Friday, 8 May 2015

Travel: Trip Report - A weekend in Fira, Santorini

 

As some of you may of seen from my recent tweets, I have recently returned from my first holiday of 2015 - a long weekend in Santorini, Greece with an old friend (thanks to a very understanding husband!). I had such a wonderful time that I thought this trip would be great as my first trip review/travel post.

The trip from London Gatwick to Thira, Santorini is just under 4 hours. This is a bit lengthy for a long weekend, but well worth it. I flew with EasyJet who have recently started a London-Santorini route. The ticket, flying out 7am on Friday and returning 3pm on Monday, cost approximately £200. I took hand luggage only and this meant that I did not have to queue at the Check-in desks at either end and could go directly to the security queues.

The airport in Santorini is small, like most Greek airports, with limited facilities, however I did love that the passport queue was largely outdoors, allowing me to experience the beginning of my holiday sunshine :)

Santorini Airport from the passport queue

The travel from the airport (on the east coast) to Fira (on the west coast) took approximately 10-15 minutes and cost 15 euros by taxi. The taxi stand was directly outside the front of the airport and there was no queue at all when I arrived. The temperatures whilst I was there hovered around 19-20° celcius and we did have one particularly windy day - I understand that strong breezes are not uncommon for Santorini.
I had booked a twin room with village view at the Hotel Atlantis in Fira (via the EasyJet website). This was the only room still available at the time of my booking. The hotel is in a lovely setting, right on the egde of the Caldera. It is worth getting a sea/caldera view room if possible, as the sunsets in the evening are fantastic on that side of the building. Although, the bonus of being on the village side is that you get the sun on your balcony in the mornings!

Hotel Atlantis, Fira

Twin village view room

View from the balcony - sunny in the mornings


The bathroom

Love having Korres toilettries at the hotel!

My room was very spacious with twin beds, a mini-fridge and a television (which I did not use). The bathroom was also very large with usual amenities and Korres bath products - a little bit of authentic Greek luxury!

The hotel is unique in that it serves breakfast all day. It is not a buffet breakfast, but rather you sit in the dining area and the waiter will take your order. You are entitled to one breakfast per day but can choose at what time you have that meal.
If you walk out of the front door of the hotel and turn left, you are on a pedestrianised strip running across the caldera. There are plenty of bars/restaurants along this strip, including the fantastic Sphinx and Naoussa (situated on either side of Hotel Atlantis). The prices are slightly inflated due to their position however, being roughly equivalent to UK prices, I found that I preferred to eat/drink in that area as it was quieter and seemed to attract couples and older people rather than the hen/stag do's that we found in the lower part of the town.
We did visit one bar (I think it was called Brothers) in the lower part of Fira and had a fantastic night there with a few too many drinks and a lot of dancing! The bar staff were friendly and it was great to 'let loose' for one evening, however we generally preferred to stay on the strip by our hotel in the evenings and experience quieter nights slurping wine and catching up on the past 10 years. The food was good and the views were amazing, particularly during sunset.

Santorini donkeys

Stuffed squid at Sphinx


A Santorini sunset :)




On the Sunday, at my friends request, we went on a walk to Imerovigli This is not a significant distance from Fira, however the walk is mainly uphill via a number of hills and stairs. There is a square rock formation that we walked down to. It sticks out into the sea and gives fantastic views, although the trek back up the stairs was a struggle for me (not as much so for my super-fit friend!).

On the way to Imerovigli


Odd rock formation


There is another village further round to the north of the island, Oia, which is supposed to be much more like a typical Santorini village. Unfortunately, we did not make it there during my short trip. I understand that there is not much to do there, however I would have liked to visit. I'll have to save that for next time!


Views from Imerovigli towards Oia







On the final day, having limited time before my trip back to the airport, we decided to explore the old port which is situated at the bottom of the cliff directly below the town. There are A LOT of steps leading down and I knew that I would struggle immensely to get back up the stairs. Fortunately, there is both a cable car and donkeys which are used to get tourists back up to the main town. At my friend's request, we returned back up by donkey. This was my only bad experience of the island. I felt terribly bad for the donkeys and I would not repeat that experience. I would urge everyone to use the cable cars instead. There is not that much to see in the old port itself , however there are a number of boats offering different tours and had we more time to spare, I would have liked to book a couple of the boat tours to the volcano, hotsprings, beaches or to Oia.



The old port

The old port

View from the old port up towards the town


Main town Fira

I should also point out that Fira does not have any beaches. Santorini has unusual red and black volcanic beaches rather than the typical golden-sanded type. The majority are on the east side of the island, mainly around the south. I would have liked to visit that side of the island if I had more time.
All in all, I really enjoyed my visit to Santorini and it's a place that I would like to return to in order to explore more of the island :)
Have you been to Santorini? If so, I would be interested to hear what you thought of the island.


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