I’ll be honest – Santorini was a surprise. I ended up there (almost) by chance. I found a cheap connection to Sicily after a month in Crete, but before booking the flight I was a bit hesitant. Would it be too expensive for my standards? Too touristy and maybe overcrowded?
Its popularity spreads in fact certainly further than the Cyclades group of islands. We are talking about the most visited place in Greece after Athens (for foreigner tourists, not Greek) that ranks among the best 5 islands in the world.
For someone who loves natural, secluded and half-deserted beaches like me, this certainly sounds like a threat.
However, given the price of my flight and because of other logistical reasons, the last week of August I eventually headed there.
I reached the port of Fira after a 3 hours ferry from Heraklion. As soon as I disembarked, SoutheastAsia came to my mind, aka the feeling of arriving at a new place and be overwhelmed by a river of drivers – of any sort – trying to sell any trip – to any place!
I had booked the cheapest accommodation available on the island (22EUR per night in a mixed dorm). I think the price wasn’t even that bad as it was still August. After having declined all the Greek drivers’ invitations, I hopped on a local bus to head South, direction Perissa, where my hostel was.
The receptionist was patient enough to give me a satisfying overview of the island as soon as I arrived. Despite the fact that Santorini is mainly famous because of its unique sunsets, I soon realized there was something I could have enjoyed very much: hiking 🙂
On that same first day, after a couple of hours wandering around the capital still exhausted from my trip and the heat, I had already changed my mind. I think I had built firm expectations based entirely on everyone else’s perceptions and experience. Santorini it’s not a place I would come back to but I think once it’s worth a visit.
Yes, it’s pricey – but you can still find cheap places to eat. There are supermarkets everywhere if you wanna feed yourself on bread and cheese.
Yes, it’s crowded – especially the capital Fira (every hour of day and night) and Oia (for the sunset). I found even Perissa busy, and it’s not supposed to be touristy, but it was the end of August, still high season. If you can go in May or October, probably you can have a different perspective.
These are the two trails I hiked but there’s more to do if you have time. Disclaimer: nature is as stunning as it looks from the pictures 🙂
Hike 1: From PERISSA to ANCIENT THIRA
Duration: from 45′ to 60′
Starting point: From Perissa beach, follow the path up the hill. Hotel Artemis is right before the trail which will start on your right
As soon as I had my proper sleep and breakfast on day 2, I decided to walk the trail which leads to the ancient capital, Thira.
This is an easy walk, it just gets steep pretty quickly. You need the usual, basic stuff like a good pair of shoes (avoid flip-flops, runners are fine), enough water, a hat, some snacks/fruit.
The trail is in good condition. The path is clear and it took me about 3 hours to walk it up, visit the city and then make my way down, but I don’t like rushing.
Once you reach the top of the first half of the mountain, the entrance to the ancient city will be on the right. As of today, the opening times and admissions are every day from 8 till 3pm and the ticket price is 4EUR.
The first spot you will see after the entrance is Artemidoros altar which overlooks the city of Kamari, placed right opposite Perissa.
In Ancient Greece, the agora was the center of all commercial and public activities, where citizens used to gather on a daily basis). Ancient Thira had three, named south, middle and north agora because of the position. The south side was dedicated to the cult of Athena and Zeus, while the north to Dyonisus, where also his temple was built.
The descent was pretty smooth 🙂
Hike 2: From THIRA (FIRA) to OIA
Duration: from 3hours to 5hours
Starting point: Fira city
My first day on the island, I took a local bus from Perissa to Fira and as usual, without knowing where I was going, I found myself walking alongside the coast. I literally couldn’t stop taking pictures. The more I was walking, the more I was stunned by the view.
It wasn’t just beautiful… it was beautiful in every way! Every shade of blue of the water, the sky about to change colour because of the sunset, oleander and fig trees popping out from gardens. After 3 hours of this scenery, I truly couldn’t care much about the crowd of noisy tourists, I was simply in love!
The day before leaving the island, I decided to do this long hike. I had already watched the sunset in Oia (= wrestled among the mass of tourists?) and one time through that huge crowd walking the tiny streets of the village, it was enough.
I started my hike at about 3 pm.
The shape of the island is peculiar and as you keep on walking you’ll see it changing together with the different villages which are between Fira and Oia.
Even though the direction is pretty clear (you have to keep walking always straight/going up), 3 times I also found hiking signs, just in case if you get lost taking pictures.
In fairness, what I did not like was the ridiculous amount of luxury accommodation, swimming pools and stuff that disfigure the coast. I am not saying I would refuse if someone would pay me a night in a room with a swimming pool overlooking the sea, of course…
…but are all these constructions really necessary?
For no special reason (or maybe for obvious reasons), the below pictures are my favourite.
This is how the trail looks outside the towns:
Why you do the things you do? Well, by looking at what comes next, you’ll probably get one of the reasons of this hike 🙂 Golden hour reward!
When I was about to catch my flight, I could picture myself hopping for the other less touristic, tiny, (hopefully) forgotten islands of the Cyclades. I always love when I find by chance the very small things that make a place, a country or its people, unforgettable.