Santorini is beautiful. No.. Santorini is GORGEOUS!!!
Viraj decided to show me the island of Santorini in a slightly offbeat way – with a trek! Since we had reached Fira post midnight, we slept in and woke up leisurely. By the time we got out of the room, it was lunch time already! While we travel, waking up late is a strict no-no for us, but this trip was about relaxing and taking time off our hectic schedules back home.
The agenda for the day – trek to Oia to be there in time for the famous sunset.
The distance – over 10kms.
Now, I am a runner (at least I like to call myself one) and walking ten kilometers would be a cakewalk as compared to running it. I didn’t consider it to be much of a challenge. Viraj made sure that I wore good shoes and was well fed before we set off (I always need to be fed well.. just ask Viraj.. and my folks).
Fira is the capital and towards the top of half of the island. The geography of the island is such that if you are towards the cliff, you can see the entire island, no matter where you are. Just as we started, we could see the route of the trek leading up to Oia at a distance. At the first glance, it seems so daunting, the journey you are to embark. The hills and the cliffs, they tell you that you are in for a ride; but they also tell you that you will be rewarded at every step of the journey. The entire route is along the cliff and the view promised to be astounding. I had no doubt in my mind, that this is going to be a fun day. Viraj and I have never really trekked on any of our trips, so was the first for us.
Here we Go!
Post a very late and super yum lunch at a traditional Greek restaurant hidden away in the narrow streets of Fira, we were ready to go. (FYI, if you go to Fira, you MUST go to this restaurant, it is called Nicholas Taverna. It is so cute and traditional in the center of the very ‘touristy’ lanes of Fira. It makes you feel so happy and relaxed. We were recommended to go to this place by a local, so we knew it had to be good. I had the best Moussaka I’ve ever eaten in my life at the Taverna and there is no way it couldn’t be featured in this post. My mouth waters just thinking about it! *Drooool!!*)
The trek path was on a parallel lane to the Taverna, along the cliff. The beautiful view welcomes you from the get go. Juggling through the throngs of people and navigating through the narrow streets, we often took a path we were not supposed to, but the beauty that is Santorini, never left our side. Walking through the streets is so much fun and quite like an adventure. You never know what is round the corner. Climbing up and down, fortunately we didn’t go round and round.. (failed attempt to rhyme :P), just straight on ahead, completely mesmerized by the whites and blues of the buildings and the gorgeous blue water on our side. The only thing I didn’t like so much was the hot sun. I never ever thought that I would go to Europe and say.. Oh My God! It’s so HOT!! There’s a first time for everything I guess.
The walk is lined with beautiful chapels, hotels and houses, and some strange things you see on the roof of some houses. Every few meters reveals a new photo opportunity. I am going to bore you with the pictures because every picture is so beautiful.
The Quest for the Famous Chapel
Along the way, we kept looking for the famous chapel that is the signature image of Santorini. The buildings started thinning out and we realized that we had missed it somewhere. As we walked ahead, I had to stop for a sip of water. It was a really hot day to trek. Looking around I saw the little township we had left behind, and among the little white buildings was a very familiar blue dome. I immediately called out to Viraj and asked him if that was the chapel? He froze! Oh my God! It was! We had crossed it over a kilometer back. We turned around and headed back to the chapel.
As we were getting close to the chapel, we had to head into the center of the township. I remember being a little nervous about getting lost again! We had already walked back about a kilometer. Fortunately, we had directions! On the walls was a picture of the dome and arrows pointing out the directions. I was so impressed! It got us right to the chapel, and a huge number of people taking the exact same pictures. Yes, we too, are included.
We kept wondering how had we missed the chapel and soon enough we realized the mistake we had made. At Firostephani, the path splits. One of the paths climbs up while the other goes down. Lazy as we are, we took the lower the path and saw the chapel from below.
Lesson learnt for the day – Taking the easy way out will add almost two kilometers to your already very long trek.
