I still remember the very first time I saw a photo of this magical place with all-white buildings topped with blue domes – it was many years ago, before Facebook, Pinterest and Tumblr gave us such regular, easy access to photos of exotic, faraway places. It took my breath away, and I remembered so many questions rushing through my head at the same time – where is this place? Why are the buildings all white? Why do they have domes as roofs? Why are there so many steps? Can you actually step on the roofs of these buildings like it appears you can? When do I get to go see these strange buildings with my own eyes?
I finally got to tick Santorini off my bucket list a few months ago, and short of the volatile spring weather, it was everything I ever thought it would be 🙂
There are two ways you can get yourself to this magical island: by plane, or by ferry. Santorini’s a pretty small island with a tiny airport, so there are not many direct flights there. If you’re living in Europe, there are a handful of cities from which you can take a direct flight to Santorini, but otherwise you’ll have to take the most common route, which is to fly in via Athens. The flight from Athens to Santorini only takes about half an hour.
If you have a lot of time to spare and wanna take things real slow, you could take the ferry from Athens too. It’ll take about 8-9 hours though, and is not recommended during the month of April (when I went) due to bad weather that might result in delayed/canceled trips. Alternatively, you could also take ferries from/to other nearby islands like Paros or Mykonos, if you’re on a Greek island-hopping trip (lucky you!), which would take anywhere from 2-4 hours.
If you’re coming in from the seas, you’ll probably be alighting at the port of Fira town, the “capital” of Santorini!
The town of Fira is one of the villages perched up on the cliffs of the caldera side of the island. And its port is all the way down there at sea level… 587 steps down, to be exact. The stairs are helpfully labeled with numbers, to tell you how many steps’ worth of suffering you have undergone on the way up/down.
If you don’t particularly feel like a serious cardio workout though, you can always take the cable car up/down, for the price of 6 euros per way…
… or you could take a ride on one of these fellas!
They only give rides on the way up from the port, I think. The rides cost 5 euros each, but I felt bad for imposing my weight on a poor donkey, so I only took one donkey ride the whole time I was there; but at another location though, when I just couldn’t make the climb. Sorry donkeys!
The town of Fira, so pretty even through a fog of rain 🙂
Yup, the weather wasn’t the best when I was there – that’s why April is still a low season for tourism in Santorini. Because it was the low season though, I managed to snag a room at a lovely hotel called Villa Ilias, in Firostefani!
Firostefani is about a 10-15 minute walk up from Fira, and the name itself means “the crown of Fira”. I had my heart set on staying in a place along the rim of the caldera even though there were other equally nice but cheaper places elsewhere on the island, and I was so lucky to have found Villa Ilias completely by accident!
My room was the most basic one they offered, at a discounted rate of 40 euros, no less (what a steal!) so it’s nothing to shout about but it was a perfectly comfortable and decent room. If you can afford it though, you should totally splurge on one of the more expensive rooms with a view (and balcony), it’s absolutely worth it. Oh yes, speaking of views…
… this is why I decided I had to stay here 😉 The weather wasn’t cooperating when I took this shot, but it’s a really nice place to catch sunsets from!
The service at Villa Ilias is one of the best I’ve enjoyed so far too! I was the only one there for the first 2 days of my stay. Because of that, they didn’t offer the breakfast buffet normally available every morning, but one of the owners, Pauline, made sure I got everything on the menu for breakfast anyway 😀
More shots of Fira:
Somewhere along the main square of Fira. Fira is said to be the most crowded village, as opposed to the other famous village of Santorini, Oia, but strangely enough I found Fira to be rather deserted the whole time I was there. There were much more tourists in Oia, which I’ll be blogging about next.
One of the must-try Greek dishes, souvlaki! Nom nom.
Cats are a big thing in Greece. And in Turkey too.
A splash of colour amidst the white and blue 🙂
Next up, the most famous village in all of Santorini – Oia!