Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Our Heavenly Hellenic Honeymoon: Part Two: Santorini

Santorini is the stuff dreams are made of. Welcome to the romance novel of our honeymoon adventure. Every view was the greatest, every excursion was the best, and every meal was the most expensive! 
Thira, as it was originally called, holds a small sought out chapel named Saint Irene near Perissa Beach. Over time accents led to the misunderstanding, and the island of Saint Irene Chapel came to be known as Santorini.

Quick Tip: Although you can drink from the tap in Athens, you can only drink bottled water on the islands. Budget extra money for buying a few large bottles of water daily. You will be charged by the bottle for all water ordered in restaurants. The same goes for bread. If you are offered bread at a restaurant, it is not complimentary. You will see a charge on the bill ;-)


For our Santorini stay we chose against the extravagant and modern resort hotels in favor of a traditional cave dwelling.

The Zoe-Aegeas Traditional House booked through Booking.com was one of the highlights of our trip. We booked the studio. The coziness of the inside was the perfect contrast to the expansive view from our private balcony. We chose to stay in Oia, which is literally the place on the Greek postcards, so we knew this would be pricey. But for the location, which is the pedestrian and donkey only area of this highly commercial island, this place was a steal and far more unique and authentic than many of the surrounding luxury hotels.

The property owner, Zak was one of our favorite people that we met across our honeymoon. He greeted us every morning with fresh breakfast cakes made by his wife. We took every dining suggestion he made and did not regret it! Among these suggestions was a beautiful garden restaurant with live Greek music just off the main drag in Oia called Candouni. It may have been the only occassion that we did not dine outside, but the ambiance, music and delicious traditional Greek food were well worth the change from our Caldera views.

Quick Tip: If your hotel offers you a transfer from the Port of Thira to or from your hotel or BNB TAKE IT! We did not realize how difficult, stressful and chaotic getting a transfer to our hotel from the port was and thought we could get "cheaper rate." Anything that you can pre-book in the 30-40 euro range for a direct transfer, accept. We paid only 25 euro for our transfer up, but Oia is on the farthest point from the port. It took over an hour to get up a nauseating mountain on our mini-bus, and we were the final stop after making stops in pretty much every town for other riders.

Must Dos in Oia, Santorini

Caldera Massage Studios

If you splurge on a single thing in Santorini, make a sunset massage reservation at Caldera Massages Studio. There are only two sunset packages per day. Following your INCREDIBLE massage services in the most calming cave you will ever enter, you will then SHOWER in said cave.

You will then be given one of two private terraces with champagne, treats, and chocolates to watch the sunset from one of the best view points in Oia.

Atlantis Books

We stopped into many of the boutique shops, mostly for browsing. We couldn't help making several stops and purchases at Atlantis Books. It is aesthetically stunning, and also brings cave-like charm to your book browsing experience.

Ammoudi Bay
If you don't mind the smell and actively dodging donkey-poop, head on the down 214 steps (nothing compared to walking up the 587 stairs from Fira to the old port) to Ammoudi Bay to Ammoudi Fish Tavern for the freshest and fullest portions of fish you've ever seen.

Also, the view isn't terrible....

Ok, so it will be expensive here. Daily breakfast alone was 40-50 euros for two, which is about the same price as most of our lunches and dinners. We mentioned two of our favorite restaurants above, but one of our favorite places for breakfast, fresh fruit and honey, juice and coffee was Meteor Cafe. Not too pricey, and if you sit inside, you will have a lovely ocean view and breeze!

Quick Tip:  You can save over 10 euro a meal if you don't order fresh juices and freddo espresso with every breakfast...as we did.

Andronis Boutique Exclusive Hotel is the home of a Lycabettus Restaurant (named for Lycabettus Hill in Athens). For a small mortgage payment, you can sit suspended on a cliff over the Caldera with an incredible view of Oia as the sun sets. Ok, so it's not a mortgage payment, but be warned that in order to dine here as someone staying outside the hotel, you must select between two tasting menus that will run you over $200/person (there is a third that comes with a wine pairing, a Sommelier, and the pictured pink chairs...this one is too expensive to disclose).

In order to reserve a table in this exclusive area you must also put down a deposit. It was an incredibly special experience and probably not one we will be able to partake in on any other occasion. The service was so intimate and personalized that we were not sure how to handle it at points- we felt like royalty here! Very much worth the one time splurge!

Santorini Sunset  Dinner Cruise, Hot Springs and Nea Kameni
This excursion booked through Trip Advisor and hosted by Notos Travel was a packed 9 hour day, but still somehow relaxing. After making the terrifying journey back down the winding cliff to port, we boarded a beautiful boat and headed to the active volcano Nea Kameni (Newly Burnt).

This hike would be challenging for some, particularly in the heat. What was most enjoyable about this portion of the excursion was putting into perspective the magnitude of the Minoan volcanic eruption that formed Santorini over 3,000 years ago!

Lenni was forced to submerge herself fully in water and swim 100 meters to the hot springs, after 15 years of never entering water past her shins. But fear not fellow sea-fearing humans! Unlike the murky Cape Cod waters, the water here is startlingly clear with not a fish in sight. While the hot springs are not all that hot, it was definitely a stunning backdrop for a relaxing soak.

The final few hours were spent on-board celebrating the beautiful sunset in the middle of the caldera (people actually applaud for the beautiful sunsets), eating traditional Greek food, and sharing wine with other boat passengers. The evening culminated in a rousing traditional Greek dance before heading back to port. This was when Lenni had her "I am Greek" emotionally epiphany.

Akrotiri, Black Sands of Perissa Beach and Santos Winery

Another long day booked through Trip Advisor, hosted by Notos Travel , but a MUST DO for the history nerds. Akrotiri is the excavation site of an ancient city that was covered in ash following the Minoan eruption over 3,000 years ago. This site was closed for 7 years following a deadly roof cave-in in 2005. Unfortunately, there is currrently no money for furthering the excavation of the estimated 3% of this city that has been uncovered to date. Our tour guide, Katie (proudly of Cretan descent) was passionate and engaging in her expert lecturing on the site.

We were then bused over the a tiny, beautiful, traditional town named Megalochori. We walked the length of this quaint and sleepy town in 10 minutes. It was fascinating to see daily life outside of the tourist realm. The truth is, the locals barely come in the summer heat because there is no reason to leave home! In Megalochori there seemed to be more churches than people and just a few adorable restaurants. However slow, this town offered a completely different experience in our understanding of authentic life on the Greek Isles.

Our next stop was a beachfront bite and a dip at Perissa Beach. The black volcanic sand is just another feature synonymous with the island's history.

Quick Tip: Do not walk barefoot on this sand...bring your sandals close to the water line. It is scalding hot!

We made one quick stop to the highest point in Santorini for a view of the entire island. Although there was some vertigo involved, the view was once in a lifetime!

We made one last pit stop at Santos Winery where we met a lovely couple from Texas who were following a similar vacation path to ours. It was awesome to kick-back during the short wine tasting and compare experiences while taking in yet another glorious view!

Quick Tip: Wine lovers should set up a full tasting around sunset independently of this tour!

We fell so in love with Santorini. Its history is as mesmerizing as it is mysterious, and this mystery certainly creates an impression on the soul that will be remembered over and over in the course of a lifetime. Santorini, we will meet again....

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