Day 19-23: Thira/Santorini, Hellas (Θήρα)

In fall 2010, Jess approached me and asked if I would be down to go on an epic adventure in Greece with a few of our mutual friends from DTU. I accepted in a heartbeat – Greece is one of the countries on the very top of my list of places I want to visit (it’s an EXTENSIVE list too!) and I am so so happy that Holger and Joe were able to make it happen. I booked flights in and out of Athens and left the rest for Holger to figure out, but I never would have dreamed that we would end up on Santorini Island – cliff diving, lying on the beach, crashing ATVs, and enjoying the beauty of an amazing sunset off the coast of Ia. These pictures don’t even begin to explain what an amazing experience it was!

Sunset over Caldera Beach

(Because no story about Santorini is complete without a photo of the beautiful blue roofs =D)

Pictures and adventures below the cut!

Day 19 (July 5): Athens to Santorini

After an evening of partying at an awesome rooftop bar, we trekked back to the hotel, grabbed all our luggage, and made our way to Piraeus to take a ferry to Santorini! We didn’t have seats on the ferry, so it was a very uncomfortable 6 hour ferry ride where we sat in folding chairs or stood around and tried to get sleep, so we were all extremely grumpy when we arrived, and the humidity smacked us in the face like a wet t-shirt. Disgusting. However, the breathtaking drive crossing over the cliffs and driving into Fira all but made up for it. We checked into Mariakis for our studio apartment. It was a relatively sweet setup, with an amazing price. The only problem was that there was only one bathroom for seven people, which proved to be a huge problem (I think everyone took an average of 3 showers the entire time we were in Santorini! The rest of the time was spent in pools and in the ocean =D)

Now that we were settled in, we could finally do the thing we had been looking forward to the whole time – relax on the beach!! We went swimming for a bit at the famous black sand beaches of Kamari (more photos later), then wandered around the city and enjoyed a delicious dinner before heading back to the apartment for festivities (and more Ouzo)!

“Santorini Salad” – pretty much a traditional Greek salad except with more delicious toppings, like bacon!

The menu translated it into “lamb in a pitcher” (Photo by Cat)

Day 20 (July 6): Boat Excursions and the Most Beautiful Sunset in the World

Jess woke up bright and early and bought us all tickets to a boat tour of the caldera. Let pause a moment and explain – about 3600 years ago, there was a huge volcanic eruption that sank the center of the island of Thera, leaving behind a caldera this is now modern day Santorini caldera. Santorini/Thira is the name of the largest island in the caldera and where we spent most of our trip.

So, anyways, we got on a boat tour that took us to Nea Kameni, a volcanic island where you can hike to the top of a volcanic crater and walk around the rim. From there, we went to Palia Kameni, where they docked the boat and we swam to the shore of the volcanic island to play in the hot springs. It was a bit of an adventure, as it was a long swim and Melissa almost drowned (<3) but we all made it and I was extremely proud (<3 <3 <3). After a while, we swam back to the boat and headed to Thirassia (another island that was once part of the original island) for dinner. We had originally planned to take the time we had there to ride donkeys to the highest point of the village, but donkey rentals closed at 5pm =( It’s okay, this means I have to come to Santorini again to ride donkeys!

We’re on a boat!

Docking at New Kameni

Sweet rock piles at Nea Kameni

=)

After dinner, we got back on the boat and went to Ammoudi bay to the West of Ia (Oia), the location of the most beautiful sunset in the world. And it really is too – it is an uninturrupted view of the sun sinking down into the water. Absolutely, breathtakingly beautiful. Incredibly romantic. None of my photos do it justice but here are some anyways:

Sunset at Ia

A cute Danish couple ^_<

Fira at night (Photo by Cat)

After we got back, we fought over the showers (like I said, 7 people sharing one bathroom?? Crazy!) an then went out in Fira! We found some sweet clubs with awesome music, but also a lot of handsy gentlemen, so Melissa, Cat, and i bailed and went exploring around Fira at night. We walked to near the top of the city and found a breathtaking view of the city and the ocean =)

Day 21 (July 7): Not that I crashed an ATV or anything, but…

Jess and I woke up early and went and grabbed some delicious Greek pastries for breakfast – I had a delicious τυρóπιτα, or tiropita, which is a Greek layered cheese pastry. So rich, sooo buttery, sooo good ^_^ Think of a pie-shaped croissant, but made with cheese and therefore a million times better! Then, we went back, got Melissa and Cat (the guys decided to sleep in) and rented two ATVs for – get this – FIFTEEN EURO! For 24 hours. I’m serious. However, it gets very expensive when you, oh, go “off-roading” in it and crash it…

Unnamed hedgehog enjoying a tiropita with ham and cheese!

