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From Santorini to the Peloponnese - Isabel's photos and trip report

From Santorini to the Peloponnese - Isabel's photos and trip report

Old Aug 17th, 2009, 08:12 AM
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From Santorini to the Peloponnese - Isabel's photos and trip report

We spent fifteen fabulous days in Greece in July. I'd been planning this trip for years and it was well worth the wait. We did the following itinerary:

Santorini -2 nights
Naxos - 2 nights
Paros -2 nights
Athens (with day trip to Aegina)- 5 nights
Delphi - 1 night
Nauplion - 2 nights
Cape Sounio - 1 night

I'm working on the trip report, but my priority is always photos so I did them first. They are at: www.pbase.com/annforcier There are separate galleries for the islands and the mainland. Hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed looking at other people's photos as we planned this trip.
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Old Aug 17th, 2009, 10:38 AM
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You have wonderful pictures. Can't wait to read the trip report!
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Old Aug 17th, 2009, 10:50 AM
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isabel, your pictures are stunning. I only wish I could take decent photographs! Thank you so much for sharing, and I look forward to reading your trip report.

Tracy
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Old Aug 17th, 2009, 09:25 PM
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Gorgeous photos! You're a pro, and I'm also looking forward to your trip report because I'm planning a trip in mid September to Greece.
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Old Aug 18th, 2009, 12:12 AM
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Oh, beautiful. I've only looked at the mainland so far; looking forward to the islands. And looking forward to the trip report.
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Old Aug 18th, 2009, 03:33 AM
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Isabel, once again...awesome!

I'm beginning my research on Greece and your pictures are getting me so excited! I'm really looking forward to the trip report too.
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Old Aug 18th, 2009, 03:37 AM
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Bookmarking. Thank you, Isabel. It looks as if many of these gorgeous pics are taken early in the morning with no crowds.
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Old Aug 18th, 2009, 12:47 PM
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I knew you would go crazy in Oia and surely you did. Have you ever seen a more photographic place? This was up to your high standards--grazie !
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Old Aug 18th, 2009, 12:49 PM
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Glad you are enjoying the photos. Everything was so beautiful it was easy to get good shots. Several times my husband remarked that it was like "shooting fish in a barrel" - would have been hard to take a bad photo.

In researching the trip I most definitely benefited from the collective wisdom of this forum's resident Greek experts - so thank you very much, I think you know who you are. But I also got lots of useful info from people who had just gone to Greece once and written trip reports. So hopefully my experiences will be of help to others.

Although the main “focus” of this trip was to be Greece, when searching for airfares last winter I came across a really good one on AirBerlin.com. From the US they only fly out of JFK, LAX, Miami and Ft Meyers (I hear there are a lot of Germans in Florida) but we can get to JFK and since this fare, about 550€ each round trip, was so much better than the approximately $1300 we were finding on other airlines we decided to do it, even though it meant flying into Dusseldorf. We could also fly from Dusseldorf straight to Santorini and found an Aegean flight from Athens back to Dusseldorf so it looked like a pretty good plan (and overall cheaper than any other option). And it was. AirBerlin was no better or worse than any other airline in terms of customer service, food, seats, etc. To have a “safe” cushion of time we planned on a couple of days in Dusseldorf at each end but when I started researching what you could do in that area I was so taken with the Rhine/Mosel valleys that we ended up “stealing” a few days from Greece and adding a few extra days and had almost a week at the end of the trip there.

So we flew to Dusseldorf and spent two days visiting Aachen, Koln and Dusseldorf. There were some redeeming characteristics but overall it was pretty disappointing - and hot and sticky but mostly cloudy. So we land in Santorini and – OH MY GOD – it was just so incredibly beautiful: hot and bright and blue and white. Here’s part of the email I sent home that first day there. The subject line was just: Santorini - OMG, OMG, OMG, OMG – “We made it to Santorini. This place is amazing. It is soooooo gorgeous. The colors of the sky and the water are unbelievable. You could make me go to Dusseldorf and Koln for a week (but please don't) and then give me one day here and it would make up for it.”

We stayed at San Georgio Villas [www.sangiorgiovilla.gr/ E-mail: [email protected]iovilla.gr] 50€ night/ double. Wonderful place to stay in Fira. Clean, nice size rooms with AC, fridge, TV, free wi-fi, hairdryer. George arranges pick up and drop off from airport or ferry port (extremely useful since finding it for the first time would be challenging). It’s on the other side of the main road from the caldera and the labyrinth shopping streets but still only a five-ten minute walk to the caldera, the bus station, etc. George is extremely helpful and gives loads of accurate info on where to go and what to do. There is no caldera view obviously, but there are plenty of places to view the caldera for free. We had a tiny balcony where we had our Greek yogurt and fresh fruit breakfast each morning. There were plenty of places within five minutes walk to buy groceries like this for breakfast and snacks.

