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09 May 2018 :  Day 8 of travel ( from the Italy , Greece & Montenegro diary )


Tucked away cozily in the deep Aegean waters , one among the many islands,  is the luxurious Santorini. It is a much sought after tourist destination in the world.   

Check out the picture here.  If  you mistook the backdrop to be a mountain range, it certainly is not.  It is a CALDERA.   


A CALDERA is a  crater formed due to a Volcanic eruption.   The crater formed here, in this Greek Island,  runs to kilometres and  is considerably deep due to the resultant volcanic activity, that is recorded as one of the worst till date.  Most portion of this massive crater is filled with sea water.  The edges of the crater standing above water are strewn with remains of volcanic ashes.  This precisely  is what seems like a mountain range.   The villages of this Amazing Santorini Island  are mostly built atop this visible portion of a Caldera. 


This little knowledge about the unusual Earth formations in this part of the world, got us all enraptured.  

To match the colour combination of the place, we decided to dress ourselves in white & blue.     An unforgettable journey began.  Our Cruise ship docked at the THIRA PORT ( Santorini is also referred to  as Thira), at around 8 am.  It would leave the shores only at 5pm that evening. We therefore had ample time on hands.    A little " shuttle boat"  ferried  us in batches,  from the banks, where our cruise ship had docked,  up to the foothill of  "Fira Village".   We  could spot lumps of  predominantly 'WHITE' premises,  clinging all around the peaks. The tinge of deep  copper sulphate blue at regular intervals,  that served as domes, roofs , doors and windows of certain buildings, set the perfect colour combination. We had luckily boarded the very first ferry, without wasting much time.   As we neared the foothills of Fira, we could understand why this place is so loved, worldwide.  


We hopped off and walked a few paces to  reach the Cable Car station.  There are of course other options to get on top.    One can use the available "Mule" service, enjoy their journey upward while riding on back of a mule while savouring perfect views OR  just get to the top by foot.    We could spot a wide, stoned stairway leading upwards in a sharp zig-zag fashion,  right behind the cable car station.    A line of  guided mules carried their passengers to the top.    We chose to ride the cable car upto FIRA, as it is a faster option.   We paid for the tickets at the counter.  A one way fare costed us around EUR6 per head.  We decided to buy our return tickets later, leaving ourselves an option to ride a mule or walk down the path on our way back. 


The cable car journey to the top of FIRA took less than 5 minutes.  We had pre booked our private taxi tour from 9 am to 3 pm,  with BAIKAS TRAVELS.    You can access their website up here,  if you wish to use their services.   We were very happy with our decision of touring with them.   As we stepped out of the station on the top, we were instantly awestruck by the clean cobbled streets, while also witnessing a surrounding evidently painted with white and blue.   It was one of a kind experience.   Tourists poured in batches at the entrance of the cable car station in Fira, and the crowd seemed to increase steadily.    We had managed to beat the crowd  by taking the earliest cable car.    Mr. Marcos, from the company,  was readily waiting for us with a "placard" displaying our names.    He greeted us warmly.   He was a tall & fair man of gentle nature, who seemed to joke often,  to keep our spirits high.  Without wasting much time, we followed him through the alleys and streets faithfully, as we enjoyed the scenes around. Watch the slide video !!

A map of our journey around Santorini

We boarded the taxi and soon drove past unique dry lands bitten by the Sun, with more of white and blue strewn all over at regular intervals. We were wise enough to wear whites, to keep away from the heat.  During the journey Marcos enlightened us on why the entire Island preferred to be painted in White.  It was an interesting share :

The island , after the eruption period, had no wood.  The volcanic rocks were the only building material readily available. They were also found sturdy enough to build houses & other structures.  Once people started living in them,  they realised that the heat from the sun was totally unbearable due to the natural quality of the volcanic rocks.    So they decided to paint their houses white, to keep themselves cool.    This seemed to work and therefore the entire Island followed suit.  It is also interesting to understand how BLUE was the chosen combination to work with.   Some feel it could be due to the colour of the Greek National flag which is white and blue ; others think it could be due to the deep colour of the Aegean Sea, but the interesting fact is that the blue colour came from an immediately & cheaply available local cleaning agent, which when mixed with limestone,  formed the blue.  Due to its availability in abundance & a will to promote uniformity, the bright blue colour was initially used on the domes of churches.  Later it was used to colour doors and windows.  Over a period of time, to promote tourism, this attractive combination was maintained.    One must see it to believe it !     The smooth texture of white , dipped in smooth turquoise blue is definitely a treat to the eye.

On our way to Oia Village


With many such interesting stories narrated on the way, we finally reached OIA village (pronounced EEYA) in about 20 odd minutes.  It was a complete joy ride.  Marcos parked the vehicle in a parking lot and instructed us to walk the OIA village ourselves.  We had about an hour in our hands.  We got into action quickly.


