Santorini Greece Review - A Heavenly Experience

From the ship, the white houses look like snow


Santorini was the perfect ending to a wonderful visit to Greece. It was like a luscous dessert, a cake with white frosting. Arriving by air, (By ferry from Symi to Rhodes and Rhodes to Athens and Athens to Santori)  we were picked up by Cristos and delivered to the Aroma Suites in Fira, where we stayed in a cave.  On the way Cristos asked where we were coming from and he was surprised to learn we had been to Symi. Santorini, he explained, is just the opposite, one could say the polar opposite of Symi.  One difference is that Symi is part of the Dodecanese Islands while Santorini belongs to the Cyclades Islands and that is just the beginning.

Symi’s hills were rocky and barren.  Its communities are scattered around the harbor and in the hills.  Santorini’s communities are startling, clustered high on what seems like a mountain that goes straight up and reveals the evidence of earthquakes and volcanoes in the soil that is layered in color and texture.  At the top, houses are mostly white with a little blue.  Looking at the homes from the water, I had to remind myself that what appeared to be snow on the top were really homes.  This island is small and beautiful.  It is lush and green and fascinating.

Our "cave" room


When we entered our “cave”, we just couldn’t believe our eyes.  It was large and beautiful and there was a sound quality that was unusual.  We loved it. Walking further back we saw a curtained bed and dressing table and through an opening (not really a doorway) was the largest hot tub we had ever seen in a private area.  There was also a wonderful stall shower and sink and a toilet in a closed off space.  But it was the lighting and the colors that were simply remarkable and magical.  We were surely in another world.

The largest hot tub we had seen in a private location


As we learned more about where we were staying, we were even more delighted.  From the balcony a few steps outside our room, the view was spectacular.  We also learned that we could walk to some wonderful restaurants, to an area for shopping that included anything we could want.  There was a shop I especially liked that sold beads, loose and as necklaces and other jewelry and the balls made from ash and coral were fascinating.


The staff at Aroma Suites, Manager/Owner Kafouros Fanes, Cristos and Jessica, treated us like royalty. Drinks were offered with the room and when we requested one they were delivered  at our request either to our room, the balcony, or the rooftop viewing sight.  When we ordered breakfast, we were rewarded with a huge tray filled with lovely breakfast fare including huge cups of delicious coffee, yogurt and honey, wonderful bread and eggs and ham, fruit juice and more.

They were also travel agents and tour guides. Jesika suggested that we take a sunset tour run by Dakoutros Travel.  We listened to her and our experience was unforgettable.  A bit more about that later.  Cristos kindly put on his “tour guide hat” to show us parts of the island we had not seen on our last day.

On our own, we visited the Museum of Prehistoric Thera, which was a short walk from our “cave”.  It was an amazing experience. We saw the finds from the excavations at Akrotiri, conducted under the auspices of the Archaeological Society at Athens, the earlier excavations at Potamos made by members of the German Archaeological Institute at Athens, and rescue excavations at various other sites on the island, which were carried out by the 21st Ephorate of Antiquities for the Cyclades and Samos.

Looking like a modern table, only 1700 BC at the Museum of Prehistoric Thera


We could not believe how modern everything was.  It seemed you could buy the cookware and furniture today. Noteworthy among the numerous exhibits from the period when the city at Akrotiri was at its zenith (17th century BC) are the plaster casts of furniture, the household equipment, the bronze vessels, tools and weapons, the objects that bear witness to the practice of metalworking, the sealings, seals and Linear A tablets.

Surprising find, bronze figure displayed at the Museum of Prehistoric Thera


The magnificent wall painting ensembles (wall painting of Ladies and Papyri, wall painting of the Blue Monkeys) and fragments of others (the African, Adorant Monkeys, Bird, floral motifs) were incredible. These figures indicated there had been trade with other parts of the world.

The figures on the wallcovering in the Museum of Prehistoric Thera indicate trade, possibly with India


On the day we took a sunset cruise, it was an easy walk to the cable car passing shops of all kinds. To reach water level and the dock we had three choices; the staircase which has been used for thousands of years, riding a donkey or cable car which proved to be a spectacular ride.

Looking out at Fira from a cafe near the cable car with the steps below


Once at the dock, we explored the souvenier shops and watched the ships and cruisers approaching the dock.  Before long, our guide, Stella, gathered our group and lead us onto a "pirate ship" with huge sails named "Thalossa".

The "pirate ship" moves toward the dock


We were thrilled with the 5 hour sunset cruise beginning with the beauty of the ship and its tall sails.  It had been our fantasy to ride on this kind of ship.  We left the dock and soon were approaching the crater of the volcano, where those interested could walk to the summit. Our guide, Stella, lead the way weaving a story including the history and geology of the various places along the way where there was evidence of volcano eruption and earthquakes.  Ten year old Daniel from Shanghai, China walked along with me on the hour trek up and back.

Climbing to the volcano's summit, Stella, our guide and Daniel from China


Soon after a tired and hot group re-boarded the ship, there was another stop where hearty, strong swimmers could dive from the ship and swim to the hot springs of the volcano.  We watched them arrive at the springs where they waded in the shallow water.

Swimmers heading for the hot springs

From our ship, we could see the doors of cave houses

Oia is at the tip of Santorini, North of Fira and the place that visitors flock to watch the sunset.  One of the attractions of our cruise was the chance to be in the water near Oia as the sun set. As the ship moved into the spot where we would have the best view of the sunset, the motor was turned off, the sails were unfurled and a charming spread of Greek finger food and local wines was served.  There was also Greek music and dancing, fun and energetic.  The passengers from all over the world were very appreciative.

Motors quiet and sails up, we watch the sunset at Oia

The sunset did not disappoint-it was spectacular.  All of us almost gasped as the sun reached the horizon but we were in for an additional treat.  We turned toward Oia and there was a full moon rising over the white houses above.  This is a sight that will remain in our memories.

Moonrise over Oia

Moon rising higher, a spectacular sight

The next day, we had a short time left in which to see more of the island, so Cristos accepted the offer to don his "tour guide" hat and took us to parts of the island we had not seen, the beaches which stretched for miles and miles and was a young peoples paradise, the site which the village of Akrotori was found under twenty five feet of ash, intact.  At our request, we were deposited in Oia, explored the shops and restaurants and enjoyed the fabulous views. Leaving, we found the local bus inexpensive and efficient and we got off at the main bus station in Fira, with a very short walk to the Aroma Suites.

The view from the excavation site

Though several months have passed since our time in Santorini, we remember it with delight as a "heavenly" experience.  And anyone we know who has been there agrees.

Santorini's windmills

 

Museum of Prehistoric Thira
Fira Santorini 847 00 Greece
8.30 - 15.00 (Mon closed)
Tel : +30 22860 23217

Aroma Suites
Fira (Caldera) 847 00
Santorini, Greece
www.aromasuites.gr

Tourist Office
Fira, Santorini R. S. 84700
www.dakoutrostravel.gr


More info:  Santorini.com


Photos: Leon Keer



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