Santorini…

In all my travels I’ve observed that there are two types of beauty.
There’s man-made: glorious chapels, amazing architecture, sculptures, paintings, and landscaping.
And then there’s natural. God created and sustained. The kind that will always remain regardless of what man does or does not do to it.

And that’s Santorini…
…one of the most naturally beautifully places I’ve ever laid eyes or foot upon.
We’ve all seen the pictures; the unimaginably blue water, the sparkling white buildings, the churches with domes the same color as the water, all sitting atop the remnants of a volcanic caldera in the Aegean Sea.
The cliffs of Santorini drop 300m into the sea, so if you’re arriving by cruise ship, as I was, there are few options for getting up to the capital city of Fira. There’s the vehicle option; very easy. There’s a cable car. And there’s a staircase that winds diagonally up the side to the top. You can choose to walk the stairs or take a donkey ride. Yes…a donkey.
Whatever your preferred method, once you arrive to the top, you have the most amazing view of the blue water of the sea, the white washed homes, hotels, shops, and small and large blue domed churches.
A favorite summer spot for Grecians as well as other Europeans and vacationers from around the world, you can expect the island to be quite populated in August, September, and October. It’s a small-ish space handling a lot of people. But the beauty of the place will make you forgive the crowds and appreciate, that much more, the moments when you can find a tiny, stone-paved path with fuchsia foliage and high white walls that shield you from the hot sun and stretch so far ahead that all you see is a sliver of sky or sea or both.
I got to experience Santorini over several visits. A bus tour around the island allowed me a peek at vineyards, rocky cliffs and beaches, luxury shops, gilded churches, and tiny art galleries. I bought hand-made soaps, the product of the island’s own olive harvests. I sat with my friend at a cliff side cafe, enjoying some of the best pizza I’ve ever tasted and shared a glass of ouzo that could not be finished between the two of us. Our waiter gave us an “i-told-you-so” look as we carefully sipped the strong drink. On this particular visit, we decided that the best way to the bottom of the island would be by foot. The line for the cable car was forever long and the donkeys looked a little…sad. So we chose to take the steps that slanted and zig-zagged back and forth down the cliff. Whenever I think of our trek down, I remember a lesson I learned that applies to travel and life. Don’t be so caught up in the final destination that you forget to look at where you’ve come from. There’s always excitement when the destination is getting closer, but much beauty lies in the journey and steps taken along the way.
That’s a freebie…

On another trip to the island I decided to go with a few friends and experience a volcano hike and hot springs plunge. We took what looked like a pirate ship out to one of the smaller, uninhabited islands warm by geothermal activity. The water in this area of the sea had a green tint to it and smelled of sulfur, typical of areas with volcanic activity. Our first stop required a climb over black rocks and boulders as we took a walk up the island to a large crater, steaming in some places. The view of the sea and Fira at the top of Santorini in the distance was breathtaking. We made our way back down the volcano to our pirate ship which would take us to another location to experience the hot springs. The boat could only get so close to the springs, so our options were to take a dive off the side or climb down a ladder to the water, and swim through the water to the springs. Several of us decided to take the plunge and the swim and although the “hot” springs were more luke-warm on that day, swimming in the red and green tinted, mineral rich water was still a very cool experience.
Once back on the island, there was an opportunity to sit at a tiny cafe right by the water and have baklava with vanilla ice-cream while waiting to head back to the ship.
It was so easy to get lost in the beauty of this place. The blue water was literally so clear you could see straight through to the bottom. I’m always amazed by the memory of the intensity of that blue water and how, as you get closer to shore, the colors and intensity change, but it’s still as mesmerizing.
Santorini…
…truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever experienced.

For more info on Santorini including accommodations, sites, and restaurants check here:

http://www.fodors.com/world/europe/greece/the-cyclades/santorini/

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/greece/cyclades/santorini-thira

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