It’s like you can’t have a really good experience on an island without it then being counteracted by the next. Santor-fucking-rini, honestly, what the actual fuck? We’d intended to stay at the campsite in Fira but the reviews were crap and we still had that shithole on Paros on our minds. So we went wayyyyy overbudget to book ourselves a room on Booking.com which, in hindsight, was a whole laundry pile of red flags that’d seep crimson into everything if you so much as drooled on them. Obviously it turned out to be a scam.
Fortunately we’re getting a refund but we have made mental notes not to book anywhere “new to Booking.com”, with no reviews, and has a name like Luxxxxxx Apartments by Sea. I have omitted some of the X’s for brevity. There were ten of them. I counted. I know I know, it might as well have been Luxxxxxxxxxx Scam Apartments That Don’t Exist You Gullible Twat. They also started WhatsApping me from a Russian number trying to get me to click links which is pretty much when I was like oh fuck no!
Then when we stumbled off our 90 minute delayed ferry we had touts at the port try to convince us there were no local buses into Fira but I generally don’t believe a word anyone at any manner of port tells me, like, ever so we did manage to catch a local bus where we did end up at Santorini Camping and so far it’s not half as bad as everyone made out. We’ve opted for a tent bed which is better than it sounds. It’s like this little canvas cube with a locking door, electricity, and actually quite comfortable camp beds. This would do for a few nights.
We decided to explore a few places by bus on our first full day on the island, we figured it’d work out cheaper so we rocked up to the island’s main bus station in Fira. It was, predictably, utter fucking chaos. All the drivers and conductors had a coffee in one hand, a fag in the other, and a very strong dislike for the entire human race, snapping at anyone who had the audacity to ask a question. The trouble is there’s seemingly no order to the place, and when we asked for information at the kiosk (when there someone there) we were just told, “Your bus isn’t here yet.” Cool, mate. But when will it be here and which bus will it be?
The conductor on the Akrotiri bus actually went out of his way to be a particularly obnoxious human being. He really was vile. I’m still fuming at the way he spoke to literally everyone, he really made an already stressful situation even more unpleasant. We had the misfortune of being on his bus on the way back too and he told us we had to wait for our change, tried to ignore us when we asked him for it at the end, all but threw it at us with the words, “Have 50 cents! Now get lost!” Utter, utter cunt.
Ancient Akrotiri, however, was fucking brilliant! We’d been to the Museum of Prehistoric Thera in Fira that morning to put some of the artifacts recovered from the archaeological site in our eyeholes and there were some spectacularly well preserved things. Pottery left in situ when the city was abandoned, elaborate wall paintings, the colours still vibrant after all these millenia, bronze tools and cooking pots, and a mint condition gold figurine of a goat. They have no clue as to the significance of it, but it’s the only one like it in the world and it is shiny! Everything is in such good nick it’s hard to equate it in my little brain with it all dating from the 17th century BC.
This affluent city was abandoned after several earthquakes and sometime around the end of the 17th century BC it was covered in volcanic ash amd mud after a nearby eruption. This is why it’s so well preserved. It’s fucking insane how intact everything is. Once you’re at the site you can walk around and read about the houses that used to be there.
They were two or three stories tall with proper drainage and sewage systems. They think water for washing would have been brackish, or even sea water, carried in water skins by pack animals and stored in large, clay vases. They found loads of these vases decorated with reeds which they think were used to store water. They’re not 100% certain where their drinking water would have come from but they’ve found evidence of an aqueduct so perhaps it came from Mount Prophitis. There’s spring water there to this day so it’s feasible.
I wish we could have gotten a guide for this but no one else was interested and we can’t really warrant forking out the money for a private tour. I mean, I could bang on about these ruins all day but I’ll just leave you with a few more photos. It’s definitely worth a visit even if you only have a semi nerd-on for ancient history. Honestly mate, 3000 years old! These people with all their wealth and fancy frescoes and random golden model goats lived 3000 years ago. Try and get that straight in your head.