We had just over two days –arrived at noon on July 1 and our ferry left at 16:00 July 3. The first day we explored Fira, then took the bus to Oia then back to Fira for dinner and sunset. The next day we visited Pyrgos and also walked along the caldera as far as Firostefani and Imerovigli from the Fira end and Finikia from the Oia end. From Fira to Imerovigli is about 30 – 45 min (depends of if you are going up or down hill, and how many times you stop to gaze at the view). We were going to do the whole hike but figured the middle section with no towns wouldn’t be as interesting, the view is the same, and we did have limited time. Plus we had just hiked all over Pyrgos. We were in Oia for sunset and dinner. The last day we just wandered around Fira, I did some shopping (tons of jewelry shopping in Santorini) and my husband went to the archaeology museum before we had to leave to catch our ferry.
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Old Aug 18th, 2009, 02:41 PM
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Your pictures are so beautiful! And I'm enjoying your trip report, too, and looking forward to more!
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Old Aug 18th, 2009, 03:15 PM
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Wonderful photos, Isabel! Beautiful shots! Even though it's clearly very photogenic, you do have a good eye for framing the picture.

Are you Isabel or Ann? Just curious.

Paule
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Old Aug 18th, 2009, 04:32 PM
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I just took a look at the photos from the islands. I absolutely love these pictures. Some mighty fine fish in that barrel.
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Old Aug 18th, 2009, 05:12 PM
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Isabel - more absolutely gorgeous photos from you. I'm totally jealous. Can I steal some and claim them for my own - LOL!

Please give us your tips. Do you wander endlessly just to find the exact spot to take photos?
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Old Aug 18th, 2009, 05:16 PM
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Absolutely gorgeous photos! Thanks for sharing.
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Old Aug 18th, 2009, 06:19 PM
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Oh my, those are beautiful photos! I've been to many of the places you have and they brought back some great memories.
Really, these photos are very, very nice. Thanks for sharing.
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Old Aug 19th, 2009, 04:44 AM
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I'm so glad you all like the photos. And to answer adrienne's question, yes I do pretty much "wander endlessly" to take photos. But it's not just for the purpose of getting a picture, I find I enjoy wandering around when I travel. Interesting that on trips I often walk upwards of ten miles a day, but at home I get bored and tired after a mile. But in Europe - be it city or small village, I just love to walk up and down every alley and side street and discover squares, fountains, buildings, views, etc. I especially like to do this early in the morning and during siesta times when things are less crowded. And to get the best shots you do need to go back to places when the light is different so I often go back to places I've already been. I certainly do the major "sites" but probably spend comparatively less time than some people do. But at least in the Greek islands, just being there is the major "site".

Overall thoughts about Santorini – It has one of the most striking landscapes I’ve ever seen. The architecture combined with the cliff side and the caldera with the volcano out in the middle. Just awesome. The town of Fira is pretty much 100% tourist though: all shops, restaurants and hotels and tourist services. Didn’t really see any areas that would be where regular people lived. But with such an awesome view it actually does make sense that it should be shared with the masses. If there are any private homes they would be so expensive only the uber-rich could afford them anyway. Other than people living in their own hotels it seems most of the people who work there live in one of the inland towns and commute. The town was pretty much crawling with cruise ship passengers, with a good sprinkling of young backpackers (most of whom stay in the youth hostels in Fira or at the beach). Plenty of choice in food prices from incredibly cheap (but pretty good slouvaki, spanakopita) to expensive restaurants with caldera view. The majority of the shops seem to be jewelry, though there are plenty of places selling clothing (mostly white) and souvenir crap. Some art, ceramics, etc.

Oia – this was the absolute best, prettier than Fira (which is saying something) and less crowded. The views here are indescribable. Hotels may be more, but food and other things were in the same price range as Fira. In mid afternoon the place was almost deserted and even in the evening the crowds were no where near as bad as I’d heard. It was a nice lively, party type atmosphere with everyone waiting for the magnificent sunset (which it turns out is actually better in Fira). But no “elbowing” for position. We got into conversations with several other people and it was a lot of fun. A couple got engaged and everyone congratulated them. I am sooooo glad we went for sunset (we also went earlier in the day the day before, it was nice to experience it both ways). Dinner in Greece is late – after sunset, so there were plenty of places to choose from before sunset. Since my main goal was to photograph the sunset, we decided to grab a quick bite around 6:30-7 and found a place right on the caldera with great view and had spanakopita, Greek salad, beer and ice tea and it was only €14 for two. The bus from Fira to Oia is 20 min, they run every 20 min, cost is 1.4€, They are larger “coach” size buses, and have AC. Buy the tickets ON the bus.

We wanted to see an “inland” town and we choose Pyrgos, a village about 20 min from Fira. Same bus deal except they are only about one per hour so takes a little coordination to get the timing right. There are a few cafes and souvenir shops at square where the bus stop is, but otherwise the town is tourist free, and was essentially deserted. One or two hotels with restaurants up on the hill. Nice hill town to wander around. Not as good as most Italian hill towns though. But we were glad we saw it. All of Santorini must have once been a “real” place, before the tourist crunch took over, but now there is a drastic difference between Fira/Oia and the inland villages. From Pyrgos you can see the sea on both sides of the island.
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Old Aug 19th, 2009, 11:49 AM
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Isabel, your photos are wonderful!

