One of the things my husband and I loved when we went to Santorini was how lovely the island is in terms of the scenery – the sea looks amazing, there’s beautiful flowers like bougainvillea everywhere, and there’s plenty of white-washed architecture everywhere. However, I’ve noticed that most people assume that Santorini is just blue and white buildings with a beautiful sea – and that’s it. To be fair, if you Google the island, that’s all you’ll find – that iconic blue-and-white spot which is actually the island’s capital city overlooking a rich blue sea.
Unfortunately, this is just a tiny side of the island – literally. A lot of tourists and honeymooners come to Santorini for the blue and white scene, as well as the famous sunset part in Oia, which is a popular (but very expensive!) part of the island. While the area does look as beautiful as it does in the the pictures, it’s easy to be fooled by the images. My husband and I signed up for the sunset tour on one of the days that we were on the island, and could not believe how busy it gets – there’s literally about a thousand people all packed against the walls to see the sunset. It’s a lovely vibe, but very crowded, so not exactly romantic! Similarly the blue and white part of the city is a very popular place for people to pose, but the pictures are worth it, if you don’t mind queuing for the spot.
I thought I’d show the other side of Santorini, which is grassy, hilly and mountainous, and surrounded by beautiful flowers and blue water. Below are pictures I took from our holiday – if you notice, there’s not a single blue-and-white picture presents!
This is what most of the island looks like – fields and mountains
The Red Sand Beach
The cliffs and the hilly mountains
The cafes and bars along the beach, filled with plants
Beautiful flowers everywhere we went
A lot of hotels were empty, with open hammocks and chairs to sit and relax in
This is the fields which makes up most of the islands
The Volcano Island, with sulphuric water and ships docked
I won’t bombard you with too many photographs in this post; the last two days in Santorini were quiet for us and we spent the last couple of days relaxing and wandering around. Because we’d already visited most of the sites on the island, we weren’t in a hurry to visit everything the way we had been before, and we picked and chose the places we wanted to go. It would have been amazing to go on another cruise to further out islands, or do a day trip to Athens, but this would have taken hours by boat, and we wanted to be able to take our time. We’ve decided to take a separate trip to Athens on another date, so more planning in the future!
We spent a lazy morning at the local beach after breakfast, sitting in the sun, looking at the sea and the quirky things around town (we wanted to try a hammock but it looked unsteady so we didn’t!)
We went to a really interesting local restaurant called Gecko for lunch – we’d been here for dinner a few times and loved the impeccable service and cheap food. This was a newly-opened restaurant, and the chef was willing to tweak anything we wanted to menu – with some amazing egg sandwiches, clubs and veggie burgers, as well as their signature piece called Tornado Potato (a twisty piece of potato skewed all along a stick , very nice and crispy!)
After wandering around for a while and looking at the signs, we took a bus from Perissa to walk around Fira one last time and see what we could buy.
We also spent rest of the day souvenir shopping – there were some local shops with a lot of beautiful hand-crafted goods, such as these different glass and clay beads which I thought were beautiful. We also got the standard fridge magnets, bookmarks and touristy stuff as well, and had a look at some t-shirts (which we didn’t end up getting because they were surprisingly expensive!)
After one last peek over the edge of the cliffs towards the beautiful sea, we headed back to the hotel to get our things ready for the flight the next morning.
The drive to the airport was strangely surreal, after seeing all the blue seas, sandy beaches and beautiful buildings, we drove for a while through green fields, hilly mountains and past mis-matched buildings and shops.
The airport itself is tiny – we’re used to the buzz of London airports and this one was pretty small, with a small cafe to wait in, a tiny duty free corner and a long queue to get to the place. The surroundings of the airport is quite sparse, but there are a few ruins around the area (including a fake building which is on the edge of the runway below, which is bigger than it looks and gives a taste of what is waiting in Santorini!)
It was really relaxing holiday for us, and lots to see – we got back to London pretty quickly (back to drizzly weather!) with a beautiful view of the countries below from the airplane window, and plenty of good memories. : )
After the eventful Day 4, we decided to relax for a few days – it was the weekend and it was also time to make the most of time off work and catch up on sleep! We decided to stay in the local area for the weekend and explore local sights (as well as relax and make the most of the sunbeds!) and saw a lot of things we wouldn’t have noticed if we hadn’t looked around. As with the last few days, the day was a beautiful sunny one, and the breeze from the sea meant that we didn’t feel too scorched from the sun.
