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Going Greek Part 2 - Isles of Fun

01 December 2011

Travellers

The next morning we boarded the ferry to the island of Paros, booking into the Paros Agnanti, with its excellent service and fabulous vista overlooking the bay.  The air was clear and the sun very bright, with few clouds.  The sea was also very clear, but disappointingly barren with hardly any fish, weeds, or shellfish. Hopeless for snorkelling! 

After a pleasant few days on Paros we ferried to Naxos, an adjacent island.  That evening we watched the sublime sunset and listened to dogs, sheep, goats, chickens, geese, pigs and cattle made their presence known, in the still dusk air.

The following morning we embarked on a tour of an ancient olive oil press.  It would have been hard work and the labourers were paid in olive oil.  Boarding our bus again we visited the Church of Drosiani, an amazing sixth century church with incredible frescos dating to the seventh and eighth centuries.  Amazingly every café, ice cream parlour, grocery and souvenir shop sold beer, wine and spirits.  There were definitely no worries about getting dehydrated in the 20 plus temperatures!

Leaving Naxos we boarded the ferry to the jewel in the Greek Island crown, Santorini.  The official name of the island is Thira, widely known as Santorini, it was previously a large volcano located in the Aegean Sea, along with the other Greek Islands.  About 3,600 years ago it erupted, destroying most of the actual volcano cone, leaving parts of the caldera with several gaping holes in the rim, allowing the sea to fill the old crater.  This was one of the largest explosions on earth in the past few thousand years.

Transportation to our hotel on the rim of the volcano was no mean feat, as the inside of the island has almost vertical walls.  It was amazing engineering to construct a road, to get buses to the top yet arriving at the hotel gate was just the start of the adventure.  Standing on the rim of a crater, the first 50 metres down are about 45 degrees then there is a stunning vertical drop to sea level.  The easiest way to build in this sort of terrain, was to tumble the buildings down the slope, so that is what they did.  Leaving the road we negotiated two lifts and 132 steps down to our room.  This was a tad awkward with suitcases but it was certainly worth the effort.  Each room became the back roof of the next room down, meaning that every room had a clear, unobstructed view across the crater, with the sea sparkling 1,000 feet below.  It was remarkable.

Out sightseeing we walked along the footpath at the top of the caldera, linking all the villages together.  The views were spectacular and the homes spotless.  To get up to the top of the caldera from sea level, people use a cable car. It is very efficient, but slow, during peak tourism times.

On our third day we explored Santorini by rental car.  On the outside of the caldera the island slopes fairly easily down to the sea.  The further you get away from the rim, the easier the slope becomes.  We expected to find some really good beaches, but there were very few.  Like the other islands we had been to, the sea seemed almost sterile.  After checking the water temperature at one beach, we left with the impression that it was too cool for coral.

Later in the day we did some shopping at Oia, in the north.  Our souvenirs were professionally packaged and sent home to New Zealand.  When we opened them a month later, they were all perfect, making forwarding home very worthwhile to save excess baggage.

On our final day we caught a 30 minute flight to return to Athens.  “Christine’s choice of accommodation was again perfect".

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