Santorini Greece - Perched Above It All
The Greek Villages of Oia and Fira offer great exercise!
By Larry Larsen
The Greek island archipelago of Santorini is a great destination to visit and the cruise ships know it. When
we disembarked the Celebrity Solstice for our tender ride to shore, we observed 3 other major cruise lines anchored in this part of the southern Aegean Sea. Santorini, located southeast of
Greece's mainland, is easily found when viewed from the air; the broken circle of islands is what remains from what was an enormous volcano explosion of the
caldera. The whitewashed buildings are some of the most photographed in the world.
Several villages cling to the top of the volcanic cliffs along the semi-circular length
of the caldera, and crystal clear waters lap the scenic black-sand beaches and rocks far below. Despite the numbers of visitors, the relaxed atmosphere overpowers you at the
top of the mountain while walking or hiking along the intricate paved paths leading to cafes, tiny boutique hotels, souvenir shops, churches and bars. Narrow cobblestone
steps and walkways traverse between the mostly white buildings and domed cathedrals, up and down fairly steep inclines.
Santorini was first settled in 3,000 B.C. and exploring its churches and historic sites can
be all-day event. Today, a cable car operates continuously, but early in the day, the lines are long. With 3 or 4 cruise ships in front of the island, their passengers have nowhere
else to go. Two options for the impatient are either to hike up a very steep 45-minute walkway to the town of Fira or to ride a donkey up that very same switchback
walkway, which is slightly quicker and a lot funnier! From midway up on the cable car, passengers can take in the stunning panoramic views of the mountainside village hovering
over the harbor far below. You just can't get tired of looking at the scenery.
Fira town, population 2,000, is the capital of the island and where most cruise ship passengers seem to hang out
. Plenty of bars and outdoor restaurant areas are available for food or drink, as well as lots of shopping if you're inclined to leave some money behind. Some of the sights of
interest in Fira may be the Archaeological Museum, the Megaro Ghisi Museum, the Agiou Mina church and the Orthodox cathedral.
Just walking around this village is intriguing and interesting and, after several hours on the
mountain, physically challenging. Some say the town has been "engraved" into the volcanic cliffs and there are several interesting looking barrel-roofed cave houses to walk by. Stop and
rest though at a cafe perched on the side of the cliff. Fish and seafood are featured prominently on the Greek menus, as are traditional Greek dishes, breads, wine, fruits and vegetables.
Enjoy the view of the island of Nea Kameni to the west and your cruise ship off Skala at the base of the mountain … and the 2 or 3 other ships near it.
The beautiful village of Oia is perched atop a craggy cliff on the northern point of the island
and it offers panoramic views of steep plummeting cliffs and nearby small islands. Visitors admire the Cycladic architecture for which the town is known. There are also two
wineries and the Thira terrace ruins on the island that are open to the public, in case you are spending the entire day exploring this interesting Greek Isle.