Travel Throwback is a series of blog posts based on a 10-day Mediterranean cruise that I took with Mike, my mom, and my brother aboard the Celebrity Equinox back in August of 2011. Back then I wasn’t blogging about my travel but luckily I kept a journal and took a LOT of pictures and I can’t wait to share!
August 25, 2011
We finally arrived at one of the most anticipated stops on our cruise-Santorini. Images of the white-washed homes and blue-domed churches are iconic images of Greece and can definitely lead to some major wanderlust, but there is no way they could possibly compare to seeing this stunning island in person. Once you’re gazing out across the caldera at the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean from high on the cliffs of Oia, it’s impossible to think of a more beautiful place in the world.
There is no port on Santorini that is big enough for a cruise ship, so we took a small tender from the ship to the base of the cliff at the main town of Fira. Here you have two options to get to the top-the more modern option being the cable car, the not-so-modern option being the donkey. We opted for the donkey. (You can also walk up the steps that the donkeys use, but navigating through donkey droppings is definitely not the way I’d like to start or end my day on Santorini!) The cliff is very steep and the cobblestone steps aren’t exactly even, so the ride up is a bit of a nail biter. There are high stone walls that line much of the inside of the path and I was a little nervous because I was wearing shorts; bare legs+stone wall does not equal a good time. However, whenever my donkey got a little too close I pushed off the wall with my feet and was able to steer him closer to the center of the path. When my donkey started wandering towards the outside edge of the path I was definitely holding on for dear life, and I may have let out a yelp or two, but the donkeys knew their way and managed to stay steady (most of the time) as we made our way to the top.
Once we made it to the top we were on a mission to get to the small, picturesque town of Oia. We walked 5 minutes to the public bus stop in Fira and boarded a bus that would get us there for €1.60/person. Keeping with one of the themes of this trip, the bus was packed, and when I say packed I mean really packed-like every seat taken and people standing in the aisle packed. Luckily my mom and I were able to grab a couple seats, but Mike and my brother were not quite as fortunate and they were among the standing. The bus wound it’s way along the narrow streets, barely avoiding all the 4-wheelers and mopeds, and after a 25 minute trip through the surrounding countryside we finally made it to Oia. The streets of Oia were just as packed with tourists as the bus, but once we caught the first glimpse of the caldera we realized that the crazy bus ride and all the crowds were well worth these breathtaking views.
We walked along the marble-lined streets of Oia for a few hours, stopping into a few of the many beautiful shops and taking an obscene amount of photos along the way. Around every corner is another amazing photograph waiting to happen, I just couldn’t help myself! Oia is one of the most popular spots on Santorini to watch the sunset, but unfortunately our boat wasn’t sticking around that long so we took in as much as we could before hopping on the bus and heading back to Fira. As with Rhodes, I did some research on TripAdvisor ahead of time and picked out a popular restaurant in Fira called Mama’s House for lunch. Once again we enjoyed a delicious meal of Greek specialties coupled with cold beers and the warm Mediterranean sun! It was also my mom’s birthday so our server brought us a chocolate lava cake to celebrate!
Since it was scary enough coming up the cliffside on the donkeys, we decided it might be best to take the cable car going down. Big downside of the cable car-a longggggg line. Thankfully we had plenty of time to spare before our ship left, but if we had been cutting it close it would have been a pretty stressful situation. The area surrounding the cable car entrance is filled with shops, so I grabbed a couple quick souvenirs as we waited. 45 minutes later we were heading down the cliff (still scary, even in the cable car) and, at least for me, not saying goodbye to Santorini, but saying until we meet again! This was hands down my favorite stop on the cruise and I am intent on making it back very soon!