Cruise Stop 3: Santorini, Greece

If you’ve ever seen The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants movies, you’ve probably dreamed of going to Santorini. At least that was when my sister and I first fell in love with the island, and as I grew up and saw photos on Pinterest and other social media, it moved higher and higher up my bucket list until it made it to the top. I think it’s harder to go into a trip with high expectations because what if you’re let down? Santorini was not a let down. It was as beautiful as I imagined it, but I still have mixed reviews.

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Arriving in Santorini. The white at the tops of the cliffs is the town of Fira.

Remember how in my previous post I said Corfu is really green? Santorini is the exact opposite. I don’t think I saw a plant growing on its own with the exception of maybe a few cacti. The entire island is an active volcano, which is actually pretty cool as long as you’re not expecting some tropical paradise, because if you want a nice beach vacation, you’ve come to the wrong spot. The landscape is all rock and not very scenic between the two main towns, which only cover a small percentage of the island (raise your hand if you were also under the impression that the whole island was just one big town). It was quite comparable to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands: completely barren with the exception of a few classic white houses scattered here and there. But once in town, it’s easy to forget how desolate the rest of the island is because the atmosphere is so lively.

This was another port where we spent so much time just getting off the ship. Luckily we had eight hours…we needed it. First, tenders took us to a small port, where we then had to make our way up to Fira, which sat high on the rock. We had two options to get up the hill: donkey ride or cable car. Though I would have loved to ride a donkey like Lena Kaligaris did in The Sisterhood, we had booked another private guide who we were rushed to meet so we opted for the cable car. Okay two common themes on this trip: cats and rushing. That’s the problem with a cruise, especially when you’re a type-A personality like me.

Marcos was waiting for us when we got off the cable car and we immediately set off through the maze of streets and tourists in Fira. So many tourists. It didn’t help that there were four cruise ships docked there at once and we didn’t arrive until 3 p.m. I was glad to be leaving the crowds of Fira as we headed to Oía.

Now, if you’ve seen a picture of Santorini with the blue-domed churches and white houses, it was most likely Oía, a town on the northern tip of the island. I was so pumped to finally be there but felt overwhelmed quickly. There were even more tourists in Oía than in Fira, which made it really hard to appreciate. Picture the sidewalks of New York City at Christmas time but narrower—only about five to six feet wide—and it was 80 degrees outside. At times, all foot traffic just stopped and you couldn’t go anywhere. I couldn’t even stop to pet a cat without being trampled or immediately losing my family. We waited in lines at nearly every viewpoint to take pictures. I got some delicious baklava from a bakery our tour guide recommended and then it was time to go.

After our hectic hour in Oía, Marcos drove us to a family-owned farm/winery on the south side of the island. Their method of growing grapes is the same as that of Lanzarote, where the vines are in circular pits in the ground. At the farm’s shop, we got to sample the wines, and more importantly, some tasty foods like tapenade, fava bean paste and goat cheese. Finally I got to try some Greek food!

I got to try even more Greek food when Marcos dropped us off back in Fira for the night. We were so hungry for dinner and still had some time before we had to be back on the ship, so we stopped at a gyro stand. They cost only about €2 a piece and were so satisfying! I don’t know why it took me this long to recognize the beauty of gyros.

I am extremely grateful I got to cross Santorini off my bucket list. Based solely on appearance, Oía was the most beautiful town I’ve ever seen. I wish the crowds didn’t damage the experience for me, but at least now I can say I’ve been and know that I never need to go back. There’s a great deal of satisfaction in that.

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