The entrance into OIA instantaneously stole our breath away, it was rather dramatic.  We were struck by the most beautiful sights the human eye can ever witness during a lifetime.   Stark White streets and buildings sprinkled with occasional blues.   Aegean waters as far as the eye could reach lying miles below the land where we stood staring.   Any doubts with respect to this place being regarded as the most sought after ISLAND RESORT in the world,   stood cleared.


A beautiful restaurant at the entrance



The streets of OIA village are remarkably eye catching.  Santorini is now a crowded tourist place.  We were lucky to get a picture when the village was relatively deserted.  Look closely, on this street you can find a high end boutique hotel, a phone booth, a pizzeria cum cafe with views on the top floor, an apparel store and also a lone tourist walking her way down this marble floor. Not all of the village is floored with marble.  Of course, it is a combination of marble and cobbled stones.   It was just like in the movies.     We were in high spirits walking down the lane.  

The buildings are built in step fashion, clinging on to one another, right on the peak of this caldera.   There are stair ways providing easy access,  criss crossing the buildings,  leading all the way down.    Some of the hotels and high end resorts provide a private pool.    The aerial view of this architecture is just out of the world.    Our cameras found no rest.  

Auto Slider showing OIA VILLAGE AT ITS BEST - Click on images for full view. 

The hour long walk up and down the cobbled stone streets felt refreshing despite the scorching heat.  Our skin had turned more chocolate brown at the end of it.   We walked down a few stairs to get a feel of the entire layout.  This precious paradise on earth revealed a simple yet luxurious life style led by the locals themselves.    Life seemed so laid back.   There was absence of hurry or rush. We must have been the only souls hurrying up on our walk trying to cover as much as possible, while also simultaneously striving to get back on time.  


Staying here for a couple of days to immerse ourselves in this lavis lifestyle would have been great.  

Also, getting to Greece by land would have been another experience in itself.  I hope to do that someday in my life.  To know more about getting to this island read here.

Tip : Staying in Santorini can get expensive.  If you wish to save more, then it is suggested that you carefully weigh your options of getting & staying here against time & money. 


Flights from Athens to Santorini are not so cheap.  Remember, you also need to consider getting to Athens or any of the other surrounding islands first.  At the time we travelled,  the cheapest mode of transport to Santorini from Athens  (Piraeus port), was by ferry.   Flights were expensive.   But the ferry takes 8 hours one way.  The total time spent on the to & fro travel including the expenses that came with it, would make staying in Santorini mandatory, even if we were to return by ferry on the following day. The costs of flight +ferry + stay and food need to be considered  here.  But this definitely doesn't mean you need to make a hole in your purse.

Looking at various options, we were lucky to hit a "lottery" literally, as we covered the place as a part of our MSC Cruise itinerary. In that way, our food and accommodation was already taken care of.  Our transport to Santorini Island was also covered.  So in total we saved costs of flight, food & accommodation, while we enjoyed the Island for an entire day.  Of course the only regret was, not being able to stay here for a couple of days, but then, we at least didn't miss out on this dream destination.

The Aegean Sea beckoned us to stay around for a longer time.  The one hour seemed to have flown past like a sea-gull over the blue waters.  We tried our best to walk to the end of the village.   Climbing up and down a few stairs randomly, bettered  our experience.    We had only 30 minutes each way.  That felt so unfair, but  we considered ourselves lucky to have witnessed the place in our lifetime.  A dream destination without a doubt.    Unmindfully, we had walked too far down the village and therefore had to push ourselves to get back to our tour guide, as scheduled.   Despite all efforts we still reached him 20 minutes later, due to which we had to cancel our visit to the RED SAND beach. We had no regrets.

It was noon when Marcos reached us to a famous bakery, on our way to Pyrgos Kallistis.    It was almost lunch time, but as we had filled our tummies with a heavy breakfast, we were ok to brunch with bakery items.   The Bakery was infested with sweet stuff all around.   You can have a look at the pictures to understand what I am trying to  say.  Sweet people in Greece eh ?!



As the debate regarding the origin of the famous BAKLAVA, whether Turkish or Greek,  still goes on .... I was really excited to taste it in Greece , for the very first time in my life.   Back home, before the entire tour, I had imagined a lot regarding its taste and how I would relish it once I lay my hands on it.  I had seen it only in MASTERCHEF AUSTRALIA, where George Columbaris (*one of the judges) used to criticise or appreciate  the work of amateur chefs, on the show.  As George's roots are from Greece, I began to believe that Baklava is of Greek Origin.   Therefore the excitement never ceased till I got



to this bakery to taste for the very first time in my life.    This layered deliciousness was displayed amongst various other  goodies and I saw my dream coming true at last.  It looked quite big and a single piece was at least 4"x4".    In an effort to ensure that none in the group misses out on its presumably yummy taste,  I ordered for 8 such pieces ( as shown in the picture) - i.e 2 boxes consisting of 4 each, along with other likeable grub,  which others in the group picked up.   It costed us quite a bit, but I did not mind spending.   We carried it to the benches that were laid outside the bakery and finally sat down to taste.  

