Santorini, Greece. It was on the top of my bucket list since an early teen. I’m not sure I ever thought I’d make it there, and even then once we moved here to Europe I was worried it was going to end up in the ‘too hard’ basket. We originally planned to do Greece for our first anniversary, but Italy was easier and more convenient. I am so glad that we went!
Our flight from Athens was about 20 minutes with Aegean Air in an A320 – we pretty much cruised along at 20,000 feet and descended as soon as we got to altitude. The flight was full of buzzing tourists, excited to finally fulfil their dream of Santorini.
On arrival we were met by our hotel transfer driver. The side of the island that the airport was on is not very attractive (to put it nicely). I was worried that I had put this place on a pedestal for no reason. Things weren’t even looking up as we hit the town – my heart really sank. As we pulled up to the hotel, things just weren’t getting any better. I just couldn’t see what all the hype was about. We walked down the steps to the hotel reception – and then I saw it. It was then that I saw the view; it was then that I saw the other islands off in the distance with the perfect haze; it was then that I knew I had found my mecca.
The driver of the shuttle ended up being the receptionist also. He led us upstairs to our room – which
ended up being more of an apartment than just a room. We had an entire roof to ourselves, as well as our one bedroom caldera apartment. We were also at the top of the apartment block, so no one was there to stare down at us for our romantic sunsets on the balcony.
After admiring the view for a couple of hours (it was hard to leave, but we were starving), we headed into Fira town. It was bustling with tourists and full of delicious food smells. We came across the first gyros place that we could find – ‘Lucky’s’. He was an eccentric character, asked where we were from and gave me a ‘Kia ora, mate’. We enjoyed our usual fare of a pork gyros for Nick, a chicken gyros for me, a serving of fries to share and two cokes – of course, all for under €10 in one of the most beautiful places on earth.
We went to the supermarket to get some alcohol after wandering around the quaint alleyways for awhile and headed back to the apartment. It was only natural to settle in for the sunset, which was beautiful. The sun didn’t quite drop into the sea as it did in Western Australia, but it was a sight to behold as the sun dropped behind the volcano island. I couldn’t think of a more romantic setting! The hotel owners came upstairs to offer us some wine, but we already had some. It was such a nice gesture, though, and we really were appreciative of the thought.
After the sun had well and truly gone to bed, we headed back into the town for some food. We ended up at an Italian place in the party area, which filled up our tummies without killing the bank account. It was surprising how somewhere so set up for tourists was actually reasonable for food. The temperature was still perfect, even at 10pm – neither hot, nor cold.
September 20 was our special day – our second anniversary. We woke up to perfect weather and couldn’t drag ourselves away from the view. Eventually we could no longer ignore the grumbling noises of our stomachs protesting. We found a different gyros place for lunch and did some exploring of the town again.
The beautiful sunset rolled around again soon enough, so we headed back to the apartment to watch it again. As opposed to the night before, our anniversary brought completely calm weather with it, with no wind at all. We set our balcony up with some music and the bottle of Moet that we had brought with us for the occasion and enjoyed the sunset once again. Night two was even more stunning – but perhaps that was the champagne and anniversary talking!
Nick had made reservations at the restaurant below our apartment for dinner that night. After the sun disappeared, we headed down for a delicious anniversary meal. It was traditional Greek food, so we were able to get dolmades as an appetizer. Nick was excited to be able to get Calamari. When it came out, it ended up being an entire stuffed squid. We affectionately nicknamed it ‘Charlie’ (after our dog) because of its ‘ears’. Poor Charlie!
We wandered up to the town to enjoy the caldera by night – it looks beautiful in a different way at night. The lights shine down the hill, and the white of the buildings lights it up in such a way that can’t really be described. The alleyways become that little bit more mystical, (and that little bit more confusing to navigate.) We found some delicious gelato to enjoy on the way back to our apartment – perfect!
In order to afford our gorgeous sunset views, we had to make a sacrifice. Instead of staying for the entire four nights that we were in Santorini, we split up our stay so that we spent two nights with an amazing view – and two nights in budget accommodation. We reluctantly packed up our bags on Sunday and headed to our budget accommodations to the ‘without a view’ part of Santorini. As it turned out, it wasn’t bad at all. Our room actually was much more modern and came with a breakfast – all for the expensive (not) price of $65 a night. It just goes to show that you can stay almost anywhere on a budget!
