Day 7: Knot for Sail

Since we had a 3 p.m. hotel pick-up for a sunset cruise, we decided on a leisurely morning and early afternoon in Perissa, the non-caldera side.

Meltemi Village’s complimentary breakfast had tomatoes two ways: as slices to pair with tzatziki (or to put in a salad) and as tomato balls, a Santorini specialty. Tomato balls are delicious! Savory and surprisingly light for a fried food.

tomato balls

Perissa’s beachfront is lively morning and night, and there are plenty of lounge chair rentals and space to lay your towel or drop your stuff while you’re in the water. The road that runs along the coast is a makeshift boardwalk in the evenings and nights when it gets closed off to cars.

We spent some time by our hotel pool, too. There were even complimentary floats, and, at the hotel bar, we were able to charge a couple of Mythos beers to the room—a nice convenience.

perissa

Our hotel pick-up was right on time, and we made our way to the catamaran in an air-conditioned van. We handed over our shoes for storage (everyone’s barefoot on the boat), then boarded Happy Day for our ~4 hour excursion.

I’m glad I packed my cardigan because the sea breeze can get a bit crisp while the boat’s moving and after swimming especially.

The sunset cruise included three swimming stops, towels, snorkeling gear, noodles for floating, water, beer, wine, and dinner, cooked on the boat (lightly fried sole, shrimp, salad, breads and spreads, pasta with marinara, and chicken).

The large catamaran had two changing rooms and a bathroom. The crew also had a lot of interesting information about and insights into Santorini and its history.

Here we are, happy on board Happy Day.

sunset cruise 4

We sailed around and swam at the red beach, white beach, and volcanic hot springs. You can only reach the white beach (pictured on right) by boat.

Our wedding bands are silver, so we had to take those off at the volcanic hot springs. We were also warned that white swimsuits would get stained.

Here’s Perry, giving new meaning to “hot” springs.

perry at hot springs

Perry swam and dove so much that the captain told him to watch Dolphin Man, a documentary about freediver Jacques Mayol.

We didn’t get tired of looking at the volcanic rock formations, and we were happy to see the Akrotiri Lighthouse, too.

lighthouse 2

The sunset was among the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.

After the catamaran ride, we asked to be dropped off in Fira rather than back at our hotel, and, happily, that wasn’t a problem. We stopped into Enigma Café for a cocktail and caldera view. This was the best cocktail of the trip, and the view of the moonlit water and lit-up cliffside buildings was stunning.

Fira was very busy at night, but the energy was good in the bustling streets. We moseyed along until deciding to stop into Franco’s, another cute café with a great patio and view and chairs reminiscent of Adirondacks.

fira at night

Here, we encountered and fell hard for Volkan Beer (along with its charming descriptions). My favorite was Volkan Grey, “inspired by the thick grey September fogs that sweep Santorini. A crisp refreshing wheat lager with hints of honey and bergamot.”

volkan

We headed back to Perissa to stop in at Tranquilo, a beach bar with hammocks and lofts with cushions we’d passed earlier in the week. Though we didn’t eat here, we did notice the signs that stated it’s vegan-friendly. Very good drink prices, too. I had an inexpensive carafe of rosé wine, and Perry had a couple of beers (under €10). Eat and drink here if you’re looking for good prices. (In general, eating and drinking is significantly cheaper in Perissa than in Oia or Fira.)

We got in bed a little later than planned, but such is island life, I suppose. Stay tuned for the final day, in which we eat the three best figs in Greece and ride an ATV around the island, on- and off-road.

Day 6: Take a Hike

We had an easy time picking up the trail for the Fira-Oia coastal hike in Santorini and started walking at 9 a.m., advised to get going before the heat of the day. There’s a lot of signage between the central bus stop and the cliffside restaurants, shops, and rentals. The hike is 9.8km (or 6 miles) and 2-5 hours. To hit the 2-hour mark, you’d really have to hustle. If you’re like us and feel compelled to stop and look out at that stunning caldera view every twenty feet, then it’ll take you longer. We walked into Oia at noon, three hours after starting in Fira.

fira hike

If you have good mobility, the walk should not be difficult for you, but there are a few steep inclines and also a stretch near Oia where the loose gravel and descent caused me to slip a little and another small stretch where the dirt and rocky terrain slowed us down some.

