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I had lunch one day at Perivolos beach, just to see if the food at this quiet beach was as fabulous as Kamari, where I was staying. After walking up and down the two block stretch of beachfront restaurants, I chose to eat at Cayo, which seemed laid back, local, and when the manager assured me that if I did not like the moussaka he would not charge me, I said, ok.

This is the view from the restaurant, unlike Kamari, there is only one side of the beachfront road which is built up with restaurants (and only six restaurants in total along the entire stretch).

I started with a Santorini salad, made with local cheese, sun dried tomatoes, arugula and spring greens. Unfortunately there was so much (and so much dressing) that I could only manage to eat about a third of this dish. The arugula had large chewy stems, so it was definitely wild, but not very tender.

The moussaka was made with the famous white eggplant of Santorini, making it tender and slightly sweet (no bitterness at all). It was a huge portion (enough for two) and good enough that I did not have to ask for it to be taken off the bill 🙂

I was served a complimentary wedge of watermelon for dessert and it was a welcome refreshment after the rich moussaka.

I ordered a Greek Coffee to end my meal, and for those of you who have never had it, it is strong like espresso, but made with grounds, so you drink only about half of this cup or you will literally end up with grounds in your mouth because it is not filtered like espresso.

Cayo was very friendly and the view was unbeatable, but the food compared to my favorite places in Kamari and Firostefani fell short, so I went back to one of my favorite restaurants in Kamari for dinner, Nichteri (tomorrow’s post).

Oia (pronounced Eea) is probably the most famous village in Santorini for its views of the Caldera.

Everywhere you walk or look, there is another stunning vista, whether it’s from behind a church, or from the main road.

Since Santorini has 350 churches scattered throughout the island, there are always several churches in a village.

The views of the Caldera are breath taking from every angle.

The way that sunlight illuminates the buildings here gives them a magical quality.

The ingenuity and skill it took to build here is a testament to willpower.

Some hotels give you both a view and a pool (since the nearest beach is a hike away on the other side of the island).

There was an earthquake in 1956 that destroyed most of this village. The population went from 1900 to 500 after the quake. Some homes have never been repaired.

Some homes are “For Sale” (written on the wall in red), talk about a fixer upper with a view!

(This is the view from that home that is for sale)

The nearest beach to Oia is Ammoudi and you must hike down to it (and hike back up at the end of your day).

Oia is an artist colony, with artisans displaying and selling their work in the village.

The things sold here are unique and you can actually say you bought something made by hand in Greece if you shop here.

I returned to Oia several times during my stay, but learned to avoid week-ends and cruise ship arrival times when the streets are literally clogged with people. If you go in the afternoon during the week, you will get to stroll the streets and drink in the sights without drowning in a sea of humanity, and you will say “Ahhhh Oia”.

Although I love Kamari beach, there are several beaches in Santorini and to give you an idea of some of the others, this is Perivolos (or little Perissa). It is much calmer in both wind and surf than Kamari, but also the atmosphere is quite different. Perivolos is very small and quiet with a total of five restaurants and one shop on the entire beach. You may prefer this is you like quiet beaches with amenities and don’t mind paying $100 for a Tshirt (the price in the one shop on the beach).
There is also sand here as opposed to the rocks and pebbles of Kamari.

Akrotiri on the Southern end of the island is a very barren secluded area, with only one hotel and attached restaurant/cafe.

If you walk around the bend here you will arrive at the famous Red Beach and Moon Beach.

As you walk around the bend, you see sights like this, where the sea and surf has literally washed away what used to be homes and restaurants (although a few restaurants still remain and are operational).

Climbing to the top of the hill to Red and Moon beach, there is a church built into the hillside.

To get to Red and Moon Beach, you must climb over the hill, like these people.
Or climb past the boulders like these people.

To get the the Red Beach that looks like it is on Mars. To get to Moon Beach, you must climb over the hill to the white part showing on the left part of the photo.

This is Moon Beach, which is even more barren and secluded than Red Beach.

