Santorini & Mykonos: The Pride of Greece


From the culinary flavours and brilliance to the beautiful islands blessed with endless of stunning beaches and picturesque landscapes are the primary reasons why island lovers visit the Greek islands of Santorini and Mykonos. The breathtaking sceneries make you feel like you’re in a living painting.

Santorini is my favourite island and is so easy to fall in love with. The island is simply beautiful. The amazing views of the island never fade day or night. The Caldera, one of the natural wonders of the world, is one of Santorini’s magnets to millions of seasoned travelers from all parts of the world.

On Thursday, 19 May, I took a direct flight to Athens from Dubrovnik. At the airport, I hopped on Bus 95, for EUR 5, to bring me to the city of Athens. As we were approaching to the heart of the city, the driver decided to take a new route as protesters were around the Greek Parliament Office and blocking the main thoroughfare of the city. A number of local passengers decided to get off from the bus to find an alternative ways. Thanas, the bus driver, advised me to remain on the bus since Athens Ledra Marriott, my hub for the night, was relatively close-by to the alternative route he was planning to take. But the alternative route didn’t work out well. Instead, he had to drop me off to the nearest local bus station to catch another bus that will eventually bring me to the hotel. Thanas has instructed me to take the bus, as it is safer than taking a taxi. After patiently waited for 15 minutes, I decided to take a cab and finally made it safe and sound to my hotel after two hours since my arrival time at the airport.

I started off my day on Friday, 20 May, by originally planning out a full-day itinerary. So I went through the list of must see places in Athens. Unfortunately, a busy city like Athens did not appeal me that much. By 2 pm, I had booked my ferry ticket for Santorini, which was scheduled to leave at 7 am the following day. As soon as I purchased my ticket, I decided to spend the rest of the afternoon at the Athenian Acropolis, the world famous acropolis in the world. After spending a good hour of admiring the world’s finest surviving historical monuments, I finished the day with a simple early dinner composed of fish/vegetables at Margetis Stathokosto Restaurant.

I was determined and excited to leave Athens that I felt like a child on her first day at school. I prepped and packed at 5:00 am for a 7 am departure. At 6 am, I left the hotel to catch for my ferry ride from the port of Piraeus.

I didn’t make prior lodging arrangements for my trip to Santorini. I left Athens with no worries and only believing in Lao Tzu’s quote that I came across while in Barcelona – ‘A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.’Taking the challenge of a good traveler is to ride on to the adventure of finding my own way and comfort along the way.

I arrived at the port of Santorini at 11:40 am on Saturday, 21 May.  At the port, I was welcomed by the view of the white cubical houses and blue-domed churches proudly sitting on the hillsides of the island. I went directly to Princess Santorini Tourist Office to inquire for potential lodging. Make sure to take down notes on the information provided to you by the Tourist Office. And don’t make a final decision of where to stay until you are able to negotiate the right rates you want for your lodging. In this situation my intuition dictated me to stay at Kafieris Blue Apartments, a typical white/blue apartment that offers a nice pool with Jacuzzi. The hotel is located in Firostefani, 600 meters from the centre of Fira. Most of the apartment rooms are equipped with a kitchenette. My room was in a loft design, generously offering that extra space.

Rafaela, one of the hotel staff, welcomed me. She was kind enough to help me bring my luggage to my room. As we both struggled to go down the stair steps to carry my heavy luggage, I couldn’t help but to be drawn to the spectacular beauty of the island and the phenomenal panoramic views. To no surprise I didn’t even notice that we already made it at the bottom of the stair steps.

If the view from uphill was inviting, the view from my balcony room was undeniably the best one. After a sumptuous lunch, I spent the afternoon just relaxing at the balcony of my room, enjoying the spectacular view and the splendid surrounding of the island of Santorini.  The place was a real perfect space to have a glass of wine and enjoy a good read of your favorite book.

In the late afternoon I laid on the sun bed, while being entertained by the chirping birds and the Aegean Sea breeze. At 6 pm, the town church bells joined the symphony. The whole place totally gives you that romantic mood that can naturally blow you away.  During my entire stay, I had my door opened (3 steps away from the balcony equipped with a table and 2 chairs) as I didn’t want to miss the magnificent sunset.

Sunset is the most beautiful thing in Santorini that you will ever get to see. I had to pinch myself to be reminded that all this experience isn’t a dream. I had to enjoy the moment!

