Fun fact: it's not really an island. It's five.
Our three days on the islands of Santorini were such whirlwinds that it's hard to believe they're already over. It's very surprising. We spent only two nights--arriving at 8am on the 19th on a 7am flight from Athens (up at 4; it was rough) and leaving at 11pm on the 21st. I'm currently sitting in the Athens airport at 1am writing this, waiting out our 9 hour layover to Rome.
Our first day in Santorini was certainly an eventful one. We signed up for an "excursion" through our hostel that left at 10, so we explored Perissa Beach for a few hours before checking into our room a little early. (If you're ever going to Santorini, you must stay at Stelios' Place! Kindest people, amazing location, and great price. Hiiighly recommend.) There were a few other people going from our hostel, so we chatted with them while we waited for our bus that would take us to the boat. From the boat, we sailed--motored, maybe?--over to Island Nea Kameni, which is one of the five that make up the island group of Santorini.
The volcano is active and last erupted in 1950, so the higher we got, the hotter the ground was! By the end, it was a little uncomfortable to walk on. (Pro tip: don't wear Keds to walk on top of molten lava.) That was totally outweighed by the awesome fact that we were climbing on a volcano!! We could smell the sulfur in the air and our guide dug a hole in the middle of the path which only went a few inches into the ground and was already steaming in the air.
After taking a few pictures of the incredible view, we hiked back down and sailed just around the bend to a hot spring, heated by the volcano. It was a few meter swim from the boat to the mouth of the hot spring and the Mediterranean is not warm this time of year, friends. We swam to the area where the hot springs were. It wasn't terribly warm, but the water was cool. It's a dark brown because it's highly oxidized and (according to my understanding) has basically rusted in response to any oxygen in the area.
From there, we sailed back to a small port for lunch (where I had my last chicken souvlaki of the trip, goodness. Too much of a good thing?) and had about an hour to kill. Our guide had told us about a short hike to the city overlooking the docks. "Just 150 steps", he said, like it was easy.
First off, it probably should have been about 300 steps because each one should have counted twice. They were wide and the entire path was steep. But the view was so beautiful.
Worth every step--and stop to catch our breath.
The boat finally returned us to the port of Oia, which is one of the main cities on the island of Thira. It's also probably the most photographed, and for good reason. It was exquisite. But there were stairs to get to the town. All 280 of them. I climbed every step and regretted each life decision that had lead me to that moment...until I reached the top. (Just kidding, kind of.)
At the end of the hike, we decided that we deserved some ice cream and stopped at one of the first shops we found and bought a full liter (maybe liter and a half) of water and a few scoops of homemade ice cream. We ate them while looking out over the water and several of the islands. It felt completely unreal.
Part of our excursion included the sunset so we wandered around town for several hours before heading over to ruins at the top of the island to wait the hour and a half until sunset. We waited for an hour...just for the sun to fade away behind a cloud.
Ah well. Until next time, Oia.
Our second day, we decided it was time for a day of rest (day six, already!) aaand slept in before packing up and heading to the beach. We drank cocktails, splashed in the Mediterranean and just relaxed.
It was wonderful. Best part of the day? As we were paying, the bartender (who was maybe also the owner) insisted on making us free shots. Cheers to you, bartender man. For dinner, I had my first Greek pizza and it was...not at all what I expected. The crust is very light and crispy, without seeming much like dough at all. I was a fan! (And I can't wait to compare it to Italian pizza. ;))
Today (or yesterday, I suppose), after checking out of our hotel, we ate breakfast from a bakery down the road while sitting on the beach watching the water. It was incredible. Then I got to meet up and connect with one of my mentors at Carolina, Dr. Stroman! She happened to be in Greece at the same time and we made it work to see each other. It was a bit surreal to say "okay, see you back at school in a few months!" but the opportunity was amazing.
While we'd been having lunch, the other three girls had been renting ATVs!
After I joined them, we drove down to the Red Beach to explore there. It was...not what I had expected but still so gorgeous.
We then went up to a lighthouse at the end of the island. Allie and I did anyway. Kelly-Anne and Alyssa's ATV couldn't make it up the mountain so they went and called the rental company. The lighthouse is closed to tourists but the views around it are beautiful.
We returned the ATVs and went to dinner at a place along to the beach. I had a glass of wine at dinner and it lived up to everything people have said about Santorini wine! The soil is apparently really good for growing good grapes without being watered because of the high humidity at night.
Now it's just after 5 (there was a nap somewhere in here) with just three hours to go until our flight for Rome leaves. If you don't hear from me for a few days, it's probably because I got tired of waiting and hopped a flight back to Santorini. Meet me there?