Travel plan for Santorini (Thira) – Greece

Day 1: We board the ferry in Piraeus at 7 am for a 7 to 8-hour mini-cruise to Santorini, once known as Kallisti “the most beautiful one” of the southern Cyclades. Fortunately, the hotel concierge in Athens has provided us with up to date information, as ferry schedules and prices can fluctuate almost daily. We pay 120 Euros round trip for a first class ticket and a cabin to relax in, rather than ride on deck. Another option is a high-speed catamaran, more money, but a trip in half the time. There are also several flights a day, about 50 minutes from Athens to Santorini – average airfare, 100 Euros one way.

We arrive at the port, and take the spacious cable car “teleferique” about 900 feet up to Fira, the largest and most touristy town on Santorini. For a time, donkeys were the main mode of transport for those who didn’t want to climb the 800 steps to the top. Donkey rides are still offered as a tourist attraction. There are numerous hotels, villas, and apartments in and around Fira, but our destination is the luxurious Chromata Suites Hotel, 10 minutes away in the small village of Imerovigli. We are impressed with the ultra-modern furnishings and our own private veranda overlooking the Aegean. In addition to an infinity poolside bar and restaurant, the Chromata has an exclusive first-class restaurant on the glass enclosed deck. We have dinner here by candlelight, enthralled with the spectacular view of the sea and the black volcanic islands from the highest spot on the rim of the caldera Rates for two – 240 Euros and up; children under 13 are not accepted for obvious safety reasons of the cliffside location. (Note: Many more modest accommodations are available at street level in Fira, on the beach, and in the nearby villages.)

Day 2: After breakfast at the hotel, we explore some of the museums and archaeology in Fira. First stop at the Archaeological Museum of artifacts, frescoes and inscriptions from prehistoric to Roman and Hellenistic eras, and other items from excavations at Akrotiri, the ancient site of Minoan culture. Open: Tuesday — Sunday, 8:30 to 3, 2 Euros per person.

Next on our agenda is the Folklore Museum, one of the most interesting attractions in Fira. This is not a museum in the traditional sense, bur rather a recreation of a village with small shops and caves housing a winery, artisan workshops, art gallery, and archives of manuscripts and lithographs, as well as a garden area and small chapel. We found this delightful place well worth the 3 Euros for a guided tour. Hours: 10 to 2 pm, and 6 to10 pm, Daily.

We’ve spent the morning and part of the afternoon exploring the museums, so it’s time for a late lunch at the family owned taverna Stani. This is a casual place with a light and airy atmosphere, hanging plants, and colorful bric-a-brac. Lots to choose from on the menu of Mediterranean cuisine – we decide on the fava (split pea) appetizer and yemista, tomatoes and peppers stuffed with rice and herbs.

After a leisurely lunch, we return to our hotel to relax by the pool before dinner tonight.

at Fanari, highly recommended for traditional Greek specialties and seafood. The menu is extensive, and our moussaka, keftedes or tomato balls, and wine are excellent choices. You’ll find the wine here is some of the best in the world because of Santorini’s favorable growing climate for vineyards.

Day 3: The weather is beautiful today with some breeze from the Aegean, and perfect for the boat ride and tour of the volcano. There is interesting information associated with the sleeping volcano, which first erupted around 1500 – 1600 BC. Many historians think this caused a gigantic tsunami and a collapse of the volcano that forms the present day caldera. This too may explain the final downfall of the highly advanced Minoan Crete civilization. Smaller eruptions occurred between 197 BC and 1950 AD, creating two islands, Nea Kameni and Palea Kameni. Our tour includes a swim in the hot springs and a 2-hour stop at the small island of Thirasia for lunch in the village of Manolas. Tour rates: 25 — 30 Euros p/p.

We return to Fira around 5 pm in time for a nap at our hotel after a day of hiking, sun, and sea. Tonight, we want to experience some of the nightlife in Fira and decide on Kira Thira, which has been in business for years. They offer a good selection of beverages, great jazz music, and congenial staff, a pleasant way to spend an evening.

Day 4: Over a leisurely breakfast, we discuss our plans for the day. It’s a tossup between a visit to Akrotiri or the village of Oia. Intrigued by the boat tour yesterday, we decide to catch the bus and visit Akrotiri. Known as the “Pompeii of Greece,” the archaeological site below the village has been well preserved with streets, houses, wall paintings, and other aspects of the Minoan culture. A small fishing boat takes us to Red Beach, where the sand is indeed reddish in color and different from the black volcanic sand of other beaches on Santorini. We have lunch at Mama Thira on the road to the lighthouse before returning to our hotel and a sunset dinner at the Blue Note Restaurant in Imerovigli.

Day 5: Today, we’ll take the 30-minute bus ride to Oia on the northern tip of the island, a picturesque, peaceful village of white walled, blue domed houses, art galleries, and boutiques. Before the earthquake of l956, Oia prospered in the 19th and early 20th centuries, with its merchant fleet trading across the Mediterranean. At one time, over 9,000 people lived here, but by 1980 there were only about 500 residents. One of the main attractions in Oia is the Maritime Museum. The Museum is housed in a 19th century sea captain’s mansion and features figureheads, models and photographs of old and new sailing vessels, seamen’s chests, and other memorabilia. Hours: 10 am — 2 pm, 5 — 8 pm, Daily except Tuesday. We have lunch at Kyprida next to the Museum, spend the rest of the afternoon in the village, and end our day in Oia watching the magnificent sunset from the castle of St. Nikolas. Arriving back at our hotel, we relax before dinner by the pool.

Day 6: Another glorious sunrise, breakfast, and time for some great shopping in the village. There are over 40 shops in Fira, many along Ypapantis “gold street.” Our first stop is at Meandros Gold, where the displays of 18K and 22K jewelry are irresistible. We also find some traditional Greek worry beads, Komboli, to take home as gifts for friends and family. On one of the narrowest streets, we discover Kisiris, a small shop with unique pottery, gifts, and art. While here, we learn the history of bouzouki, the traditional music of Greece. If you’re interested in ceramics, there’s a wonderful collection of porcelain puppets at Kalipso in the Fabrica shopping center in Fira.

After several hours of shopping, we have lunch at Classico, a cafè in the middle of town. Everywhere on Santorini we find amazing views, and this is no exception. From the balconies here, we can see the chapel of Aghios Minas, the volcano, and the endless blue of the sea. Classico is known for some of the best espresso on the island, and a good variety of light meals, sandwiches, and salads.

We take a taxi from our hotel and return to Akrotiri for dinner tonight at Villa Mathios, which we’ve heard a lot about and may well consider on our next visit to Santorini. This family-run establishment has very reasonable accommodations, good food, friendly service, and beautiful surroundings. It certainly was an excellent choice for our last evening before returning to Piraeus, an overnight stay in Athens, and our flight home. Rates: From 80 — 100 Euros/pp; 3 to 6 night packages from 340 Euros/pp, which include breakfast buffet and dinner, rental car, and ferry boat tickets to/from Piraeus.

Transportation: Rental cars, taxis, motor scooters, and buses are available. The buses run about every 30 minutes to the other villages, and may be crowded, but they are clean and certainly cheap enough at 1 to 2 Euros per person. Some hotels offer rental jeeps with accommodations.

Whether Santorini arose from the Lost City of Atlantis, as some believe, or not, it remains a fascinating place. Take a step back in time while you enjoy the exotic and romantic ambiance of this idyllic paradise.

by Sharon Slayton

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