Anyway. We got back to Fira and took the next bus to Perissa to put the black sand beaches in our eyeholes. Tarrant had never seen a black sand beach before, they only tend to exist where there’s volcanic activity and Santorini certainly has some of that. We’d managed to arrive on the day of the Feast of the Holy Cross so the church was wide open and decorated with basil. According to the Orthadox faith, basil grew from the ground where the cross was so I guess it’s considered holy? We’d not intended to visit the church but the bus dumped us right outside and I am so attracted to shiny things.
Once you’re in Perissa there’s not a huge amount to do if you’re not planning on sprawling on the beach. It’s wall to wall sunbeds for the most part, there’s a little bit further up where you could put a towel if you wanted to but fuck me, black sand gets hot! It’s probably worth forking out for a bed and a brolly just so you don’t get third degree burns on your arse. We plumped for a tasty cold beer at one of the cafés along the back of the beach before catching the water taxi to Kamari Beach.
It’s not that we were bothered about visiting Kamari, it’s just another beach albeit an absolute stunner of one, but we wanted to avoid going back to Fira in order to catch the Fira – Kamari bus which happened to go by a couple of other things we wanted to check out so we weighed the higher cost of the boat and the fact I have a tendency to turn various shades of green if the water is a bit too choppy against our rabid dislike of the bus station. The boat won. It’s also a lot quicker so it’s worth the extra dolla, but I did question a large quantity of my life choices as the tiny vessel lurched from side to side.
Safely back on land, we walked to the main bus station about 10 minutes from the beach and got them to drop us at the Donkey Brewery. This is one of the many reasons we’d decided to take the buses around the island rather than renting a scooter or a quad bike. Booooozes! Locally made motor impairment beverages!
Unfortunately we couldn’t tour the brewery as they were too busy but we watched a video of how they make their beer. I mean, we know how beer is made. We’ve done brewery tours before. Unfortunately we usually conclude brewery tours with the consumption of the associated beverage so quite a lot of the information we obtain tends to trickle out of our ears along with several braincells.
They have a little bar upstairs where two fantastic women will let you try a little bit of three beers brewed and bottled right downstairs. We tried White Donkey, Yellow Donkey and Crazy Donkey, then we bought Red Donkey and Lazy Ass, the latter being a hoppy lager, to drink there to better inform our purchasing decisions. You’ve got to make sure you have all the information before you commit, guys. It’s only sensible. I like my beer hoppier than a rabbit on crack. Tarrant likes hers a bit more traditional. We both preferred the weissbier though so we stocked up on that and walked the dusty one mile up the road to the wine museum.
So, when we were on the Delos boat trip we were sat opposite a lovely older couple who told us about this place and said it was very interesting. It also involved wine tasting so obviously we were sold like the lushes we are. They were right, it was actually fascinating. Our entrance fee got us entry to the underground museum with an audio guide, then there’d be wine tasting afterwards.
A lot of thought has gone into the layout of the museum and it takes you through the early lives of the Koutsoyianopoulos brothers who were traders that ended up on the forgotten island of Santorini quite by accident. They realised they could make a shit tonne of money bring stuff to the islanders. Then they realised they could make even more money by planting vines. Their third brother even went as far as doing their military service for them so they could concentrate on raking in those dolla dolla bills y’all.
They went through the whole wine making process from the vine to the various finished product. Vines on Santorini have a much smaller yield than traditional vines because they’re on the ground, woven into baskets so the grapes grow on the inside. This is necessary to protect them from the insane winds that sweep across the island, battering them with sand. Santorini is hot and dry but the volcanic soil holds every drop of moisture from mists, humidity from the sea, and the little rain they do have.
There are loads of exhibits ranging from the oldest grape press on the island which was brought over by monks, to a very rare grape breaker. They help you visualise the process with mannequins which is clever and adds a bit of life to the museum rather than just firing information at you. I really liked it. Clearly the only things I remember though are the things I took photos of because then came the wine tasting.
