As I mentioned yesterday, I traveled on Seabourn Odyssey through the Turkish and Greek islands. We went from Dikili, Kusadasi and Bodrum in Turkey to Santorini, Mylos, Navplion and Athens in Greece. While each port was beautiful in its own way, some, for me, were more special than others. My two favourites were Santorini and Navplion. Today, I’ll tell you about Santorini.
Perched almost precariously atop rugged cliffs (volcanic rock, actually), Santorini is picture perfect in every way. If you’ve never been, chances are you’ve seen photographs of this quaint island. The photos don’t do it justice. Photos simply can’t convey the magic of the island.
We arrived under the blazing sun, jostled by the populations of four cruise ships, all of which had reached port at about the same time. That’s a lot of tourists. Get out of the pulsing crowds as soon as possible. There are a variety of ways to get to the top of the island, where Santorini really begins. You can take a steep cable car ride; it’s quick but if you suffer from a fear of heights, may not be for you. You can walk or you can jump on one of the hundreds of donkeys waiting to trot you to the top. We paid five euros per person for the donkey ride, though I suspect the price varies depending on the day or the little Greek man you’re dealing with. There’s nothing organized about the trek to the top. It’s a free for all and if you take the donkey, be prepared to jump on and just go! The ride is a bit bumpy, the donkeys look hot, tired and thirsty and as they edge towards the wall and you look down, you may feel nauseous. Don’t look down.
Once at the summit, we found ourselves swimming in a pool of tourists. There are an endless number of cafes, restaurants and shops selling everything from cheap souvenirs to expensive clothing and jewelry. It would have been delightful up at the top but for the tourists. So, my BF and I made our escape. He guided, I followed and before we knew it, we were far from the madding crowd.
In the end, we walked clear across the island (or so it seemed; we walked for ages) and saw sweeping views of Santorini from various angles. We saw the island through the eyes of locals, far from the port where all the cruise ship passengers arrive and a safe distance from the tourist-trap souvenir shops. We lunched at a little restaurant that had only satisfactory food but spectacular views. We walked through streets where there wasn’t a soul in sight and the few people we did pass were locals going about their daily tasks. We passed so many churches, houses painted in a rainbow of pretty pastels and flowers, flowers everywhere.
Visiting in July, the islands are hot, hot, hot, with temperatures flirting with, and often surpassing, 40 degrees Celsius. Water, sunscreen and a wide-brim hat are essentials. If you visit Santorini, stray from the beaten path and explore on your own. You’re bound to find lesser-known treasures as you stroll the local streets and the opportunities for stunning photos are everywhere.
The donkey ride up to the top of Santorini is bumpy but can be preferable to walking under the scorching summer sun or taking the cable car ride, especially if you’re afraid of heights.
A weather-worn, sea-ravaged canoe or a piece of artwork sitting atop a rooftop in Santorini? I have no idea but it’s beautiful.
Painted in shades of blue, green, pink and yellow, the homes on Santorini are clean and cheerful. The overall effect of the whitewashed walls and coloured doors and window frames is that visitors are welcome. Surrounded by a bright blue sky and deep blue sea, the setting is idyllic.