Planet View: N36°25.386’ E25°25.696’
Street View: N36°25.386’ E25°25.696’
Santorini is the southernmost of the Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea, sitting just north of Crete smack in the middle of Greece and Turkey. The island is the caldera of an active volcano, it’s well known for its sugar-cubed houses perched precariously on the cliff edge with spectacular views of the Aegean and surrounding islands. We spent almost a week on Santorini, making the trip for Tariq and Andrea’s wedding, which was on May 2 at Tholos Resort (N36°26.024’ E25°25.253’) in the town of Imerovigli. They couldn’t have ordered better weather, the ceremony was held on the edge of the caldera with a beautiful sunset as the backdrop. It was great to be able to share their special day with them, as well as catch up with a few mates from Saint Marks who made the trip from locations including New York, Glasgow, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide. A lot of fun getting us all together for the occasion (thanks Tariq!). The wedding party stayed at Tholos Resort, we stayed one town south of Imerovigli in the village of Firostefani at Gaby’s Apartments (N36°25.386’ E25°25.696’) run by Katerina and her sister Maria (not sure where Gaby comes into it). The location was fabulous, we were right on the caldera edge with 1000 feet of cliffs directly below us, the sunsets and views were exceptional. The apartment was great, extremely clean (it’s something we notice after trudging through Turkey and northern Greece!) and a fantastic location only 400 meters walk from the main town of Fira. The picture above to the left was the view from our deck, can you ask for more?!
Hens and Bucks Night
We arrived in Santorini on Wednesday, April 29 and the following day set out for the hens and bucks nights in preparation for the wedding on Saturday. The hens spent the afternoon riding horses on Kamari Beach on the island’s east coast while the bucks took a boat trip from Ammoudi at the island’s northern tip to explore the caldera and surrounding islands. Both Tanja (the maid of honor) and ET (the best man) put a lot of effort into the day, I know both Lisa and I had a fantastic time and appreciate their work.
The hens didn’t have a lot of experience riding horses, only Lisa had ever ridden a horse before so it was quite an ordeal. They were dropped by a taxi near Kamari Beach and then walked down a dirt road to find the stables. A number of the girls were a little timid to start, Sally ended up the with stable owner’s horse and Andrea (the bride) had a horse with an absolute mind of its own. Dinner at Nikki’s in Fira was thoroughly enjoyed by all (I heard about the grilled squid at Nikki’s for a number of days afterwards) followed by dancing at Tropicana and onto Murphy’s Bar (where the bucks ran into them).
The bucks were picked up in Imerovigli around 1:30PM and taken to the port of Ammoudi at the northern end of the island. Our faithful captain George, one of the only people I met who stays on Santorini through winter and also one of the only people I talked to who has more than a single generation of family history on Santorini, showed us a great afternoon. We cruised past Manolas, the main town on the neighboring island of Thirasia, and then to the hot springs (N36°24.058’ E25°23.331’) on Nea Kameni, which is an island in the center of the volcano. The hot springs were unlike any I have seen before: instead of being isolated pools they were simply a cove in the ocean that was far warmer than the surrounding water. But we knew we were near hot springs as the typical overpowering smell of sulfur was ever-present. We cruised around to the eastern side of Nea Kameni for a swim, witnessed a near-drowning of Squino and, if I couldn’t swim as well as I can, a possible fist fight in the water, followed by a slow motor back to Ammoudi for dinner. (An afternoon of beers is always better with a Squino incident of some sort.) Ammoudi is evidently the best place on the island to view the sunset as it’s the last place on Santorini with a view of the sun before it disappears over the horizon. We couldn’t have asked for a better sunset during dinner (a couple of shots below).