After we dropped our bags off, we decided to try and navigate the public transportation. For around €1,60 we were able to get the bus to Oia (the ‘prettier’) side of the island. It was also there that we would be meeting up with my friend from university for dinner.
Unfortunately for me (and Nick), I woke up that morning with a scratchy throat. By midday, I was feeling a little ill, but tried to ignore it. By around 3pm, there was no ignoring it. I was sick. I was miserable. All I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and miss out on the most beautiful place on earth. We tried to find a chemist, but then realised it was Sunday, so gave up on that idea. It was also about 35-40 degrees Celsius in the sun, so I was sweating on two accounts. How cruel is that? Not only are you sick, but sick on holiday!
Fortunately, by some stroke of luck, about half an hour before I was going to have to bail on my friend, the chemist opened up and I was able to get some drugs to mask the symptoms so that we could stay on. I still find it weird that the chemist opened just as I was about to give in to the nasty bug.
Danielle and I went to university together in Christchurch. We met on the very first day of classes – we were both nervously standing outside our first LAWS101 (first year law) class. We were the first ones there, so she asked me if it was the right lecture theatre. From that point on, we were friends, and that friendship has lasted for over eight years now! I was so excited to see a friend from home, especially since we hadn’t even planned for it to happen. I knew Danielle and her boyfriend Patrick were going to be in Europe, but we didn’t know that we were both going to be in Greece at the same time. It was meant to be!
Once we met up, we chose out a restaurant with a caldera view over Oia for dinner. Danielle’s sister and her boyfriend also joined the four of us for dinner, so it was a bit of a kiwi gathering. The food was amazing, but I’m sad to say that the wait staff were just awful. Needless to say, they didn’t get a tip after they snapped at Danielle when she asked him to take a photo of us all. Rude!
We were also going to be on the next island together, so saying goodbye to Danielle really actually meant that we were going to see them again in another couple of days. We took the bus straight back to Fira and settled in for a good night’s sleep.
I woke up miserable. I couldn’t move. But, we had a tour booked, which looking back now I am thankful for or I probably wouldn’t have got myself out of bed. We enjoyed our Greek breakfast in the homely little hotel/motel/hostel hybrid, and it was there that I discovered my newfound love for Greek yoghurt with honey. Being a creature of habit, I’ve had it every morning since!
Our wine tour left from a pretty convenient location downtown. The group was small – two other couples and a single Australian lady. It was enjoyable due to the small size – I feel like we got to know each other as a group, and got to know our host.
We stopped at three vineyards and a beer brewery. They have to grow vines in a very different kind of way in Santorini. Due to the fact they have little water on the island, they can’t irrigate their vines. They also have volcanic dirt, full of minerals, but high winds hit the islands. For centuries, they have wound their vines into ‘basket’s which are on the ground. The baskets shield the vines and grapes from the windy conditions, but also allow the vines to get as much of the water as they can get. The natural pumice in the dirt sucks up the water sprays that come up from the ocean, which provides them with the water they need. It’s quite incredible that they came up with a way to make wine when everything seemed to be against them being able to.
The wine produced on the island is all white varieties, and are native. Our guide explained to us that any other variety wouldn’t survive on the island. While the wine wasn’t the best I have ever had (one literally tasted like sulfur!) it was nice to be able to try something that literally is nowhere else in the world.
Our tour finished at about 2pm, so we headed into town for some more delicious Greek food. I was able to get some more dolmades and souvlaki. I still hadn’t got to the point of being sick of Greek food, like people told me would happen. Writing this right now, I’m craving Greek food!
We woke up, had breakfast, and took a taxi to the Santorini port. One fun fact about Greece is that when you accept a fare, you’re actually accepting the fare for just yourselves. In our case, another couple were going in the same direction, so we were all charged the same fare but shared the taxi. It’s a little bit awkward sharing a taxi with two strangers, especially when you have to share a backseat with them, but it’s just the way Greece works.
I was definitely sad to leave the beautiful island. I could not recommend it enough as a place to go for romance. Yes, I had high hopes for Santorini, and yes it met all of them. I hope that we can go back one day. My biggest piece of advice (for what it is worth) is: try not to do Santorini on a cruise. It is much too beautiful to do in half a day, and a lot of the ambience of the place comes out at night when all of the cruise boats have left for the day. I can’t imagine only being able to spend half a day there, so I’m extremely glad that we canceled our cruise to do this ourselves.
And that is it for Santorini. Next stop… Mykonos!
Until next time,