We decided to spend some time in the local beach for lunch, before we wandered around the town – I love the fact that there a lot of relics and artwork around the town, admittedly a lot of it for the purpose of tourism, but all adding a flavour to the town which was lovely.
Hubby and I were excited to find and Indian and Thai place, as we wanted to find out if they served halal food. The restaurant we found was called Visanto, on the beach strip along the seafront, and served a variety of dishes to satisfy our Asian tastebuds. Unfortunately, none of these dishes had halal meat, so we had to stick to vegetarian dishes (and chips!)
After lunch we took the opportunity to look at the local sights, which was around the main are of the the beach, and also some roads leading off from there. The St Irini Church was our first stop, the church being named after the Saint Irene (which is what the island Santorini’s name also refers to) – a beautiful big building of white and blue which was tucked away toward the mountains.
We then wandered around the local shops and then decided to stop for gelato at a local ice-cream parlour, which ad some beautifully shaped seating chairs and benches, and some seriously yummy-sounding flavours of ice cream (although we just opted for traditional vanilla with chocolate!)
We then decided to around in the the area towards the green, foresty areas, which had some private houses and closed-hotels dotted around, and lots of winding paths leading us around the area. We also managed to speak to some locals – one businessman, for example, told us he was originally from Athens, and when enquiring where we were from, told us there were a lot of Pakistanis who had settled in Athens when he was growing up, which was really interesting to hear!
It was a really nice relaxing weekend, where we met and spoke to a lot of locals, caught up on sleep (in the hotels and the sunbeds!) and ate at a few restaurants. It also felt a little slower-paced, where we took the opportunity to meander around the town and explore, and also have a lazy weekend!
Santorini Day 4: Caldera, The Hot Springs, Volcano Island, Thirasia & Oia
Day 4 of our visit to Santorini involved a lot of sight-seeing, so this is a slightly longer post than the other ones, so bear with me! My husband and I had been searching around for boat tours or cruises which would take us to different islands. You can get ferries to other islands but they can come at obscure times, and some islands are pretty far away so will take hours to get to. While in Fira, Perissa and Pyrgos (another part of the island we drove few a couple of times), we had been looking around at different travel agencies and tour companies, and comparing prices. We found a pretty big difference between prices, the tour we ended up going with was a full day tour for €35 per person, this same package cost as much as €65-75 from other agencies, so we got a pretty good deal.
(We also looked into private boat hire, because we wanted to see the more private, romantic options. The prices were astounding, with some of them being as much as €1500 for about 6 hours for a private boat! Needless to say, we didn’t go for any of those options).
So, 8.30 in the morning, we had breakfast and made our way down to the local bus stop, where a coach was booked to pick us up, along with a few other passengers who had booked the same tour along the way. We had a quick walk around a small town called Pyrgos, there’s a famous monastary there but we didn’t get to spend much time there, but it was a lovely town with white buildings and a lot of shops.
We arrived at the docks where the boats were waiting, the one we boarded was called King Thiras and was pretty big (not quite a ship but a decent-sized boat) which held around 30-40 people. There were toilets and a lounge in the cabins below, with a bar area on top for cold drinks and snacks, as well as plenty of benches to sit and sunbathe on.
From the moment the boat was safely boarded and pushed on, the breeze was beautiful. The weather was pretty perfect for us, scorching sun, bright blue skies and no clouds at all, but the heat was practically non-existent because of how cool the breeze was and the fresh air from the sea.
You can see our view from the pictures below – the boat moved quite quickly for the expanse of water that it crossed, and we quickly saw islands that we were approaching becoming bigger and bigger, while at the same time, Santorini became smaller and we could see tiny white buildings perched on huge cliffs (and also the zig-zag of those 587 steps we had gone up and down a couple of days before!)
Our journey through the various islands
View from our seat
The three islands which surrounded the boat
Our first stop were the Hot Springs, which were next to the Volcano island, which took us about half-hour to reach. The Volcano Island is literally an active volcano (although the last eruption took place in 1950 AD), and actually consists of 2 islands, the bigger called Nea Kameni and the smaller Palea Kameni. This also means there are two areas with the hot springs; one in Nea Kameni island and one in Palea Kameni island – the former means you have to swim from cold water to the hot water, the latter means you can go straight into the hot water (which is where we ended up).
At this point, those who wanted to swim in the hot springs for a little while could jump in the water (which was not very deep), and enjoy the water for a while. I decided not to jump because I didn’t bring anything to change into, and I didn’t really want to join twenty other people in the water, plus while I love swimming, I didn’t want to pull out the burkini and swim, so we stayed on board with a few other people while some of the passengers splashed around.
