Ferry from Heraklion to Fira – Finikia – Oia – Fira Airport
After spending time in crowded, noisy Crete we were looking forward to getting away to the little volcanic island of Santorini for some picturesque scenery and a couple quiet nights in our cave-like hotel room. We had not purchased our ferry tickets to Santorini in advance because most travel blogs had said there was no need. But as we talked to other travelers in Crete they said to be careful because the ferries might sell out. We looked online but you can only buy the tickets four days in advance of your departure, so there was no way to tell if the ferries were sold out. By “ferries” I mean two ships that depart twice in the morning, that’s it. If you miss the ferry you are stuck on Crete, so at this point we started to be a little concerned. We decided to get to the port as early as possible and stand in line for tickets.
We have learned that the Greeks are very laid back when it comes to deadlines and timetables. The ferry we wanted started boarding at 8:00, and yet the ticket office did not open until 7:30. They seem to have no problem cutting things close like this and making us freak out for as long as possible. But there were still seats available so we headed on to the ferry with all the other day trippers to Santorini. The ferry itself was nice with airline-like seats that the crew made sure you sat in for most of the ride.
Arrival in the old port of Santorini was hectic to say the least. As soon as you de-boat you are assaulted by waves of hotel purveyors and taxi drivers who want you to come with them. Literally, they grab you and pull you over to their buses, regardless of how much you protest. So we ended up on a bus to our hotel in Oia and shortly arrived at a lovely place called the Hotel Finikia. After a lunch of spiced pies and fava spread, we headed into the little cliffside downtown of Oia, where you see the classic blue domed roofs atop bright white buildings built into the sides of hills. We walked through the narrow streets between tourist shops and tavernas until we reached the edge of the cliff where you can walk down a windy switchback to the port where restaurants are perfectly situated to experience the sunset, the most beautiful in the world (according to the Greek travel guides).
This road also happens to be inhabited by dozens of donkeys which you can ride back up the steep hill for five euros. Unfortunately, the Greeks could care less about the impact that lots of donkeys hiking for hours can have on the only walking path for tourists, and so the ten minute descent became a game of dodging donkey land mines. It seemed that the whole road was covered with crap, so it became a matter of having to walk over yesterday’s flattened excrement instead of the fresh stuff. As with many overly visited tourist destinations, the beauty gets lost in the effort to make more money.
I forgot to mention that the weather that day was the hottest Santorini had experienced that year, and extremely humid. Lucky us. By the time we made the walk down, there was not even an inch of Andrew’s shirt that was dry. Once you get down the hill you are greeted by a tiny little port below the city where there are two or three extremely expensive restaurants from which you can watch the sunset. Being that both of us were completely drenched in sweat, we decided to take a table and wait the hour and a half for sunset. We found a nice spot that was run by a Canadian lady and she let us sit in front of the fan. We ended up having a fantastic meal of steamed mussels saganaki and keftedes, which are herb-battered tomato slices deep fried (a local specialty). We finally dried off and snapped some decent pictures of the sunset, which was incredibly beautiful.
Since there is really nothing else to do in Santorini except relax, we went home and enjoyed some of the wine we had bought in Crete. The next morning after breakfast we were picked up by another taxi bus to take us back to the small port of Ammoudi. We had booked a sailing tour on a catamaran, although the weather had changed significantly since the day before. Now it was cooler but also very windy, so we boarded at 10:30 in the morning and hoped for the best.
The wind on the catamaran actually felt fantastic, and the water of the Aegean Sea was refreshing without being too cold. The first stop was the volcanic hot springs off the coast of the island, where sulfur from the active volcano seeps up into the ocean and creates warm, yellow-hued water. The next stops were Red Beach, a red sand beach on the east coast of the island, and White Beach where they stopped and let us do a bit of snorkeling. The area did not boast much besides a few schools of fish, so we headed back on board where they made us a lunch of Greek salads and bbq’d pork. Also, the Greek white wine was complimentary!
We chatted with lots of other travelers, some from New York, Australia, London and France and sunbathed on the large nets spread over the ship, which the crew called “trampolines.” After a rather choppy return trip due to the winds, we arrived back at port and were transferred to our hotel where we passed out with sun burns and mild heat stroke. We had dinner in the hotel restaurant and scheduled a cab to pick us up at 5:30 the next morning for the next leg of our journey from Santorini airport to Venice.