I didnâ€™t give Mike a choice on Santorini when we were planning our Europe itinerary. I just told him I really wanted to go, and he was okay with it. However, when he started to research hotel rooms, he had sticker shock! So, we agreed to change our normal budget mindset and let go for 3 days. We would spend a little of our surplus from the Balkans to live it up.
Iâ€™ve always seen the pictures of the white churches with blue roofs with the sunset views. So, I wanted to see them for myself. It might be super touristy, but the views lived up to the hype.
We arrived in Santorini from Dubrovnik in the dark. Our hotel sent a car to pick us up from the airport. The driver offered to carry my backpack, plus our climbing gear duffel to our hotel. I donâ€™t think the poor guy realized their weight! He got his workout as it was quite the hike up and down many steps to our hotel room. He earned his tip and dinner!
In the morning, I threw open the shades and was greeted with an amazing view of the caldera. We splurged for the caldera view, and since we were there in â€œoff-seasonâ€ we ended up getting an okay deal. I was so excited about the day to explore and soak in these views! However, first we enjoyed breakfast on our terrace overlooking the old port and watched the donkeys descend the 588 steps to pick up cruise passengers who wanted a ride up.
Our objective for the day was to hike from Fira, the town in which we were staying, to Oia at the tip of the island. It is a 9km walk mostly on pedestrian, cobblestone streets with a few rocky trails towards the end. The walk had lots of ups and downs, so we got quite a workout. We also got a late start, so it was quite hot! I canâ€™t imagine hiking this in the summer! However, the views were incredible. The whitewashed houses popped against the sparking blue sea below us.
By the time we got to Oia, all I wanted was shade, food and a drink! We lucked into a cliffside table at a good restaurant. It refreshed us enough to explore Oia. It was a nice town with a different view of the Caldera. I enjoyed finding the blue domes and getting lost in the windy streets.
The sunsets in Santorini are supposed to be legendary. Most people reserve restaurant tables or squish into the streets for the best views. However, since we had our own balcony, we enjoyed watching the stunning sunset in peace with our own happy hour drinks.
Our big splurge was taking a catamaran cruise around the caldera. We opted for a semi-private (only 10 other people) daytime cruise to maximize our swimming time. It was pure luxury! I loved sitting on the front of the boat on a sun bed enjoying the views and the sea breeze. It was cool to sail across the entire caldera and around to the other side of the island.
The boat stopped at 3 different swimming holes along the way. The first stop was hot water beach. The water was heated by fumaroles from the volcano. It wasnâ€™t very hot, more like lukewarm. Our next 2 stops were at Red Beach and Black Beach. They were aptly named for the color of the cliffs overlooking the beaches.
I loved jumping off the side of the boat into the water! It was pure joy, and I even got almost everyone on the boat to jump in too. The water was a perfect temperature and so salty that you could pretty much float without doing anything. It was the perfect way to spend the day in the sun, and I felt quite fancy! It was nice to splurge.
Our final day in Santorini was long as our overnight ferry to Kos did not depart until 1AM! If you know Mike and I, we are usually in bed by 10, so this was going to be a push. We decided to maximize our hotel room, by enjoying the balcony until the 11AM checkout time. It was nice to enjoy a few cups of coffee and read with this view.
The island has several wineries and is well known for its white and dessert wines. We love wine, and what better way to spend the afternoon than wine taste. We tasted at 3 wineries. Our first stop was Santos. It was the biggest of the 3 and ended up being our favorite which is unusual for us to like the â€œbigâ€ guy. We decided to split the sample of 10 wines with snacks. I really enjoyed the whites especially the sparkling. We also had a killer view from our table to enjoy the wines!
As we drove around, I kept looking for the grape vines. All I could see were what looked like scrub brush growing on the ground. Well, that turned out to be the vines. They have developed a method to train the vines to grow in a basket shape close to the ground. This protects the grapes from the sun and wind and captures the morning dew. They do not irrigate after the vines are 4 years old, so this growing method was essential.
Santorini has a micro micro-brewery called Santorini Brewery. We had tried a few of their beers in town and decided to stop in at the brewery for a taste. The beer reminded us of home as they use hops grown in Washington! My favorite was the Yellow Donkey, a pale ale.
After a full day of wine and beer, we opted for a final sunset view from the parking lot of Santos winery. We had spent enough that day so opted for the cheap seats. We were not the only cheapskates taking in the sunset either!
We returned the car at 8 and still had 4 more hours until our bus left for the port! We aimlessly wandered around town, going up and down stairs for a workout. Then found a little cafÃ© on the square to play rummy and people watch. Finally, it was time to roll. I smartly booked us a cabin, and we quickly collapsed into bed to dream about rock climbing in Kalymnos!
Santorini lived up to its hype.Â The sunsets were gorgeous, the caldera is stunning and there were steps everywhere!Â It was the perfect place to vacation for a few days before heading to the low-key climbing island of Kalymnos!