Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday: arriving in Santorini, Pyrgos, Fira, climbing the skarvos, cruising the islands and beaches, and the end of a holiday.
The ferry docked at Santorini’s new port around lunchtime on Monday. We gathered with the rest of the horde of people at the back of the boat, ready to sprint off the drawbridge like greyhounds released from the cage. We found our driver and then took the windy road from the port up to the top of the caldera. It was a long way with an impressive view.
He drove us to the town of Pyrgos where we were taken to the hotel next door to the villa Glen had rented. The hotel manages the villa on behalf of the owner and also provided the transportation service, breakfast and anything else we could have asked for. Definite a step above the usual AirBnB service.
We were given a 30-minute orientation briefing which provided information on the island and the various activities available that we might like to try, one of which was a five-hour cruise that went from the bottom of the island to the top and ended at sunset. We eagerly booked it at €150 per person. That was Tuesday afternoon sorted.
The villa wasn’t ready yet so we walked into Pyrgos, the sun bearing down on us, reflecting off the white buildings. I’m sure I got sunburnt. We had lunch and then climbed up to the Venetian castle and took in the view. Santorini is a smallish island so you can pretty much see from one end to the other. Not everyone lives in the villages so the countryside is dotted with houses.
After our climb to the top we trekked to the supermarket and the fruit and veg shop (though despite the recommendation the quality was a bit poor). We were wiped out from the heat by the time we got back to the villa at about four.
We were staying in luxury. A newly built, modern-designed two storey building with an infinity pool and a jacuzzi. We lounged in the air conditioning for a while then jumped in the pool, the water bath-like due to the sun and the heat. A few hours passed with us lounging around reading and cooling down.
In the evening we caught a taxi into Fira then walked to Firostefani and Imerovigli, through the picturesque towns, along narrow winding streets and past white buildings with blue roofs. As we’d been informed, the crowds thinned the further along the path we went. We continued to the skavos, an outcrop of rock that used to hold a Venetian fortress which has since crumbled, leaving little behind. We walked out, then climbed up the rock.
Anna and Glen went right to the top but I at first stayed below. My fear of heights – or more accurately, fear of falling – crept up on me and kept me grounded. This then warred with my desire to not get left behind so I climbed up a bit, only to be told by Glen not to come any higher as he was having trouble getting down. At this point, I looked down and almost hyperventilated and had to give myself a serious talking to to make me get down safely. I managed. At least I also managed to make it part way up.
We walked down the steps a bit, saw a church below where two shirtless guys looked like they were preparing to do some firetwirling. This is also the spot where you can do very expensive yoga. We watched the light change as the sun descended, then walked back to the town. We had dinner then caught a taxi back to Pyrgos.
Cruising around Santorini
Breakfast arrived at 8. We ate and then decided that we wouldn’t go to the beach as discussed the day before but instead relax at home. I did some work. I read more of my book. The morning passed. We then went for lunch down the road (I was disappointed in the chicken I had) and then returned to the villa to wait for the transfer to the boat at 2:15pm.
We were collected and taken down to the bottom of Santorini where we waited amidst the chaos of docking catamarans and people milling about and not listening for their names being called. We boarded the 400 S2, a once-private boat now commandeered for these twice-daily cruises. We were three of 15 passengers with three crew.
Our first stop on the catamaran was Red Beach. The beach itself isn’t red; the cliffs are. Probably due to bauxite/iron in the rock. We swam for about 10/15 minutes. The sea floor here is utterly devoid of anything but sand (also not red). It seems not much wants to grow in these waters.
Our second stop was White Beach. Not so-called because the sand is exceedingly white (it was pretty grey) but because of the cliffs (limestone). We snorkelled here for a while, fish being drawn in by bread thrown in the water. We saw a few different species, mostly grey but some green and black (dragon fish, with spines, venomous, spines) and some colourful striped ones too. The water temperature alternated between chilly and warm, mostly chilly, especially about 50cm below the surface. We then had lunch on the boat and set off again.
The catamaran went up towards the volcanoes, one extinct, the other dormant and growing by 4–5cm per year. Here we also went into the hot springs, really, they were warm springs. We were all suitably terrified at the prospect of sharp rocks and water that stained your white clothes red or tarnished your jewellery. Initially I wasn’t going to go in as I didn’t want the minimal amount of white on my red board shorts to stain but then I thought, what the hell. It’s only a pair of shorts. I went in. The water got warm. I swam back. The white parts are now pink.
From the volcano we went up to Oia and watched the sunset with all the other catamarans. About 30 seconds before the sun dipped beneath the horizon a large cruise ship cut in front of it and blocked it. The catamarans scrambled to get around the ship so the passengers could see the sun disappear. The succeeded, though we thought it especially hilarious that the main driver for the cruise at this time was to see the sunset and we were about to be thwarted.
A zodiac then took us to the dock and a driver took us up to the top of the caldera to the town of Oia and dropped us off so we could find dinner. We wandered through the town, all the way to the end and then turned around and came back in to get dinner. By this stage it was already 10 o’clock and we were largely over it.
After dinner we requested a taxi. The first one picked up the wrong people. The second one never came but we got in one that was nearby and was full of other people going elsewhere on the island. The driver went right past our village so we were the last ones in the taxi and getting angrier by the second. It took over an hour for us to get home so it was well after midnight. Anna was ropeable.
I collapsed into bed; I could pack in the morning.
We woke up at seven, packed, ate our breakfast, checked out and went to the airport. The aircraft was late taking off, not helped by the disorganisation going on around us as we stood outside for about 20 minutes waiting for the bus to take us to the plane. I was worried we’d be running late for our flight to Abu Dhabi from Athens but we had plenty of time.
While I was sad the holiday was at an end, I’m ok with going home. It actually felt like the holiday had finished when we left Mykonos, and the few days in Santorini had merely extended the inevitable. I definitely preferred Mykonos to Santorini. The beaches were better (from what we saw of the Santorini ones) and it just felt like there was more going on in Mykonos than Santorini.
Santorini, however, has the more dramatic scenery with its towns perched on the top of the caldera, its volcanic rock and blue-domed white buildings. Perhaps one day more would have helped me appreciate it more but I don’t feel a strong desire to go back. Mykonos, however, I could easily go again for a week.
Back in Athens, we waited and waited for our luggage then checked in. Anna wasn’t leaving til about 6 or 7 hours later. Unfortunately she couldn’t check in so we said our goodbyes. It was really good travelling with her, no arguments, no destroyed friendships, easy going travelling (although she did have to listen to Glen and I bicker on occasion).
We proceeded to our gate, sat in the terrible Swissport Lounge (though any lounge is better than no lounge), and then boarded our flight at 2:15pm to Abu Dhabi. I finished my book, the fourth of the trip and damn excellent (Britt-Marie was Here, if you’re interested). We had a short flight with enough time to do some work, have lunch and finish watching the last two episodes of Apple Tree Yard before landing.
Short stay in Abu Dhabi. Long flight back to Australia. Slept. Watching almost all of Big Little Lies and touched down in Perth just after lunchtime on Thursday. Holiday complete.