Monday, July 07, 2014

Cruising to Greece: A Day in Santorini

The last few weeks I’ve written about cruising to Greece covering the archeologically rich city Athens and the medieval port of Rhodes.  If your Mediterranean cruise includes Santorini, it’s an entirely different experience. Who doesn’t recognize the pastel colored buildings clinging to steep cliffs, along with whitewashed churches with bright blue domed roofs as the landscape of Santorini? When you arrive by cruise ship that is exactly the sight that greets you!

Sitting high on the cliffs is Fira, the capital of Santorini. From where the cruise ships disembark guests, there are several ways to proceed to town.  If you are fit and energetic you may walk all the way to the top or you can even have a donkey take you up there. In my opinion, the most sensible way to reach Fira is to be whisked up by the modern cable car.  (A word to the wise…when its time to return to the ship, if you plan on taking the cable car back down, leave yourself plenty of time!  If there are multiple ships in port the line can be very long, and tenders do not wait for guests that dawdle).

Fira is Santorini's busiest and most commercial town. The streets are filled with all kind of shops, especially jewelry shops, souvenir shops, galleries, restaurants, bars and nightclubs. On the southern edge of town is the Museum of Prehistoric Thira (not to be confused with the Archaeological Museum of Santorini). It houses amazing Bronze Age objects from the buried town of Akrotiri and other ancient settlements on the island of Santorini. It is well worth seeing if you have an hour to spare and a must see if you plan to visit the Akrotiri excavation site itself.

Akrotiri and its excavation site is about 7 miles from Fira and can be reached by bus or taxi. The ancient city was destroyed after the tremendous volcanic eruption about 3600 years ago. Similar to Pompeii, the volcanic debris that was deposited on the surface of the island covered the whole settlement, protecting it from the natural elements. Excavations began in 1967 and thus far only the southern tip of a large town has been uncovered. It has revealed complexes of multi-level buildings, streets and squares, with remains of walls still standing. My visit was fascinating and if you are interested in archeology, I recommend you take the time to visit here.

To many, Oia, situated on the northernmost part of the island, is the most beautiful village visited on a Greek Island cruise. White buildings, ochre doors, cobalt roofs and, fuchsia blooms- it’s no wonder it one of the most photographed village in the world!  There are basically two streets: one with traffic, and a lovely inland pedestrian lane, paved with marble and lined with shops, restaurants, and bars. Exploring the pathways deeper into the village is a lovely way to spend your time. Be sure to leave some time to stop for lunch at one of the tavernas that offer an awe-inspiring view of the caldera and the Aegean Sea!

The Santorini Santo winery has to have the most amazing view of any winery in the world making it worth a visit even if you’re not a wine lover! Should you decide to imbibe, they have a nice selection of local wine that you can order by the glass, bottle or as a wine ‘flight’ which give you the option of trying several different wines. You may also order platters of meat, cheese, olives, tomatoes and breadsticks…a perfect Mediterranean snack, or if you’re lucky enough to be in port overnight, the perfect spot on the island to watch the famous Santorini sunset!

Next time, as we continue to cruise around Greece we will stop in Mykonos…stay tuned!

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