Santorini!

After being an avid pintrest-er for majority of my life, and searching many many travel blogs in preparation for my study abroad semester, I can honestly say that even the prettiest pictures of the Greek Island, Santorini, did not do it justice. This place lived up to my highest expectation in more ways than one, and I only got to experience it for three short days (literally short days- daylight savings time does all not for many hours of sunshine, even down in the Mediterranean). Here is a brief overview of my time enjoying the warm weather and exploring this amazing travel destination.

The Journey: Yes labeled ‘The journey’, because that is exactly what is was to get from Prague to the Island of Thera (its official Greek name). Leaving Prague in anticipation of a sunny, warm, tropical destination could not have been better timed, because the Thursday that we left, Prague officially received its first snowy day. After meeting at 8, Anna and I took a tram and bus in order to arrive at the airport with plenty of time before our 11:45 flight. The airlines we went through was Aegean Air, and it consisted of a four hour flight to Athens, a five hour layover, and another 45 minute flight to the island on it’s partner airline, Olympia. Everything went smoothly for a long day of travel; Anna and I had packed sufficient snacks, I successfully got a few hours of sleep on the flight, and my carry on suitcase was accepted even though I had major anxieties about whether it would be too big for the overhead (It wasn’t first flight! They checked it for free on the 2nd). When we arrived at Santorini, we were both surprised (pleasantly) by the warm weather and the smallest airport we have ever seen. Exercising a bit of laziness after a long day, we hopped in a taxi to take us to our hotel Azul (found on booking.com, and quite cheap). Although I had no idea if the driver had heard me right, we quickly ended up at the right place in the village of Imerovigli, a quieter part of the Island located in between Fira and Oia. When we arrived to Azul, our key was taped up, along with a note welcoming us and explaining that the registration had closed at 4 due to the offseason. Our room was extremely quaint and clean, a huge improvement from many experiences this semester in hostels, the privacy being a much needed change. Anna and I walked around our hotel a bit, and for the first time I realized how close we were to the beautiful hillside views, and ocean cliffside. Gazing at the ocean that night brought up so many great memories from the Cruises that I have gone on with my family these past two years, and throughout the whole weekend, I had so many flashbacks of those most favorite vacations.

The Experience: The first morning (Friday) Anna and I woke up early so that we could see the sunrise coming up over the hill and onto the white pristine buildings. It was so so worth it, and we just sat for a few moments in silence taking in the beauty (a position that you could find us in many many times throughout the weekend in pure awe of our surroundings). After this, and many many elated statements of how beautiful it was, we headed back to our hotel to be served the most lovely breakfast on a personalized tray that I have ever see. It was so cute, but definitely the leading conspirator of how much bread I devoured over the trip. If you know me, you know that I love greek yogurt, but funnily enough, when I first tasted the yogurt on our platter , I was convinced that is was sour cream! It tasted horrible (pre honey), so I think i will just stick with a little less authentic greek yogurt like FAGE and Chobani once I get back to the States. After breakfast, Anna and I headed over to an ATV rental store, where we got a 4 wheeler for 24 hours, only $30. Thankfully, even though Anna quickly responded ‘nope’ after he asked us if we had experience, I convinced him of my ability and he still rented to us. The ATV gave us such freedom that first day! It was awesome to have the capability of exploring the whole Island, without the limitations of a car. Once he demonstrated to us the basics of running it, we just drove with no plan, and eventually ended up at the Red Beach. It was quite empty, and despite my fears of a rock slide, I still enjoyed the beautiful contrast of turquoise and the bright red cliffside and sand. Later that day we headed into the town Fira and grabbed lunch at a small taverna (greek salad of course), and then coffee. After that we kept exploring the more country section of the Island, and then headed over to Oia to see the sunset. Supposedly the most beautiful sunset in the world, it did not disappoint, especially accompanied with the best baklava I’ve ever tasted. We sat around and appreciated the fading light for a while, and then headed back on the long winding road to the hotel.

