When my friends and I were planning our Greece trip, one thing was certain: We wanted to be sure to hit up one of the Greek islands. After talking with one of my good friends who has traveled Greece before and much discussion among the five of us, we picked Santorini.
I realized once I arrived that I had never been on an island before this. As we touched down by the tiny Santorini airport on the island group’s largest island, Thera, all I could see was water. Santorini is one of Greece’s more southern island groups and is surrounded by the Mediterranean and Aegean seas.
We wandered outside the airport, still a little disoriented since we had taken a 7 a.m. flight, and easily found our driver. If you ever plan on visiting Santorini and don’t mind staying in a hostel, then you must stay in Hotel Perissa. I would barely consider it a hostel, honestly. The complex only offers private rooms and provides all the major amenities most hotels provide, along with free transportation. Freddy owns Hotel Perissa and told us himself that he picks up every guest from the airport. He is even accommodating several weddings with hundreds of people this summer, and he is committed to picking up every single person. We spent at least a couple hours in his van cruising around Thera and listening to his youngest daughter playfully sing in Greek. This was the prime example of the incredible hospitality we experienced from the people of Greece during our stay.
Our first day, we visited the prehistoric site of Akrotiri, which was a Minoan Bronze Age settlement buried and preserved by a volcanic eruption in the 1600s B.C. It was interesting but a little difficult to grasp without a guide. Next, we made our way to the Red Sand Beach. Here’s a tip: If you ever find yourself in Santorini and want to relax on the Red Sand Beach, plan to hike. My girlfriend and I wore sandals and dresses and it was not the best decision we’ve ever made. The beach itself is beautiful – buried in an alcove beneath a bright red cliff. We knowingly bought sunscreen but still got pretty burned.
That night we made our way to Fira for dinner, another city on the island of Thera, and ate some gyros. We called it quits early because we were exhausted after our early morning. The next morning, our two other friends joined us and we headed to an ATV rental company. Because the island is so small, its bus system is not the most reliable. Many tourists our age rent ATVs to catch a better glimpse of the terrain. It was a blast.
We visited the ancient site of Thera, a city in ruins on the edge of the Messavouno Mountain, before completing the one-hour drive to Oia. Oia was featured in the movie The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, if you’re familiar, and is known for its blue-domed churches. We later learned that the buildings are constructed in this manner to keep them safe during the many earthquakes that occur on the volcanic island. Oia was incredibly beautiful and we were sad to leave after sunset. The ride back to Perissa (on the opposite end of the island) was not quite as pleasant because the temperature had dropped, but we made it.
Our last full day in Santorini, we took advantage of one of the excursions a travel agency provided. We rode a small boat to the nearby island Nea Kameni, which means “new burnt” in Greek. It is so-named because it was formed by a major volcanic eruption only about 400 years ago. Its companion, Palea Kameni (“old burnt”), was formed many centuries prior. On Nea Kameni, we were able to hike around the still-active craters (I’m telling you there was really hot steam coming out of fissures in the rocks) and catch some beautiful views of Thera. Then, we rode the boat a little farther to some hot springs, also created by the subterranean volcano, and jumped off the boat into the Mediterranean.
Spoiler alert: The Mediterranean Sea is not at all warm in March. We hurriedly swam to the hot springs, but they proved to be more like lukewarm springs and we made our way back to the boat relatively quickly. The adrenaline we all felt as some of our fellow travelers who remained on the boat cheered us on helped a little, but we were pretty chilly. We sadly made our way back to Thera and waited for Freddy to pick us up.
On our final day on the island, we tanned on the Black Sand Beach and spent time with some of the many stray dogs that roam Greece.
It was truly a magical trip, and I hope to return to the islands of Greece some time in the future.