|Tourists walk to and from Oia's northernmost point|
as others dine just above them. The white stucco buildings
are typical of Oia.
So, we went straight from inland Delphi to one of the southernmost islands, which some maps and airlines call Thira but which everyone knows as Santorini. Travel books and on-line research led us to the town of Oia (also spelled Ia and pronounced EE-ah) at the northern tip of the island. Our hotel, Ikies Traditional Houses, is at the southern end of town, just off the 14-kilometer seaside footpath that connects Oia and Fira, the capital of the island. I have the impression that a lot of people start the path, realize how steep it is, and turn around. We did, as had everyone we spoke to about the path. It's probably a wonderful hike and it certainly would get you beyond the jewelry stores and boutiques of the two towns. In Oia, the main walkway is lined with restaurants, jewelry stores, clothing boutiques and souvenir shops. We saw maybe two stores where a local resident might actually find something to buy. I'm just assuming there are local residents somewhere in this shopping mall of a town.
For our Balkans itinerary and hotel information, click HERE.
For our visit to Athens, click HERE. Delphi, HERE.
Heraklion, HERE. Chania, HERE.
Hydra, HERE. Thessaloniki, HERE. Kotor, HERE.
Dubrovnik, HERE. Hvar, HERE. Split, HERE.
Zagreb, HERE. Ljubljana, HERE. Piran, HERE. Trieste, HERE. Venice, HERE.
We mostly stayed in Oia, venturing to Fira only to board a catamaran for a sunset sail. Oia is indeed a beautiful town, made up of white buildings that cascade down the sides of mountains, stopping short of the sea. Oia is on the edge of the caldera (as is Fira) that was created around 1600 B.C.E. when a much larger island exploded in an almost unimaginable volcanic eruption. It created a tidal wave that did great damage to the Minoan civilization on Crete and, it is said, started the legend of Atlantis.
Oia spreads out, mostly on the sea side, along its one main walkway, with one street for cars a short walk to the east. There are very few hotels in Oia that don't require a bit of walking and a few flights of stairs to reach. Our room at Ikies was exactly 96 steps below the footpath, and there were houses and other hotels below us.
Once up on the footpath, a pleasant walk takes you into the town proper, where the pleasant part evaporates as people jockey for ways forward on the increasingly narrow sidewalk. I think that some of the shops make sales to people who came in only to get a little breathing room. And it's not only that there are a lot of people, it's what some of them are doing. Couples (maybe newly-weds, but who knows?) stop traffic as they take photos of each other at the different sea overlooks. Women in dresses not exactly appropriate for hiking or even shopping position themselves atop stone walls for more photos. And everyone everywhere is constantly at risk of being whacked by a selfie stick. What evil bastard invented these things?
Many resort areas around the world have to live with short seasons. Business have to make enough money during three or four months to last an entire year. No place illustrated this better than Oia, with sky-high room rates and expensive restaurants and shops, though not every eatery was super expensive. Our first evening there, we happened into Thalami (click HERE), a pasta and grilled foods restaurant where we were seated on the open-air upper terrace with great views. Dinner of salad and smoked mackerel with wine was simple but good, and the price wasn't terribly out of line. The next evening we made a reservation at Thalassia (click HERE), recommended by our hotel, and got the outside corner table on the front porch, the best view in the place. I had lamb chops and Jane had grouper. With a bottle of wine, the tab was more than 100 euros, this for a meal that would have been half that price or less in Athens and just as good. About the only bargains around are in the shops that mostly serve locals -- there you can buy some Santorini wines for less than 10 euros a bottle.
We originally planned four nights here, cut it to three nights to save a few dollars, and would have been happy to leave after two nights. It's a beautiful place, but the experience is ruined by the crowds. For us, Heraklion on Crete and the island of Hydra were much better. But that's just us. Loads of people really, really love Santorini. And it's understandable when you see photos of it.
|Open stairways connect these houses and hotels to the footpath at the top of the hill.|
|Some of these houses have rooms created by digging into|
the hillside; they're called cave houses.
|We stopped into this little bar for coffee a couple of times.|
|Pedestrian traffic on Oia's main walkway.|
|A woman being photographed (by|
someone else in addition to me!)
strikes a pose just off the main walkway.
|Looking north toward Oia from the footpath that connects it with the town of Fira.|
Not all of the path is as well maintained or as level as this stretch.
|On our sunset sail, our boat met up with|
others at the "mud baths." Actually, it's just
muddy water warmed by an undersea hot spring.
|It's a cold swim from the boats to the warm, shallow and muddy water of the mud baths.|
|Someone from our boat takes the plunge.|
|A day with water so choppy that a third or more of the people on our boat became seasick|
ends with a big payoff -- a Santorini sunset. The next day we left for another island, Crete.