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Why I Didn’t Love Santorini

January 30, 2017

Why I Didn't Love Santorini

I debated writing this post for a while. I went to Greece in September and almost everything I have to say about it so far as been good. Santorini is the exception to this. I didn’t fall in love with Santorini as so many people, and blog posts promised I would. Let me say this now before everyone tells me I am terrible, it is beautiful and it is romantic. However, it just wasn’t for me, but I am glad that I went.

Crowds

I expected it to be crowded, but this was beyond my expectations! Most of the crowds were in Oia, where I happened to be staying. Since I had never been to Santorini, I want to stay in the heart of it or so I thought. There was a constant stream of people walking past my hotel.

The first night I was there, I headed to watch the sunset like everyone else. It was crowded, but not too much as I had been told to head there early. The captain of my boat advised me to walk further down from the fort where everyone gathers to watch. I trudged down a set of steep donkey crap covered stairs and claimed my spot.

Why I Didn't Love Santorini

After watching the sunset, I started the walk back to my car. I think it took 30 minutes when it should have taken 10! At some points along the way, I was stuck at a standstill because it was so crowded. The streets of Oia are just too narrow to handle the crowds.

Traffic and Driving

Santorini is a large island, larger than I expected. I had read up about getting around the island and decided that renting a car was the best way. Best decision in terms of time I could have made. However, the traffic on Santorini is terrible. Getting from the port to the main road was a winding road, and if you got stuck behind any bus or delivery truck, you could be stuck for a while. This was one of the main reasons I left my hotel two hours before my ferry was to depart.

Getting around was made easier by the car, but all the roads are winding! It makes getting around take much longer than expected. As a result, I didn’t get to see all the things I wanted to.

The roads in Oia were so narrow in some places; cars had to go one at a time. Granted, I probably should not have been driving in Oia, but I was suffering from land sickness and walking in the heat was not a good idea. The narrow roads led to the long waiting area, and you had no idea if the traffic was moving or if there had been an accident. Only at night did I see police out directing traffic. It also didn’t help that my hotel was right at the start of the really bad traffic spot.

Why I Didn't Love Santorini

Parking in Oia can be done, but you have to find a parking space. The best spot I found was down the hill from the bus station parking lot. I was able to park my car along a wall that offered some shade.

Touristy

I am sure you are thinking, Tiffany it’s one of the most popular places on the planet to go and you didn’t expect it to be touristy!? I expected it to some degree, but some parts of it were over the top touristy. One of those places was Fira. Fira is the capital city of Santorini. I stopped here to buy an SD card for my camera and it was just one souvenir shop after another. It was also quite dirty. That is probably due to the overcrowding of Santorini during the season. It also one the cheaper areas to stay on Santorini, which probably contributes to the crowds.

Why I Didn't Love Santorini

Oia had its touristy sections as well. Lots of shops along the walk to the sunset. Many of these shops offering souvenir and over priced designer beach wear. Slightly ironic since all the beaches are located elsewhere on the island.

The Heat

I live in Qatar, and I am from Texas, but the heat on Santorini was something I hadn’t experienced. The combination of the heat the white washed walls created an oven effect. There is no offer of shade because all the trees have been removed out to build hotels! I had on sunscreen and still felt a bit burned after only an hour in the sun. Hats and umbrellas are needed!

Let me say you will be hard pressed to find too many blog posts saying someone didn’t like Santorini. I tried! I managed to find a few. One is Suitcases and Sandcastles, and you can read about how she didn’t think it was worth the hype. The other is from Hannah Rose and how traveling there as a backpacker may not have been the best plan. Christina of Santorini Plus, who is also a Santorini tour guide, tells you want not to do on a visit to Santorini.

Of course, tons of people love Santorini. Here are some of the posts I have found about loving Santorini! Radha and Brook from On Flight Mode think Santorini should be at the top of your bucket list and give some great tips on what to see and do! Angela from the Sunday Chapter gives us 7 reasons to visit Santorini.

Why I Didn't Love Santorini

How to Make Your Experience Better Than Mine

  • Go in the off-season, like October or April. The crowds will be less, and the weather will be cooler. Some hotels and restaurants will be open, but now that Greece is going to limit the amount of tourists that can arrive by cruise ship more places might stay open.
  • Give yourself more time. I was only there for two days. You probably need 3 to 5 days depending on what all you want to see.
  • Stay outside of Fira and Oia. Those places can be visited by car, and you can still have a great view of the caldera. If you really want to have a caldera view, stay in Oia one night for the experience and spend the rest of the time elsewhere.
  • Walk through Oia in the early morning to beat the heat and the crowds.