We tried four wines; a gorgeous dry white which I could drink all day (or for, like, an hour until I fell over). A darker white which tasted a bit strong for me and Tarrant said should definitely be drank with food. A red wine, but I struggle with red wine, it tends to rapidly replace everything inside my head with cotton wool. And a dessert wine which they age for at least ten years and is an old secret family recipe. It’s naturally sweet, made from six different sun dried grapes; three white and three red. Who knew there was so much to wine making?
We asked if we could buy a glass of wine to drink there, the barmaid raised and eyebrow and warned us, “It’s €8 a glass…” I think the beer we’d drank, plus the wine tasting and the fact we’d only had crisps for lunch drove the decision to have it anyway. I even impulse purchased a fucking olive stabbing set for all those olives I don’t actually eat. Don’t get me wrong, I adore olives, I just don’t actually buy them in the quantities that would necessitate a tool specifically to relocate them from the jar to my chops, never mind six of them in a decorative fucking barrel.
We needed actual food before I bought an artisan chess set or something. We got back on the bus into Fira, bought a couple of gyros each from our new favorite takeaway, Lucky’s, then headed up a shit load of steps to watch the fiery skyball fuck off over the caldera as we shovelled our new favorite obsession into our faceholes. Alright then, Santorini, you’ve redeemed yourself. It really is a spectacularly stunning island and you can see why the hordes flock here.
Click HERE for the bus timetables.
Santorini, South Aegean, Greece / Σαντορίνη, Νότιο Αιγαίο, Ελλάδα
Stayed at: Santorini Camping, Fira
Useful shit to know…
- When we got off the ferry there were touts asking us if we were looking for a local bus then pointing us to the tourist information kiosk with the words, “Go in there and tell them you want a bus ticket.” Once you’re there they’ll tell you there are no local buses now and you’ll need a €15 shuttle. Don’t believe them.
- The local buses are a little further along and cost €2 into Fira.
- Bus tickets are bought ON THE BUS and not from a kiosk. Not even at the main station in Fira. There are signs up everywhere telling you that you buy your ticket on the bus.
- For decent cheap eats try Lucky’s Souvlaki in Fira. €3.50 for a pork gyro.
- Everything is expensive here, even the supermarkets. We’d been cooking our own food to save money, eating noodles, veg and frankfurters. A packet of noodles here was €3.99. It’s cheaper to get a gyro.
- There are public toilets in Fira. They cost €1.
- The Museum of Prehistoric Thera is €6 each and Ancient Akrotiri is €12 each. It’s worth getting the €15 combo ticket which does both of these plus a site in Kamari.
- The bus station at Fira is a shit show but all buses go in and out of it so it’s a necessary evil. If you’re visiting a few places and two bus lines overlap then you can avoid it. For example:
- Fira to Akrotiri, Akrotiri to Messaria, Messaria to Perissa. I don’t think you’ll save time or money but you’ll save yourself the horror that is Fira bus station.
- Bus fares seem to be a flat rate regardless of where you pick up the bus.
- There is always going to be a bus to get you to your ferry on time, even if your ferry leaves obnoxiously early. Timetables for the port are only published a day in advance.
- One way fares for buses from Fira to:-
- The port, €2
- Akrotiri, €1.80
- Oia, €1.60
- Perissa, €2.20
- Kamari, €1.60
- Airport, €1.60
- I’ve posted the bus timetable below.
- The water taxi between Perissa and Kamari costs €7 each and you have to wade up to your knees and climb a ladder to get in and out.
- The beer tasting at Donkey Brewery is free. The beers are €4 to €5.50 for a 330ml bottle.
- The Koutsoyianopoulos Wine Museum has various tiers of entry fee ranging from €15 to €190 each. The difference is the amount of wines you taste. The Bronze package, the cheapest, gets you four wines, access to the museum, and the audio guide.