This past summer I had the pleasure of visiting Santorini, the “jewel of the Mediterranean” and this was my second to the island with the first one being back in 1988. During my stay on the island, I was always asked if this was my first time and I told whoever asked me about my first visit back n ’88. “Kamia Sxesi”….no comparison.
Back then I traveled overnight by bus from Thessaloniki to Athens, then took a “milk run” ferry boat ride that stopped at practically every island on the way down to the end of the line…Santorini. Then one must travel up the island’s steep cliff (bus) to Fira (the main town) and then we hopped in a cab to the town of Oia, located in the northernmost part of this crescent-shaped island.
Getting to Santorini and Oia was a bitch back then but we’re in 2013, the island is easier to get around with improved roads, more taxis, more car and motorcycle rentals, more frequent bus routes and more ferry boats and planes bringing tourists looking to live their dreams in Santorini.
This time, I traveled from Thessaloniki to Santorini with a new charter company called Astra Airlines. In 90 minutes I left northern Greece and arrived in what seemed liked a new world…the Cyclades and Santorini. I arrived in the early evening and a cab was waiting for me to take me to Oia. I had reservation at The Esperas Hotel, located in northwestern part of town, on the edge of the cliff that overlooks the Caldera to the left, the island of Thirassia straight ahead and to the right, open sea and an obviously beautiful (and legendary) sunset that was slowly becoming one with the horizon.
Back in 1988, the movie Summer Lovers brought Santorini to the attention of many a tourist and honeymooner and one of the attractions was (and still is) catching the sunset in Oia. Oia has probably doubled in size from my last visit but all the buildings are in the style of islands traditional architecture and there are churches everywhere!
Folks in Oia gather early to gain a good vantage point from which to watch the sunset. Lovers, honeymooners, romantics and tourists all clamour for the best spot to watch the sunset. Me, I was just fine perched on the balcony of my at the Esperas Hotel, pinching myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming – that I was back in Oia and the sunset was slowly setting.
People book superior accommodations for the view, the location, the accommodations and of course, the service at the Esperas Hotel possesses all these attributes and one also has privacy and quiet. Oh sure, you may see newlyweds snuggled on their balcony, sharing a complementary bottle of Sigalas wine or a European beauty basking in the last rays of sunlight then diving into the grotto-like pool in the center of the hotel.
The suite I stayed in is long and narrow, the balcony space taking up one-third of the space (a good thing) and the room, carved into the rock, is equipped with A/C, many electrical outlets to plug-in your modern amenities (such as your laptop). Indeed, there is wi-fi, you want to connect to the internet, share your good fortune of being in Oia, share the many gorgeous photos and allow others to live vicariously through your vacation in Oia.
The town of Oia offers you picturesque walks through town, you’ll be torn between taking endless snapshots of the view towards the sea or stop into one of the boutiques, cafes or many tavernas and restaurant that offer something for everyone. There are tourist menus, there’s good and cheap, there’s moderate, there’s pricy…something for every budget but the quality is very good!
No trip to Oia cannot be complete without walking down the steps to the fishing outlet of Ammoudi. When I first came to Oia, Ammoudi contained one taverna and today, there are many. Rare is it when you can get quality fish and seafood combined with another stunning view with azure blue waters, fishing boats dancing in the waves and the afternoon spent nibbling on grilled octopus or whole grilled fish. A side of boiled greens, a potato salad and some of the island’s local Assyrtiko wine will make you forget about work or any of the other stresses back home.
Little wobbly from the wine? No worries, take the 5 euro donkey ride back up to Oia then meander through the alleyways of Oia until you go back to your room at the Esperas Hotel. The hotel also has a menu of Greek and local Santorini specialties and each morning a breakfast is offered to hotel guests.
Oia is accessible by car, bus or taxi, the island’s capital of Fira is just 20 minutes away and the airport is 30 minutes away. Santorini is small and you can take day trips to any one of the beaches (including one located below Oia). You can choose red pebble beaches or black sand on this islands that was reborn after a violent volcanic eruption.
Much like the rest of Santorini, the Esperes Hotel has a staff that speaks English and many other languages, the rooms are immaculate, the property boasts of being quiet and serene…a zen like atmosphere where you may once again appreciate the simple beauties of life-like a sunset, a glass of wine, eating fruit while the sun rises or watching a cruise ship passes through.
The Esperas Hotel is open from April 1st to October 31st and it is part of the Yades Greek Historic Hotels and it is a member of the Historic Hotels of Europe.
Have you been to Santorini before? Regardless…take the time to enjoy the vast collection of photos in the slideshow below and I think you’ll be planning your next vacation in Oia, Santorini.
By Peter Minaki, Kalofagas.ca