I chose to just take pictures and hiked back to the hotel in Akrotiri to sip a freshly squeezed orange juice as I watched the waves.

The main town of Fira (or Thira) used to be located on a perch above Kamari beach instead of in the middle of the Caldera facing the active volcano. I visited the ancient site at the top of the hill here. You can hike it (Vaggelis, the owner of the hotel where I stayed said I could walk it in half an hour-he obviously thought I was an Olympian), drive up, or take a bus. Since the road has hairpin turns and there is no barrier between the cliff and cars, I chose to take Kamari Tour‘s bus for 10 Euros rather than risk my life and save my legs.

The view on the ride on the bus was scary in and of itself as the bus had to maneuver past cars, people and ATV’s on the narrow road.

The bus takes you to the BOTTOM of the site and you must still climb up to the ruins; the car park/turn area is in the top middle part of the picture below.

Once you make the climb, the view is spectacular. Kamari Beach is down below and you can see the entire 5 mile stretch from the top of the hill.

They provide a map at the entrance (3 Euros or $5 entry fee) to the site, but all the ruins are marked with plaques that describe what you are looking at in both Greek and English, so you can make up your own self guided tour of the site.

This is the theatre of the ancient town center.

This was a home (obviously of a wealthy family) since even the ruins are quite large.

This was the Agora, or main marketplace for the city; the columns separated the vendors from each other.

The “streets” of the ancient city are now also in ruins, but they give you a sense of what it felt like to walk in the main town.

My self-guided tour took about an hour to cover the entire area, but it was my first experience in ancient ruins and it was a wonderful introduction to the history and artifacts of life centuries before the US existed.

Although I traveled to Santorini alone, it is a wonderful place for lovers with the dramatic vistas, easy island way of life, and warm people. I saw a total of three wedding in the 11 days I was on the island. Apparently Santorini is a wedding destination for many couples and there are wedding specialists who will help you arrange a ceremony at the venue of your choice. The first wedding I saw was in Oia, the picturesque town in the Northern part of the island; I caught this photo of the bride and groom as they were exchanging vows during sunset.

Santorini is also known for the vineyards and wine produced on this unique volcanic island. The most well known varieties are Assyrtiko, Nykteri, and Vinsanto.

Vineyards here are unlike those anywhere else in the world, as they literally make the vines into baskets to protect them from the winds and to help them get moisture in this very dry land with no ground water.

Many vineyards are open to the public for tastings and tours, so one thing I did was go to a wine tasting on the Caldera at Santo Wines.

There was also a wedding going on here when I was wine tasting.

I can see why people choose this as a place to get married, with views like this.

Another very Greek and fun thing to do is attend the outdoor cinemas in the summer.

They show film under the stars while serving drinks (alcoholic and not) and snacks. As you can see there are side tables for your food and drinks, and they even include an intermission in the film so you can use the bathroom or replenish your supplies midway through the film.

Cost is 7 Euros ($10), so the same as we pay in the states to watch a film in a stuffy cinema, and since the films are all shown in the original language with Greek subtitles, this is a perfect way to spend a warm summer evening.

Greeks love their coffee and instead of Ouzo, they drink coffee all day long; coffee bars have replaced Ouzerias. My favorite coffee bar in Kamari was Anna’s, which has both indoor and outdoor sections (like all restaurants and cafes along the beachfront).

In the summer, the coffee drink of choice if the Cafe Frappe, which is basically instant coffee, with sugar and milk poured over ice. They serve complimentary marble cake with all their coffee drinks and snacks with all their alcoholic drinks (some people were drinking beer as their breakfast beverage).

I asked for my coffee with no sugar or milk, but received it with a bit of both, albeit I’m sure less than the full dose. The coffee was not bad, but not something I would drink as often as I saw all the Greeks drinking it.

One of my favorite Greek foods is spanokopita, or spinach pastry, and they sell them in every bakery in Santorini for 3 Euros ($5 USD), so I bought one to taste an authentic one. I was surprised at the shape and size; they are about 8″ in diameter and round coils filled with spinach and feta.

