For a cruise of the Greek Isles, Santorini is a “must see.” It’s quintessential Greece: whitewashed buildings with blue trim, windmills, and to-die-for views of the caldera!
The volcanic explosion that produced the caldera around which Santorini is built, was believed to have spewed 35 times as much rock and ash as did Mount St. Helens. The resulting hole (now filled with water) is 7.5 x 4.3 miles in diameter and almost 1,300 feet deep.
We tendered ashore at the Port of Skala, but that’s at sea level, of course. And once ashore, you need to get “up there.” There are only three ways to do this: cable car, donkey/mule, or walk up the approximate 850-foot ascent. Our cruise director said he’d done the walk once, but that he wasn’t likely to do it again. It’s a very rough, 45-minutes up, on the same path used by the donkeys. (Having said that, it’s not that they don’t ever clean the path.)
We took the donkeys, and I loved it!! It was the highlight of my day and one of the memorable highlights of the trip.
What I’d read beforehand made it sound a lot more precarious than what it seemed to us in person. The path is quite a bit wider than I’d imagined, and there is a wall (albeit, a low wall) on the sea/drop-off side. The views were amazing, and they just kept getting better and better the higher we went. (It wasn’t recommended to take the donkeys back down the hill, as they rush past each other to get to their food at the bottom, and it can be a little precarious. So we took the cable car down, which also provides a great view and is quicker, though there can sometimes be a line.)
Arriving at the top in Fira (also called Thira), we made our way to the bus station, asking locals for directions. Fira is pretty, but we first wanted to make sure we had plenty of time in Oia (pronounced EE-ah), which is considered the place you really want to see. The bus was very modern and clean – and full of tourists (we don’t know what the locals ride!) – so for only €1.60 each (which is paid after the bus is en route), we were set for the comfortable, 30-minute ride to Oia. It went like clockwork. The return, however, was something else again! (See caution below.)
I’ve never heard of anyone who didn’t love Santorini. Is it even possible for a sky to be any bluer? It was nice, on such a beautiful day, just to stroll around Oia, checking out the windmills and famous blue-domed churches (symbols of Santorini).
Before heading back, we sat on a restaurant terrace, seemingly on top of the world, and enjoyed a light lunch and libations, trying to etch the view into our memories forever.