Sunday, 22 May, was another glorious day in the island of Santorini. During my stay, I had the opportunity to meet new friends: my next-door neighbor, a young couple from Crete and another couple from Wyoming, Jay and Cynthia, who both joined with me for breakfast by the pool deck. The couple was kind enough to invite and offer me a lift for a day trip in their rented car, which is the best and practical way to do if you plan to explore the island.

While driving through the town of Fira, we had to stop in one of the street corners to ask for direction. We approached, Chris, a solo traveler from Brazil, who was at that time attempting to explore the town by foot. Jay graciously invited her to hop in the car to join us for a drive and a lunch at Perissa Beach, a popular beach known for its black sand. It was indeed an interesting afternoon to spend time with my newly found friends from 3 different continents of the world and of different generations.

I spent the rest of my afternoon with Chris whilst the inspiring couple had to head back to Athens by ferry. Chris and I drove back to Fira from the port via a rental automatic car for EUR 25. While arranging our car rental, I received a very flattering remark from the person staffing the rental office. I was questioned if my ID was that of my mom’s. He had to take a closer look to validate that the picture in the ID was me, as he couldn’t match the face and my real age! What an ego-booster statement!

I was the designated driver (and my first driving experience after 10 months) and Chris was the navigator. After a brief cable ride, we headed towards Oia, a buzzing hot spot for the tourists. Oia boasts a fantastic atmosphere and a special charming beauty. Oia is a highly recommendable place if you want to witness the best sunset.

The must see sunset in Oia

The practical way to get there is by car. The road to Oia was interesting. You have to go through winding steep cliffs, reminding me of my challenging bike ride in the city of Barcelona. As we approached the narrow turns and curves, I noticed that the side streets had no railing protection.  I had to be extra cautious with my eyes focused on the road. During this time of the year, it is advisable to get to Oia before 7pm to give you ample time to explore the place. This charming section of Santroini offers arrays of tavernas, museums, boutiques, art shops, charming bars and cafes, and endless hotels settled on the headland cliffs.

Another good recommendation is to dine at the traditional Greek tavern, Naoussa Restaurant, a traditional Greek tavern located in Fira town. They have the best mousaka in here. Although Mama Thira Taverna, located in Firostefani, Is still my favourite. They serve a mouth-watering grilled fish – cooked to perfection.

How I wish I could stay longer in Santorini.

On Monday, 23 May, I boarded Flying Cat for Mykonos. The port was relatively busy and it was not even summer. If you were the type of traveler who does not like the crowd, latter part of May would be a good time to travel in Greece. When taking the ferry, I recommend traveling in business class section. It offers an upper deck comfort with a working table and privacy for an extra EUR 5. Thank goodness, this was the last ferry ride I had to deal with. Ferry rides can be a performance especially if you are carrying an overweight suitcase. At Mykonos, I stayed at Hotel Petinos, a recommended hotel by Jay and Christine. It is the lowest hotel category of the 3 chains (Petinos Beach Hotel and Nissaki). However, it is located on the popular beach of Platis Yialos,with a mini market opposite the hotel.  From Platis Yialos, you have the option of taking a boat ride to visit the nearby islands such as Paradises, Super Paradise, Agrari and Elia. I decided to spend my entire day in one of the islands, the Super Paradise.

The picturesque Little Venice of Mykonos

The rest of the afternoon, I explored Mykonos’ narrow streets and stretches of restaurants, shops, boutiques, cafes, galleries and churches, all built in ‘kyklades’ architectural style. I must say that Mykonos town was able to preserve well the identity of its traditional Cycladic architectural style and character.  I also stopped by at the picturesque Little Venice, one of the most visited sections of the town and a perfect place to enjoy for a nice afternoon drink and delectable dinner.

I left Mykonos on 25 May with an overcast gray sky. Mykonos Airport is only 10 minutes away from my hotel. Istanbul, my next destination was an hour and 50 minutes from Athens via the Aegean Airlines. Take note that Aegean Airlines strictly follows the listed baggage allowance including hand carry.

Stay tuned to the next article – my trip to Turkey: a land of breathtaking natural beauty and landscapes, a destination full of colors, scents, tastes and rich culture and history.

© 2012 by Michelle Riel, retains sole copyright to her contributions to all the contents of this site.

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