Published: December 20th 2021
I finally figured out how to get to Santorini: ferry early morning to Naxos then high speed ferry. So I scheduled my friendly taxi driver at 5 am, got up, dressed, grabbed my backpack and left my humble cave. Soon after my start down the stone stairs, I full on fell forward, with no way to stop due to being loaded down. Hard on my knee, twisted my ankle and scraped my elbow. Great start. A woman walked by about 40 seconds later and asked if I needed help with my bags…. I just hung my said and said no thanks.
Ferry to Naxos
The ferry departed at 7 am and it was pretty easy. I booked business class which was a minimal increase, and was able to pass out the two hours in the lounge and one of the comfy couches. We arrived in Naxos where I had about a 2 hour layover. So, first I got my ticket printed out at the office, then found a place for a bite to eat: hot chocolate and a croissant. Minimalism. While waiting, I decided to hike up to the ruins of a Temple of Apollo. Not much to see
except an impressive ‘door’ with great views to sea and of the city. I walked around a bit for a few photos, then mostly sat down and read my book. Just a few other people made their way up at this time, but it was clear that it was a social area, probably at sunset or at night. Our ferry was about 40 minutes late, so I continued to read my book and wait with the few others at the port. Then we made our way onto the high speed ferry – I had been a bit anxious because it was a different line and ‘high speed’ so I kept trying to reassure myself i was in the right spot. And oh yeah, the ferry was completely big and obvious. The main room was very open, complete opposite of Blue Star, but it was also nice and simple. Like, you know your are just on this a short time. It had some Greek artefacts displayed in windows at the front, so you had plenty to observe the whole time.
Thera (Santorini) port to Fira
We arrived about a half hour late, but a driver was waiting for me
in a luxurious van, which i had all to myself! We drove up the narrow switchbacks on the only road, where i noted all the different volcanic / ash deposits in the road cuts – I was already smiling! Once we got to the top, we turned left and head to the town of Fira. I was a bit disappointed in the landscape – very shrubby, dusty, dirty, barren, with plenty of litter or crumbled buildings for scenery. However, in town, the views were much better, and the view to sea was perfect! I was dropped off on the main road and a woman came to direct me to my room. I was a bit disappointed in the location of the room (no view, in the middle of random buildings), but the room itself was ideal and i was given a nice bottle of wine and some snacks. After freshening up, I decided not to waste one of my few days here and made my way to the local museum.
Museum of Prehistoric Santorini
Looking up local places to visit, this popped out at me and since it was closed the following day, it seemed to be good
timing. So, I made a short walk, paid my 3 euros to enter and…. oh my god. Loved it! It was another very well done museum with friendly staff! I was one of very few people there, and the staff welcomed me with a smile and made themselves available for questions, but also stepped back so i could enjoy in my own time. It started with a bit of the geologic history (yay) and locations of some of the volcanic deposits and time frames. So, I oriented myself, but it was still quite complex. Then they moved onto some of the artifacts recovered of thousands of years, much of it pottery. A lot of the treasures were recovered from Akrotiri, the main city buried in the main eruption 3,500 years ago, which I will get into later. There were frescoes recovered from houses and buildings in Akrotiri and recreated here, especially the ones from the “House of the Ladies”. Further on, there were more ceramics, some with many impressive art such as birds and dolphins or more aesthetic designs. Toward the end, there was a very large painting of “Blue Monkeys” which indicates possible connections with Asia. Very interesting!
I went to thank the guy as I left for the lovely museum when he told me to go downstairs as there was more to see! And, oh, who would have thought it would be better! Here the archaeologists have reconstructed many of the building layouts from Akrotiri with the frescoes and paintings set up to scale and you can walk through the ‘buildings’ to give you an idea of how it would have looked. So very, very cool. Some of the paintings have been touched up and are more vibrant, while others were left somewhat alone and seem more real. They also have a table of pieces of artefacts showing where they think these pieces may go in a bigger picture, and how they determine some of these. It’s really cool to see – like a puzzle, when you have a piece of a shard from a large ceramic vase and putting it together with others for the same vase. Fascinating.
After the museum, I went to grab food and got a gyro filled with pork and veggies and french fries – very Greek i think and tasty, but I could not eat the whole thing!
My big hike today was what I was waiting for. I was not quite sure what to expect, so I took screen shots of the directions and packed my water and a few layers just in case and left my room a little after 8 am. Nothing was open at this time, so weird! So, I was thankful I still had a granola bar from who knew when. The directions were super easy. First you get to the north side of town, and then the pathway is pretty clear, usually. But oh…. the views! Amazing! I smiled I think the entire way! One of the most beautiful pleasant hikes I have ever done.