Maybe one day I will go back, and I will love it, but for now, I will visit the quieter Greek islands.

Have you been to Santorini? What did you think?

 

Suitcases and Sandcastles
Greece, Sailing, Travel

The Little Known Beautiful Greek Islands of Kythnos and Kea

January 16, 2017

Kythnos and Kea

During my Greek island sailing trip, I visited 12 islands and Athens. While I only spent about 24 hours or less on each island, it was enough to tell you which islands were my favorites. Believe it or not, Santorini was not my favorite. Kythnos and Kea are two islands I would like to consider spending significantly more time exploring.

Kythnos

The fourth Greek island we docked in was Kythnos. The first night we were on Kythnos, we slept in Kolona Bay. We anchored in the natural harbor between Kythnos and a smaller islet. The beach is a nice soft sand, which is not the norm in Greece.  There were not too many other people at Kolona Bay. I explored the surrounding hills. There is a small restaurant and bar on the Kythnos side if you want a meal or a beer. We had a sandpit barbecue.

Kythnos and Kea

The next day we sailed around the island and docked at the town of Loutra.  The captain recommended heading up to the hilltop Chora for lunch and to see the town. Several of us piled into one of the two taxis on this side of the island and headed up the winding road. Immediately saw the charm of the village. It is the more quiet, but equally beautiful version of Santorini. Not only that but I had the best meal of my life there.

Kythnos and Kea

Kythnos and Kea

After wandering the town, I decided to eat in the main square where the taxi had dropped us. The restaurant was called Messaria, which is the official name of the town. I ordered the fig salad with almonds and the baked eggplant. Both were divine despite their simplicity! The seasoning was just perfect.  I really want to try to recreate the eggplant dish myself. The eggplant is baked with tomato sauce, cheese and spices.

Kythnos and Kea

Kythnos and Kea

The astounding food didn’t stop with lunch. That evening we visited Sofrano Yachting Club Restaurant. Since having mussels last summer in Italy, I have become obsessed. I ordered the steamed mussels. The mussels had been steamed in a combination of ouzo, garlic, and possibly white wine, which made a sauce so good I dipped my bread in it after the mussels were all gone. Sadly, we sailed from Kythnos the next morning and didn’t get the chance to enjoy the natural hot springs.

Kythnos and Kea

Kea

Sailing into the small island of Kea, I was really happy for a quiet port. We docked in the small village of Vourkari, which is down the road from the larger port of Korissia where the ferries from Athens arrive. The second week of sailing was rougher than the first and I hadn’t been getting much sleep due to that and we had been on larger islands with busy ports. Vourkari is a small quaint Greek village.

We arrived late in the afternoon, allowing us just enough time to walk to down to the small beach before dinner. The beach was not as rocky as some Greek beaches and there is a beach bar with loungers available. After dinner, we walked around feeding the stray cats our leftover dinner scraps and enjoying exploring the island.

Kythnos and Kea

We headed up to the Chora of Kea the next morning. We walked (hiked, really) to the see the Lion of Kea. It’s a steep climb down to the lion, but worth getting a close up picture of it. Going back to the Chora make sure you take a look around at the amazing views down to the sea and the surrounding homes.

Kythnos and Kea

Kea also appealed to me because it was quiet, the people were nice and Vourkari had a nice vibe of everyone knowing each other. I wanted to rent an apartment and stay for a month or so.

Have you been to any Greek Islands? Which ones were your favorites?

Greece, Sailing, Travel

Sailing the Greek Islands – Itinerary

January 9, 2017

Since my objective was to be on a boat, I wasn’t focused on what islands we were on the itinerary. I just wanted to be on the water. I knew I want to go to Santorini and that was what prompted me to book two weeks as it allowed two days in Santorini. The guide I had purchased didn’t do most of the island’s justice and eventually, I decided just to learn on board the boat. That was part of the appeal of the charter company I chose; they provided information every day about the places we were going to visit. Several islands will get an individual post, but I want to give you an idea of each island.

Week One

The first stop was the small island of Aegina. Sailing to Aegina doesn’t take very long, and the captain said that this was because they hope to let passengers get their sea legs, so they don’t get seasick.

