Before we knew it, we were back to the airport in Athens, and climbing onto a plane for Santorini. Santorini is a small group of islands about 80 kilometers north of Crete. The islands are a product of an active volcano, which has had some major eruptions over time, the last one of which was around 1500 BC and which destroyed all life on the island. The present-day crescent shape of the island is a consequence of the this huge eruption. The collapse of the caldera allowed the sea to come rushing into what was the center portion of the island. The highest parts of the island reach up over 300 meters above the sea, while the caldera itself extends over 400 meters below the sea! The island itself owes its very existence to the volcano. The mild activity of the volcano after this major eruption continues into the present building up two small islands within the caldera, Palea Kameni and Nea Kameni. These islands represent the volcano's most recent activity. These two small islands in the center of the Santorini caldera, are the youngest volcanic lands in the Eastern Mediterranean. Palea Kameni (Old Burnt Island) is less than 2000 years old, while Nea Kameni (Young Burnt Island) began to form only 425 years ago and its youngest lavas are less than 50 years old.
We stayed at an amazing hotel, Xenones Filotera, located in the village of Imeroviglio, just north of Fira, the capital of Santorini. We had an awesome suite, and we were located on one of the narrowest portions of the island, and high up on a cliff, so we could watch the sun come up over the Aegean Sea in one direction, and watch it set over the sea in the other direction! The hotel was small, and quiet, but had an amazing staff that spoiled us. This is looking north towards our hotel, which is one of the buildings in the group along the right side of the picture.
Jessica relaxes, and takes in our view of the caldera from the hotel. We had to "deal with" this view for breakfast each morning, while swimming in the pool, and just plain in general. It was rough...
First mission was to rent ourselves a 4-wheeler for transportation around the island. It was about 1 million miles away from being "sprite", but we soon adopted our trusty little friend into the family, and named him Flash - mostly because of his "blinding" speed.
The first beach we hit was Kamari on the Southeastern side of the island;
Later that same day, we wound our way down to The Red Beach, which turned out to be our favorite. It had crystal clear, calm water, and though it looks cool in pictures, it doesn't compare to the sight in person!
The next day we hit Koloumbos Beach, up on the North side of the island. This one was less developed, so featured some nudists, and also had rough seas as there was a strong on-shore wind that day.
So we went back south to hit up The White Beach next. This one was pretty cool too, oddly enough, fairly similar to the Red Beach, except that it was white. The sea was calm here too, though didn't feature as much sea life.
Jessica at the Southern tip of the island, in Faros, overlooking the sea;
Looking from the Southern part of the island, across the caldera and back up to the Northern tip, where the town of Ia is.
Another day we took a boat out to the islands that make up the volcano. They forgot to mention the nice hike from the shore up to the top of the cone, across deep black volcanic rock, but it was well worth it. This is the view from Nea Kameni, overlooking the (still active) double crater at the top, and looking back towads Fira at the top of the cliffs.
The boat made a stop-off when we circled Palea Kameni at one of the hot springs along the shore. Jessica thought it was especially cool that there was no place to really dock the boat, so you had to jump off the rail of the boat, and swim a ways to shore and into the springs. It was definitely cool, but not hot like the hot springs you have around here!
I have no idea how, but when we got back to port, I convinced Jessica we should hike up the 500-some steps that climb back up to Fira. Even I thought they were rough, not eased by the mid-day sun and 100 degree temps. Jessica was a rockstar though, and made it all the way up, brushing off the pleas of others coming down that we should just turn around and take the donkey ride up!
Everyday on Santorini ended with an amazing sunset, this one from our hotel pool.
Even though it was a rather small island, and I tend to get restless, I would have been happy to stay there longer than we had planned. But once again it was time to move on, and I have to admit, I was excited to see what Crete had in store for us!