Heading For Heraklion (plus a few travel tips)

We were to leave for Crete at 5pm. This gave us a few hours to spend walking around Fira, the main town of Santorini until around 2:30 pm. We have arranged for a port transfer (€30) from our hotel at 3 pm. We were advised by Arlene to head to Athinios early because traffic leading down to the port can take more than an hour. We arrived at the port just a few minutes shy of 4 pm. Cholo and I had Greek coffee at one of the restaurants to kill time.

Our SEAJETS tickets cost us €137.60 from Santorini to Crete. This was our last boat ride for this trip. We left Santorini a little behind schedule. The port of Santorini was undergoing a major overhaul plus the docks can be quite full. I overheard some one said, “The boats leave and arrive, but rarely on time.”

 

 

Our airfare (including one domestic flight) and boat tickets for our trips to the islands has already been paid for prior to our arrival. This goes for our hotel and Air BnB bookings as well. We actually prefer doing this because it eases us from paying a huge amount of travel debt when we get home and we get to enjoy spending our pocket money for the stuff like food and a tiny bit of shopping. It all boils down to proper planning and spacing of payments.

We purchased our tickets to Athens 8 months before our scheduled departure. Our lodging 4 months before our scheduled arrival in Greece. I had to do this because things get booked quickly even when you travel here during the shoulder season. Our boat tickets and one domestic flight were purchased a month and a half before leaving. So this gives us time to “save up” and gradually pay off these big ticket items. It isn’t as shocking as paying one huge amount of money in one go.

Yes, it is a bit risky when doing this because what if visas don’t get approved or if something happens and things need to be cancelled – before booking, I double checked the class of our ticket to see its limitations and to be sure that we can reschedule if necessary, of course for a fee. Our hotel bookings were also cancelable – and we paid a small “add on” premium to our bookings made on booking.com for this. It is also not in our nature to change plans mid travel. It’s too risky, stressful and that can prove quite costly. So it pays to plan properly. Remember, YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING!

Prior to flying, Cholo and I discussed where we would like to go whilst in Greece. Since this was our introductory trip to the country, we decided to do Athens, Mykonos, Santorini, and Crete – the most well known island destinations. While doing research – I found out that Greece has different island regions and our island choices, except for Crete, were part of the Cyclades. So that in itself made it easier for us – they were all reachable by boat without the need of heading back to Athens. Luckily, we were travelling to the Cyclades during the first two weeks of our trip. I read that most of the Greek island start closing by the 15th of October in preparation for winter. Thus, if you have been reading my blogs about this trip, you might have chanced upon me saying that bus trips have already been reduced in some islands. Santorini, as well as Crete, stays open all year round but only select villages stay open.

 

 

I can’t remember the exact time we boarded our boat for Heraklion, what I do remember that it was quite a fiasco. Some tourists were lining up, but they were not scheduled to ride the boat the boat that was boarding – I have seen this happen a lot at the ports here in the Greek Islands – it was mind boggling to me how some people can be so absent minded. But then again, there was really no proper boarding announcements, so it was quite a scramble.

The boat ride from Santorini to Create takes around 1 hour and 40 minutes. We found out on this trip that this was the last SEAJEATS boat that would connect the two islands for the season. We arrived in Heraklion at around 7 pm.

A Few Hours in Fira

We headed to Fira after checking out of our hotel at around 10:30 am. Maricar was, by now, at the airport ready to board her flight for Majorca. Fira on the onset is more mid-range. Being the capital of Santorini, there is something for everyone. If you want upscale – go to Oia. On the main “ledge” near Fira Theotokopoulou main square, in front of Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral, you can see a panoramic view of the ridge and of the volcanic island Nea Kameni at the center of the sunken flooded caldera. It is quite stunning. Cholo and I walked through the winding streets and saw hotels built unto the cliff face. The typical set up here is you rent small villas – prices vary if you want to have a pool – some are private, some are not. They are built beside or on top of each other depending on the location of the property on the cliff face. There are winding streets and lots of stairs involved, so one should reconsider carrying a full load of luggage if you choose to stay here.