On Saturday, we again woke up early to see the sunrise, and get the most of our 24 hour rental! We drove the ATV back to Oia where we grabbed coffee and breakfast at a bakery and sat enjoying the view (like I said, we did this a lot). Then we headed back in a rush, because I was nervous about returning it in time, since we still had to fill it back up with gas. Thankfully, we made it, and enjoyed a cute (2nd ) breakfast prepared by the hotel. Rather than renting an ATV again, we decided to try our luck with the busses. After waiting in at the Imerovigli stop for what seemed like ages for a scheduled bus, we eventually gave up and started the 20 minute walk to Fira. Of course, the minute we started walking, we watched as our hopeful bus passed us by. It was no matter, however, and we continued walking on the small path that weaves in between hotels and honeymoon suites, offering the best views of the island. Eventually we made it to the bus station, and hopped on a bus to Kamari, one of Santorini’s black sand beaches. It was beautiful and we spent a good chunk of the afternoon laying out and soaking in the warmth. As nice as it was to have the beach all to ourselves, it was a bit eerie. Off season Santorini is quite different from the lively vacation Island that is is in the summer, and this was clear in both the many closed businesses and the lack of nightlife. We seriously were back in our hotel around 7 every night, because (1) we were tired and (2) there was also nothing else to it. This south beach town was clear evidence of the November month, and we actually got a little creeped out sitting there. At the bus stop on the way back, we again waited well past the time it was supposed to arrive, and so we (again) started to walk for another stop. Just our luck, however, when we witnessed the bus (again) come and go, but thankfully we waved the driver down and he graciously picked us up along the side of the road. Although, extremely unreliable, the Santorini public transportation busses were nice, the same as coach tour busses, and only about 1.80 euro for a short trip. When we arrived in Fira, we walked around the tourist shops, and grabbed a brief lunch (again, greek salad lol). Later we walked back along the cliffside path that weaved around the beautiful white buildings, before stopping to watch the sunset on a cliff that has not yet been built upon. That night we went to sleep early, exhausted from the sun and the 8ish miles we ended up walking.

Sunday, was a beautiful very windy day and I woke up early to watch the sunset and journal a bit. Our initial plan was to re rent the ATV, but I felt uncomfortable driving in the high winds, and nixed that idea. Instead, we decided to do a boat ride that takes you to the volcano, and then to swim in the hot springs (After our delicious breakfast of course). This ended up being such a great decision, and was actually so fun! Quite a trek, because it included us walking down to Fira, and then down a long trail to the Fira main port! There were a few stores down there, and so we each bought a t shirt after we realized the long sleeves were not gonna cut it over our swimsuits, no matter how windy and cold it has appeared to be at the beginning. After finally, getting on our 11 am boat cruise, we sailed to the volcano Island and hiked around for an hour. Then we headed over through some exciting choppy water, and jumped in to enjoy some very (lukewarm) hot springs. But is was a fun experience anyway, and was very refreshing to get in the brisk Mediterranean water. Unfortunately, it was at this time that we had our only mishap of the trip. Anna jumped in with her go pro after much convincing from myself and others, as we were all sure it was a waterproof case. Turns out, it wasn’t, and she was quite upset for the next few hours . We did, however, finish the trip with some fantastic gyro’s after taking the lift up the hill (rather than hiking). That night we walked back to Fira, grabbed some amazing frozen greek yogurt, and watched the sunset for the last time.

In Conclusion: This trip was one to remember, filled with stunning views, and enough pictures to last a lifetime. The ‘must do’ activities if you are ever to visit this beautiful Island include renting an ATV, doing the boat cruise, eating baklava & Gyro’s [from the main food street in Fira], and always aways wake up for the sunrise, you wont regret it. If i were to do anything different, I would highly suggest going either at the beginning or end of the tourist season. While we did highly appreciate the peacefulness of the Island in November, there is a whole culture of greek nightlife and excitement that we didn’t get the chance to experience. No matter what, I would definitely say Santorini is the most beautiful place in the world, and easily beat out my previously favorite place (another Mediterranean island) Malta, by a landslide!

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