Saturday, August 29, 2015

Santorini, Greece: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly - August 2015

The Good:
  • Scenery. The island of Santorini is a photographer's dream. White walled buildings and blue domed churches clutch to rock cliffs surrounding seas of the brightest blue. Winding cobblestone alley ways and terraces overlook black, white and red beaches. The views are incredible and the sunsets glowing. Santorini's two islands sit at the edge of a massive sea-filled cauldron formed by a volcanic eruption circa 1500 BC.
  • Public Transport. Surprisingly, no matter your budget or preference, the public bus is your ride of choice. It conveniently navigates all the major towns on the island with several pick-ups each hour. It is clean and costs only a couple Euros each way.
  • Food. While pricey, there is no shortage of dining options on the island. Nearly every hotel or bed and breakfast has a restaurant. The seafood selection is vast and some places appeal to customers by hanging fresh daily catches in the windows. Gyros and souvlaki vendors are everywhere, but it's wise to grab a bite on the side streets or in an eatery without a view to enjoy for a fraction of the price.
  • Shopping. Countless shops line the walkways of each of the main towns on Santorini. You can find everything from high-end jewelry and fashion, to locally-made handicrafts and artwork. As with elsewhere in Greece, be sure to haggle and scout out the competition before your buy.

The Bad:
  • Hoards of Tourists. Santorini is a tourist island. Every year more than 500,000 tourists flock to the 37 square mile island with many ascending in mass from cruise ships; it's not uncommon to find a handful of cruise liners docked at the old port of Fira each day. The narrow streets become elbow-to-elbow and lines for popular attractions wind around blocks.
  • Getting Around. Because the towns on Santorini are located up and around volcanic cliffs, getting around should be a key consideration. To access our hotel room from the reception, we descended five stories by elevator and then an additional eight flights of stairs by foot. Walking from town to town looks doable on the map but considering most of the journey is uphill and through narrow corridors, this may be an overly ambitious activity. Regardless of how you plan to get around, be sure to bring good walking shoes; water footwear is also recommended if you plan to explore the hot springs or seas around the volcano.
  • Transportation Options. Aside from the public bus, cars, ATV's and scooters are available for rent. The cost is minimal but beware: parking is limited on the island, drivers can be certifiable and, depending on your rental agreement, any mishap can result in your paying the full price of the vehicle.
  • The Heat. While the mercury doesn't rise to record-breaking heights, the heat on the island can be suffocating. Steep stairs, scarce shade and masses of people only compound the feeling in the summer months. On any excursion, be sure to bring plenty of bottled water as the tap water is unsuitable for drinking.
  • Late Bookings. Summer is peak tourism season and many hotels book up months in advance. Waiting until the last minute can lead to paying exorbitant amounts or getting stuck with less than desirable accommodation.

The Ugly:
  • Taxi Shortage. With tens of thousands of tourists meandering through Santorini's towns, it's surprising that only 36 taxi cabs work the island. Because of the demand, it is a good idea to arrange airport pick-up and return with your lodging well in advance. Pre-arranged tours and excursions are also a good idea, as well as taking advantage of boat transportation when attempting to span the islands.
  • Route to Fira Port. The Old Port of Fira is where many boat excursions depart. The easiest path down the volcanic cliff is by way of the cable car, however if a cruise ship is in port, this may not be an option due to the massive lines. In this case, you are forced to trek down the steep mountain by a 600+ step path paved in animal excrement and traveled by herds of donkeys and their angry handlers. Rumor has it that the donkey handlers purposefully push and scare tourists to deter walking the trail. The slippery and smelly hike down the hill is not for the faint of heart.
  • Toilet Paper Robbery. According to the locals, a woman whose sanity is questionable robs all of the toilet paper from the restrooms of Oia's main square every morning. She then sits at the entrance to the restroom charging a fee for the paper and shouting obscenities at the passersby. Tourists are advised to bring their own tissues to town and ignore the crazy woman.

1 comment:

  1. Love those post! Santorini is somewhere I was looking to visit next summer. Can't believe the cab shortage! These are really interesting facts :)