Santorini’s Volcanic Beaches

DSC_0383[1]

We spent a total of three days in Santorini, one of which was dedicated to the epic Fira Trail hike, which left us wondering:  what else is there in Santorini?

We looked around at our options and decided to check out some of Santorini’s beaches.  Since Santorini is a volcanic island, the beaches are not what you’d expect.  Most of them are pebble beaches as opposed to sand beaches and are black or red as opposed to golden or white.

DSC_0386[1]

We first checked out Perissa beach towards the southern part of the island, which was a black pebble beach.  It was definitely not warm enough to swim, but the pebbles were warm enough that we could walk barefoot and small enough that it wasn’t too terribly painful to do so.

DSC_0389[1]

As an added  bonus, the beach was practically deserted, so we had lots of space to spread out and explore.  There were also a few restaurants, bars, and shops open, so I had a nice vegan pizza, some wine, and bought myself an awesome hat that was pretty much attached to my head the rest of the trip.  It made for a relaxing evening, which was much needed after two flights in less than 24 hours.

DSC_0461[1]

I was slightly more impressed with the Red Beach on the southern tip of the island, near the ruins of Akrotiri.  The contrast of the red volcanic cliffs and the clear, turquoise waters really did it for me.

DSC_0460[1]

This beach also has the nice little perk of requiring a small hike to access it, which is always a positive for me.

DSC_0475[1]

A little yoga on the rocks

There were a couple touristy restaurants open, so we sampled some interesting fig wine.

DSC_0477[1]

Sadly, the ancient ruins of Akrotiri (which was the agenda item we were most looking forward to on that part of the island) were closed, so we had to settle for exploring the area around it.

DSC_0494[1]

Twisted olive trees and wild daisies

Santorini is a very interesting and geographically diverse island, though it surprises me when people suggest itineraries of 5-7 days there because it is so tiny and mostly very touristy.  Perhaps it’s just me.  Still, our time in Santorini was lovely and relaxing, with views and weather that were hard to beat.  I’d certainly recommend it if you’re looking for a nice sample of the Greek Islands, although I would strongly suggest avoiding the high season so you can enjoy the views without the crowds.

Epic Views on the Fira Trail

DSC_0443[1]

Greece was so, so good.

It was one of those places that had been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember and when it was finally becoming a reality, it was so hard to decide where to go and what to do since there is just so much.

DSC_0360[1]

Scored a window seat on the way to the island!

Santorini was one of the first places that jumped out at me – I mean, who can resist when beautiful photos of it are plastered all over the internet?  I had to see for myself what all the hype was about.

DSC_0429[1]

I’ll be honest:  it’s a tourist trap and a half.  Hardly anything on the island screams authenticity (for example, all the restaurants named “Authentic Greek Restaurant” with all English menus).  Still, there is one thing in Santorini that is an absolute must for any wanderluster:   hiking the cliff-side passage from Fira (the island’s main hub) to the picturesque village of Oia to watch the sun set.  It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life to date and I’m pretty sure it will always stay that way.

DSC_0410[1]

After grabbing a few provisions at the local Carre Four, we headed up to the Caldera in Fira to begin our epic journey.  The well-marked cobblestone path took us through blinding white tunnels and winding stairways, wrapped around many a restaurant and holiday home, as well as several of those lovely churches with the bright blue domes.

DSC_0414[1]

To our left, the bright blue waters of the Aegean sparkled in the sunlight.

DSC_0407[1]

As we moved farther along the trail, the white washed villages became fewer and farther between and jagged, volcanic cliffs began to take their place.

DSC_0426[1]

We were about three quarters of the way there when we decided to stop and enjoy our picnic lunch, chock full of Greek olives, pistachios, crusty bread, and a delicious herbed tomato dip.  We even found a tiny, picnic-sized bottle of wine!

DSC_0436[1]

We had originally planned on waiting to eat until we reached Oia, but I’m so glad we didn’t because that picnic was hands down one of the best experiences of my life!  There was something so amazing, and dare I say spiritual, about being there on the edge of a cliff together with no one else in sight enjoying a fabulous lunch and spectacular views.

DSC_0439[1]

It took us roughly four hours (it normally takes three, but we took our time with our lunch stop) to reach the pristine town of Oia, obviously well-kept to meet the tourist demand.  It was late afternoon and the sun was at its highest point of the day, so we knew we had a little time before the larger groups of tourists came through.  Luckily, it was still the shoulder season, so it wasn’t nearly as packed as it will be in a couple of months.

DSC_0440[1]

We stopped at a cliff-side cafe for a little coffee and some water and were pleased to see that it wasn’t as terribly overpriced as we were expecting.  As a side note, there was the most adorable family next to us with some very sophisticated children who were raving about the quality of the Greek salad they were eating.

DSC_0452[1]

Finally, we were ready to make our way to the famed lookout spot to check out one of the most renowned views in the world.  Pictures, of course, will never fully do it justice.

DSC_0450[1]

I was feeling on top of the world!  We stayed for about two hours, simply gazing at the incredible sight in front of us, listening to some lovely Greek street music, and talking about what a marvelous adventure it all was.  A truly magical and unforgettable journey.