By: Brittany O’Leary
We arrived at Plastiras Rooms in Fira, Santorini at midnight, greeted by our smiling hotel owner, Yanis. With his limited amount of English, he shuffled us into our room and wished us a good night. Plastiras Rooms had the charm and character of a family-owned hotel, and were a short walk from the center of Fira, the largest town in Santorini.
We woke up to a stunning view of the Aegean Sea, had a breakfast of Greek yoghurt and honey, and set off on our first adventure. Recommended to us by friends, we decided on a seven-mile hike from Fira to Oia. Despite our best efforts, we only did about a third of the hike, but the views of the Caldera Volcano were breathtaking. If you ever go to Santorini, this hike (or, at least part of it) is a must! You can also see the view on ATVs – rent them from the locals for about 20 euros for the day if you’re looking for a bargain.
Our next stop: lunch in Fira. Traditional Greek salads and a platter of tzatziki, olive tapenade and sundried tomato paste was a delicious reward after our long hike.
Tip: To save money, only have one meal with a sunset view. Santorini is picturesque everywhere you look, but you’ll save some money by picking a place that isn’t overlooking the Caldera.
Another must in Greece: a donkey ride. I’ll admit, I was pretty skeptical. I imagined it would be boring, similar to riding a camel at a petting zoo, but I could not have been more wrong. It was one of the scariest and funniest experiences in my life. We did the donkey rides in Fira, starting at the top of a trail to the bottom of the Old Port and back up for €8.50. The entire way down, I held on for dear life and prayed that my donkey didn’t slip. Towards the end, I just started laughing because I was amazed that 1. I was in Greece and 2. I was riding a donkey. The way up wasn’t as scary and for some reason, my particular donkey had an inferiority complex after being the last one in the line on the way down, and insisted on being the leader of the pack going up.
Tip: don’t ride the donkeys in Oia because the trail is much steeper there and it’s a bigger production in Fira
Afterward, we walked around the town and window-shopped, a hobby of mine that rarely ends without me splurging on something for the “memories.” The streets of Fira are narrow and pretty much identical, so our group of three girls with no sense of direction got lost every five minutes. The shops in Fira ranged from the lavish jewelry stores carrying Cartier and Bvalgari to souvenir shops with evil eye bracelets, and everything in between.
For dinner we went to Volcano Blue and watched the sun set. We were seated at an outdoor terrace and had a traditional Greek dinner. I ordered lamb in a nest: a dish that was wrapped in tin foil; inside had roasted lamb with vegetables, feta and tomatoes. Unbelievable. I would eat it everyday if I could.
I ended the day with a fish pedicure. I told my friends, Emma and Katie, that I wouldn’t leave the island until I had experienced this. It’s a weird sensation because these tiny fish are nibbling your feet. Emma got it on video, so now I can relive any time I want.
We started off our more relaxed day on the island by going to Perissa Beach, the black sand beach. It had a lively atmosphere and a beautiful view. We only stayed for a few hours, but I would definitely try to have lunch or go to the bars there. Plus, Akrotiri, the red sand beach, is just twenty minutes away – perfect for beach hopping.
For lunch, we went to Lucky’s Souvlakis for a traditional Greek gyro. It was incredible. The men working there were energetic and happy to interact with tourists. I had a lamb gyro with tzatziki, lettuce, tomato, and French fries topped with a homemade red chili sauce. Don’t leave the island without grabbing a bite here.
We made our way to Oia, a town famous for its picturesque white buildings with blue roofs and their one of a kind sunset – they overlook the Aegean Sea without anything blocking the view. After walking around the town for a little bit, we were surprised by how similar it was to Fira – the shops sold similar souvenirs and we still got just as lost as we did in Fira.
As we walked around the town and took pictures with the incredible view and picturesque buildings, the sun started to set on our second day in Greece. We attempted to get a better view and got trampled by the crowds of people that all had the same idea as us. Hundreds of tourists were lined up along the streets and all I could see was a sea of cellphones and cameras. I’m still amazed that people would rather watch a sunset through a screen than watch it with their own eyes.
We had dinner at Lotza, a family-run restaurant with big portions for a reasonable price. I ordered spaghetti marinara with seafood, and to my surprise, the dish was actually in a cream sauce. The waiter noticed my confusion, and actually waited for me to try my meal to see if I liked it. To satisfy our sweet cravings, we ordered the highly anticipated baklava, which is a Greek dessert made of filo dough with a nut and honey filling. I’d been waiting our entire trip for this and it didn’t disappoint.
Greece was magical. I was so captured by Santorini that I left wondering if I would ever return later in life. I hope that one day I will, but for now, I’ll just focus on my next European adventure.