The first part of the hike takes you through the villages of Firostefani and Imerovigli, and there are many places to stop for water, wine, and snacks (or a meal if you’re feeling really hungry).

We purchased a Lazy Ass beer (Santorini Brewing Co.) and a small bottle of a dry red with a twist-top from Santo Winery to open at an opportune time along the hike. Shops and restaurants become rarer on the last part of the hike, so make sure to restock in Imerovigli.

I also bought a few €1 bracelets with charms to protect against “evil eye” (mati) from a vendor set up along a wall.

fire hike 6

The caldera views are unreal. We took more pictures on this leg of the trip than anywhere else.

caldera 2

Happily, on the day of our hike, the water wasn’t pocked with cruise ships, though, on our last full day, three or four cruise ships were anchored.

caldera

We arrived in Oia and stopped into a bakery/pastry shop for more water and a take-away lunch for under €5: stuffed ciabatta (for me) and a ham sandwich (for Perry). Then we winded through town, paid €0.50 for a W.C., and walked down the 260 steps to Amoudi (or Ammoudi) Bay to swim.

amoudi bay 2

To get to/from the bay, donkeys are another transport option, and a lot of people arriving in the bay by water-taxi took a donkey up, holding their luggage in their laps or over the heads.

Unlike the beer, this is no lazy ass.

donkey

The donkeys are very committed to their walking path, so don’t expect them to go around you—move to the side they’re not on.

You walk through one of the fish tavern’s patios to get to the swimming area and have to make your way over some rocks—we saw a few people turn around because someone in the party had on the wrong shoes.

Perry was very excited by the salinity of the Aegean Sea—he gleefully floated for one of the first times in his life (he tends to sink). The water was cool and refreshing.

amoudi bay 5

After swimming, we went to Ammoudi Fish Tavern and ended up with an amazing seat on the side of the patio, which jutted out into the water. Good luck on our part. We ordered fava-yellow split pea dip, a Santorini specialty, along with some bread, beers, and sparkling water.

The walk back up was a bit intimidating, especially after a long day of hiking and swimming, but we made it and wandered through shops until we were ready to sit down again for some wine and raki, an anise-flavored apéritif that turns milky when you add an ice cube. For generic items, like linen towels, shop in Fira, where most items in stores are significantly less expensive than in Oia.

When you walk into a café, you typically seat yourself, so don’t lose out on a good table because you’re waiting to be seated—the next people in will walk up to (and sit down at) your dream table, now only previously available.

Our 7 p.m. dinner reservation arrived—this is the reservation I made a month in advance of our trip, reading online that it has one of the best sunset views.

Most sunset dinners are by reservation only, as these seats are in high demand. (The bartender at the pool bar at our hotel recommended Santo Winery for a sunset dinner, too.) At first, we were a little disappointed—people outside the restaurant were gathering at the stairs and rail, and we considered just having a quick drink and going to look for a less obstructed view. Lucky for us though, unprompted, a server came and told us he had a better table, moving us to a table along the rail, a table that made every part of the meal better.

We ordered a vegetable tart, pasta with seared fish, and a bottle of wine, and waited for the sun to start its show.

From the clapping and hollering as the sun disappeared beneath the horizon, you would have thought the sun was a pasty removed during the sky’s striptease.

After, we caught the bus from Oia to Fira (€1.80) then got straight onto the bus from Fira to Perissa (€2.40), where we ended the night with tropical cocktails at Dorian’s Pub, a seemingly beloved establishment. By this hour in the day, I realized I should have reapplied sunscreen to my shoulders and back over the course of the day—but, happily, linen towels hold moisture well, so I was able to turn my new swim towel into a cooling shawl.

A great first full day in Santorini.