We spent some of our time in Santorini on quad bikes touring the smaller villages and the many beaches which line the edge of this tiny Greek Island. Here are some other things to entertain you during your stay on this most beautiful Greek destination. Make time for the beautiful sunsets and the thrill of exploring the narrow lanes and steps in the main towns of Oia and Fira.
We were based in in Karterados, a village just a kilometre from Fira, so our first day of sightseeing was spent exploring this little village.
We had arrived very late at night so had seen very little of the village and as morning broke I wandered back to the bakers to see what they offered in terms of breakfast. To my surprise they had a whole range of breakfast savoury pastries and croissants available. I almost thought I was back in France.
The father who had helped us the night before was now in bed and his son took us through the range of fillings available. Five euros later and I had warm baked croissants, a litre of milk and breakfast was served on our patio in the pension overlooking the sea to the East of Santorini. It wasn’t the stunning view you might get from Oia or Fira, but for the price we were paying no there were no complaints from us.
The village, as well as the bakers, has a half a dozen local restaurants all offering some local and other European foods at reasonable prices. Our favourite was the one opposite the mini markets, I cant remember the name, but its has blue chairs, but that isn’t very helpful either to you. If something in Greece isn’t painted white its painted blue. There is also a wonderfully renovated windmill and some of the finer specimens of Greek churches on Santorini. All were directly opposite Pension Anna.
Energised for the day with our bakery breakfast we set off for the fifteen minute walk into the main town of Fira. You may think that fifteen minutes to walk one kilometre is a slow pace, but the first third of the journey is the steep climb out of the village to the main road.
If you are staying in Karterados and are using the bus to get around, this is where you will find the bus stop for buses into town or other destinations south . If you are heading to Oia or Perissa you have have to head into Fira and catch a bus at the station.
We walked into town and as you enter the first real landmark will be the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral. Not really any tourist information help here, As in Rhodes tourist information was hard to come by, perhaps it is one of the services that got cut to allow them to manage their debt. If it is it seems like a little false economy to me, but I guess we now know the Greeks are not to hot on economics!.
From here you have number of choices of what to do next
- Stop and just take in the view of the caldera, the volcanic island for a while and snap your panorama shots of the view these nature formed exhibits
- Turn instead to focus your lens on the man made display of the white churches and houses (mostly now boutique hotels) perched precariously on the steep edge of the Caldera
- Turn left and head down to the winding path to the old port and saying hello some of the donkeys (in fact they are small ponies) that transport the cruise ship passengers up form the old dock below. Be careful on the steps, the animals are animals and will go to the toilet when the mood takes them leaving the skiddy deposits behind them.
- Turn right and head for the port cable car to take you on a 4 euro journey down to the port and save the donkey’s some work
- You can also go shopping or just browse at the boutiques, art shops,fish massage emporiums and tourist trinket sellers that line the streets of the old town
- Do all or some of these, then head North and take the narrow winding lanes that will lead you up to the clifftop catholic church and a great view on the highest point of the Caldera overlooking the town. Make sure you take some liquids with you unless you can afford to stop at one of the ‘priced for view’ cafes and sip a beer, cocktail or coffee. If you do make sure you see the price of the things you are ordering on a menu before you order, rip off prices are not unknown for naive tourists..
Santorini Cruise ships
Understandably, Santoniri is a favourite stop for any cruise ship captain worth his stripes. On any given day Santorini visitor numbers can rise significantly depending on how may ships you can see parked in the harbour.
They park in the bay and ferry passengers in on smaller boats. Add to this the hundreds that stream onto coaches from the day trip Hydrofoils at Athinas and you could be jockeying for space with thousands more fellow tourists than you want. I expect that it can get both hot and hellish here in the peak season of July and August as the boat numbers and island visitors increase significantly.
We were here in early June and there was never more than one or two ships docked, but when I wandered back into town on our final evening for some sunset shots it was amazing how quiet the place was. As I wandered around the edge of the town looking for the best vantage points I felt like I was alone at times. It certainly worth spending at least one night here if you are island hopping so you can get to experience the main towns with slightly less people crowding the narrow lanes.
Get away from Oia or Fira and you will find yourself much more personal apace, the ships and day tours have a very limited time on the island and will rarely go beyond visits to the main towns of Oia and Fira. We have covered those areas on our day on the quad bike blog.
We saved this second most famous village for our last night as we didn’t have the time to visit when we had the bike. I had been told that it was one of the best spots for sunset photography so after our now familiar walk into Fira from Karterados we got on the bus at the town bus station.
The journey takes just twenty minutes, as the bus driver nonchalantly winds the coach around the curves of the mountain beyond Thira. It is quite an impressive view along the way, I started the journey at around 6,30pm and the low sun set the eastern side of the island alight with some of my favourite photography light.
Oia is not as large as Thira and can easily be explored in a couple of hours. I had by now begun to tire a little of the windmills and the blue domed churches, so I made a quick beeline for the coast to check the sunset lines and get a glimpse of the houses nestled into the rock.
After just twenty minutes I decided that this was not going to be my preferred place to catch the famous Santorini sunset so I legged it back to the bus and got myself back to Fira just in time for have the last forty minutes of the sun set there instead. I was rewarded with some great shots.