The Fira-Oia trail in Santorini is a 3-hour long hike that boasts spectacular views. We didn’t do that. Instead, we strolled in Oia and Fira, and then drove around Akrotiri for similar views, food and wine/coffee. Wherever in Santorini you are, the view is awesome. After you get the pictures of the blue domes and white buildings in Oia that is.
There is only one main road in Santorini that is about 16km long in the shape of the letter C, laterally inverted. For this reason, car rental companies don’t rent out GPS units – you find your way with directions given (of the left, right, right, see Mexican restaurant then turn right variety) and a map with a red bold line indicating the main road as well as thinner lines for the side roads. That’s it. Roads are signposted but not very well. Educated guesses and a hang loose attitude will come in handy.
The roads are also rather narrow with big tour buses zipping by too so it would be more restful for your heart if a smaller car was used. For €45 per day, we had a nifty Nissan Micra automatic, a beat-up car that has seen better days and had a bit of trouble going uphill with 5 in it. Heh. The poor thing was suffering. Petrol wasn’t cheap either – €1.87 per litre. But self-drive is highly recommended just so you can experience the island in your own time. It is one of the more efficient and economical methods of moving around Santorini compared to day tours (from €30 onwards per prsn) and public buses (€1.80 per prsn per way). Did I mention that parking is free everywhere?
There are boat trips you can make out to the volcano, a small sulphur pool they call a hot spring, and snorkeling near the white beach where the main attraction is the rocky depths beneath a single fish that ignores the pieces of French baguette floating above it. But the catamaran was splendid, crew was great and vibe was good with inebriated younger adults puking their faces off on the way back after enjoying 5 cups of the free flow white wine.
One thing worth taking the time to see though is the way Santorini grows grapes. The grape bunches rest on the volcanic soil, protected from the wind by the leaves and vines. They do not get pests because of the sulphur in the soil so the grapes are never really harmed. Local varietals are used to make wine and one they are famous for is the Vinsanto, a dessert wine. Santo Winery and Faros Market have that – the former is commercial while the latter makes theirs in the family cellar. There is also pickled caper leaves, much like the capers we know but their leaves are pickled. It seems only Santorini does this given their limited land, limited crop thus limited yield of capers.
The experience of the island is one of pleasant chaos for one so used to order and efficiency. I guess when you are on vacation, you have time for mess. I found the absence of the need to get something done well, quickly and properly absolutely enthralling. I only just have to remember where I stuffed my sunblock and cap.