Santorini is the least likely place I would imagine I’d fall in love. I am neither a beach person nor an island hopper. Give me lush greens, mountains, forests and I will be a happy camper (pun intended). That said, this summer, in the name of spending time with my family, I spent four months in a beach town in Turkey. So much for being a mountain person… It was a lovely time, albeit as it is in most beach towns, it was a hedonistic lifestyle. There is nothing wrong with being a little carefree, yes? But, you can sit only so much on a lounge chair by the Aegean Sea, so I needed to move, and I took a little trip over to nearby Greek Islands for a change of pace.
From Bodrum, where I was in Turkey, to Kos, a Greek island, is only a 40-minute ferry ride. You don’t even need to book a ticket in advance, you can just show up at the Bodrum port in the morning around 8:30 am, and you will easily secure a spot in one of the ferries that leave around 9 am for Kos. There is an airport in Santorini as well, and there are a lot of daily flights in and out of Santorini.
Going to Santorini from Kos is another thing, though. First, finding the best way to look for ferries was a job itself. Funny enough, the resources for the ferry services is confusing. A lot of information is available, but if you have limited time and are ambitious to see as several islands in one trip, you really need to study prior to your trip and make a detailed itinerary. Otherwise, you will waste your time hanging out in islands that you have no interest in, or spend too much time in one place waiting for the next ferry service.
Luckily, we weren’t in a rush, or ambitious. Frankly, I wasn’t too curious about seeing many of the Greek islands, but I wanted to see Santorini. As the quintessential Greek Island, it had it all… Gorgeous landscape and architecture, the spectacular sunset, ancient sites, good food and wine, and more. So that’s what we did, decided to spend four days there.
Santorini is one of the Cyclades islands in the Southern Aegean Sea, so the ferry service from Kos to Santorini is only a few times a week. The Greek Travel Pages was the most updated and organized website for the ferry schedules I came across, and I arranged our travel dates following the schedule there. Once we got to Kos that morning, it took us 5 minutes to buy a ferry ticket to Santorini, leaving in the afternoon of the same day. The ferry ride is comfortable, but it arrives in Santorini at midnight. You don’t have a lot of choices at that hour. The port is very far from the center, and you need a vehicle to go to the center. So it is basically either hiring a taxi or getting on a bus with other people if you don’t have a ride already planned. We took the bus, and it was simple and affordable.
There are two main towns in Santorini – Fira and Oia. Fira is the more low key and affordable one, and Oia is the one with luxury hotels and that gorgeous sunset we see on all photos. We preferred Fira and I really liked the vibe.
Locals are very friendly. I’ve found out that most of the people on the island work seven days during high-season because that’s the only time they can find any work at all. They say in winter they have nothing to do, so a lot of them go to Athens for work or study. It sounds like a difficult lifestyle. By the way, I was so surprised to hear that Turkish soap operas were so popular in Greece, more than a few people mentioned characters and storylines (sadly I had no knowledge of them as I lived outside of Turkey for a long long time).
It is a small island, so spending three nights on the island is plenty. You will get to see the beaches (Black and Red Beach especially), make a day trip to the volcano, visit the ancient Akrotiri site and a couple of authentic villages, admire the whitewashed cubic houses and gorgeous architecture, indulge in the excellent food and watch the glorious sunset every night sipping local wine.
Food is scrumptious in Santorini. We had a lot of fish, fresh vegetables and fruits, yogurt, cheese and delicious olive oil everywhere. Local wine is pretty good. Although I wasn’t a fan of their Vin Santo (similar to neighboring Italy’s Vinsanto), I was quite impressed with their local brew, Yellow Donkey. I would have to say that there are a lot of similarities between the Greek and Turkish cuisines, so I like it already. But, my highlight would be breakfast pastries we had in a little bakery and the frozen yogurt in Kos. This coming summer, I will most certainly take a day trip over to Kos and have that frozen yogurt again (yep, it was that good).
As for transportation, you can rent a car, an ATV – which seems to be very popular amongst younger visitors, or a Vespa type bike. Roads are well-kept, and directions are easy to follow. There is also public bus service, which we took advantage of.
What made me fall in love with this little island was the harmony of the blue and white, whitewashed cubic houses and smooth thick masonry walls, narrow pebble paths, steep stairs, unusual colors of bougainvillea, and small yet charming churches…
I hope to go back to Santorini for a couple of days during the off-season. I think it would be even lovelier to spend time when there are less people.