Walking uphill through Fira, you move onto a mostly stone pathway that generally travels along the cliffside and going through the town of Imerovigli. You walk through some of the steep twisting pathways thru the various white washed apartments and hotels until you emerge onto another pathway where you have a very clear view of the entire caldera all the way to Oia and across to the other side. This part was fairly easy, passing by a couple of extremely nice spas and
cave homes. Then the road curves around past a couple of churches before starting on a dirt path, sometimes wide, but mostly narrow and hugging the slopes. I couldn’t get over the vibrant colors! The blue sea, the red, orange, and brown soils, the white washed buildings, and the bright doors, including a bright yellow one! At one point, you have to walk about 500m along the main road, but then back up onto the path. Toward the highest point, you meet the Chapel of the Assumption of the Virgin, where you can get great views and see the lovely maintained chapel. Then it is pretty much down hill toward Oia.
I arrived in Oia just before 11am and… again, nothing open! So incredibly weird…. I did find a restaurant with an upstairs terrace and I was able to relax with a great view of the caldera, get some pasta and much needed water replenishment! I stayed here for about an hour, then went downstairs to a souvenir shop (finally open!) where I bought a ring and earrings. Then it was time to head back. I debated for all of 5 seconds to take a bus, but decided that
the walk was super pleasant and I would take my time. In a way, I actually enjoyed the walk back even better. It’s like, because I knew what to expect trail-wise, I was able to appreciate the little things more. So, I stopped more regularly for photos and to take in the scenery. It took me about 20 minutes longer on the way back (just under 3 hours), but that could be because of my stops…
Overall, I hiked 6.5 miles each way with about 1000 feet elevation gain each way. Total of 13 miles hiked and about 2,000 feet elevation gain.
On my last full day here, I had a couple of options, but ultimately decided to take the bus to Akrotiri, the city destroyed by the Minoan eruption about 3,500 years ago and a possible candidate for the Lost City of Atlantis. The bus station was about a 3 minute walk from my apartment, and I was a few minutes early. Because it is the off season, they combined many of the routes, so it was a good 25 minute ride to the town, and they dropped us right off. About 10 of us
got off, but while they stood around looking for where to go, I had noted the kiosk entrance just across the street so was first to get my ticket. It was a nice walk up to the museum with a beautiful exterior. But the inside was amazing! A huge roof over the vast open space of the excavated ruins, with only thick piles and beams to break the view. Natural light came in from sunlights and split roof with windows. It was a naturally climate controlled environment. Elevated walkways wound throughout the ruins, most of which were also handicapped accessible. It was so well done. Later research told me the original structure collapsed and killed a woman, which put the project on hold for years, but this seemed extremely sturdy. The overall structure was funded as part of an EU grant for sustainable designs initiated in the late 1990’s.
As mentioned, Akrotiri was the main city destroyed during the Minoan eruption in about 1600 BC. It was buried in ash, but the absence of personal or expensive artefacts indicates that the people were successfully evacuated well ahead of the eruption. The Volcanic explosivity eruption was a 7, among the
highest ever recorded and it was noted as far away as Egypt, with tsunamis decimating the northern coast of Crete. The volcanic eruption was cataclysmic, with ash, pyroclastic flows, projectiles, tsunamis, and ultimately, the caldera collapse. This had been a sequence of events throughout its history, but the Minoan eruption formed the island that we know today.
Within the ruins, you can see the foundations of the buildings within the city, many ceramic pots uncovered in one location, and some of the windows and door structures. There is one 3-D recreation of a building which shows you what it would have looked like during that time. This information was combined with the paintings and frescoes that were also uncovered and are now housed at the Prehistoric museum in Fira. It was really cool to put all the information from both museums, as well as the island geology and topography, together to create a coherent picture of what had occurred here. It really makes you want to be an archaeologist!
After the museum, I walked down toward the Red Beach, which was nearby, but it was extremely windy, a bit cool, and completely empty, so I had a quick
glance and returned to the bus stop. Thankfully, because just 5 minutes later the bus came and I was on my way back!
After returning from Akrotiri, I got another gyro for a late lunch. I packed up my stuff and got my rapid antigen test for travel, and then relaxed in my lovely room (swinging chair) reading my book and drinking some wine. My throat was a bit sore, so I also got some gelato to soothe it. In the morning, my shuttle was arriving at 5am to take me to the airport. He was a few minutes late and in that time an old drunk guy made his way up the street to me and tried to pull me back to his coffee shop… Yuck. Fortunately, the shuttle arrived a few minutes later. The guy was nice, but he went to pick up two other girls – spanish and portuguese – who were super angry because he arrived 10 minutes later and they had a flight to catch! They had already ordered another taxi even though the shuttle was paid for or something… I don’t know. They were arguing, I could have tried to translate
but I thought the girls were super obnoxious. Most likely one flight at this time of day during the off season – what was the rush??? Sure enough we got there with plenty of time to spare, I even sat at the counter of the one place open for about 40 minutes with tea and a cookie (literally nothing else besides coffee and I was starving!). Then we boarded our flight with a beautiful sunrise to bid us goodbye!
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