One of the things I like to do when I land in a new country is to take in the scent. The sea-desert scent of Santorini was immediately dispersed by the strong wind that blew for most of my stay there. Luckily, I love the wind, it somehow reminds me of the dynamics of life.
Santorini, the southernmost island of the Aegean Sea, is one of the two places in Europe characterized by a desert climate – very hot days, fresh nights, and a strong wind that blows frequently because the island is unprotected. It rains for only a few weeks a year (during the winter), and when it does, it makes the island unusually green.
Tourists are everywhere
Perissa and Perivolos are small touristy towns on the southeast of the island which are in many aspects cheaper than the much-touted places like Fia and Oia, located on the other side of the island. But wherever your accommodation is, buses are frequent, with tickets priced at 1.5-2 euros, so you can easily move around the island which is only some 30 km long. And there are also other options, like renting a quad bike or a car.
A quad bike can be rented for a day for as little as 20 euros plus a few euros a day for gas, and that is really an excellent price for cruising the island. A whole tank of gas (9 euros) can suffice for up to 3-4 days. However, you definitely need to be careful with night rides, wear long sleeves and a helmet, because the fines for not wearing one can be up to 300 euros.
The quad ride from Perivolos to the capital of Fira takes about half an hour. Fira is at the center of the island, located on a cliff (caldera) on the west coast, just like the popular Oia that you see in countless gorgeous pictures from Santorini. Fira boasts a lot of small restaurants with beautiful views, souvenir and pastry shops. Being the capital, it is quite crowded. Average prices of restaurant meals range from 8 to 30 euros, depending on the location and type of food. Fish and seafood are usually more expensive than meat. Cocktails are quite expensive all over the island, priced at upwards of 10 euros.
For some 30 euros you can book an awesome excursion in Santorini – the volcanic island of Nea Kameni by boat + hiking the (still) active volcano, bathing in thermal waters, visit to the smallest island of Santorini – Thirasia, and the sunset in Oia. What a beautiful day! Hiking the volcano was taxing at noon at +30C, but we heard interesting stories of earthquakes and eruptions that had shaped Santorini into what it looks like today.
After Thirasia, we took a boat back to Thira, to the place called Oia – one of the most beautiful places in the world. We docked in the harbor and were offered a donkey ride uphill to the town for 5 euros. We embraced the opportunity, but soon regretted it because the donkeys carried us on their own, with no reins, uphill on their backs, and they are a bit aggressive, nervous, and quite competitive.
Sunset in Oia
The sunset in Oia is perhaps the most famous and most beautiful sunset in the world. Already at 7 p.m. people start gathering on the northern walls of Oia, nibbling on the traditional Greek snacks – nuts in all combinations, and sipping beer or holding hands, savoring the romance. The sun starts to set at around 8:30 p.m., and the sunset itself lasts about 10 minutes. The sun is seen off with an applause every evening, and that truly is a special experience!
Unfortunately, I did not see the authentic Greece I had really wanted to see. Santorini is great to have fun for a few days, especially if you can afford the luxury resorts with million dollar views in Oia, but it is a far cry from the authentic Greece. The well-known places are overcrowded with tourists, the prices are quite high, and
. Definitely not an option if you’re looking for a quiet spot to rest from everything.