From Heraklion (here), we took a ferry (strangely, with a lot of Eastern Europeans) to Santorini for my actual birthday. Santorini is really like no other place.
If you’ve ever seen pictures, it’s likely they’ve stuck with you as it’s so distinctive. Santorini is a crescent shaped island because it’s really what remains of the old island. It used to be far larger, but its curve is the rim of the old island and in the center, the volcano that erupted and washed most of the island into the sea.
What remains then is sheer, black cliff face on one side with bright, white, cave-like, stucco villages built on the precipe like blooming honeycomb. It’s a true, civil engineering feat they’ve pulled off – like the rock-cut architecture you’d see in other famous sites like Jordan’s Petra or the cliff homes of the Ancient Pueblo peoples. On the other side of the crescent are the tapering beaches, which – because of the minerals – include black lava beaches, white stone and red stone beaches.
The ferries pull up to a port at the base of a sheer cliff, so you experience the real majesty of the island right away. Cruises pull into the same side, but are moored out in the bay. The drive up the cliff face, up and over the crescent to the central city is harrowing. Just: don’t look down.
We made our way over to the black beach, Kamari, which would be home for a few nights. We got there right before our (upgraded!) room was ready, so we were told to change into our bathingsuits and relax by the pool so iced juices could be brought to us. Incredible luxury. We stayed at this hotel that I could not more highly recommend: the Anassa Deluxe Suites. It was slightly above our price range, but it was Santorini so that’s unavoidable and my birthday, so yeah. Worth every penny. The staff there floored us with their hospitality.
I’m really glad we stayed in Kamari, because it’s slightly outside of the flurry of tourism in Oia and Fira (Thira) on the other side, and it’s really easy to get back and forth so there’s no reason to stay on that side. Seriously. Our days in Kamari were really slow paced: snacks (mackerel, taramasalata, tapenade, tsatziki, sundried tomato bread, etc), walks, cocktails, seafood, sunsets, breakfast by the pool…
On my birthday we spend the day until the eveningtime in Kamari, then made our way over to Oia for the famous sunsets.
The sky in Greece seems to truly have a different atmosphere. The blues are different; more intense. And the sunset seemed like it hovered and had a different atmospheric refraction. I don’t know how else to describe it, but it was like watching the sun set from another vantage (another planet?).
We then descended the hundreds and hundreds of steps down to the foot of the cliff to a tiny corner called Ammoudi for a birthday sea bream feast at Katina.
Heaven help me. You wander into the kitchen where they have all their fish whole on ice behind glass and you can only pick whole fish and only what they’ve caught fresh that day. Ours was huge (1.5 kilos!) but truly great.
Also truly great: frozen Snickers icecream bars in lieu of birthday cake.
The next morning we got up to ferry over to Naxos (here) and as we had to get up early to time it right, we were going to have to miss the breakfast buffet, but those sweethearts! Grilled us toasties and gave us little foiled breakfast packs with pain au chocolate and breakfast sandwiches for the road. Incredible.