Here’s where the pictures do all the talking.
Umm.. Where are we?? Where do we go now??
Within an hour and a half from when we set off, we reached a town. I still do not know which little town it was, when the marked path disappeared, rather, we missed the marked path. We took a little street and realized that we were very close to the main road. Hmm… this sure didn’t look right. We saw a few people heading our way and for some reason believed that they were doing the trek too. I do not know why we thought that. They were much older and the women were wearing heels! Whatever happened to our keen analytical eye??!!??
So we asked them politely, ‘Excuse me, could you tell me which way do we take to go to Oia?’
Very prompt came the reply, ‘That way.’
‘Is this the hike route?
*Confused look by the tourists*
‘We’ve been hiking. Sort of lost our way.’
“Hiking!!!! You will take three days to get to Oia!!’
*Now our turn to exchange confused looks*
‘Umm, no.. there is a path. It will take a few hours, but we’re looking to walk it.’
‘Sure! If we were your age, I’m sure we could too. Good luck!’
And off they went laughing at us. As they walked off, we heard them say, ‘There’re young guys! They can do it!’
With a fresh resolve we headed to look for the trek route, and surprisingly, we found it it no time, and we continued on our path.
Up and Down.. We go On and On… Hill Number 1!
After all the townships, the path started narrowing down. We were already over two hours into the trek. The people who were walking with us, were no longer there. It was at this point that I realized that this was an actual, proper trek! Walking along the streets definitely had not given that impression. Fortunately the climb to the first hill was gradual, until we got close to the top. That is where I started huffing and puffing and realized that I may be able to run, but trekking and climbing is a whole different ball game.
What is so interesting about Santorini is that the island is really narrow towards the top half. As you keep climbing higher, you have the ocean on both sides. One side is the cliff while the othehr side is the flat land. You really begin to see and understand the formation of this volcanic group of islands.
Getting to the top of this hill was not the real challenge for me, it was coming down. Santorini, being a volcanic island, has volcanic rock and gravel. Duh! If there is one thing I know about myself, it is that I am extremely accident prone. My body’s center of gravity is a little off, and loose gravel on the way down, definitely not my best friend. I was going very very slowly and I could feel Viraj getting impatient. What made it worse was that there was a couple in front of us who were hiking in flip flops and going way faster than me! Better be safe than sorry, I say. It is better to go slow than have a wounded Pooja to take care of.
The Second Hill… The Chapel with THE View
The descent from the first hill had us join the main road for a bit. Soon enough, we were back on the trail and going up the second hill. This was a slightly harder climb. I’m sure it would be a cakewalk for the people who climb even a little bit, but for me, a non climber, it was not all that easy. It really baffled me why I was finding it tough to climb! At that point all the breathing techniques that I follow while running came back to me. I sure did become good source of entertainment for Viraj at that time. Fortunately, it wasn’t a craazzyy climb and not before long, we were at the top of that hill. Phew!
We caught our breath and looked around.
Sometimes when you are amidst nature, or something absolutely beautiful, the realization hits you of where you are and how truly lucky you are to be alive and at that place and at that time, that is the feeling I got when I saw the entire group of islands at my feet. All those months of dreaming and hoping have culminated to this very moment. ‘Breathtaking’, ‘Stunning’ any adjective you use is an understatement. You have to experience it.
Oia.. Not too Far Now..
With a little break, and Oia finally not so far away, we started again. I could hear my calves thanking me!
Chopper in the Sky
While walking along Viraj saw a helicopter in the distance. Like two mesmerized children, we followed it and were discussing how beautiful the view from up there would be. The chopper kept getting closer and closer. We suddenly realized that the helicopter was about to land right in front of us! There was a little clearing and that’s all the helicopter needed.
Viraj and I are fauji kids. We are used to large helicopters and this one seemed so tiny! There were two people waiting for the chopper. They got in, took a selfie, and off they went to see the island from a whole different perspective.
