New experiences - Santorini and athens

Aug 8th, 2019, 04:12 AM
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New experiences - Santorini and athens

We are: a couple in our 40s with a 12 year old daughter. Love the Greek islands, especially Santorini where I am posting from now. This is our 5th time in Santorini but we were determined to do some things we had never done before. We split our time between Fira (3 days) – perfect base for visiting the rest of the island – and Oia (4 days) which we love.

In Fira we stayed in San Giorgio as it offered a relatively inexpensive room option for 3 – many of the rooms in Santorini are geared towards couples, disappointingly the place we stayed in oia last time (Rimida) does not do family rooms any more and is now far more upmarket, so we had to find a new place to stay in Oia – more anon. In San Giorgio we had a superior triple which has a separate double bedroom and a bed in the sitting room area for our daughter; from our research on the internet we knew this place did not have a view and had only a tiny swimming pool, but everything else exceeded expectations – great location, central but quiet, just a stone’s throw from the Main Street in Fira and also close to the bus station and the path for the walk up to Firostefani in the evening. You would need to bring shades to wear in bed if you are woken easily by the light, and the beds are fairly hard, but both of those are fairly standard features of the rooms we have experienced in Greece, so no real complaints. The rooms were really nicely appointed with daily cleaning, which we did not expect as we had booked through airbnb.

Anyway, this was to be a trip of new experiences:

1. Segway tour in Athens

We stayed a few days in Athens prior to coming to the islands, and a real highlight of that was a Segway tour with Seg Your Way (near the acropolis museum). Highly recommended. A great way to keep kids engaged (they probably have an age limit as you have to be a certain weight to make them go, but 12 was fine). This would be a great tour to do on your first day in Athens to get your bearings. You cover a lot of ground – we did a 3 hour tour (including a 30 minute coffee break) all around the acropolis area, monastiraki, plaka. You don’t go into any attractions but you do stop off at a couple of lovely viewpoints where you can get great views of Athens and the Parthenon. The tour was really well organised – you have electronic earpieces so you can hear the tour, a gopro on your Segway recording your route; they send you a video afterwards, helmets / safety equipment, good instruction on how to use the segways – and it’s a really fun way to see Athens. We did it on the hottest day of the year so far, in August, and although it was hot you got a good breeze going on the Segway, the guide brought along plenty of water and suncream. A walking tour on that day in that heat would have been hellish.

2. Red beach / white beach in Santorini

We had gone to the red beach before on a previous visit, but never took the little boat from there further to the white beach. This time we got the boat and what an experience that was. We took the bus from Fira to Akrotiri where we hiked across the hill to the red beach. We later discovered we should have got the boat from akrotiri in the first place, it leaves from just down from where the bus drops you off, and does a circle – red beach, white beach, black beach and back to akrotiri – saves on the hike across the cliffs. We picked up the boat from the red beach (which hadn’t changed in the over 20 years since we were last there – hewn out of the rock – stunning red cliffs with a beautiful sea at the bottom). The boat guy was a character – he piled more people on the boat than could possibly be within any safety regulation and when we got to the white beach the boat moored out in the sea and he more or less threw everyone off the boat into the more than waist high water shouting “wake up” and “you pay” which seemed to be his only phrases in English.

Three tips for this boat ride: firstly, we were really glad we had left the expensive cameras behind – a lot of people fell over exiting the boat into the choppy sea and their bags with belongings were soaked. Secondly, sea shoes – these were invaluable for the beaches in Santorini generally, like the black sand beach at perivolos, but especially here where the white and red beaches were really just pebble and stones and getting in and out of the water in bare feet would be tricky. Thirdly, don’t wear anything on the boat unless you are happy for it to get wet.

The white beach was magic. White white rocks, accessible only by sea and with lots of lovely little spots to swim out to and sit on the rocks looking at the eddies between. The boat comes every half hour and a half hour was perfect, we did not need any longer.

3. Stay in a windmill in oia

We stayed in a cave house last time we were in oia, so this time we went the whole hog and stayed in a windmill. One of the windmills that we have been looking at for years in our oia sunset photo albums. One of the windmills that you think of when you think of Oia. My daughter found it on Airbnb – it belongs to the guys who own the Lioyerma pool bar, so not only did we get a windmill, but also had 3 sunbeds reserved for us each day by the pool, and it included continental breakfast by the pool each morning. We loved the fact that we had our very own windmill, and the envious looks we got from others at sunset time as we sat on our balcony watching the sun go down while they scrambled to find a spot to perch on the wall.

The layout of the windmill is not ideal (it’s a windmill after all) and would not suit anyone of impaired mobility, or with really young children. There are two bedrooms, one on the top floor where you can hear the wind whirling around you, and one on the bottom of the 3 floors which is down a steep stairs, almost a ladder. The only bathroom is on the very bottom floor through the 2nd bedroom. The downstairs bedroom isn’t very noise-proof to say the least, but Oia is a quiet spot so there are not many people going by.

We loved the windmill, but were agreed that of all the places in Oia, where we really love is the area we stayed the last few times, Foinikia (where perivolas and all the swanky rooms are) as the caldera view there and the white cave houses tumbling down the side of the cliff are just breathtaking. Next time we’ll head back for that area but having stayed in this windmill will be a special memory.

