Our third stop in the Cyclades was Santorini. This island was the one that I was the most excited about and have heard the most about. It didn’t disappoint and it totally lived up to all the hype! It was unique and special. My pictures do not do it justice!
We arrived by ferry and when the alarm sounded just before the big door started to come down, everyone cheered. Even though it was hot and crowded while we waited to exit, people were so excited to be on Santorini and it made our arrival special!
If you also arrive by ferry, you will dock at the port of Athinios. However, cruise ships arrive in the old port, Skala Pier, and there aren’t cars from that port. If you are a cruise ship day tripper, your choices to get up to Fira, from the bottom of the cliffs are:
- via donkey (but this seems cruel)
- steps (I hope you are in shape and good at avoiding donkey poop!)
- or by cable car (seems the most sensible)
Since we arrived at Athinios, we got in our air conditioned van with our driver and started heading up! If you are prone to motion sickness, you might not be a fan of the drive!
For the next 6 days, we would be staying at Celestia Grand Executive Villas just outside of Fira. It was amazing…and as I’m posting this, I see that the villas are undergoing a renovation so, wow, they will be even more amazing! This was our villa and the view!
We stayed in the Artemis Villa. We had 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms plus a living room, upper balcony and mini kitchen. This was our private pool and the view was killer. We got to have a fabulous breakfast each morning delivered right to the patio. It was heaven!
We chose the Celestia Grand in part for it’s location just outside of Fira and in part for the fabulous reviews which were all spot on. When we wanted to go into Fira, we just hopped on a shuttle and got there in a few minutes. It was easy. We did walk to town one morning and we also walked back one afternoon but the walk was kind of hot and not too pleasant. We really wanted to experience a week on Santorini but we wanted some peace and a break from the crowds of Fira and Oia. This small hotel was the perfect solution!
The best part about staying here was our awesome host, Niko! He took care of everything for us. He ordered our breakfast each day, (which was delicious!). He booked a cruise around the island, he made dinner reservations for us and he arranged a rental car for a day. He gave us tips on activities and suggested a wonderful beach resort to spend a few glorious hours at. There is so much to do on the island. We didn’t have to arrange anything! He checked on us every day. We felt like he really cared about us and the property. I seriously almost cried when we left this amazing place!
Another thing we did to pass our time on Santorini was go for a hike. We hiked from Fira to Oia. I’m not sure I would do this again and if I did, I would leave earlier in the morning so it was a little cooler. I was very, very hot! However, it was a beautiful hike with incredible views. It took us about 5 hours to get to Oia. In Oia, we walked around, had lunch and shopped. We took a shuttle back to the hotel. (we didn’t walk back because we aren’t completely cazy!)
Oia- We didn’t spend a lot of time here but we did hit Atlantis Books, do a little shopping and we ate a very nice lunch at the rooftop restaurant Meltini.
If you are headed to any of the islands, you should check out Santorini Dave. Look at his website, Facebook page or sign up for his newsletter. His advice on our Fira to Oia hike was perfect. As were his great tips on restaurants (Lucky’s Souvlakis was one of his restaurant recommendations. It was so good and I’m craving the fries in the pita right now!) Dave really has the most comprehensive and extremely detailed site about the Greek Islands!
One thing that was on our “must do” list while in Santorini was to visit the ancient Minoan site of Akrotiri. This settlement was destroyed in 1627 BC by a volcanic eruption. The covered archaeological site was well preserved, well organized, well marked and really fascinating. It’s been an active site of excavation since 1967. We were very happy we went there.
and then, of course, there are the sunsets…
Yes! You should go to Santorini. It really is amazing. Next up-Paros…