After the changeable weather, it was clear blue skies as we approached Santorini. Therefore we saw the main island in all its glory with the white buildings of the main city, Fira perched high on the cliff.
Looking around the spectacular landscape and the deep blue Aegean Sea, it was easy to understand why Santorini is ranked one of the world’s most beautiful islands by many magazines and travel journalists. One of the reasons for this appreciation of Santorini is the unique nature of the island. The main island is the remnant of a volcanic caldera which is when the land sinks below the water after a volcanic explosion.
Santorini has been formed over centuries by volcanic activity, the island was the site of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in history, the Minoan eruption occurred about 3,600 years ago and is said to have led to the collapse of the Minoan civilization. It is believed that this eruption is the source of the legend of Atlantis. More recently, a 1956 earthquake resulted in the demolition of many buildings in the north of Santorini.
Cruise ships anchor off Skala Old Port near the volcanic landscape of Nea Kameni island and small boats bring people to the shore. There are number of ways to get to Fira, you can use the cable car, walk up the steep winding path or sit on a donkey up the path.
We decided to take the easy option and boarded the cable car and enjoyed the short ride up the side of the cliff. Over 2 million tourists visit Santorini annually and the main town of Fira is full of restaurants, cafes and shops. We decided to get away from the main tourist areas and explore some of the narrow alleyways.
Rising above the city gives some dramatic views over the Aegean Sea and you enjoy the remarkable architectural landscape with lots of whitewashed houses with the blue domes of churches dotted here and there.
In contrast to the ridiculously picturesque front of the island, when you look at the plains beyond the cliff, it is quite ordinary with lots of fields that slope downwards the beaches on the other side of the island. The beaches are unusual with different coloured sand, you can visit the Red Beach, the Black Beach and the White Beach. Another place to visit if you have more time is the Akrotíri archaeological site.
In the bright sunshine, we were content to wander around the city and sit in the local park and watch the world go by. Near the main church we were treated to the scene of donkeys being used as pack animals bringing materials for building works.
We visited a small cafe with amazing views to enjoy a coffee, although Santorini has limited water resources they do have a small wine industry and because of the unique growing conditions produce some highly prized vegetables like cherry tomatoes.
After a lovely relaxing day, it was time to take the long winding path down to the port. I had told Mrs Nice to wear her walking shoes but she decided to go for comfort.
Walking down the rough gravelly path, I was grateful for my walking boots and said to Mrs Nice that she should have listened to my advice. At that very moment, I slipped on donkey droppings and was only saved by Mrs Nice holding my arm. Just at that moment a team of donkeys made their way down the path. A colourful local character riding a donkey rode past and said ‘Do you need a donkey’. I smiled and said ‘No, thank you, I have already got one’ pointing at Mrs Nice. He did not get the joke and neither did Mrs Nice who remarked (I should have let you fall).
Back on the boat, we sat down and enjoyed a drink whilst watching the sunset over the cliffs of Santorini. The remarkable colours of the cliffs and the settlements of Firá, Oia, Imerovígli and Firostefáni created a beautiful scene, but the volcanic island of Nea Kameni was a reminder of some of the dangers of living in this area.
Santorini is definitely a one-off and in recent times has became very popular with those looking for wonderful photography opportunities. Anyone visiting is unlikely to be disappointed but Santorini like many destinations is faced with how to balance tourism whilst maintaining its unique character.
Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.
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