Much to my shock, it was way too sweet  and rich.  It was layered with dry fruit mash and loads of sugary stuff.   A single bite got to me.    I instantly realised that one single piece would have sufficed and  fed our entire group.  Each of them took a bite and felt the same as I did.   We immediately sought comfort in spicy goodies which were available .  The excessive sweet taste wouldn't still vanish.  Is this the original BAKLAVA ?? is this the best bakery?? Is it right to consume so much sugar ?? all this and many more thoughts gave way to a debate amongst us,  as we laughed at my foolishness.    I heard more words of wisdom from others,  than I ate.    It was funny, but in the end , we jointly decided to dispose it, in order to reduce  possible wastage.    Marcos kindly offered to take it with him  and do the needful.  

So , a word of caution.  If you wish to buy something, taste one first before you go ahead and spend a bomb on it.   Life's lessons !! I tell you, they drop by at the most un-expected time don't they ?



After the disastrous BAKLAVA tasting, we made our way to the taxi to be driven down to our next destination - PYRGOS ( pronounced "PIR GOS")- referred to on the map as Pyrgos Kallistis, as the main land of Greece has another place called PYRGOS, lying on the route between KATAKOLON and OLYMPIA.  


This journey from Oia to Pyrgos kallistis took around half and hour.  We swirled our way along winding roads to reach a higher region.   The greenery around seemed very scantily spread.

 As you can see in the picture, the entire village is atop a hill.   Marcos drove us up hill and took us to the VIEW POINT which was right outside a Chapel.  The views were stunning.    The glistening sun didn't spare us.   Once outside the taxi, we felt peace and calm around.  Acres and Acres of almost barren land , running miles down below, beautifully merging with the blue waters.   Settlements neatly spread across displaying authentic greek style,  caught our eye.  The combination of white & blue didn't seem to cease.   As usual our camera didn't rest even for a second.


Walking our way to the  dead end on top,  we reached another view point .   Across the road was THE CHAPEL OF ST. NEKTARIOS.   This is actually a monastery.  A few monks stay here.  It also  houses its own exhibition of home made food products.    

The place seemed away from the world.  There was peace and quite as the wind whistled around,  blowing our hair out of shape each time.   We walked into the Chapel , offered our prayers and walked around the fenced verandah, that provided jaw dropping views of the sea.   

We spent a while here , followed by walking around the exhibits of food products. Ranging from pickles, jams to home made eats, they all looked yummy and healthy, but we didn't invest in any,  due to our luggage limitation. We were already carrying our world with us.

A few more pictures at the Chapel, looking deep down into plains of vegetation and typical Blue & White settlements.  One could spend hours and hours just sitting here and feeling relaxed.


We walked out feeling elated , but still couldn't get enough of the views from the top.  We spent another 15- 20 minutes outside, despite the heavy winds,  clicking our best shots possible.  


The highlight at this view point was a mammoth piece of cloud that drifted past the sky forming a shadow on the settlements below.  

It was a bright and sunny day and this piece of cloud seemed to appear from nowhere and moved quicker  than they usually do.

A few pictures here will prove that it was a rather clear sky until then.

When life is hectic, we often tend to miss out on these natural wonders, let alone enjoy them.  We felt blessed.

The next journey soon began , once again down the mountainous region, winding around till we reached the ground level.   Our next stop was a the PERISSA BLACK SAND BEACH.  It took around 20 minutes or so to get here from Pyrgos Kallistis.   It was one of its kind and we were witnessing black sand for the first time.   We were lucky, it was  almost  deserted at that point in time.    We had about 45 minutes here to ourselves.  The stunning scenery with thatched umbrellas, chaise lounges , clear  waters, black sand, blue sky,  instantly had us all excited.   Except for the hot sun, there was everything to relax here for a while.   Our feet were saved from getting burnt in the hot sand, though our shoes felt the heat while walking towards the water. There was definitely no escaping the sea.  We had to play around for a while without a doubt.    We took off our shoes,  let our guard down and ran towards the water.   Few others preferred to rest in the van, while we frolicked around.




There were few localities relaxing on the lounges, while we jumped in and out of water.  

Take a look at the pictures of the sand taken from a good distance and compare it with the picture below.

Away from the waters, the sand is just black rough powder, as we got closer to dip our feet, we saw that the sand comprised  of black smooth pebble components merging with other coloured stones,  probably an impact of the volcano.  It was just unbelievable, that what looked like fine powder from afar, were in fact big sized smooth stones.    Amazing isn't it ? so rare and unique just like precious stones used in jewellery.  We picked up plenty of coloured stones.   The clear stones in the colour of WATER itself, were the most beautiful of  the lot. 


Bidding farewell to the most unique place was not easy.  We had covered enough within our time and had no regrets.   We would definitely love to be back visiting many more greek islands to understand more about their culture and history.  


We were driven back to the cable car station.  We bought our tickets and took a cable ride to return to the port.   It was all worth the effort including money well spent.   Enjoy the slide show. 

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