Awesome bright orange ATV! (Photo by Cat)

Melissa and Jess and their trusty vehicle in the lot of Akrotiri Beach!

Anyways, after we got a replacement ATV for me, we rode across the island to Kamari Beach (we were originally looking for Akrotiri but took a wrong turn)! We hung out there for a while, and Jess and I decided that we wanted to go cliff diving!

Cliff diving at Kamari Beach! (Photo by Melissa)

We met two Canadian girls and invited them to come along with us to meet up with the guys at Akrotiri, so after a delicious lunch of more gyros (I give up counting at this point!) we got on our ATVs and made our way to Akrotiri, the “Red Beach,” aptly named for the red sand. It’s a really gorgeous beach because of the contrast between the red cliffs and the green-blue water, and we lounged there until right before sunset when we realized that we probably didn’t want to be riding ATVs in the dark all the way back to Fira!

Akrotiri, the “Red Beach”

Bathrooms hollowed out of the cliffs!

Akrotiri – aren’t the colors crazy?!

We got back on the ATVs and headed back, stopping to take photos of the sunset over the bay, there was a slight scare when Jess/Melissa’s ATV got too far ahead and Cat and I took the wrong turn because it was too dark to read the signs, and they had the only map. Luckily, there are only like 2 roads on Santorini, so it wasn’t too bad and we made it back safely =D

Loukoumades with chocolate and ice cream <3 (Photo by Cat)

Us with “Diamond”! (Photo by Cat)

And then of course we went out and got more gyros, then went to a stand that sold loukoumades! The owner was named “Diamond” and told us a lot about the history of Greece. He was SO FREAKING COOL and probably the only person we met selling things on Santorini who was actually Greek! After we gorged ourselves on delicious loukoumades, we went out and met up at a club with the Romanian guy that sold us the ATVs. Nightlife on Santorini is absolutely fantastic, but I hear it’s nothing compared to Ios. We will definitely have to go there next time =D

Day 22 (July 8): SCUBA diving, “SWAGGGGG”, and the most beautiful sunset in the world, take 2!

Jess and I woke up early for a pickup to the Caldera Beach dive center – me for diving, her for snorkeling. This would be my first time diving since getting certified in Vietnam, so I was extremely excited, albeit slightly nervous that I would be too inexperienced and make a fool of myself. There were a few other travelers – an Australian dive instructor, a Russian couple, and an American from Texas who was a huge know-it-all. Our dive leader was a Norwegian who leads tours in the Greek Isles every summer.

We geared up and got on a boat that took us out to the volcanic crater – we got to explore sealife on the floor around the crater, and then the walls of the crater – extremely cool! Then, we did another dive in Caldera Beach and fed bread to a huge school of fish! All the other people that we were diving with had cameras and got awesome photos, so now I’m very inspired to get a case for my camera as well.

Jess and I then went back and met up with everyone else. A few of them had taken the ATVs our for a ride in the morning (Joe’s first time driving!!! Ever!!! I’m so proud!) We hopped on a bus and went out to Ia again – but this time by land. We took a very long walk down to the beach and sunbathed/swam/relaxed (of if you’re Holger, put stones over his entire body for a hot stone massage) and then trekked back up to explore the beautiful architecture and watch the breathtaking sunset.

Some badass Danish guys =P (Photo by Cat)

Joe’s first time driving!!! I was so proud!! (Photo by Cat)

Holger’s hot stone massage! (Photo by Cat)

Ia; walking down to the beach

Ia

Afterwards, we went and had dinner at a very fancy restaurant with snobby waiters who treated us like little shits because we were poor college students who tramped in off the beach and ordered the cheapest things on the menu. Yeah, I guess they probably weren’t too happy we were taking up space in their half empty restaurant XD Ah well!

We rode the crowded bus back to Fire, packed up, hugged the boys goodbye, then headed to the port to take a ferry back to Athens!

Day 23 (July 9): Santorini Island to Gent

I must have been too lazy to take photos this day, because I can’t seem to find any from my camera. It was probably all for the best, because we stumbled off the ferry into the port at Athens, sat around for a while drinking coffee, and then decided to go exploring on the way to the airport with all our luggage. At some point, I remember sitting in a McDonald’s, eating a McFlurry and alternating between sleeping and watching our luggage and playing with the free Wi-Fi while the rest of the girls went to the flea market and bought awesome stuff XD Anyways, we all ended up making it to the airport in one piece in the afternoon, and we went our separate ways – Jess back to the US, and Melissa, Cat, and I onwards to Brussels!

A picture of a Greek Euro, just because =)

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