How did you feel about Paros and Naxos? I am planning a trip that includes Paros and Santorini, and am wondering if it is worth adding a day for Naxos.
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Old Aug 19th, 2009, 02:21 PM
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JoyceL - We really liked both Paros and Naxos. There are somewhat similar, especially when compared to Santorini but I'm still glad we did both. We had debated 3 days each in Santorini and either Naxos or Paros but decided on 2 days each in all three and I'm glad we did. As you'll see from my report, there were some different things about each of them.

As sad as it was to leave Santorini we were excited to experience our next island, Naxos.

From Santorini to Naxos we took Blue Star Frerries “Paros” from 16:00-18:10, ~15€ each for deck class. As Santorini is the first stop there was no problem getting any seats we wanted on deck – tables and chairs under the awning, chairs either under shade or out in the sun. Nice modern boat.

My favorite part of the whole trip was the ferry boats trips. Sailing the Aegean, even in a huge ferry is sooooo cool. The color of the water, the breeze, the intense sun, just everything.

For all the ferries (we also ferried from Naxos to Paros and Paros to Piraeus) – they were right on time. When you get to the dock there are plenty of people to ask which gate or “stall” you want. In Santorini the “stall” was an air-conditioned building, in Naxos and Paros they were just shaded waiting areas. Naxos had about 3, Paros had about 6 “stalls”. When your boat comes in they open the gate and everyone jams into the line to have the tickets taken. There are areas just inside the car entrance (passenger entrance is right beside the car entrance and passengers can enter either one) to leave large bags but most people with 24 inch or less take them with them (no security or anything). All the ferries have several lounges (non-smoking) with “airplane” type seats, which are numbered and for which you can buy a ticket, but there were free seats on all the boats we took. (If you don’t buy a ticket you can still sit in any unoccupied seat, but if someone with a ticket for that seat were to come along you’d have to move.) There are at least two outside decks with tables and chairs, and then all along both sides of the boats are plenty of places with sun or shade and white plastic chairs that people move around to be wherever they want. Inside are also several places to buy snacks and fast food. Prices a little higher than on the islands but not outrageous. Bathrooms clean and modern, like in most restaurants. In early July none of the boats were even close to full. We got our tickets a day in advance but you could certainly have gotten them the day of travel if you had wanted to. There are ticket agents in Fira and Naxos town and Parika, all are clearly marked, take credit cards, very easy to do.

First impression of Naxos was great – such a pretty harbor, all those boats, the old town rising up in front of you. Although not as awesome as Santorini, it was nice to have the water right there (as opposed to down at the bottom of the cliff) and there was definitely a less touristy feel to it. We headed into the old town to find our hotel and immediately got incredibly lost. And even though we travel light, we still had a day pack and an 18” suitcase each. Up and down all those steps and really not a clue as to where we were going as we didn’t see any of the signs the hotel had said were there. Eventually someone told us to follow the signs for the Hotel Panorama and the Anixis is one street further. Here’s the review I wrote for trip advisor:

Naxos – Anixis Hotel, www.hotel-anixis.gr [email protected] 45€ (breakfast available for 5€ per person). Very nice hotel in a great location ONCE YOU FIND IT. Which is incredibly difficult to do. It is deep in the labyrinth of stepped tiny arcaded corridors that are called “streets” in Naxos. Delightful to wander around, but not with your bags (and we only had one 18 inch each) looking for a hotel. They need to either give guests good directions or mark it better. Once there, the rooms are spotless, spacious and have TV, AC, Fridge, and your own terrace. The rooftop terrace (where breakfast is served) is available all day and has great views of the cathedral and whole town including the portara. They do have free wi-fi too but the signal strength was usually so low that it didn’t work. Here’s how to find the Anixis – from the promenade along the harbor enter the old town where it says “old market” and then look for signs for Hotel Panorama which is very well marked. Just keep following those signs till you are in front of the Hotel Panorama, then look past it one street to see the sign for the Anixis. Alternately take the road (car road, tiny sidewalk) from in front of the ferry dock a couple of blocks till you see the grocery store/fruit market, and bear right which brings you to the cathedral in another half block. From in front of the cathedral enter the old town, go up the steps to the next tiny square where you have to turn right or left – turn right, immediately left, next left, next right and it’s just ahead. Each of these turns is about a half minute walk.
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Old Aug 20th, 2009, 03:10 AM
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I'm enjoying your report very much, thank you for posting!
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Old Aug 20th, 2009, 04:33 AM
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Thank you for the detailed information.

Do you think 1.5 days is enough for Santorini? I am thinking of visiting Naxos as a daytrip (from Paros), and giving an extra day to Santorini instead of spending it in Naxos.
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