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HEAVENLY SANTORINI

View through the center of the caldera

View through the center of the caldera

Greeks call this lovely island which was devastated by earthquakes and a volcanic eruption sometime around 1600 B.C. “Thira”, but visitors call it “heavenly”.  There is something mystical about being at the epicenter of a still active volcano–it last erupted in the 1956 killing a number of people and causing earthquakes that destroyed many buildings in Fira and Oia (“E-ah”). 

Oia perched over the north end of the caldera which is 6 mi. by 4 mi.

Oia perched over the north end of the caldera which is 6 mi. by 4 mi.

We had visited Santorini several years ago the way many of the 1 Million visitors a year do, by ferry or cruise ship. 

1 Million Visitors arrive by ferry. . .

1 Million Visitors arrive by ferry. . .

or cruise ship

or cruise ship

Ferries come, and they go--thankfully!

Ferries come, and they go--thankfully!

We dreamed of returning for a more “up close and personal” view, although at that time we never imagined it would be on Destiny as part of our Med adventure. 

We motored into the caldera from the nearby island of Ios in the mid-day haze, heads tilted upward to view the mass of white buildings with scattered blue church domes that make up the towns of Oia and Fira—both sitting atop layers of volcanic rock that rise thousands of feet from sea level.

Cave houses built into side of hill

Cave houses built into side of hill

 

Rim of the caldera rises to nearly 1,000 ft. in places

Rim of the caldera rises to nearly 1,000 ft. in places

Fira from sea level looks like frosting on the rim

Fira from sea level looks like frosting on the rim

Lava rock makes up the volcanic plug in the center of the caldera

Lava rock makes up the volcanic plug in the center of the caldera

Although there are so-called “anchorages” within the caldera, they tend to be very deep and with rocky bottoms that make anchoring not a good choice, especially if you want to leave the boat.  We observed boats anchored in nearly 100 ft. of water at the base of the tram that goes to Fira.

Traditional boats take tourists through the caldera

Traditional boats take tourists through the caldera

Cruise ships anchor off the Fira and deposit thousands of passengers a day onto the island to be whisk from sea level to the town by tram, or more slowly by donkey. 

Cruise ships off Fira

Cruise ships off Fira

Donkeys or lost souls. . .

Donkeys or lost souls. . .

It is said that the donkeys contain the souls of persons condemned to purgatory who do their penance by carrying heavy loads up the torturous path in blinding heat–possibly a myth propagated by the animal rights groups who protest the donkey’s use for this purpose.

After making our way to Vlikadha Marina on the southern end of the island and securing Destiny, we had a swim at the nearby beach–black sand from volcanic rock and limestone rocks that float on the surface of the water, make this a unique spot.

The southern coast of Santorini is also dramatic

The southern coast of Santorini is also dramatic

Black sand beach near marina

Black sand beach near marina

The next day we spent a luxurious day 36 hours at a small hotel in Oia recommended by Fodor.  Delfini (“dolphin” in Greek) Villas are set on the steep hillside of Oia just below the blue dome of St. George’s Church. 

Classic Oia

Classic Oia

Our “cave room” accommodations included a bedroom, living room, kitchen and bath with “waterfall” style shower head—not to mention air conditioning and an abundance of hot water.  What more could a cruising sailor on a land holiday ask for?  The small swimming pool just outside our door was the perfect place to cool off and enjoy an unforgettable view of the caldera.

Our private terrace at Delfini Villas adjacent to pool

Our private terrace at Delfini Villas adjacent to pool

Jolie checks out the pool at Delfini

Jolie checks out the pool at Delfini

Kent relaxes outside our cave house

Kent relaxes outside our cave house

We have stayed in castles and other luxury accommodations throughout Europe, but this little hotel offered most of the same amenities (slippers, toiletries, monogrammed French sheets) at a fraction of the price. 

Love these sheets!!!

Love these sheets!!!

This is the life. . .not to mention the view!

This is the life. . .not to mention the view!

Jolie preferred relaxing in the shade

Jolie preferred relaxing in the shade

Oia has a special charm that blends sunshine, blue sky and white buildings with splashes of natural color from flowers.

A marble sidewalk runs from one end of Oia to the other--mid-day it is deserted

A marble sidewalk runs from one end of Oia to the other--mid-day it is deserted

Buildings cascade down the hillside in Oia

Buildings cascade down the hillside in Oia

Dining al fresco in Oia

Dining al fresco in Oia

Oia also has more than its share of Greek churches and chapels, that make a striking statement set against the sky and water in the distance.

Chapel

Chapel 2

Classic Greek Church

Classic Greek Church

Famous Motif

Famous Motif

Like all visitors we went to the north end of the island to view the sunset, which dissolved into haze and clouds before the appointed hour, but was impressive nonetheless.

Sunset brings everyone out

Sunset brings everyone out

Windmill at Dusk

Windmill at Dusk

 

Hazy Santorini Sunset

Hazy Santorini Sunset

We checked out of Delfini Villas at noon and stopped in Fira for lunch on the way back to the marina. 

Fira Cafe--See and be Seen

Fira Cafe--See and be Seen

Jolie was served water in a crystal bowl before our wine came

Jolie was served water in a crystal bowl before our wine came

The difference between the two towns is striking.  Fira is much more crowded–not surprising when there are as many as five cruise ships in the harbor at one time.  We enjoyed revisiting the town, with its narrow pedestrian streets, lined with jewelry shops and souvenir shops, but were happy to leave right after lunch.  The heat at mid-day is overwhelming in June and the really hot weather hasn’t yet arrived.

Santorini, like its wine, is dry and quite heavenly.  We’ll be back!

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