Santorini is an island in the south of the Aegean Sea, just a little north of Crete.
It is the remains of an ancient volcano that blew its top in 1613 BC. The tags are
our hotel and sights to see. Santorini is famous for its sunsets, blue dome churches,
wine, destination weddings, crowds and high prices.
Santorini makes up three side of the caldera with another island on the west. A new
tip of the volcano is an island in the center. Several prominent hills are old volcanic
We are here in the last week of the season. Nov. 1st is the start of the winter season
and many stores and restaurants will be closed until spring.
We have rented a car to get around so we don’t have to rely on the buses or taxis.
The buses are crowded and the taxis are expensive. The car is a Smart Car and is
older than these hills and runs like a piece of crap! Twice as I pulled into traffic
from a cross street it lurched and faltered leaving us vulnerable to a t-bone crash.
Both drivers missed us. I learned to plan ahead and get the engine wound up a few
seconds before I needed the power. A YouTube Video is available of the run down the
hill and back up on a steep, one-lane, two-way road.
Our hotel is on the rim of the crater. It is four star with a crater view to the
west and sunsets. All things that drive up the price. The picture is from the north
end of the island towards our hotel. The hotel is actually over the edge from the
rim but only 61 stair steps down. (That is like a 3-story building, only going down
not up.) Many hotels are lower and are only walkable, no road access.
Our room selection also drove the price up. We have a “Grand Cave Suite with Personal
Hot Tub”. We don’t have a crater view from our room but a couple steps outside and
we have a great view.
And breakfast is delivered to our patio table hot and ready to eat.
There is a swimming pool (lots of the hotels have pools) but it is not heated. We
found out that none of the hotels heat their pools making them usable only on very
hot days. The last week in October does not have any of those!
We flew, a 45 minute flight, rather than take the all day ferry to the island. We
arrived early afternoon and wandered the narrow streets looking for food. Then back
to the hotel, looked at the view for a while and soaked in the hot tub.
The following morning we hike out to Skaros Rock, about 1 km. (2/3 mile) one way.
There is a church on the very end of the point about halfway down from the top. We
went all the way there and back in a couple hours. The most difficult part was that
there were over four hundred stair steps down to the saddle, up and over the rock
and then down to the church. And then they had to be climbed all over again on the
That afternoon was more fun. We took a four hour wine tour to three different wineries.
Santorini Island is famous for its wines and has over 20 wineries. They make mostly
whites and dessert wines but there are a few reds.
We had 5 couples in the tour and the leader. There were four couples from the U.S.
(Atlanta, New York, Minnesota and us from Washington State) and one couple from Ireland.
Americans are famous for being brash and noisy and our leader kind of lost control
of the group as the tour went along. In this winery there was another tour group
and the room echoed loudly with our chatter and laughter. We got shushed!
This winery was better for our noisy group. And the view was spectacular.
We all had a good time and when we returned to our hotel we hit the hot tub to relieve
our sore hiking muscles from the Skaros Rock trip that morning.
The grape vines are not strung on wires in rows here. They are like bushes to protect
them from the wind and harsh summer sun. The vines are actually twisted and woven
together into a basket-like structure.
This view is from the south tip of the island. The north end is at the left with
the town of Oia on the point. The town of Thera is nearly centered and our hotel
is at the left edge of the white buildings of Thera. The tip of Skaros Rock is just
visible in the center. The islands in the center are the tip of the new volcano slowly
The next day was history day. We toured all the ancient, historical sites. And it
was free; we save 32 Euros! This day is a national holiday. It is Oxi Day. During
WW II, Mussolini, based on his successful conquest of Ethiopia, told Greece to give
up and surrender to him. On October 28th, 1940, Greece told Mussolini “Screw You”
(but in Greek). It has been a national holiday since then.
The first known settlers on the island are from about the 2nd Millennia BC (about
4,000 years ago). In 1613 BC (3,500 years ago) the island exploded leaving the caldera
we have today. The city of Akrotiri was covered in many feet of ash. It was discovered
in the 1990’s and is slowly being examined. Most of the artifacts have been removed
to the museum. The site is covered with a large roof to protect it from wind and
rain. The ash is very soft and easily disturbed. There have been no human remains
found like at Pompeii in Italy.
Although it looks like people left in a hurry; there must have been some warning
earthquakes or something.
This “Blue Monkeys” wall painting was one of the ones removed. I have no idea how
they were able to get it off the wall and into the museum in this good of shape.
Especially when one considers the dirt and dust in the buried city.
After a number of centuries people started to re-colonize the remains of the old
volcano. Around the 7th century BC several small towns were established. During the
Hellenistic and Roman periods (BC & AD) this fortress/city of Thera was built on
top of one of the volcanic cores. The road up to the saddle parking area has 22 sharp
switchbacks and is only one lane wide with passing areas on the corners. It is a
steep climb from the parking area to the city and garrison area on the actual top.
At its most populous there were about 6,000 people living here. With no tillable
land, very little grazing land, no water wells, and few trees for firewood I wonder
how they survived. Did they have farms in the lowlands and haul everything up on
horses or mules? And the wind would have made life miserable. It was blowing hard
the day we were there. But the views were fantastic!
We have continued our habit of eating at different restaurants and food styles that
we started in Athens. Seafood is on the left and on the right a stop for some more
Yellow Donkey beer from Santorini Brewing. They are the first craft brewery, and
until last month, the only. This is their signature IPA and it is delicious. The
donkey is a symbol of Santorini. Originally they were used to get people from the
dock to the city on the rim of the crater up a switchback trail. Today they have
been replaced by mules, buses and a tramway. The donkey can be bought printed on
t-shirts, shopping bags, purses, dresses, and a stuffed toy.
The mules are going back down for another load. There is a push by many people to
not ride the mules because of the animal cruelty factor of their work. But every
article I have seen in various people’s blogs calling for a ban or advocating avoidance
have called them donkeys. Obviously the writers of those blogs need to learn a little
more about the animals being used before making their comments. They are mules not
donkeys being used on this trail.
Of course we have the obligatory sunset picture. This is from our hotel. There are
standard sunset picture spots where the crowds can get really thick with everyone
vying for the best shot. We skipped them. Actually we did not have really good sunsets.
The days were sunny with clouds floating by and a deep haze along the horizon by
evening. This was our best sunset. The sunsets are so famous that there are dozens,
if not hundreds, of companies that do sunset boat cruises, sunset wine tours, sunset
boat wine tours, etc.
We did the obligatory photo sites of the blue domes and the windmills. But mostly
we just wandered the narrow streets and lanes of the old towns that populate this
We have had a great time and spent a bundle of money. But we feel it has been worth
it. We saved up just for this whole trip and then when Covid delayed it a year we
continued to save up money. This allowed us to upgrade some portions of the trip
Tomorrow we fly back to Athens. On Tuesday we head for the west coast of Greece to
catch a ferry to Venice, Italy. The original return to Germany plan had us going
across Italy to Sicily, then Sardinia and Corsica to France and back to Germany.
But a few days ago Sicily had a “Medicane”. That’s what they call a minor hurricane
in the Mediterranean Sea. It flooded roads, caused landslides and killed two people.
Next week more rain is expected along that route. So we will go to Venice by ferry
and head north through Austria to Germany. That is if the weather doesn’t snow in
the passes. We already crossed the Alps once in the snow.