Return to Greece, 2016. Part Four: Santorini, Heaven on Earth

This is the fourth post in a series about my trip to Greece, June 30-July 20, 2016 — an amazing journey of history, family and discovery. Previous posts can be found here.

Approaching Santorini by ferry, my first thought was, “What beautiful snow-capped mountains!” Wrong! These were not mountains, but pure white buildings perched on top of this unique volcanic island.

Santorini 1a by water

How can I possibly describe Santorini? It is truly a paradise — heaven on earth. Pristine. Breathtakingly beautiful. A feast for the eyes. There really are not sufficient adjectives! Seeing the pure white buildings and bold blue church domes against the barren mountains and blue, blue sea brings delight to the eyes and the soul.

Our first introduction was the drive up the mountain from the port, (I brought my rental car). We saw amazing views and photo op at every switchback mountain curve. Just when you think you can’t see anything more spectacular, the road turns and you are swept into yet another picture-perfect scene. The blue and white pallet is punctuated by brilliant flowers.

Hilltop view, Santorini, July 2016

Hilltop view of Fira, Santorini, July 2016

Santorini 49

Brilliant flowers bring a splash of color to the white and blue pallet

Me in Santorini! July 2016

Me in Santorini! July 2016

When we arrived at our accommodations, I couldn’t believe my eyes. This was a resort hotel and spa with three pools, clubhouses, and lovely bungalow rooms. And it was half the price of other hotels on the island!

Santorini hotel 07-03

There are over 450 churches in Santorini. An entire book could be written on them. Almost invariably, they are white and blue-domed, yet each is unique and inspiring.

The churches on the island are stunning. Despite the similar design, each is unique. Santorini, July 2016

The churches on the island are stunning. Despite the similar design, each is unique. Santorini, July 2016

The capital is Fira (or Thira), perched atop a cliff overlooking the caldera (or bowl-shaped bay). We were immediately transported into another world of winding alleys, adorable shops, and the prettiest views of the sea. The outdoor restaurants and tavernas are perched at perfect spots to enjoy the sunset and cool breezes.

The magic of Fira at sunset. Santorini, July 2016

The magic of Fira at sunset. Santorini, July 2016

The serenity of Fira at sunset. Santorini, July 2016

The serenity of Fira at sunset. Santorini, July 2016

Our tour guide, Eleni, introduced us to the archaeological site of Akrotiri which has Santorini Akrotiri 5 07-04been under continuous excavation since 1967. It is meticulously preserved and we were able to visualize life in this prehistoric settlement which dates from 4th century B.C. It was one of the most important ports of its era, eventually evacuated in the late 17th century B.C. when a series of earthquakes brought massive destruction to Santorini.

Excavations at Akrotiri, Santorini, July 2016

Excavations at Akrotiri, Santorini, July 2016

Getting around on motorcycles and all-terrain-vehicles (ATVs) are the easiest and fastest (although not safest) modes of transportation. Sharing the hairpin turns with cars and full-size tourist buses can be almost suicidal. It takes a certain attitude adjustment to navigate the roads with novice motorcycle tourists!

Ben and me, Santorini, July 2016

Ben and me, Santorini, July 2016

And, of course — the beaches! This was my first time seeing a black beach, pebble-filled with tiny specimens of volcanic material. Bring flip-flops as it is extremely hot to walk on the black rocks! The sparkling, crystal Aegean Sea and quaint seaside tavernas provide an ambiance that envelopes one in total relaxation, both physical and mental.

Santorini Beach Collage

Taverna on the black beach, Santorini, July 2016

Taverna on the black beach, Santorini, July 2016

It wouldn’t be Santorini without donkeys! Whether in the fields, making their way up the steep hills with packs, or being guided by their master, these animals provide the perfect touch of nature in this perfect place.

Donkeys remain an integral part of the island. Oia, July 2016

Donkeys remain an integral part of the island. Oia, July 2016

Oia, amazing Oia! Tourists throng its tiny alleyways and sprawl over every inch of walkable space to explore its whimsical shops and experience its out-of-this-world sunsets.

Bookshop on Oia, July 2016

Bookshop on Oia, July 2016

Despite the crowds and tourists with selfie-sticks, it is worth every push and jostle just to be there. We learned that brides will transport their entire wedding entourage to Oia, simply to have a wedding album of spectacular photos. After being there, I can understand why.

I wonder what it's like to live here? Oia, July 2016

I wonder what it’s like to live here? Oia, July 2016

City on a hill, Oia, July 2016

City on a hill, Oia, July 2016

Headed for the view. Oia, July 2016

Headed for the view. Oia, July 2016

Every available spot is taken, Oia, July 2016

Perched at the top, Oia, July 2016

Every available spot is taken, Oia, July 2016

Every available spot is taken, Oia, July 2016

Jockeying for position to view the sunset, Oia, July 2016

Jockeying for position, Oia, July 2016

Getting close, but not yet sunset, Oia, July 2016

Getting close, but not yet sunset, Oia, July 2016

Andrew and Ben, patiently waiting. Oia, July 2016

Andrew and Ben, patiently waiting. Oia, July 2016

It's worth the wait! Oia, July 2016

It’s worth the wait! Oia, July 2016

It was so hard to leave, but we are so blessed to have been to heaven on earth!

So blessed to be here! Oia, July 2016

So blessed to be here! Oia, July 2016

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8 thoughts on “Return to Greece, 2016. Part Four: Santorini, Heaven on Earth

  1. Is there any possibility of surname research on Santorini? I will be in Greece in June and will visit Santorini for the first time. I think that my Great Grandfather, James Angelo Zouboules might have come from Thira. Thank you.

  2. My cousin lives in Oia, he has for twenty years. He has a jewelry store called “Bezant” on the sunset path. We’ve been there several times, and it is as beautiful as you describe and show. The fact that the island is itself a volcano, with the center underwater, is amazing.

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