My First Visit To Greece: Soaking In The Splendors of Santorini

life after 50, boomer travel, over 50Now that the weekend was behind us and we had experienced city life in Athens, it was time to spend a week soaking in the splendors of Santorini. My first trip to Greece with my sister N and daughter A was about to get even better.

We packed our bags and headed for the Athens airport for a short flight aboard Aegean Air to Santorini. (Note 1: You can also take a ferry ride to Santorini but a friend recommended flying as a quicker and calmer option. Note 2: It is cheaper to book your luggage fee online before you get to the airport.) Upon landing, our transport was waiting to drive us to Nicoletta’s Loukia Cave House, our Airbnb booking, high up on the hill in Oia. OIa is at the northern tip and one of the most popular and picturesque villages on Santorini’s 15-mile-long main island.

Santorini; Oia; Greece

The Loukia Cave House was perfect for the three of us and could have fit up to six. The house had everything we needed for seven glorious days in Oia – comfortable beds, hot water for showers (as long as you remembered to turn the hot water on before you showered), a kitchen for cooking, a patio for sunbathing, and daily maid service.

Santorini; Oia; Loukia Cave House; Greece

Loukia Cave House; Santorini; Oia; GreeceOne BIG thing to remember in Santorini is that toilet paper must not be thrown in the toilet – it must go in the trash. The sewer system throughout the island is not very advanced. That’s why you need the daily maid service. Got it?

Exploring Oia
Not wanting to stay inside while the sun was shining, we lathered on sunscreen, put on our hats and visors, and ventured out to explore all that Oia has to offer. Despite the crowds of tourists from multiple cruise ships, we managed to find our way to the town center to scope out the shops and restaurants and bask in our spectacular surroundings.

 

Santorini; Oia; Greece;

According to travel writer Rick Steves, “Santorini is one of the Mediterranean’s most dramatic islands: a flooded caldera (a collapsed volcanic crater) with a long, steep, multicolored arc of cliffs, thrusting up a thousand feet above sea level…Perched along the ridgeline is a gaggle of perfectly placed whitewashed villages punctuated with azure domes that make this, undeniably, one of Greece’s most scenic spots.”

Santorini; Oia; Greece

Santorini; Oia; Greece

It was so beautiful that I wished I could have put my iPhone on auto-pilot so it would have been ready to point and click at a moment’s notice. “Ooh, ah, ooh, ah, it’s so breathtaking,” I’d find myself constantly saying. I also wished I had a wide-angled lens to capture the breadth of visual impact. (This is why dear readers you must book a trip and go see Santorini close up.)

Santorini; Oia; Greece

Greek Food At It’s Best
Did I say I love Greek food?

I do. I do.

And dine on Greek food, we did, we did. 

Our first lunch was at Lotza, close to the entrance to the village, with a gorgeous caldera view. We shared Greek salad, Spanokopita, and Shrimp Saganaki along with a spicy feta dip and crusty bread.

Santorini; Oia; Greece; Shrimp Saganaki; Lotza Restaurant in Oia

Thankfully A had made our dinner reservations in advance of arrival. “We’re going to Laokasti,” said A. “It has a very good rating on TripAdvisor.” We enjoyed grilled octopus to start and I ordered a traditional roasted lamb shank and potato dish for my entree. Yum, yum, yum!

Santorini; Oia; Greece; Greek food; Greek Lamb Shank; Laokasti Restaurant in Oia; foodie

Hiking From Fira to Oia
On Tuesday, after a restful night and Greek coffee for breakfast, we hopped on the local bus to Fira, the capital of Santorini. One of the popular things to do is to hike between the two villages – either from Oia to Fira or as we did, from Fira to Oia. The views are amazing.

Santorini; Oia; Greece; hike from Fira to Oia

I will tell you that this 3-4 hours (yes, I said 3-4 hours) hike is not for the faint of heart. Go earliy morning to avoid the heat. And bring lots, and lots, and lots, and lots of water. And wear hiking boots or shoes or sneakers that have a good grip.

Leaving Fira at 11:00 a.m. (not as early as we should have left), the hike seemed like it would be long, but not too demanding. There were cobblestone streets with a defined path. It was the second half through the mountains where the terrain got more uneven and dusty and the sun heated up.

Santorini; Oia; Greece; hike from Fira to Oia

Having finished our water bottles, we stopped at the donkey stand at the half-way mark to fill our backpacks with more liquids. Should we climb on a donkey and let him or her carry us the rest of the way to Oia? No, no, no. We were three adventurers – or so we thought.

Santorini; Oia; Greece; hike from Fira to Oia

Our feet were tired. Our clothes were drenched with sweat. Would we make it back to Oia? We were high up on the cliffside – there was no turning back. With about 4 miles completed and only 1 more to go, we huffed and we puffed.

Santorini; Oia; Greece; hike from Fira to Oia

We huffed and we puffed some more.

We huffed and we puffed a whole lot more. 

The clock struck 14:00 (2:00 p.m.) and we touched down in OIa.

We did it! Yes, we did it! 

Greece; Athens; travel; Santoriini; Oia

Exhausted and ready for lunch, we thoroughly enjoyed Greek salad, fried zucchini and Tzatziki at Cafe Flora.

Santorini; Oia; Greece; Cafe Flora in Oia; Greek Salad; Greek food

More To Come
“Once you set foot on the island you will never want to leave,” said Nicoletta’s daughter Christina. She was right. Tomorrow and later in the week we would unlock more Santorini secrets, including a food and wine tour around the island, a day trip to the black beach, and a sunset catamaran cruise on the Aegean Sea.

Santorini; Oia; Greece

Judi

P.S. In case you missed my earlier posts about my stay in Athens, check them out below:

My First Trip To Greece: The Amazing Old World of Athens
My First Trip To Greece: Climbing To The Top Of The Acropolis

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14 thoughts on “My First Visit To Greece: Soaking In The Splendors of Santorini

  1. What a wonderful trip with glorious photos! I particularly like the photo of the bright blue and white dome and of the view from your bedroom. The colors in and of themselves are a huge lure. I would love to go there one day… maybe in off season. The photo of the all the tourists from the cruise boat is a bit off-putting. But thats because I hate getting stuck in a mob of sightseers. They are easy to “drop” in most places, I wonder if the same is true in such a small place as this. Their boat leaves eventually, I guess. HA! Well done on the hike!Peta

    • Peta, there are a lot of tourists during the summer months. Maybe try a fall or spring visit when it is less busy. However, you can get around the island most of the time.

  2. Lovely post. We haven’t been to Greece and you have put that to the top of my list again. Loved the story of your hike. We spent months in the Azores in 2014 did day hikes on 7 of the 9 islands. I strongly recommend that for one of your trips.

  3. Your post certainly brings back wonderful memories, Judi. My husband and I spent my birthday and our 1st anniversary in Greece back in 1996 and loved it! We took the ferry from Athens to Santorini and quite enjoyed it as you stop at several islands enroute. We stayed at the black sand beach and loved that, too. Would love to go back!

  4. The Loukia Cave House and a week in Santorini would be lovely and your pics have made me want to hop on a plane as it’s a cold wintery day here in Perth, Australia.

    • Jo, I’m sure it’s chilly in Australia now. I was there when it was summer and winter in the USA. Definitely time to plan a trip to Greece.

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