Fira, as you might know, is the capital of Santorini, the most spectacular of all the Greek islands, and arguably the most historically fascinating isle to be found in the Aegean Sea. This mythical piece of ancient beauty is located about 120 miles southeast of Athens, smack dab in the middle of the incredibly lovely Aegean, which offers some wonderful diving and snorkeling opportunities. If you look on a map, you will notice that the island is crescent-shaped, and therein lies an intriguing tale of wonder….. Way back in 1646 B.C., the island’s volcano exploded, blowing out half the mainland and creating a huge caldera, which eventually filled with sea water. The explosion was more powerful than a pack of Black Cat firecrackers, and subsequently caused a HUGE tidal wave that landed on Crete (ninety miles to the south) and instantly destroyed the Minoan Civilization.
Crete has since re-built, and so has what’s left of Santorini. Nowadays the island attracts a lot of tourists (many of whom are Cretins in their own right!) but somehow it manages to maintain its allure. Last year, Santorini welcomed about 1.5 million visitors, and the number keeps growing each season. (So try to get there while there’s still some charm left) This was my third visit, and even though it was a little crowded, we still found much to admire.
We got an early start and took the cable car up to Fira (you have to take a cable car, a donkey, or a VERY long walk to reach the top of the Caldera) and then we rented a vehicle so that we could explore the island with our special guests. (My youngest daughter and her new husband!) Santorini is a small island, roughly 37 square miles in size, and easy to explore. Not counting honeymooners, the population hovers around 7,000 inhabitants. I noticed that most of the locals are Greek. (Duh!)
There is plenty to do and see on this island, but the most amazing site is the Ancient City of Akrotiri (recently excavated) and the adjacent Prehistoric Museum. The museum is beyond cool. The Greek government wisely constructed a permanent roof over the entire village, so visitors can stroll through and around the actual streets that were used prior to the volcanic eruption. This is up close and personal archaeology, which I love, and couldn’t get enough of. (Only a tantalizing Greek lunch pulled me away!)
By the way, a word about those beaches… keep in mind that you will be walking on the remnants of a still-active volcano, which means little sand and lots of pebbles. Water shoes are a MUST-HAVE item, and so is some serious sunscreen. We drove to my favorite beach, the Perissa Black Sand Beach, but there are many others to choose from, and they’re all lovely. Pick one, rent a sun bed and umbrella, and then find a taverna that looks appealing. (The sun beds are free if you eat lunch or dinner at the taverna!) You will thank me later. Seriously.
Incidentally, as if a day in Santorini isn’t spectacular enough, our sailing vessel hosted an outdoor feast while we were anchored below the town of Fira. When the sun goes down in the Aegean, and you’re sipping some good Greek wine, you will think you’ve died and gone to heaven. Really, it’s that beautiful. (If you scroll down you will find some photographic evidence to support my claim.)
Next week I will be reporting from the magical town of Monemvasia, Greece, so please clear your calendar and prepare for another enthralling adventure. (This place was also mind-boggling) Before I depart, allow me to publicly thank the Princess of Portugal (and Baron Lee) for hosting last night’s gala birthday party. As usual, the food and drink were superb, and fairly priced. We had a marvelous time, and feel very lucky to have such wonderful and generous friends. (Which includes the “Terrific Talbott’s” and Sweet Sue, the hanging judge.)
Well, time to eat breakfast (photo attached!) so I shall take my leave and hope to meet again next Sunday. Please have a safe and superfluous week!
Love to all,
Thank you for sharing your travels… pictures are amazing! Safe journey
Especially enjoyed this column! We’ve been to Athens a few times and many of the Greek Islands, but never Santorini. And now I feel like I’ve been there, too, with your great descriptions and pictures. Thanks,Mimi and Jerry Klein (fellow cruisers on Oceania two years ago. Also played Mah Jongg with your wife).