Don’t wear your best bikini if you’re going to swim. We were advised that the water taints clothes a little orange due to the sulphur in the water, so to expect it to be a little stained.
The water is apparently not that hot, so don’t expect sauna/spa conditions!
You still need to swim safely in this area, there are a lot of rocks around and even a boat or two, although they maintain their distance. While we were at the hot springs, a private boat party parked nearby to enjoy it as well!
Eventually the boat was ready to move onto the main part of the volcano island, which is Nea Kameni. This involved a lot of hiking (which we didn’t realise, and were wearing the wrong footwear for!) around the volcano to to main parts at the top where you could see the volcanic craters.
The walk took about 30-40 minutes and was actually pretty tiring because the heat was stronger and the road was really rocky. There was a clear path around most of the island, but it was still pretty rough and slopey in a lot of areas, and you need to be willing to walk!
Wear sturdy footwear! It really makes a difference when walking around.
Take water bottles with you if you can, they can really help if it’s too hot.
There are seats with umbrellas for shades dotted around along the way – take a break if you need one!
Enjoy the view! The islands which can be see from here look pretty amazing from far away.
We walked around the majority of the island but didn’t spend as long as some of the group did at the top, we rested for a while and made our way back to the boat one we’d seen enough.
We all loaded back on the boat for a quick break, before making our way to our next destination – an island called Thirasia. This is a smaller island, which is also a little more cosy and small-towny, with a fishermen feel to it, because of its ports, sea-food restaurants and greenery.
There were quite a few restaurants along the beach and pier from the spot that we landed at, and it was also time to stop for lunch. Most of the restaurants serve mostly sea-food, and the menus are pretty much similar in most of them. We stopped at a restaurant (the name of which I’ve unfortunately forgotten) and had a meal of battered fresh-fish, and grilled sword-fish, with chips and vegetable rice, which tasted beautiful.
Our view from our table
Fresh fish waiting to be grilled
The restaurant we were in was beneath a big windmill, which we went upto and took photos from until the restauranteurs asked us to come down because it was a little dangerous with a moving windmill.
We had about 3 hours to spend on this island before our next stop, so we took our time to stroll around and explore. A lot of the passengers from our and other boats took the opportunity to climb up (or ride donkeys up!) the zig-zag stairs to the top, where where was a small monastary and tiny village that could be explored. We were feeling a little tired from the Volcano island so decided to save our energy and relax a little (and we were glad we did, because the next island had more stairs and we didn’t have a choice about not going up!)
The view in this place is pretty beautiful, and the water is seriously lovely in its maze of greens and blues – we even saw small tiny fish trying to eat crumbs from bread floating away from the shore!
Once we were ready to leave we set off for Oia, which is actually at the most northern part of Santorini, and a very popular destination like Fira. This is also the most popular place to view a sunset as well, because it faces the sun without anything getting in the way. The boat arrived at this last destination around 6ish, and jetted back to the port when it came from, leaving our group with a tour-guide who told us how to get up to the top.
As with a lot of other islands and parts of Santorini, Oia (pronounced Eey-ya) can be reached at the top from the 287 steps which make up the zig-zag staircase, and which again can be reached either by foot or by donkey. We decided to be a little adventurous and walk up the steps this time (plus we were still a little put off by the donkey-ride in Fira!) and we managed to make it to the top in about half-an hour, although we had to keep stopping for the donkeys which went past (and which was a little scary because they push past you!)
We finally reached the top, to a long strip of road which makes up the main street of Oia – full of restaurants, gold shops, designer clothes shops and art stores and souvenirs places. Out of all of the places we went to, Oia was definitely the most expensive, and it was also the most crowded, and at the middle of it all at it’s heart is a huge church called the Church of Panagia of Platsani situated in Oia Caldera Square, which is also a popular meeting place.
We also managed to a lot of things happening at once – a wedding shoot in a tiny church, children playing in a small playground, jewellery trying to entice customers to come in and various quirky shops and restaurants.
We stopped at a restaurant called Porto Carra (I think!) where we had a lot of cold drinks after that long climb and also a light snack, and also stopped to look at the daunting view all the way down to the bottom of the cliffs.
