We’d heard that Santorini was something not to be missed; that it was breathtaking and a bucket list destination. Did Santorini deliver? Absolutely!
Leaving our campervan in Athens close by the airport at Megaparking (booking completed online via Parkcloud), we flew 200 kilometres south-east to the famed Greek island of Santorini for a 5 day hiatus. We had seen the online Santorini images of vivid white and blue coloured buildings and we’d heard stories from others that it was something not to be missed. Did Santorini deliver? Absolutely!
Our beautiful hotel ‘Heliotopos’, sited on the cliffs in the town of Imerovigli, was centrally located on Santorini island and gave superb coastal views both to the north and south. The hospitality and the quality of home-made food was second to none, which certainly set the mood for us.
Hiring one of the smallest and cheapest cars (from ‘Santorini Car Hire’ at 25 Euro per day), gave us the opportunity to see the furthest parts of the island. A two-day hire was the perfect amount of time for us. It was a wise decision leaving the campervan behind, as our plan to tackle the little out-of-the-way places with their tight access ways definitely required a small vehicle.
Our first stop was the renowned town of Oia. Could the day have been any better? 18 degrees C, the sun was out, only a hint of a breeze and no crowds to be seen. Just awesome!
We parked on the main street and wandered through Oia to the northern most point of the town. It was captivating wandering through the winding walkways, all the time surrounded by vivid whitewashed limestone buildings with their bright blue trappings. Wow, this was something special we had yet to experience in Greece. No doubt about it – it was hard not to nail a half decent shot!
During our walk around one of Oia’s paths, we heard a raised voice and some clacking of hooves. Eager to investigate, we rounded the next bend and saw about 10 donkeys ascending the paved steps loaded with stones for building works. Donkeys were definitely the preferred mode of transport for these steep cliff pathways as there was no way a motor vehicle could fit. It was common to see a procession of these untethered loaded donkeys, each following the next in single file, on their way to a job site. Rightly so, we gave them right of way.
Sometimes even the owner’s took the opportunity for a ride up the cliff pathways.
Vothonos to Kamari Beach
Leaving Oia, we drove around the less heralded northern part of the island, and down the east coast, back through Fira and onto Vothonos. We were given some great tips about places to visit from the owner of our hotel and adding these to our Geocache locations, we now had ourselves a full schedule.
We walked the towns and visited an abandoned school built into a hill at Vothonos – surprisingly there were still the old school tables and chairs in place.
Every village had at least one blue and white church – always immaculately kept and splashed in the typical Greek colours. During our travels, the locals swapped greetings with us wherever we went and it has to be said that the Greek people certainly carry a warm heart and a willing smile.
We drove through Pyrgos and then onto Perissa Beach where we walked along the dark, volcanic sands before heading up the winding drive to stop near the top of Mesa Vouno Mountain. This is where the Ancient Thera ruins are found. From here, we had fantastic views of Kamari Beach and managed to find a Geocache close by so definitely a worthwhile stop.
Santorini’s Southern Side
From there, we set our sights on the pretty Akrotiri Lighthouse at the southernmost tip of Santorini. It was a picturesque scene. The land fronting the lighthouse gently falls away into the sea and the nearby hills stand watch from above. Here great views of the island’s western coastline and headlands could be seen, accentuated by the townships of white washed buildings along the cliffs.
Back to Imerovigli
We returned the car and continued exploring on foot. Skaros Rock, a rocky protruding headland that used to be the medieval capital of Santorini, was walking distance from our hotel at Imerovigli. It was an easy down hill descent to ‘the Rock’. However, remember to keep enough fuel in the tank for the steep ascent on the way back. This medieval town of Skaros was built around Skaros Rock and it used to be densely populated. However, due to earthquakes the people gradually drifted away to take up residence in Fira, the current capital of Santorini.
We walked to the far side of the rock and we were pleasantly surprised to find a remote chapel. The Chapel of Panagia Theoskepasti faces the horizon and is tucked completely out of sight from the mainland.
All too soon, our five-day visit to Santorini drew to a close. We left for the airport, boarded the plane and returned to Athens and to our ‘home’ on 4 wheels. We treasured our beautiful memories – thank you Santorini!
Being an Australian boy brought up in the country, I learnt at an early age to enjoy the freedom and beauty of nature. Leaving Australia at the age of 20, although I didn’t know it then, would be the beginning of a life of adventure. So join me here on our travels and see the world through my eyes.