 

 

In our walk, from the road from across the cathedra, we happened to end up at a small chapel or is it a church? It was closed when we ended up at its doors. The dome was not colored blue and it seems it was left in a state of abandon. We can also see a few domes doting the cliff face and they were not blue.

 

We continued walking along the town of Fira. We saw many churches, chapels, museums, shops, restaurants and cafes. We walked as far as to the funicular/cable car starting point for those who want to head down the old port of Santorini. We decided to back track and decided to look for a place to have some late lunch. We found this, nice gyros place named Meat Corner in one of the back streets near the Archeological Museum of Thera. It was very cozy and small but the food was amazing. It’s very affordable here and the atmosphere is very friendly. Some of the staff even managed to speak a few Filipino words to us that we found very cute. The main décor of this restaurant is all of bills from different countries that are tacked into the wall. He saw a few ₱20, ₱50 and ₱100 Philippine Peso Bills in a corner.

 

 

We headed back to the bus hub – which took us maybe a little over 10 minutes to get to. we needed to get back to the hotel, our port transfer was scheduled at 3 pm.

The Right (or Wrong?) Step to Ammoudi Bay

Cholo, Maricar and I found the road that led to Ammoudi Bay. We did not expect winding stairs to get there. We were all “game” to walk down to the bay, so we started our descent.

If you see our first photo, there was a number marked on the step. we were at step number 218. When we realized that we had 217 steps to go we all laughed in shock and disbelief. We didn’t think we will make it all the way to the bottom. But we still ventured forth, because after all being in Oia might be a once in a life time experience. So, might as well savour the moment.

 

As we started descending further, we realized that this was going to be one “Stair Master”. By the way, it takes 2 – 3 strides to get to the next step and some are not actually paved – it can get a little difficult. And one other thing, the entire route is riddled with donkey sh*t. Trying to evade excrement while heading down kinda killed the fun out of it. And yes, it did stink. So we decided to choose one spot along the route and watch the sunset from there. Lucky for us, there is an elevated portion of the stairs void of donkey fecal matter where we enjoyed the sunset and each other’s company. The view of the houses on the cliff side is amazing actually.

One other thing, donkeys use this path to courier tourists between Ammoudi Bay and Oia, so you’ll see them every so often here.

P.S.

There are 238 steps in total to get to Ammoudi Bay from Oia.

An Afternoon Through The Streets Of Oia

The light is amazing here  – the blue domes appear bluer, the white gleams off of the walls. The light turns golden and everything looks magical. Then all the spell is broken when the crowds swell as the sun sets closer to the horizon. As romantic as it seems in pictures, one thing that most travel guides does not tell you about  Oia, is that, it can get chaotic leading to sunset.

 

We are spending our last full day in Oia. Being tourists in this part of the world, we also would like to see the famed sunset of Santorini. Although there are “sunset spots” where one can watch the sun disappear, you can actually just pick a spot anywhere – if you can find one. There are restaurants and cocktail bars that offer sunset viewing drinks BUT I have noticed that sometimes, patron’s views get obstructed by hoards of tourists who try to take find any available spot. even if it behind a potted plant.

We were told by Maricar’s front desk personnel that we can watch the sunset in Ammoudi Bay. So we keyed that in into our GPS and casually followed the blue dot as well navigate the tourist filled streets of Oia.

Skinny Dipping in Oia

We headed to Maricar’s hotel for the rest of the afternoon because it was too hot to be roaming around Oia after lunch. The weather was a little tricky because, the sun shone so bright but the air was cool. But if you stood too long under the sun with no shade, you’ll get burned. If you stay in the shadows you’ll feel the cold.

 

 

Maricar’s hotel had a Jacuzzi that overlooks the Aegean Sea. When we got there, she told us to use it because it would be wasteful not to! So, while she had afternoon siesta, we skinny dipped for an hour. There were 5 other tubs that were not being used, so it was just Cholo and I under the Santorinian sky.