Around 8’o clock, we made our way down to the northern end of the street, where the best viewing platform was among the edge. There were hundreds of hotels, buildings and the ruins of an old castle around this area, which we manage to get a good viewing seat from. Lined up along all of the walls and hotels were hundreds of other people who wanted to see the sunset as well – I was pretty stunned at how many people there were.
The sunset itself lasted about half-an hour, and there was plenty of photo-taking and enjoying the scenery (bar one dog who kept barking at the crowd from his building because of all the people!), while we slowly watched the sun go down and the colours of the sky merging from blue, to gold to burnt reds.
This was one of my favourite moments of the day, because it was pretty awe-inspiring to watch something that seemed so effortless and majestic. Having said that, it wasn’t really a romantic moment (not that we minded!) with the hundreds of spectators next to us, the barking dog and the shuffling of the crowd!
At the end of the sunset, when it finally dropped down from a tiny sliver to complete dark with a little light to see ourselves in, the entire crowded applauded, which was nice to hear (not to mention seeing hundreds of flashes from cameras and mobiles going off at the same time!)
Bring a jacket or jumper, it can get chilly in the evening, especially after the sun starts going down
Oia is way more expensive than Fira – expect high prices! We wanted to try lobster while we were in the island, but didn’t because it was just too expensive. One restaurant was offering a lobster meal for €95 which was ridiculous. Don’t worry if you don’t spend a lot of food, sometimes the expensive ones taste the same as the cheaper meals!
Make sure you camera battery is fully charged – by the time we got to the sunset in Oia my camera battery died! There’s a lot to take photos of, so be prepared!
Try and arrange transport in the evening back to where you are staying – it can get pitch dark and there’s not much street lighting on the main roads.
This was the end of the tour for us, and time to also head back to the hotel – it was seriously crowded and we had to be careful not to get lost in the crowd so that we didn’t miss our coach either, but from here the coach took us directly back to the hotel and we watched the sky getting darker and darker from our windows of the coach. It was a pretty eventful and tiring day for us, and we went straight to bed for a long rest when we got back, since our feet were also pretty tired!
Santorini Day 1: Hotel Rena, Perissa and Perissa Beach
From the very outset of our arrival, Santorini as an island was beautiful. The weather was completely sunny and clear even while travelling on the aeroplane, and (having the window sea!) the window view was beautiful – clear blue seas, high cliffs, beaches and hundreds of tiny roads. We arrived at a tiny airport in the middle of a lot of greenery, checked out quickly from the airport with our luggage and met a beautiful temperature of 27° C which was perfect.
We took a coach to the hotel’s entrance, which involved a small path off the main road of shops and bars into a private lane, with trees painted white lining the way. This is the entrance of our hotel, which had a swimming pool and bar at the entrance before walking into the lobby:
We arrived very early afternoon (Santorini is only 2 hours ahead of London) so we took a quick nap, changed and went out to explore. Our hotel was located in an area called Perissa, which is more south of the island, and a lot quieter than some of the other areas we visited. We visited in early May, which is early in the tourist season – a lot of restaurateurs and shop-sellers told us that it was quiet for now and would get a lot busier from the end of May until July – which was perfect for me because I hate crowds.
The main thing which struck me about this island was how green it is. It sounds obvious, it’s an island so naturally there’s be plenty of forests and mountains, but none of this is advertised when you Google Santorini – it’s all beaches and blue water. And there’s a mountain on every corner – to get anywhere you must drive around winding roads – our coach took us round and round the roads of a mountain to get to the buildings at the top, and yet from our mountain we could see other ones all over the island.
One of the places we’d made a note that we wanted to visit was Perissa Beach, and luckily this was literally around the corner from us – at the end of our hotel’s lane, we’d turn left and see the sea immediately, and a long row of shops, bars and cafes alongside the beach itself.
Perissa Beach is also called the ‘Black Sand Beach’, named for it’s dark sand of volanic origin – there’s a good few places like this all over the island but this is one of the more renowned ones.
If you buy a drink or a meal from one of the restaurants along this strip, you get access to their beach beds and WiFi – make sure you ask about these if you want them.
There’s plenty of restaurants and cafes – don’t just go in the first one, look around and compare prices, a lot of the menus are the same but some are cheaper than others.
There’s enough variety of cuisine all over the island – we found an Indian and Thai restaurant, a burger place, an ice cream/gelato place and some Chinese restaurants!
We stopped for a meal – unfortunately we were unable to find any halal places anywhere, but we both like trying sea food and there’s also plenty of vegetarian options.