Aegina is known for the Temple of Aphaea as it is one of the best-preserved temples of ancient Greece. The temple is located at the top of the island, and you have to hike up to the top. I opted not to climb to the temple because I woke up with a migraine and it was still hot in Greece in September and would have made my migraine miserable. Since the island is also known for their pistachios, I went on a pistachio hunt! Later I decided to bring these back to Qatar for my coworkers, but they were some of the best pistachios I have ever had.

Sailing the Greek Islands-Itinerary

After lunch and swim, we headed to Poros, which isn’t far from Aegina. We docked at the town of Poros (I discovered there are many duplications of names in Greece). This was to be our sleeping spot for the evening. First thing on everyone’s mind was a shower. The local beer pub offered showers for €3! So, yes, I showered in a bar. It wasn’t the nicest shower I have ever had, but it certainly wasn’t the worst. And I definitely think it was part of the experience.

Sailing the Greek Islands-Itinerary

The next island was Hydra. Hydra was a happening place! The port was full, and we had a hard time finding a place to dock. There are no cars allowed on the island, and it is full of cats!

Sailing the Greek Islands-Itinerary

The captain wanted to head to Milos, but the weather wasn’t going to cooperate. Instead, we headed to Kythnos. Kythnos was one of my favorites. We slept in two nights in Kythnos in different places. (There will be more on Kythnos later.)

Sailing the Greek Islands-Itinerary

Next, we headed to Serifos for a short swim stop. The tricky part here is there is no harbor. We were given the option to swim to the beach or take the dingy. I was sure I could make it to shore, but I wasn’t sure I would be able to make it back the boat. I opted to take the dingy. The water was so clear here. It reminded me of the Caribbean.

The next and final stop for the first week was Ios. By this point, I was really tired and decided to stay on the boat that day knowing I still had to do Santorini and another week!  This turned out to be a good thing as I was struck down by the opposite of seasickness, land sickness (?) and was dizzy for several days. There are lots sights to see here, though, including Homer’s Tomb. We had dinner the last evening together at an amazing hotel overlooking the harbor and were treated to a spectacular sunset.

Sailing the Greek Islands-Itinerary

 

Week Two

After two nights in Santorini, I returned by ferry to Ios to begin week two! The land sickness went away for a bit on Santorini but was totally gone once I was back on the boat. Schinoussa was the next island and had the smallest population of all the Greek Islands we visited. As of 2011, 256 people lived there, but it seemed like less than that. There wasn’t anything at the port, but the walk up to the town was magical as they have made a great stone path that is lit at night. I wish we had more time on this tiny island.

Next, we sailed to Paros. Paros was much larger than Schinoussa and some of the other islands we visited. I decided to strike out on my own for the day and the evening meal. The island had great shopping and restaurants. You could wander the streets for hours. My only regret was that I didn’t have more room in my suitcase. The harbor was not protected, and we had a rough night on the boat and eventually, I went to sleep in the lounge area to try to escape the noise of the water hitting the stern where my cabin was located.

Sailing the Greek Islands-Itinerary

The ancient site of Delos was the next island. Delos is not an inhabited island due to the whole island being an archeological site. It is believed to have been inhabited since the 3rd millennium BC. If you aren’t on a sailing cruise, you can get here by ferry from Mykonos. Bring your hiking shoes and some water as there is lots to see and the only snack shop on the island is a bit of a walk from the port as are the bathrooms!

Sailing the Greek Islands-Itinerary

Another big island was up next with Syros. Syros is very modern and looks a little Italian. It had a nice mix of sites to see and shopping. We had a wonderful dinner here in a building that wasn’t fully restored, and the ceiling was made of vines that hung down into the dining room. The food was modern Greek.

Sailing the Greek Islands-Itinerary

 

Last, but not least was Kea. Kea was another favorite of mine. The harbor was small and quaint. The beach was a short walk from there. We slept at Kea and in the morning went to the hilltop Chora (village) to see the Lion of Kea. Kea has a wonderful museum in the village as well.

Sailing the Greek Islands-Itinerary

Are you tired yet? I was by this point and was glad and sad to be heading back to Athens. While I think I would have needed some serious naps, I would have loved to stay on the boat for the next two-week journey.

Sailing the Greek Islands-Itinerary
Europe, Greece, Sailing, Travel

Sailing the Greek Islands – Arrival and the Boat

January 2, 2017

When I first told people that I was going to sail the Greek Islands, they thought I was going on a cruise, but they were wrong! Inspired by sailing up the Nile in Egypt, I decided to find another sailing adventure. I wanted to be close to the water and for more than a couple of days. After doing some research, what exactly I wanted out of the trip. I wanted a private cabin charter in Greece. Is that all Greek to you?

