Santorini Day 1: Fira & Akrotiri

Day 12 of my trip found me excited. Kid in a candy store level excited. Buried in my handbag was a ferry ticket to Santorini. Now, I could try to pretend that I wasn’t into all the Santorini hype that sees it as one of the real cliche Greek islands to visit, but I would be lying. I really wanted to see it.

The ferry left from the Iraklio port, a fast ferry. Fast ferry is Greek for expensive ferry. But there isn’t a lot of choice and I had made this a priority. I travelled on the ChampionJet 2, a journey that took less than two hours. Being my first day time ferry trip I spent most of it out on the deck enjoying the experience getting blown about.

Farewell Crete.

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Learning is a big part of what I do when I travel. I didn’t, though, expect to learn that sandals and socks were a thing. One of many I saw. Just had to get a sneaky picture.

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The entry into the Santorini caldera was quite spectacular. Having read about and seen so many pictures of the cliff top white buildings, to actually see them appearing in front of me was surreal.

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And before I knew it I was being herded down to the car bay to ready myself to set foot on Santorini. The ferry arrives at a busy new port a little way from the main village of Fira. Buses, taxis and other private transports were lined up waiting to ferry people to the various villages. I was staying in Fira and made my way to the public bus that would take me to the main bus station. Some of these photos look terrible because my phone had a brain fart in the bright sunshine and photoshop could only fix so much.

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With google maps to guide me I walked from the bus station to my hotel. In hindsight, probably not the best way with luggage. Good thing I’m pretty fit. I stayed at a small hotel called Asimina. It is nothing flash, very basic with the smallest shower I have ever seen, but it was cheap and for the price I paid I was quite surprised to have a small balcony with a nice view across the village to the sea on the other side of the island. I was honestly expecting something dungeon-like for the price. The location was perfect, right in the heart of Fira, just around the corner from the cable car. Ideal for someone solo and reliant on walking. The hotel had a taverna downstairs and that made deciding where to eat lunch easy. I even ordered spinach pies as well as cheese ones. Growth! I lie, they came as one.

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The hotel owner proudly told me that his hotel had featured in The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants movie. Now my 13yo daughter had more reasons to be insanely jealous that I had gone to Greece!

After lunch I had to see what all the fuss was about and wandered the few steps it took to get me to the edge of the caldera. Yeah, that was worth the fuss. I had a quick look then a stroll through Fira back to the bus station because I wanted to see Akrotiri that afternoon. I would have plenty of time to get back to the caldera later. I was also starting to wonder if all the people I had read dismissing Fira as unattractive and missable had ever been there.

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Back at the bus station I was about to learn how buses work on Santorini. While Crete was quite organised with office ticket sales as well as on the bus, here everything happened on the buses. There must have been a dozen signs on the ticket window screaming out that tickets are to be bought on the bus. And no real bays with bus numbers. The way to get on the right bus in Santorini was to keep your ears open until a conductor walked around calling its name and follow them to it. It worked.

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Akrotiri is a beach, an ancient site, and a village. I took the bus to the beach before walking the short distance to the ancient site. Mainly because I wasn’t quite sure where to get off for the site.

The beach area looked quite relaxing but I suffer greatly from growing up in Australia syndrome and it takes a bit to impress me with a beach. Still getting used to all the sun lounges set up on the beaches too.

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The ancient site of Akrotiri on the other hand was very impressive. Its story is similar to that of Pompeii, a city buried by a volcanic eruption. This occurred in the late 17th century BC.  A roof has been constructed over the site to protect it.

The site has a few information panels to explain the excavations. I didn’t hire a guide, I probably would have learned more if I did but I still managed to get a lot out of the visit. It is quite remarkable to think that this was all buried nearly 4000 years ago.

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After leaving the site I took the bus to the nearby village. Santorini has many villages and other than the Caldera ones like Fira and Oia, most of the rest are pretty quiet and great places to wander and check out the typical Cycladic architecture in relative peace. So many doors and steps and narrow streets. Love it.

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A simple bus trip back to Fira, and a chance to explore a bit more there.

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And then the sun started to go down. Excited to see my first Santorini sunset. It wasn’t the best sunset, but the glow on the buildings was still pretty awesome.

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Back to my hotel for dinner, too tired to even think about finding somewhere else to eat. Besides which it is perfectly positioned for people watching. What a first day on Santorini.

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