We went to a restaurant called Apollon, and ordered grilled swordfish with rice and chips, and a cheese-feast pizza. The fish was amazingly tender and juicy, and the pizza was the same – we could see that the fish was fresh and the portions were pretty big.
After this we decided to relax on the beach beds, enjoy the view and soak up the sun with a cold Coke and a book (in my case) and mobiles (his!) and watch the boats go by. We didn’t go swimming in the sea because we weren’t dressed for it, and we wanted to do this on another day, but we did take the opportunity to shed our sandals and dig our feet into the sand.
After we’d had enough of lazing around, we talk a short walk around the town to explore on our way back to the hotel. We saw a lot of beautifully decorated buildings and roads on the way back, and everywhere we walked there were flowers growing on vines, in plant pots and climbing up walls.
I loved the fact that there were plenty of tiny cafes and restaurants hidden away, which were perfect when we wanted to get snacks, cups of coffee or drinks in the evening.
It was a really nice first day on the island, the heat was lovely without being too intense, and the people we spoke to were really friendly. Most of them were able to speak English fluently and were quite helpful in telling us different places to visit and things to try – it was a fairly relaxing day which was just what we needed after an aeroplane flight!
I’ve been absent for a few days, so apologies for that, but it‘s only because we’ve decided to whisk off to the Greek Islands! I’ve decided to post a sort of travelogue of our time in Santorini, which is the main island we’ve stayed at, since I wanted to show the main things we’ve been up to and also any tips and recommendations for anyone wishing to visit.
To start off with is this glorious view of Thira, the capital of Santorini and one of it’s most busiest places and port. It’s difficult to show the best parts of this island and things we saw and places we went to, so this is one (of many!) photographs I took, which shows the iconic blue-and-white landscape – pure white buildings alongside a beautiful azure blue sea and plenty of boats.
I’ll be posting more very soon, the weather was absolutely beautiful and everything was very vibrant – the sea, the food, the markets and the sunsets – and it was a brilliant (and much needed) break!
I’ve been a little out of the picture lately, but I do have lots to post about! In the meantime, enoy this favourite memory of mine, when we visited Lulworth Cove which was a beautiful, peaceful place with amazingly blue water. We didn’t see any pirates, but the place did remind me of old Enid Blyton books where the heroes hid behind cliffs watching pirates using coves to hide their stash. Or something.
I’ve made you want to go read an Enid Blyton book now, haven’t I?
I love vintage shops, and I was lucky enough to come across one a couple of days ago with some beautiful designer vintage-wear in it while on a trip to Hastings and St Leonards-on-Sea. I love the name of it as well – Pandora’s Wardobe, implying secrets from a box wrapped up in beautiful things froom a wardrobe, very appealing (although excuse my reflection in the picture, entirely accidental!)
And there’s definitely some goodies in here which caught my eye, I saw a beautiful black and gold embroidered vintage evening jacket, a vintage silk Karl Lagerfield scarf and a beautiful collection of shoes (although I didn’t have enough money to buy anything!)
It’s nice to find a genuine vintage shop (and it’s on a whole road of junk shops, thrift shops and antique shops!) which you can walk along cobbled-streets and stop for a nice spot of tea and cake at the end of!
Bright, bright, bright glows the light
Guiding you home my way…
It will be as it was
Before you went away.
Whether by land or sea
Know just how much I care.
Look for the glow of the lighthouse
You will find me there.
– The Lighthouse by Marge Tindal
I drew this last year and never finished it, it’s part of a composition of pictures, which was meant to be a series of scenes. I’m intending to finish this at some point, and perhaps fill it in with watercolour, but for now I thought I’d share one of the pictures in the series.
There four more landscapes which finish this series, but I like this one the best because of the lighthouse, there’s an almost romantic feel to this, and I’m debating whether to make the water calm or rough – what do you think?
I couldn’t decide which pictures to use for this challenge, but settled on these ones because Bournemouth and Durdle’s Door are one of my favourite places in England!
Here’s one picture which I loved, that I took of a more panoramic view of the beautiful Durdle’s Door and the surrounding waters:
This is a close-up of the same landmark, with a focus on the pebbles and sand, which feels a bit more quirky to me, and shows how big ‘Durdle’s Door’ is.
And here are both images side by side – which really illustrates how one scene or object can be photographed in several different ways and angles, and still look unique! Definitely something to try for yourself, I say – and maybe to play around with sizes and colours too, perhaps!
Which angles do you prefer? I think I like the landscape, panoramic style one : )