They heat them before giving them to you, so they are warm, delicious, and very filling; one pastry lasted me for two lunches!

is so popular, they even have a Facebook fan page! They are located right on the main square of Fira, one block above the bus station, so they get plenty of foot traffic. The staff all speak excellent English and Veronica, the cashier, has relatives in California!

The gyro here was unlike any I have ever eaten; I think my tourists think the same thing about hamburgers when all they have ever tasted are fast food versions. This pita was fluffy (!!!!) and toasted (!!!!!) and the pork was grilled with a nice crust and spice(!!!!!). The pita I ate here made me redefine gyros. Yes, they put french fries in the gyro, and there was fresh lettuce, tomatoes and tzatziki in the meal that included a drink (soda or beer) for a grand total of 3,20 Euros ($5 USD). I think I smiled after every bite!

When I asked Vaggelis, the manager of Oceanis Studios for his favorite gyro place, he said there were two that were good, but one souvlaki place that was great in Kamari named Minas. I opted for Minas, located on the corner of Appollonas and an unnamed street between the beach and the outdoor cinema (more on that later). It opens at 5pm and most customers are locals (always a good sign); I was the only non-Greek in the crowd.

There is a self-serve salad bar for only 3 Euros ($5 USD) where I created my version of a Greek salad.

Since pork seems to be so juicy and tasty in the gyros, I ordered it as a skewer for only 1.20 Euro ($1.50 USD); this was one of the tastiest skewers of roast pork I have ever had. Everything in the place is immaculate, and they grill your order as soon as you hand your paid ticket to the cook. Some people ordered food to go and their plates were stacked 20 high with these skewers as they headed out for their large families or parties (there was no way I could eat more than 2 skewers).

I came back another night and tried the chicken skewer, which was good, but I preferred the pork from the first night. Vaggelis also recommended the cheese stuffed sausage, but when I ordered it and found a cheese stuffed hot dog, I simply chalked it up everyone liking something foreign in their meals.

Eating like a local is one of the greatest pleasures of traveling as a tourist!

Select Cafe (tel 30-22860-23893) has a perch atop the main area of Fira which offers incredible views.
I stopped by for a light breakfast (at noon) and ordered what was listed as toast on the menu for 5,50 Euros ($7). What I received was two pieces of toasted bread with cheese, tomato and ham; a very light version of a grilled ham and cheese pannini.

But the view from their terrace was worth the mediocre food.

Hotel Galini is on the rim of the Caldera and has rooms ranging from $120-$200 a night depending on the size and season. But they also have a wonderful cafe which is open to the public. A continental is 9,50 Euros or about $13 and includes homemade jam, marmalade, freshly baked bread, and freshly squeezed orange juice (most places on the island charge 6 Euros or $8 for a glass of fresh orange juice alone).

Dana Villas has a beautiful setting on the rim of the Caldera, but if you want to stay in the villas, be prepared for the 80 or so steps up to the main road; rates range from $130-$600 a night depending on season and size of the accommodations. It is worth the walk for a seat in their poolside cafe where you can enjoy a fresh tuna salad with a view of the sea for 11 Euros ($14 USD).

Dana Villas has a pool, which is a big plus in this part of town because in spite of the gorgeous views, there is no beach area nearby.

Vanilia serves the most wonderful gilt head Sea Bream grilled and served with seskoula (local wild greens), virgin olive oil and lemon for 18 Euros ($25). Because of their prime sunset viewing location, be sure you make a reservation before stopping by if you want a front row seat for the famous Santorini sunset.

Your table awaits.

To give you an overview of the island of Santorini, here’s the bus map. I stayed in Kamari on the Eastern side and today’s post is about the main town Fira and the villages on the Caldera (Western side facing the volcano Nea Kameni).

