If we thought our 1st full day in Santorini was packed, we were definitely not prepared for Day 2, a true triathlon of sorts. We woke up bright and early, packed our bags for the day, and made our way to the bus. A quick (and terrifying) ride back down the mountain and we were back where we began our Santorini adventure Anthinios Port. This time, instead of boarding a large ferry boat, we were greeted with a boat that could only be described as a pirate ship. As an avid Pirates of the Caribbean fan, I couldn’t have been more excited. We boarded our pirate ship and began sailing towards Nea Kamani.
Nea Kamani, an uninhabited island off the coast of Santorini, was formed by its own repeated volcanic eruptions; the last occurring in 1950. A protected scientific site, tourists are able to hike to the top of the volcanic crater and walk completely around the rim. In total, the hike takes approximately an hour and a half to complete. You will definitely need lots of water and a good pair of sneakers for this adventure; it’s fairly steep on the way up and made completely of pebbles and rocks which makes it very easy to slip. The views, however, are amazing.
After sweating out a decent amount of the wine I had consumed over the previous week, we boarded our pirate ship once again, made our way around the island and anchored just a few yards away from a secluded, natural, sulfur rich hot spring. The captain of the ship let us know that access to the hot spring was only available by swimming to it. He said it was a short swim, however, and that no one would have an issue completing it. Boy was that misleading. An important tip to anyone taking part in something similar: only do this if you are a strong swimmer. In total, the swim ended up being about a ½ mile swim with nowhere to stand or catch your breath along the way. I watched a handful of people, many children, call out for the rescue boat to bring them back to the ship. Another tip: be careful if you have light colored hair. A few girls had to pay a visit to the salon after our trip ended because the sulfur tinted their hair orange. All in all, I didn’t love the hot spring. I had imagined a little more paradise and a little less orange staining, Olympic swim but I was really proud of myself for doing it and living in the moment to experience it.
Back to the ship, we make our way to the second inhabited island, Therasia. A small port town with only a handful of residents living at the top, Therasia is mostly a tourist stop where travelers can grab a bite to eat or relax by the water. After hiking the volcano and swimming to the hot springs, it was here I took my stereotypical Greek donkey ride that I had seen in so many photos of Greece. In true and complete honesty, I didn’t enjoy a single minute of it. We came upon the donkeys and their handlers told us they could take us to the top of the mountain. I was excited about the opportunity as I read riding a donkey in Greece was something you had to do. Quickly into the climb, however, I realized how, for lack of a better word, shitty this was. The donkeys were clearly overworked, under cared for, and miserable. I couldn’t blame them, I hate walking up a flight of stairs let alone the side of a mountain with someone on my back. I let my excitement of being a tourist and traveling take away my concern for a leaving creature; I deeply regret that. I choose to share this small story with you to remind you that even though you’re traveling and on vacation, to always be mindful and yourself and others. It was an important lesson I learned that day and it is something I will take with me in all my future travels. I hope you will too.
Our last re-board of the ship brought us back to the port. After another terrifying bus ride up back up to the top of the island and to the hotel, we all went our separate ways to shower and nap, agreeing to meet in a few hours for dinner. Foregoing nap time, I showered and Facetimed my parents from the balcony (I mean, I had to show them the incredible view!). After a quick, relaxing break, we regathered together to head to dinner. Us being the true American tourists we are, we all agreed we didn’t want Greek food that night (come on, there’s only so much souvlaki a girl can eat). Our resident Texan, and my best friend, Aly managed to find a restaurant serving “Mexican” food. The promise of tacos and guacamole? Our group was sold.
Have I given you enough lessons from our time in Santorini yet? Well, here’s another one: beware the group dinner. Our EF group had about 25 people in it, all of whom agreed to go to the Mexican restaurant. We arrived at the restaurant and our split into 2 long tables. Our table ordered margaritas and appetizers which everyone took part in in addition to our entrees. At the end of our meal, the bill comes…cue the Jaws theme song. Europe is pretty well known for not splitting their checks, especially for big groups, so our table began calculating who owed what. I’ll spare you the long version but in short, some people didn’t feel they had to pay for food they had eaten and the table could not agree on what the appropriate tip amount should be. Tears were shed, a fight ensued; it simply wasn’t pretty although as it would turn out, our table fared better than the second, which was short almost $100. This was understandably our last group meal of the trip. So here’s my tip for traveling in large groups: split up at meal time. Even if you eat as a group at the same location, split into smaller tables. Do it; trust me. It’s just not worth the headache.
After dinner, a few of us headed to Fira, a smaller village where the majority of Santorini nightlife can be found. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, Greeks don’t go out at night until after about 2am, so be prepared to either stay up extremely late or be a little let down on your nightlife experience. Another interesting thing we discovered was that all the DJs played the same playlist every night and at every bar. There was very little variation. Even more interesting was that the playlist consisted of top U.S. hits from 2007. Be prepared to hear quite a bit of Beyonce’s Crazy in Love and Black Eyed Pea’s Boom Boom Pow. This isn’t just true of Santorini either; this is true of every island we visited.
The final piece of our Santorini adventure was a visit to the Perissa Black Sand Beach. Its famous black sand is due to thousands of years of volcanic activity. Molten rock from eruptions hardened and eventually broke down due to erosion giving Santorini some of the most unique beaches in the world. Bring your sandals, and don’t take them off here; the black sand is extremely hot, although you might consider it more grey than black. While Perissa is beautiful and a unique experience, my ultimate recommendation is to spend a little more time in some of the villages on the island, especially Oia. There’s so much to see and do on the island that spending a day at the beach almost felt like a waste. If you’ve got the time, go for it! But if you’ve only got a few days in Santorini like me, I genuinely believe your time is better spent elsewhere.
If you’ve made it this far, you can obviously tell that our time in Santorini was jam packed. We accomplished a lot in just three short days. I hope that my experience gives you plenty of pointers on what to do and what not to do. Travel is always a learning experience and that’s how we grow; it’s not from seeing a famous painting or climbing the Eiffel Tower; it’s from experiencing good and bad things and learning from them.
Have you been to Santorini? I want to hear about it! Comment below!