Thursday, September 9, 2010

Island-hopping in Greece: Santorini

From Amsterdam, I flew to Santorini via Athens. The Athens airport is a little weird - I guess they don't have enough terminals, because I was loaded and unloaded from planes via bus. Not something you expect to see at a major airport.

But I arrived successfully in Santorini and managed to find a cab to my hotel (bus service on the island is very sporadic). Met up with the Fabrice, who'd been in the islands for a few days already and went out to a pub overlooking the caldera run by an ex-pat.

Next day, we hiked up the caldera edge to Ia on the northern end of the island. For those who don't know, Santorini is the largest remnant of a volcano that erupted about 4000 years ago (and probably wiped out the nearby Cretan civilization). It's a crescent that, with the smaller islands of Thirassia and Aspronisi, encircles the bay of the volcano caldera. There's also a couple of small barren islands in the center of the caldera that are still being fed by the volcano - they grow by about half a meter a year (IIRC). All of which makes for a pretty nice view.

From Ia, we took a small sunset cruise across the bay. The cruise takes you over to Thirassia, then to the hot springs in the caldera center (though "tepid lagoon" might be a better description), and back around near to Ia to watch the sun set over the water.

On the final day, we rented some ATVs (the rental guy decided we were unqualified for scooters) and explored the rest of the island. We went over to the eastern coast to hit some beaches; Santorini isn't known for nice beaches - Voulvoulos beach was pretty bad, but the town of Kamari has a nice black sand beach. From Kamari, drove up the mountain to see the ruins of Ancient Thira, but were denied - in a fine example of Greek industriousness, they close at 2:30 in the afternoon.

From there, drove back inland through Pyrgos (taking in the view from the castle on the hill), then out to the southern point of the crescent. Stopped by the clear waters of the Red Beach on the way back - it's a black sand beach also, but backed by a red cliff - and then returned to Fira for dinner with our new Italian friend Giovanni. Giovanni doesn't speak English, but he does speak French, so Fabrice generally has to interpret.

And now, after some indecision abut destinations, I've headed off to Mykonos on the ferry.

Santorini pictures
I'll update the album with Fabrice's photos when I receive them.

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