4. Walk from Fira to oia

For years I have been threatening to walk from Fira to oia. Surprisingly the husband and 12 year old volunteered to join me. We split it into 2 – one night when we were staying in Fira we walked from Fira to imerovigli, and then when we moved up to oia, we took a taxi to imerovigli and walked back to Oia.

The was from Fira to imerovigli was lovely, really easy, maybe 25 minutes, and we went back the following evening to eat at a restaurant we had passed along the way in the village of firostefani (it’s the only really traditional taverna there, with a sign outside saying oinomagyreion or something similar, I can’t remember the name of the place but it is on the intersection between the main road and the caldera) – it was excellent, one of the best meals we’ve had so far. The path along the caldera between Fira and the first village Firostefani is closed at the moment, so you take a slightly different path until firostefani and then you go along the caldera from firostefani to Imerovigli for the truly unmissable bit. To get to the path from Fira, the easiest way to go is along what I would describe as the main pedestrian street in Fira, not by the caldera but by the nightclubs (past koo club, enigma etc) and keep on going straight. If you try to go along by the caldera, it looks like a good path but you could end up going quite a distance only to find that the road is closed and you have to retrace a lot of your steps.

This part of the walk is very easy, just a stroll really past various hotels and restaurants and with some lovely caldera views between firostefani and imerovigli.

The second part of the walk was the one I was afraid of, not for me but for the 12 year old – there were predictions online that it would take hours, that we would need gallons of water, not to attempt it in august for fear of perishing by the side of the road etc. So as the taxi from oia seemed to take forever to get to the starting point in imerovigli and the driver warned that it was a long walk back, I wondered what I had gotten us into. There was no need. The walk from imerovigli took us just under 2 hours with plenty of photo stops, we only needed one of our many bottles of water, and the route wound around hills which gave us plenty of shade along the way. This part of the route is wild and not so easy to traverse, so not for the faint of heart, but you get up close and personal with the cliff side and the birds (partridge?, swifts, gulls) and pretty little churches perched on the hills along the way. We left Imerovigli at about 6:20 and arrived in Oia just as the sun was setting. Absolutely magic and I was kicking myself that we had put this walk off before because we were afraid that it would be too strenuous.

That’s it so far. Off to Milos next week, which will be a whole new experience as we have never been there.


littlejane is offline  
Aug 8th, 2019, 06:01 AM
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Great report! I'll be heading to Milos for the first time myself next month.
brotherleelove2004 is offline  
Aug 8th, 2019, 06:07 AM
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Thanks lee. Hope we both enjoy milos! You’ve been a font of information on oia over the years, we wouldn’t have found the lioyerma pool a few years ago if it wasn’t for you. We are staying in pollonia in milos, not sure yet if that will prove to be a good choice, but will have a car to explore at any rate.
littlejane is offline  
Aug 10th, 2019, 08:20 AM
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In Santorini, the Firostefani taverna you mentioned probably was Aktaion, whose materials note it's the longest continually-running Taverna on Santorini and is indeed traditional. its covered porch is about 15 metres from the rimside wall, and it has about 4 tables (for 2 or 4) right beside the wall, tree-shaded. On June 1 I sat at such a table for about 90 minutes and watched the sunset serenely. while enjoying a wonderful mushroom tart and 2 Mythos for a total of about €12. Take that, Oia.
travelerjan is offline  
Aug 12th, 2019, 09:20 AM
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That’s the one Jan, thanks! We had one of those outside tables too, at sunset - we had to book the day before - had some really excellent pasta with clams and kolokithokeftedes to die for
littlejane is offline  
Aug 15th, 2019, 07:59 AM
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For the record... pollonia proved to be the right choice for us on milos, hands down. Loved the place.
littlejane is offline  
Aug 16th, 2019, 12:29 AM
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I'd love to go to Santorini, I've heard so many good things about it and it just looks stunning. Definitely can't wait to read more of your adventures!
TillyMay90 is offline  
Aug 16th, 2019, 03:39 AM
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I also love Santorini. My second trip there I had planned only because of the logistics (was able to fly there and ferry to the other islands I was visiting, and fly back out- easier than doing it via Athens). So I had scheduled two nights at each end of my trip but wish I'd had more. I think it's too bad that it seems many people are skipping Santorini, scared off by horror stories of crowds.

Have you been to the interior villages? Emborio and Pyrgos. I loved them, so different from Fira and Oia and totally un-crowded.

Hope you enjoy Milos. Be sure to take a boat ride around the island. Here's the link to my trip report from the trip that included Milos in case you are interested -
isabel is offline  
Aug 19th, 2019, 04:43 AM
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Great link to your report Isabel, thanks a million. I've been to Pyrgos as a restaurant we loved, the Selene, moved there from Fira. What I loved about Santorini was the remarkable coastline, which is also why Milos turned out to be a great hit for us - I can see why it leaves many people cold as there is not much to plaka or to the interior of the island, but wow that battered coastline is spectacular in places. Particularly loved the white limestone formations at Sarakiniko.

We like to swim during the day, either at the pool or a beach, and explore the towns by night (when the cruise people have all gone back to their boats). I think that's why the crowds in Santorini never bother me as much as other people, although I will admit I would love to be back in the days when school holidays did not dictate my travel plans and we could visit in September, which was much quieter.

littlejane is offline  
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