Remember how I told you that our sunset sail was canceled very last minute, and that Kai and I were left waiting in a deserted parking lot? Well, the only way the ticket office would give us our money back was if we physically went into the main office, which was an hour’s bus ride away (I love Greece but sometimes the customer service there felt like something out of the 1980’s!) So instead of getting a refund, we decided to re-booked on a daytime island hopping sail, which wasn’t quite the romantic sunset experience we’d had in mind, but was a good consolation considering it was either that or spend an afternoon on a bus to get our money back. Turns out, island hopping is incredibly fun :) Our day involved hiking up a volcano, swimming in hot springs, lunching in a quiet village, and sailing along the caldera, from Oia all the way back to Fira.Our morning started early in Oia. We returned to the same parking lot where we had been abandoned before, but this time a small white shuttle rolled up right on time, so we hopped on for a ride down to Fira’s port. The harbor in Oia is much too small to accommodate the larger ships that sail into Santorini, so all of the cruise ships and sailboats depart from the port in Fira.Being out on the water was unbelievably beautiful. We’d spent the past 4 days admiring the ocean around Santorini from ashore, and getting out on the water and having a view of the cliffs we’d been inhabiting for the past few days was a special experience. The sea’s shade ranged from periwinkle to a morning blue, with drops of turquoise and sea green speckled throughout.
Our first stop of the day: a volcano trek.
Santorini’s proximity to one of Greece’s most active volcanoes is unique. While many cities and towns are situated near a volcano, the villages of Santorini are literally built ON a volcano.
I’ve referred to the caldera several times in my previous posts – the caldera is a large hole that formed as Santorini’s volcano slowly became dormant and the molten magma chamber recessed. Essentially, the caldera is the big hole that formed in the middle of the volcano.The majority of Santorini’s volcano’s caldera is submerged under the sea, and is filled with water, however Santorini and Therasia, two large landmasses on either side of the caldera, rise up from the ocean. To the unknowing eye, these islands might appear serene and lush, but in reality they are large mountains of cooled magma and rock, running along the edge of a smoldering hot and active volcano.We sailed to the rock formation that remains at the epicenter of the caldera, where digging a mere six inches deep will produce scalding hot gravel.Once atop the steep mountain, Kai and I couldn’t pass up some volcano shots, and raced around the mountain’s throat to get that once in a lifetime angle ;)The volcano was HUGE, which is much more evident from this photo where I look like a little speck on the horizon ;)We took some time to soak up the vistas from the top of the volcano, before walking back down towards our boat – which looked dazzling floating there in the green bay.
Next stop on our tour: a quick dip in a hot springs.
I didn’t get any photos at the springs because I was a bit pre-occupied by jumping in the ocean, but a few words on the experience: it was exhilarating, fun, and a bit of a let down. The most exciting part of the stop was jumping off the side of the sailboat. The deck of the boat was about 15ft above the ocean, and the drop was akin to cliff jumping, which took me back to my adventurous college days ;) The ocean was cool, because it was October, and I almost lost my bikini top amidst the rush of water from the jump! Once the brave souls who opted to swim to the springs were in the water, we began to move towards the heat, which exhaled from a small inlet of Nea Kameni island. As we got closer, the water started to get warmer and warmer. We’d been warned (a bit too late) not to wear our nice bathing suits, as the sulfur in the water could tarnish the fabric (too bad they tell you once you’re aboard the boat!!) However, our bathing suits survived and after swimming for about 10 minutes we reached a point where the ocean began to feel like warm bath water – and that was it! I expected my first ‘hot spring’ experience to actually be hot, but the ocean just got a bit warmer and a bit red looking around the shore, and we thought ‘cool, this is it!’ and swam back to the boat. It was a fun stop but I don’t feel the need to visit Santorini’s hot springs again. I do however want the opportunity to compare Santorini’s hot springs to others in the future (Iceland is so high on my bucket list!!)Back on the boat, we changed back into dry clothes and set sail for our final destination of the day: Therasia. Compared to Santorini, Therasia is a fairly small island, with about 300 inhabitants. There are also about 800 cats.
All of which I wanted to take home, including this little guy who sat right by the dock, begging visitors for food.I felt bad for him, until I saw some even hungrier kittens even further up the island. There were a couple of restaurants at the harbor of Therasia, where the majority of our sailing companions chose to dine. However, we had about two hours on the island, so Kai and I decided to walk the steep hill up to the top, explore the village, and look for a bite to eat up there. And wow am I glad we did, because the village was quiet, tourist free, and incredibly serene. This is how I had envisioned Greek villages to look and feel. The quiet was almost eerie – we saw not one human, but at least two dozen cats.Who looked to be a mix of angry, hungry, affectionate, and bored.Kai, who tried his best to distract me from stealing all of the cats, suggested we hunt for a restaurant and grab some food. So we stopped at the sole terrace we saw at the top of the island, where we had the best pita bread of our trip with some fresh taziki.On our way back down, we passed a slew of donkeys, which was unsurprising since the walk was steep and I am sure the help was welcome for some!
We had a bit of time to kill when we got back to the harbor, so we had a drink along the shore and then headed back to the boat to bask in the sun for a bit before we set sail.The last leg of our trip involved sailing along the edge of the caldera, from Oia back to Fira.Which provided such a beautiful vantage point – I am so thankful we got to see Santorini by boat! At that point, some of our fellow passengers offered to snap a photo of us, which we couldn’t say ‘no’ to, and produced some of my favorite ‘together’ photos of the trip! Look at that sun burst!And so we sailed back into Fira for our last night on the island.
We got back to Oia, just in time for sunset and dinner. We ate at our hotel, which was delicious (we tried to order all of the Greek dishes that we hadn’t yet tried!) and got into bed at a decent hour so we could be up for our early morning check out and flight back to Amsterdam. It was a magical birthday weekend – one with adventure, romance, good food and brilliant vistas. I feel as if Kai and I have only touched the tip of the Greek ice berg, and I can’t wait to visit again, perhaps checking out another one of the country’s enchanting islands.
I can’t believe we’ve reached that point, but next week I will try to take you through my winter posts, and then. . . .VIETNAM! I am dying to finally get caught up on my blog content and can’t wait to tell you about my most recent Asian adventure. So keep an eye out next week for a few fun winter trips!