Local city buses ran every 20 minutes from Kamari to Fira, which is the central hub for all transportation and the main city. Fares range from 1,40-2 Euros a ride (about $1.75-$2.25) and the ride was in an airconditioned tour bus like this:

Water on the island is safe for washing and brushing teeth, but not drinking, so everyone carried water bottles with them everywhere; the island has no ground water and only gets 11 inches of rain per year, so a desalination plant is the only source of water on this volcanic island for all plants and people. The daily morning delivery of water bottles at a small mini market looks like this:

The entire island is built on cliffs that dramatically rise and steeply fall into the sea.

Hotels and homes line the Caldera and the only way to get to them is to walk down the narrow steep paths.

Internet cafes abound, but wireless is nearly nonexistent in the windy beach areas. This is Mylos Cafe in Firostefani which offers food, drinks and views along with internet service for 3 Euros ($5) for 30 minutes.

This is the view out of the windows at Mylos Cafe:

I got great cardio workouts everyday just walking around town….this was the first set of stairs up from a hotel to the main road:

At the top of those stairs, there were these:

Many homes still use very old fashioned methods of locking up their houses, like padlocks.

The main town of Fira can be ugly, touristy, and crowded, but there are a few very beautiful side streets.

Fira is also home to some designer jewelry made with black diamonds that reflect the volcanic aspect of the island.

Even though donkeys are still used in remote areas, for the most part they are mainly tourist attraction rides up from the Old Port to Fira.

You have a choice of walking the 466 steps from the Old Port to Fira, taking a donkey, or taking the tram (I chose the tram).

The Old Port still has lots of boats taking people on boat tours of the volcano, hot springs and around the Caldera, but the new port Athinos, is where all the big cruise ships and ferries land now.

Views from the Caldera are breathtaking.

Imagine if this was your home and you had to climb these steps every time you wanted to go to the street!

No wonder the Olympics started in Greece:)

Kamari is the world class black beach where I stayed during my trip to Santorini.

The black rocks are a result of the volcanic activity (there is still an active volcano which you can visit) and because of the rocks, the water is clear, the area is dustfree, and you should bring water shoes if you want to walk on the beach or wade into the water.

Kamari is a well organized beach with water sports available for a fee, including windsurfing, jet skiing, and scuba.

The city also hires people who make sure the lounge chairs and sunbrellas are in good shape every day.

You can rent two lounge chairs and a sunbrella for the entire day for only 6 Euros ($8) or one chair and sunbrella for 4 Euros ($5).

You simply retain your receipt from the guy who comes by to collect the rental fee and leave your towel on the chair; you can leave your chair to eat lunch, go to your hotel, shop, and your place will be reserved from sunrise until sunset.

Life really is a beach when you are at Kamari.

Almira became one of my favorite restaurants during my stay in Santorini. Kamari Beach has about 8 km (5 miles) of restaurants, shops, and markets along the beach that is maintained by the city. The walkway is completely pedestrian after 10 am (deliveries of supplies to the shops and restaurants have a few cars using the roadway in the early morning hours.)

Finding the great restaurants along the string of tourist traps is like trying to find the diamonds among pebbles which make up the black beach, but Almira is definitely a gem.

The warm glow of the tables of Almira are a harbinger of the good things that come out of their kitchen. The multilingual and very efficient staff are the perfect balance of professionalism without being pushy restaurant “hawkers” that some neighboring restaurants use to get diners to their tables.

Their Greek Salad was the BEST I have ever eaten; a perfect composition of locally grown ( in volcanic soil) tomatoes and cucumbers, with fresh feta, olives, and red onion shavings. This huge salad was only $6 US and could have been a meal by itself. I ordered a glass of the local wine ($6 US) and I was very happy to have it served cold and dry as I had requested.

My favorite dish here was the grilled Gilt Head Sea Bream in a tomato, olive, and caper sauce (about $18 US), served with carrots, potatoes, and rice. This was so delicious, that I came back twice for this same dish in later days because I could not get my mouth to stop watering for it. It is a huge portion, so on later visits, I skipped the salad so I would have room to finish it.

With the bill came a complimentary shot of ouzo to “ease the pain of paying”, but really there was absolutely no pain, only pleasure at finding a great restaurant on the beach.




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