Someday… Viraj and I will do that as well… with the selfie!
Oia.. You really are so pretty!
When you walk into the streets of Oia, you KNOW that you’re in Oia. The white sugar cube buildings and the streets, it is pretty as a picture. There is a reason why Oia is so popular. I just couldn’t get enough of how pretty it is! Hopefully if I ever get to go back Oia, I would love to stay in one of the private villas with the infinity pool. Sigh! Someday! I bet I could afford it if I can afford the chopper ride!
Find the Spot! Find the Spot!
We had been advised by the lady at our hotel that we should not go to any of the bars or cafes on the cliff to watch the sunset at Oia as they would be too expensive. There is a spot at the tip of the island where everyone goes to to watch the sunset. With that in mind, we started looking out for that ‘sunset point’. We knew that we HAD to be close because the number of people waiting on the narrow steps of the narrow streets was getting larger and larger by the minute. We had no idea which way to go though. The spot finally revealed itself to us way below where we were. We decided to get ourselves a beer and some food and head out in that direction.
The winding streets of Oia are really cute, unless you are in a hurry. Actually, in retrospect, they’re much better than the winding and terribly confusing streets of Mykonos city center. That is where we ACTUALLY got lost. (You can check that post out here)
We finally made it to the spot and it looked like the entire island had descended down there to watch the sunset. What I understand is that it’s not just the tourists that go there to watch the sunset, but the locals as well. Add the great clear weather to the mix and you have the entire cliff of Oia, jammed with people, waiting for that one spectacular view.
(FYI, I came across this post about Oia vs Fira sunset. It’s really funny.. and true. You can read that here)
The final word – The sunset it Oia really is THAT beautiful.
You Know You’re Lucky When You Witness…
A Sunset Proposal.. A scene out of the movies. Viraj and I were concentrating on the beautiful sunset and the change in colours in the sky when we heard people clapping and whistling. I turned around and saw that there was a man who was down on his knees asking his lady love to marry him. The romantic in me loved it! Getting proposed to in Santorini during the sunset.. such a pretty picture! However, the hundreds of strangers around you witnessing such an intimate moment.. not such a pretty picture. (Just my opinion.. what if she says no! :O)
Wherever the two are, I hope they have a wonderful married life.
Sunset on one side and the moon rise on the other.. Post the proposal craziness everyone there went back to watching the sun sink deeper into the horizon. Slowly, as the sun disappeared, the sky started turning into a beautiful hue of pink and orange. Soon enough, the onlookers and the shutterbugs started thinning out. Viraj and I, too, got up from the top of the roof of the ruin on which we were perched. When we turned around, the most breathtaking sight welcomed us – the moon was rising behind us. It was not just any moon that night, it was a full moon night. I had never seen anything like that before – sunset on one side and a moon rise on the other. I wish my phone had enough of a panorama capacity to capture the moment. We stayed for a bit, Viraj taking his set of pictures.
As the sky got darker and the moon brighter, the lights on the cliff face started coming on. As we walked back to the streets of Oia, we kept seeing the reflection of the full moon in the water and I now why Santorini is considered one of the most romantic islands in the world. The reflection of the full moon also reminded me of the full moon that Lena saw from her window in Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants 2. Trust me, the moon in the movie was no exaggeration! It really is that beautiful. With that, we were ready to head back to Fira… not walking! We took a bus from the Oia bus station.
It is unbelievable how beautiful the island is. The postcards and pictures don’t do justice to how pretty the island is how how stunning the views from the island are. If you can, the trek is the best way to see the island (unless you can afford that chopper ride). Walking through the streets of white and blue textures, it is a surreal experience. I had to keep pinching myself.. I am in Santorini. I REALLY am in Santorini!
One thing I learnt while in Santorini though, was that no matter where you go, whether it be a trek or the beach, make sure you wear good shoes. You will be trekking no matter what. Lol!
So hubby dear? Can we go again? 😉