When people talk about how beautiful Santorini, Greece is, nobody ever bothers to bring up the infinite amount of stairs to Fira’s port and the long trail of donkeys and their dung that leads the way down.
Sure its views is breathtaking, but this beauty comes with a price.
I know it sounds like I’m just whining, but really, Santorini really is gorgeous, and if you want the best sights, then Fira is the place you need to go to. My wife and I arrived at Keti, our hotel for the first three nights in Greece at around midnight. Keti was a unique boutique hotel because the rooms are literally carved into the side of the mountain which basically makes them little caves.
Upon landing in Santorini, I wasn’t that impressed with the more rustic look of the island, but once we got to Fira I was truly blown away by this mammoth city resting on the side of a mountain. It also didn’t hurt that we had a beautiful view of a nearby volcano, which we could see from the balcony we ate breakfast on each morning.
We felt like we were in paradise, but boy were we in store for an experience that was anything but relaxing. After exploring the tons of souvenir stores, wine and olive oil shops, art galleries, and tons of restaurants located in the city, we decided to book a day cruise that would take us to the volcano for a hike, Thirasia, a remote island with lovely views and some hot springs. Walking the town, which is riddled with steps to get to different parts of the hillside, took a lot out of us and a nice dip in the hot springs was the perfect remedy for this.
We scarfed down a quick gyro from Lucky’s Souvlaki, a must visit place if you’re ever in Santorini, where the seemingly drunk owner couldn’t stop bragging about how good his bread was. And he was right, it was absolutely delicious. The place where we booked the tour told us there were three ways to get to the port including the cable cars, the steps and the donkeys. Ok, I’m sure that last part confused you. Don’t worry it confused me too. The port was located at the bottom of the mountainside so getting down didn’t seem like such a daunting task at first glance. My wife and I decided that we could try the stairs since we had a good amount of time to kill.
It took us around 45 minutes to find the correct path that lead to the bottom and after getting on it, we noticed lines of donkeys walking up and down. I wasn’t about to ride one of these things so we stayed on the path downhill. These steps were super slippery and infinite in number. It took us at least another 45 minutes to get down to the bottom and on the way we had to do our best to not slip and dodge aggressive donkeys. I wanted to relax and this plan completely backfired on us. We also noticed a few brave souls who were climbing up the stairs.
My heart truly went out to these naive tourists who I’d otherwise look at as gluttons for punishment. One father begged a donkey rider tour guide to stop while he was following behind his son who was riding one of these prized animals uphill. He had enough, and at that point so did we. These stairs were never-ending and so steep. We later found out that the city-walk included 680 steps so just to get down to this boat was a great feat. Ok. I’m done complaining now. I promise!
After arriving at the port, we boarded the boat with a bunch of European tourists and set sail for the volcano. By the time we got there, we were exhausted from those steps. However, we toughed it out and made it up the volcano and back down. The actual experience was a bit disappointing since an inactive volcano is not that much different from any other mountain you’d hike. One thing that did stand out was the smoke emanating from some of the rocks. That was kind of cool. In fact, if you dug enough you could lift a hot magma smelling rock out of the ground.
The next part was by far one of my favorites of all. I finally got to get some r&r in the hot springs! The boat docked a few hundred feet away from this brown water which we were told was warmed from the nearby volcano system. We had to jump off and swim a bit before reaching it. The water was only slighter warmer than the regular ocean but still, it was the perfect remedy for a day of crazy hiking.
We were told to come back to the boat a little too soon for my liking to head to our next destination which was the remote island of Thirasia where would get to have dinner. The tour guide recommended a restaurant called Captain John’s so once we docked we headed straight there. I ordered an octopus tentacle which was so tender and fresh. It damn near tasted like a NY strip! The olive oil in Greece flows like milk and honey everywhere you go so I was sure to lather up a lot of my food with it. My wife and I also split a Greek salad that featured a slab of creamy, sharp feta cheese and fresh veggies. We ended the meal with a strangely earthy cup Greek coffee, and a Kinder chocolate dessert that was easily one of the best treats I have ever eaten.
We got back on the boat and headed towards Oia (the place with the famous white buildings with blue domes) to watch the sunset, something the city is famous for. The crew played some cheesy 80s rock ballads as we watched the lovely great red ball of gas drop below the ocean in view. Once the sun was down we went back to the Fira port and were entertained by the tour guide who performed a Greek folk dance on the way.
After all of the torture we had put ourselves through taking the steps down we smartened up and took the cable cars back up to our hotel once we got back to the port. We were exhausted and planned on taking it easy the following day.