For those not familiar with Santorini, prepared to be stunned from pure beauty. I’m confident to say that there is no place like Santorini in the world; it truly is special. Roman and I arrived by a cruise and docked, right in the middle of the Santorini caldera. Early morning is a very beautiful, quiet time in Santorini. I waited in line to get the very first tender tickets and it so happened we were on the first tender to leave.
Tendering is one the cons if you’re traveling by cruise. Not to mention you only have a day and you’ll probably miss the beautiful sunset that Santorini is famous for (we missed it). Off the tender we walked over to the cable car that brings tourists up to the city of Thera. Thera is like the hub of the island, and really a great jumping off point for either traveling to the northern or southern part of the island.
We literally were the first people off the cruise, so the streets were empty of tourists and actually most locals. At 7:30 am there isn’t much action in Thera, so we took some picture before heading over to the bus station that is about a 10 minute walk inland. Taking a bus in Santorini is super easy, cheap and the buses they use are greyhound style. We wanted to spend part of our day in the city of Oia on the northern tip of Santorini.
Oia is by far the most popular city of Santorini but for good reason. The drive there alone is epic but the city itself is where you see all the picture perfect white houses with the colorful roofs. It’s classic and yes it’s essential to visit. There are many buses to Oia so just take a snap shot of the schedule and catch whatever bus suits you. The bus will drop you off at Oia Bus Terminal and then it’s a short walk to main street Oia.
Really you can go either way on main street Oia and get beautiful views. We decided to turn right first, and work our way to the edge of town. Here you’ll get a beautiful backdrop of the city and some of the best pictures. You’ll also see the famous blue domes of Oia that are in so many iconic photos. At the end there is a look out point and you get great views of the crater, other islands of Santorini and the main island.
Like I said earlier, Oia is more known for its sunset. Many tourists come to the island and spend a couple of nights on a cliff hotel, drinking something alcohol and watch the sun set. There are a couple of other activities to do like going to a local vineyard to try some Santorini wine; however the majority of people come here to simply do nothing.
After walking to the furthest tip of Oia, we turned back and took a more relaxed approach. I bought a white and blue hat (the colors of Greece), because of how intense the sun was. It was still early morning but I wanted to relax and enjoy the view, so we stopped into a café overlooking the cliff and crater. It was around 11 am and we were already drinking wine/beer but hey, we’re on vacation!
As you can tell from the pictures, the views are unreal. You’ll probably never see those kind of views anywhere else in your life. And there is really is nothing better than sipping on some Greek wine while sitting on a volcano crater over a cliff. The height of the cliffs are actually pretty high at near 1,000 feet.
After our morning wine we worked our way over to the left part of the city. The main street of Oia is actually quite long and there are many souvenir shops, jewelry shops, and restaurants to look at. We also decided to do something unusual; get our feet cleaned by fish at this place called Kissingfish. It’s gimmicky but still fun and something to do if you want to get off your feet.
Take your time in Oia; there are several buses that head back to Thera for when you need to be back on your cruise ship. However don’t miss out on some of what Thera has to offer as well. There is just as much souvenir shopping, cafes and beautiful vantage points as in Oia. We decided to split the day with a little more time in Oia and the remaining hours in Thera.
Once back in Thera, we decided to do some souvenir shopping. The main shopping is actually on the bigger street down below all the beautiful views. However there are many souvenir shops near the more touristy, narrow streets. Just walk around and explore the different shops. Most will sell the same things but always go for the more authentic Greek items. We ended up buying little bottles of Greek olive oil.
With only a few hours left in Thera and shopping out-of-the-way, what else is there to do but drink and enjoy the views? My advice is to grab a seat at a bar or restaurant, order some food and have long conversations over beer and wine. The views are stunning and why shouldn’t you spend most of your time simply doing nothing but enjoying them. We decided to stop at the Palia Kameni Cocktail Bar because on TripAdvisor they are one of the highest reviewed bars.
And for good reason. The guy that was serving us was so chill and got along with everybody in the bar. It was the type of atmosphere where everybody was mildly drunk, forgetting about their worries, and just gushing over how lucky they were to see such a beautiful view. I love these types of atmospheres and treasure them wherever I find them.
If you can see in the photos, our cruise ship is docked to the left. To get to the cruise you have to either walk down the nearly 1,000 feet or take the cable car. For people who have never taken a cruise, tendering can be tedious and can take a long time. The cable car added to the problems as there was a long line just to get on the cable car (by the way it’s something like 4 euros to get on). Because we took it up earlier and walking down is usually easier, we decided to skip the lines and just walk down.
The trek down takes around 20 minutes at a relatively fast pace and can be quite slippery. We did see other people take donkeys but most walked. It’s actually a long way and if really hot outside, can be uncomfortable. We passed several people who looked like they were struggling but if you’re decently fit, you’ll do fine.
Because there is a long wait with the cable cars, the line to get back onto a tender took no time and we were back on the ship within a matter of 10 – 15 minutes after getting to the bottom. For me, Santorini was definitely one of the highlights of the entire cruise and is a worthy island to come back to. It’s touristy, yes, but because it’s so unique you get over that quickly and just focus on how surreal Santorini really is.
images by: shawnvoyage