I know that Santorini has captured many travellers’ hearts through the years. I’ve heard gushes and pinings over memories of the island. Have seen hundreds of blue and white photographs of it.
But I can’t really say exactly why I’ve never had Santorini on my travel list. So when I had the chance to join the ANZAC Commemorative Cruise with Celebrity Cruises and saw that one of the stops was Santorini, I thought, “Nice! I can finally see what everyone has been raving about.”
In other words, I was neutral about it.
I didn’t know much about Santorini except that it may be pretty.
I didn’t expect much, except perhaps to see a lot of blues and whites.
I just never, ever expected to fall in love with Santorini in such a short time. Less than a day, actually.
So, is it enough to see Santorini in one day?
Ok , that question has the same answer to, “Can you have just one ice cream cone for the rest of your life?” (because you just do not trust folks who don’t enjoy ice cream!)
Answer: You can, of course. But WHY would you ?
Same goes for Santorini, the answer of which I learned the most beautiful, painful way.
One day is NEVER EVER enough for Santorini.
If like me, your first visit to Santorini is via a cruise and your ship only stops in Santorini for 9 hours, then be prepared to forever be haunted by images of Santorini every single day after you’ve left the tiny Greek island.
Since I reluctantly departed Santorini in May, my mind is still plagued by these images.
I can still clearly remember our ship tendered just across the island. When a cruise ship is tendered, it means that the destination port is not big enough for massive cruise ships to dock. So the ship has to stop yards or meters away from the island / port. Smaller boats will then transport passengers between the boat and the island.
We started leaving the ship real early so it was still very chilly.
There are 3 ways to get up to Santorini.
First is by Cable Car (which we took), the lines / cables of it you can faintly see in the photo above.
Those who prefered to warm up actually took a hike from the bottom of the hill to the top.
And the third option is the very touristy way. Via donkeys and mules.
Because we reached the top of Santorini early enough, I was able to see the mules and donkeys, themselves still warming up from the early morning, being led to the bottom of the hill in anticipation of 2 big cruise ships arriving.
And though the donkeys and mules look really well-cared for and healthy, I refused to ride them. Especially in the middle of the day when it gets so hot, I feel so sorry for the animals. It was hard not to tsk-tsk to see the mules staggering under the weight of some of the tourists. But to each his own.
Santorini, whose official name is Thira, is located approximately 200 kms Southeast of Greece’s mainland.
As beautiful as Santorini is, it is what actually remains afer a huge volcanic eruption which destroyed a fomerly single land. Today, it is the most active volcanic centre in the Aegean Arc.
With a maximum length of 18 kilometres and width of 12 kilometres, Santorini is a small island. But when you only have a day to explore, it’s best to go on a private tour which is what we did.
The private tour still allowed us to pleasantly walk along Oia (the very popular island where most tourists are) and still managed to see the Santorini essentials.
Our tour included a stop at St Spyridonas Church, the very famous blue-roofed church which appears in almost every Santorini postcard.
It’s a strange place Santorini. I will admit that it’s full of tourists, and also full of brides and grooms all over the world for their photo session. I don’t normally do well in crowds but Santorini has a way of beautifying everything! If a place manages to make crowds of tourists pleasant (bearable at the least), then I can only conclude one thing: Santorini is magic.
We also stopped by the cemetary. Their culture intrigued me because the graves have a mini glass enclosure which houses the deceased’s most treasured object. I think this is a nice touch because you can definitely tell a lot about a person, deceased or living, by the material things that matter to them.
When I posted the above photo on Instagram, someone called me creepy. I do not mean any disrespect towards the deceased or their families. I am merely appreciating a culture and by sharing photographs, I hope to spread awareness via the second best way. The best way is to still see it for yourself.
We also stopped by the Monastery of Profitis Ilias (Prophet Elias). Built in 1712, this is also the highest spot in the island.
One of the advantages of going on a private tour is getting to see this part of Santorini which is well, not very Sanotirni-like. Flat plains and its more agricultural. So not every part of Santorini is touristy. At 567 metres high, it would be pretty challenging to get to the Monastery by foot so a vehicle is a must when visiting Profitis Ilas Monastery.
Heading down, we passed by the Church of Kamari, the largest in Santorini.
Back in Oia, we managed to still do a leisurely stroll and got to see a glimpse of touristy Santorini in a couple of hours:
With Santorini being quite a popular place for honeymoons, we saw the beginnings of a mini love-lock (not a bridge though) happening. This was in May and our guide predicted that by summer, it will be filled.
You gotta love island dogs! This one was peacefully taking a siesta in the middle of Santorini’s hustle and bustle. This little fella also made it to my blog post about dogs I encounter in my travels.
Now I couldn’t help but drool as we passed by numerous hotels and accommodation around Santorini. Because it’s a hilly incline, it was quite easy to spot hotel rooms’ patio and private pools.
Knowing that I had to leave the island by 4PM, I couldn’t help but grit my teeth and swear that “As Zeus is my witness, I shall spend a night somewhere like this when I visit Santorini next!”
And yes, you read that right. Oh the joys (and perils) of travelling via a cruise. We had to be back by 4PM the latest, lest the ship sails on without us. Though frankly, the thought of being left behind Santorini sounded really, really appealing.
Because of this, I also missed one important must-do in Santorini. A must-do that I only found out that day, when everyone shook their heads in pity when they found out that I won’t even be staying in the island long enough for: The famed Santorini sunset!
And so I did what any heart-broken woman would do after learning of such a tragedy. Missing THE sunset in Santorini! Yes, went all the way to Santorini to get Ben & Jerry’s. Well I never tried their Greek Frozen Yogurt variation. And let me tell you now. DON’T waste your time and money. I just added insult to injury by having a fake Greek style yogurt…in GREECE!
Four months on and I still haven’t moved on from Santorini’s calling. It’s like having this thirst which will only be quelled by another (longer) visit to Santorini. A lot of cruises don’t overnight in Santorini, and it does serve as a teaser for one to return.
Santorini is touristy and can be crowded. But it’s worth the hype.
Have you been to Santorini? Did you like it as much as I’m….. obsessing over it?
We went with Santorini Private Tours http://www.privatesantorinitours.com, which was individually paid for