were will do them justice. we continued to eat them at every opportunity, but i am certain o souvlaros were the best.
so yeah. day one on santorini was pretty darn good.