We all ended up at Murphy’s Bar at some point in the night (I nabbed Lisa’s camera to get these photos) and then moved on to the Koo Club before grabbing a late night gyros (yiros). The Koo Club is quite the place, a waiter we talked to later in the week said that during the peak of summer they will cram in 3000+ people! It has huge outdoor seating areas and multiple floors inside. At some point during the night ET thought the masses might like to see him undress, the beginning of which is pictured below. We ended up drinking the night away in the bars of Fira, I walked home around 3:00AM; Squino still can’t remember how he got home or what happened to the €100 he had in his pocket at 1:30AM!
The island of Santorini is an extremely picturesque place, the caldera rearing up out of the sea into 1000 foot cliffs overlooking three islands in and around the edge of the volcano. It has to be one of the most photographed of the Greek islands, the sugar-cube white houses lining the edge of the caldera and crystal clear deep blue water of the Aegean below. It is one of George Meis’ favorite islands on which to shoot his famous 360° panographs, reproductions of them are littered all over the islands and we’ve seen postcards of Santorini taken by Meis in every souvenir shop elsewhere in Greece. The island is the eastern portion of the caldera of an active volcano, the sugar-cube houses are connected by a maze of steep, cobbled walkways. As the island is volcanic there is very little dirt and thus the island is quite barren, there are no grazing animals, it’s a very stark landscape.
We rented a 100CC quad motorbike for the time we were in Santorini, it was a lot of fun to cruise around on and saved us waiting for the bus or paying for taxis. And for €10 a day it wasn’t a tough decision! During our six days on the island we pretty much saw it all, from the lighthouse at the island’s southern tip to Oia and Ammoudi in the north. The main town on the island is called Fira, which is located in the center of the west coast and melds into Firostefani and Imerovigli to the north. Most of the restaurants are located in Fira with a few littered on the edge of the caldera in Firostefani and Imerovigli between the plethora of hotels and apartment rentals. We were expecting Santorini to be very expensive as it exists almost exclusively as a tourist destination, but were surprised that the food and accommodation was very similarly priced to the rest of Greece. We ate almost every lunch at probably one of the best gyros (yiros) shops in the world: Gefsis Souvlaki in the center of Fira (business card to the left). Gefsis serves up scrumptious pork, chicken and lamb wraps for between €2 and €2.50 each. By the end of our week on the island I think ET was at serious risk of turning into a gyros (yiros)! The food elsewhere was very good, so much to explore for such a small island. And so much to photograph…
We spent three afternoons on Kamari Beach (N36°25.185’ E25°28.863’) during our week on the island. All of the beaches in Santorini are composed of black pebbles as opposed to sand due to the volcanic nature of the island. The days we were there it was around 30°C and the pebbles were almost too hot to walk on, I can imagine they get absolutely scalding in the heat of summer. Kamari is one of Santorini’s most popular beaches during summer, it stretches for a couple of kilometers and its western location protects it from the winds that often whip the towns on the eastern edge of the island. The southern end of the beach, where we spent our time, is located directly below Ancient Fira and is framed in by the limestone cliffs of Cape Mesa Vouno. ET, Tariq and I had some fun jumping off the cliffs with some of the local Greek schoolboys. I had my snorkeling gear with me, the visibility was amazing but unfortunately not too much to see under the surface except for a few schools of mullet.
On our last day on the island we had a bit of wet weather so were forced to trade in our motorbikes for a little hatch back. The weather gave ET, Sally, Lisa and me a chance to explore the southern reaches of Santorini, the four of us visited the lighthouse at Cape Akrotiri as well as the town of Akrotiri and the Red Beach recommended to me by a mate of mine in San Francisco. The Red Beach would have been very cool to visit on a sunny day, the black beach is hemmed-in by bright red cliffs and the surrounding points looked great for some snorkeling. Maybe next time… We also explored Oia at the northern end of Santorini; a little ways from Fira, Oia came across as a lot less touristy and boasted some fantastic art galleries.
We both had a fantastic time in Santorini, such a picturesque location and so much fun sharing the week with a big group of friends. Corfu next to explore the island where Mum spent the summers teaching tourists to water-ski when she was in her twenties, then the sights of Athens and after that we head Down Under to Adelaide.
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