Basically, I wanted a small sailboat, not a cruise ship. I also wanted my own cabin. After looking at some budget options, I decided that going with a more expensive charter with some meals included and a tour guide was more my sailing style. Ultimately, I booked with Poseidon Charters for this sailing adventure. Then the long wait for the trip began!

Arrival in Athens

The start of the two-week sailing trip begins in Athens. Most charters will leave from Athens, but some have options of leaving from one of the Greek Islands. Three years ago, I had a trip planned to Athens, but I had a medical emergency and it was canceled, so I arrived a day early so I could do a quick stop at the big attractions. I did the usual Acropolis, Hadrian’s Library, Agora, Acropolis Museum and some people watching.

Sailing the Greek Islands

Sailing the Greek Islands

I would say the best part of Athens was meeting a cousin I had never met before! Yes, I had to go all the way to Athens to meet my American cousin. She was there starting a semester abroad, and we thought we should meet up. She lives in Nebraska and given how little I am in the US now; this made sense. Unfortunately, we are not related on the Greek side, only the German side so I am still not Greek! We also didn’t have the good sense to take pictures of this epic meetup, so we will just have to remember that it happened.

Boarding the Boat

I will admit that getting to the marina and finding the boat made me nervous. Yes, even after all these trips, I still worry about some things. The best way for me to get to the marina was to take the tram, but the tram wasn’t close to my hotel and dragging my suitcase across ancient streets and summer tourist crowds was not appealing to me. I also wasn’t too keen on taking a taxi in Athens as I have heard of people being scammed. I can be very firm, so I decided to let the hotel call me a taxi and they estimated it should be €15 to the marina. They gave the taxi driver directions in Greek, and I prayed I would make it to the correct Marina! Even though he didn’t speak a word of English and my Greek is zero, I made it, and he got a big tip from a grateful tourist.

The charter company had sent good directions, but arriving at the marina, I became worried as there were hundreds of boats. I walked down the pier looking for the name of the boat. It was all the way at the end due to its size. Arriving early in case of taxi mishaps, I had about an hour and a half to kill.  I took off to buy drinks for the happy hour aboard the boat as alcohol is not provided by the charter company.

Sailing the Greek Islands

Life Aboard the Sailboat

Once I returned to the boat, most of the other passengers had arrived and we were allowed to board. As I hadn’t seen my cabin yet, I was anxious to see what my home for the next two weeks would look like. I had been told the cabin was on the short side. This turned out to be just fine for me since I am short. The bonus was that it was wider than the other cabins and I was able to stand up in part of the cabin. I did, however, have to shower sitting down.

Sailing the Greek Islands

The first night we went to dinner near the marina and then slept on board in the harbor. We left early the next morning after a wonderful breakfast of greek yogurt, fruit, boiled eggs and granola; this would become the standard breakfast for the whole trip.

After leaving the harbor of each place we slept at, we would usually leave early, motor out till we found some good wind and raise the sails. Then we would head to the swim stop.  Some days this was on an island and other days it was off-shore somewhere. We would then have lunch aboard the ship. Lunch was usually something light and quick as sometimes we were underway while eating lunch. Other days we had more elaborate lunches, like the day we had spring rolls! The captain had brought the rice sheets all the way from Canada. Still not sure how he rolled all of them with the rocking back and forth.

Sailing the Greek Islands

After lunch, we would head to our next port, which is where we would anchor for the night. People have asked if we slept in hotels on the islands and the answer is no. We slept on the boat. Given the unpredictability of weather, there is no guarantee of what islands we will sail to, so you can’t make a hotel reservation in advance. Only one island was a guarantee, Ios, as that is where the second-week passengers get on. Not everyone did two weeks like crazy me!

Sailing the Greek Islands

After arriving at the next island, we might have time to sightsee if we arrived early enough and then we would usually go to dinner as a group. If we didn’t have time in the evening, a few places were closer together and we could go sightseeing in the morning. One night we didn’t anchor at a marina and we slept in a bay. This was my favorite night. We had a barbecue, stayed up watching the stars and a thunderstorm in the distance and I awoke to a stunning sunrise.

Sailing the Greek Islands

In the next post, I will talk more about the itinerary and what I did all day! There will more posts about specific islands later too, so stay tuned!

Have you gone sailing on a vacation? Tell us where and if you liked in the comments!

Sailing the Greek Islands
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