The morning started slowly, which was a nice change of pace. We had the option to have breakfast in the restaurant or on our patio, so we chose the patio and enjoyed the light reflecting off the sea and the caldera in the comfort of pjs and slippers. 🙂
We had to be at the bus terminal at 10:45 for the pick up for our tour. Unfortunately, our morning was too leisurely, and we found ourselves rushing to get to the bus station and find our bus by the appointed time. We were a little breathless, but we found the bus. We were the first to be picked up, so we spent the next hour riding around as the driver picked up other passengers.
Our first stop on the tour was the highest point of Santorini. The view of the islands that make up Santorini was pretty amazing. A bonus at the top was the monastery, Proffitis Illias, that was quite lovely. We unfortunately only had ten minutes to soak in the view and the monastery, but it was great to see it all anyway.
Back on the bus, we learned more about Santorini, including the fact that we are actually on Thira, which is an island in the grouping of islands called Santorini. We also learned that the Venetians were the ones to give this group of islands their name. They referred to the group by the largest chapel dedicated to Saint Irene–when the locals heard the Venetians saying “Santa Irini,” it sounded like Santorini to them.
After Proffitis Illias, we headed to Megalochori, a small village (despite the name, which means big village) where we got to see some examples of the unusual way they cultivate their grapes. Instead of growing them up, they wrap the grape vines to create a kind of basket that keeps the grapes close to the ground and closer to moisture the ground holds. At the same time, the basket-like vines protect the grapes from the sun. In addition, we got to walk around and enjoy some of the lovely architecture in the village.
Next, we headed to Akrotori, an archaeological site in the southern part of the island. The work begun at this site in 1967 is uncovering a town that was destroyed in the 17th century BC after earthquakes and a volcanic eruption. Like in Pompeii, the lava and volcanic ash entombed, and thus protected, much of the town. Since the Greek financial crisis, work at Akrotori has been halted. Archaeologists predict that only 3 percent of the town has been uncovered, and they are eager to continue with their work. The entrance fees and museum shop sales all go toward that goal, but there is still a deficit that prevents continued work.
Next, we went to Perissa, a village right on the shore of a black sand beach. The sand is kind of pebble-y as a result of volcanic rock. We had two hours there, but we figured by the time we ate lunch, it wouldn’t leave much time for swimming, so we didn’t pack our suits.
The final stop after Perissa was at Santos Winery, a local winery co-op. We tasted three of the wines made from local grapes (though Tim and I only slightly liked the first we tasted). The best part of the wine tasting was the company at our table, an older couple from New Zealand (an hour south of Christchurch for interested Smiths) who are on a two and half months-long sojourn. This trip for them included stops in the United Kingdom, Turkey, Greece, and they’ll continue on to Australia before heading back home. David and Elizabeth were both bemoaning that spring has not yet sprung in New Zealand, and they were dreading the cold temperatures that awaited them. We talked about the Smiths love of New Zealand, and about travel in general. They were really sweet people.
The tour ended back in Oia, and we had to race back to the hotel, fighting the sunset watching crowds, to make our way back for a quick change before dinner. The concierge at the hotel made us reservations at a restaurant nearby, so we rushed to be there in time for our reservation. The restaurant and the view were amazing. It was a bit windy today, so my (SUPER DELICIOUS) salad kept flying off the plate as I ate, but it was worth being able to see the sunset as we ate our moussaka and souvlaki.
After dinner, we wandered around downtown before coming back to relax. Once we got back, we realized we were probably on the wrong tour today because the description we received from the travel company is not what we ended up doing. A lady got on the bus at the start and said that there was a couple who were signed up for a half-day tour that was on the wrong bus. The voucher we had to give the bus driver said whole day tour on it, and 6.5 hours seemed like a whole day based on what other tours had been advertised, so we had no idea. It wasn’t until we got back that we realized the error. We still saw pretty much the same things with a couple differences, so oh well! haha!
We were supposed to rent a car tomorrow, but the travel agency never sent information to our hotel to let us know where to get the car. We decided today that we didn’t really want to rent a car anyway, especially since we rode from the top of the main island of Santorini to the bottom today. We feel like we got to see most of what we would have driven the car to see. We’d rather hang out around the pool, and spend some time at the little fishing port just below our hotel instead.
We are exactly half-way through our trip today. Tomorrow is our last day in Santorini, and then we’re on to Turkey!