Sailing to Santorini

Sailing to Santorini
Santorini, Greece

Santorini, Greece

Aww… ‘Sailing to Santorini’ sounds kind of romantic doesn’t it? Having to get up at 5am kinda takes the polish off it a little though. Still, could be worse, I could be getting up at 5am to go to work – so really can’t complain. Checked out of the hotel without too much drama and somehow managed to cram the seven of us into two taxis – our driver had great Tetris skills to squeeze four bags into the back of the Skoda.

For a country that has about 6,000 islands (only about 227 of them inhabited), it comes as no surprise that Athens has a huge and bustling port, at Piraeus – about 15 mins from our hotel. Without any fuss at all we found out way onboard, stowed our luggage, and made our way up to ‘business class’. I don’t see any lie-flat seating, but it’s a very nice lounge area, with chairs and tables and plenty of room to move around. We nabbed seats right at the front of the boat, which gave a grand view as we sailed out into the Aegean Sea.

The Ferry (it seems strange calling it a Ferry, such was the size of the thing) made two stops before Santorini: Paros and Naxos. To my untrained eye they both look quite similar – white-rendered buildings clinging to somewhat barren hillsides – but still a beautiful sight.

Seven pleasant hours after we set sail, it was finally time to arrive at Santorini. For the whole journey the water was very calm, the boat very steady, happy to say I didn’t feel at all seasick (would you believe seven hours is the longest I’ve spent on a boat as far as I can remember)

With about ten minutes to go before Santorini we were unceremoniously ushered (or quite possibly chased, it felt more like) out of the Business Class lounge to get ready to depart. I guess the turnaround time are pretty quick because even before wed left there was someone dragging out a vacuum cleaner getting it ready for the next crowd who were boarding at Santorini. We were all sent to what was essentially the hold – the massive open space at the back of the boat where the cars drive in. So our very comfortable and calm cruise ended with about fifteen stifling minutes in this very noisy hold, scrunched in with hundreds of our fellow cattle, er, passengers. It was a bit of an odd way to end such a nice trip. Before too long though the massive ramps lowered and Suddenly there was Santorini ready and waiting for us. So off we all marched, mercifully there weren’t any cattle prods but I was starting to wonder, they were that keen to get us all off the boat as soon as possible.

What we walked into then could only be described as chaos. When thousands of people arrive all at once, they all have to get to their hotels, so there were dozens and dozens of cards and people holding signs – and plenty more people trying to get us to stay with them. This was all in the main street near the port, where huge buses and clumps of suitcase-wielding tourists mingled, with scooters and bikes doing their best to weave around all of them. How people don’t get run over each day, I just don’t know.

Eventually we found our driver, and started the long, steep ascent up the side of the caldera. Gob-smackingly beautiful views were mixed with skilled driving as we slowly wound our way up the hill with all the other vehicles – including a few semi-trailers, goodness knows how they make it up that road at all.

After about 30 minutes we arrived at the hotel, and again before long we were seeing those truly incredible views, but this time from our rooms. Its quite amazing to look out into the caldera, and see the central volcano, and a number of islands, all rising out of the pure blue water … it really is picture-postcard stuff, an “I can’t quite believe this is real” moment. The place we’re staying in is huge – a lounge/kitchen, with separate bedroom, bathroom, and walk in pantry/closet. All that and a little rooftop terrace as well. Can’t complain!

We took a short walk into the town of Thira – once you get past the rough-hewn main road, with minimal footpaths or usually none at all, you enter into a square full of shops and restaurants, with charming laneways running off in many directions – up hill and down dale. Being built effectively on the side of a mountain does make for a lot of ups and downs.

To cut a long story short (because it’s late and I’m tired) there were ‘volcano’ celebrations on for it being the last Sunday in summer. This ultimately consisted of some not-too-exciting fireworks launched from the volcano itself – but the view itself is so spectacular during the daylight hours, it would take a hell of a lot of fireworks to do it justice.

Dinner was incredibly tasty at one of the local restaurants – all fresh, all delicious, and the staff were very patient with some of our intrepid travellers’ shenanigans. (Hopefully they’ll let us come back!).

A bit of a late night sit-by or swim in the pool rounded out he night nicely – looks like our time on Santorini is going to really relaxing, and chock-full of natural beauty.