Posted by: Laura | June 23, 2010

Santorini: A Great Love Affair

Oh, Santorini. What can I say? You stole my heart and reminded me how nice it is to just relax and enjoy the surroundings. Thank you for that. But before we get too far, I have to give credit where credit is due – and that’s to all the fabulous friends I made while on the island. While I think I would still have thoroughly enjoyed Santorini, the great group of people I hung with made it SO much more fun! So, a BIG thanks goes out to the hostel crew! Love you guys!!

Dramatic Perissa Beach views from The Beach Bar loungers!

Seriously, I almost didn’t leave this beautiful, volcanic island located in the southern Aegean Sea. Modern day Santorini, or Thera as it was known in ancient times, is made up of a lagoon surrounded by multiple islands after one of the largest volcanic eruptions in history split the single island apart over 3,600 years ago. The southeastern beaches’ sand is not your typical fine, white sand found across the States or in the Caribbean. The sand here is black and more like small, smooth pebbles. One advantage of this type of sand is it doesn’t get caught in your towel, hair, or anything else it comes in contact with. Be sure to use caution when getting in to the ocean as many are surprised to find that the ocean floor is made of up large rocks which are very slippery…especially during high tide or when waters are rough. It’s rather picturesque to lie on the dramatic beach with its rocky shore, steep hills rising just behind you, and many beach-front bars boasting their comfy beach loungers full of happy people drinking cocktails shaded by an umbrella. If you’re lucky, you may even find a nude sunbather or two!

The John & Katrina Hostel

Although Santorini is relatively small, there is plenty to do and I found my two night stay was easily extended into 10 days! It all started when I wasn’t able to book the hostel Lonely Planet recommended so I counted on the reviews on Hostelworld to help me out. I found accommodation at The John & Katrina Hotel for the lovely rate of €6/night in a 10-bed, ensuite dorm room that was just a few blocks from the beach. It even had a kitchenette in the room and a pool just outside my door. At first I planned to just stay there the one night then change to the other hostel, but upon arriving I met some interesting people and instantly fell in love with the ambiance of the place. A funny, Swedish gal, Caroline, and I hit it off almost instantly. Turns out she had just gotten a job working at the Mediterranean Dive Center for the summer and was looking for an apartment on the island. On my second day there she found one and offered a bed in her new pad – FOR FREE! So, after two nights in the hostel, I moved across the street into Caroline’s new place. Since we had both been staying at the hostel though, we already made several friends and continued to go over there for pre-bar drinks and group day-trips around the island.

Having a laugh with Caroline

Living on the island is cheap. Not Asia cheap, but pretty darn cheap. I lived off of €2 gyros (SO good) and whatever the local, house white wine was. Generally the wine cost about €4 for 500mls. It was sometimes a hit-or-miss but generally it was drinkable and quite refreshing. If you are looking to get an apartment in the area, expect to pay about €250/month for two people. This includes rent, water and electricity bills.* If you want to visit some wineries, go shopping in Thira, or watch the sunset in western Oia, it is inexpensive to rent an ATV or scooter. For the ATVs, look to pay about €12 for a 24-hour rental and for the scooters, it’ll cost about €10 for 24 hours. (It’s also very convenient that the rental shop is located immediately next door to the hostel.) I don’t know how much petrol the ATVs used (as I was on a scooter) but for Caroline and me, it cost about €4.50 (total) for petrol – and we certainly drove all over the island. If you have experience with scooters I would recommend them over the ATV any day. They are faster and you can see more of the island during your rental period. There are also local buses to take you to all the main attractions, but it’s€7.50 round-trip to get to Thira & Oia so I think the scooter is a great deal. Plus the bus drivers don’t generally speak English all that well, and if you don’t know where to tell them to stop (for other attractions such as the wineries or the Red Beach), you may find yourself spending more time on the bus than enjoying the island.

Sunset in Oia

If it’s shopping you like, head up to Thira. Afterwards, go to Oia for a nice dinner and a magical sunset. If you are more of an athletic person, hike up to Ancient Thira or go for a scuba diving lesson. Nightlife on the island is definitely abundant, lots of fun, and not to mention, CHEAP! The gang at the hostel preferred going to The Beach Bar, which is located toward the eastern-most end of the beach. They had wonderful drink specials and a cool atmosphere. There was always dancing inside – and good conversation outside. Most nights they had 2-for-1 cocktail specials (think €4 for TWO tequila sunrises) and unlike Ireland, they free-pour liquor into the drinks…and they were nice and heavy-handed. You definitely get your money’s worth here. I don’t even know what time bars are to close in Greece but I do know there was many a night when folks were partying at the bar until well after 4am!

If you are looking for a place to unwind and enjoy sunshine at its best, then head to Santorini. There’s something there for everyone. With activities such as snorkeling and scuba diving, volcanic boat excursions, shopping, romantic sunsets, sunbathing, and a hip nightlife – you’re sure to have a memorable holiday.

The Hostel Gang

*Prices given are based on the Perissa Beach area located on the southern side of the island. Prices in Thira & Oia may be more expensive.

I received no payment of any form for my opinions of businesses or hostels mentioned in this post.

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