Sunday, October 02, 2011

Greek Holiday

At the end of the "Finnish" summer we had our summer vacation in Greece. The time we arrived to Greece was pretty nice with temperature of around 32C. This summer holiday was my first summer vacation and in previous years we ( me and my wife ) were traveling mostly in winter. It was always good to leave Finland in winter since it is really cold in here, but we realized that the destination will be much nicer if we travel in summer.

We first arrived to Athens air port and then took a bus to Piraeus sea port where we had our first stop. We booked a hotel very close to the port since we had to get into the ship early in the morning. The plan was to take the ferry from main land to island Santorini and then to Milos. Finally to come back to the main land.
On the first day of  the trip we booked a hotel close to Pieraus sea port. Later in the evening we took a metro to Athens to visit Acropolis. The people (Greek people) we met in the metro (not only metro) were really nice and advised us about thieves. They informed us to take care of our belongings especially camera and vollets when traveling  in dense areas. And another girl helped us with direction to the destination. Getting to the top of the Aceopolice was a very nice experience. It was not only because of the great architecture but also the fabulous view of the city. Luckily our timing was really great. We had the opportunity to listen to some greek music (since some music band was practicing for that nights event). Finally we stayed at Acropolis till the sunset and retured back to hotel. The food cost just the same as in many Europian countries. Not that cheap at all. But worth the price.

Day 2: Early next morning we boarded the ferry heading toward Santorini. Small piece of advice, if you are travelling in the day time and in summer you really don't need a cabin. Outside deck of the ship gives you a wonderful view all through out the jouney. The ferry we booked was quite cheaper but it took around 9 hrs to get to Santorini from main land. 
After passing many islands finally the ferry reached Santorini (Thira) port around 4.30 in the evening.  The island was built in such a way that there steep mountains all around it. After getting down at the port we started searching for a bus to go to Fira (main city in Santorini). Unfortunately buses leave only in every 1.5 hours. Then we shared a taxi to Fira with another traveler. It costed around Euro 17. 

By the time we reached our hotel Villa Ilias, we were really tired. The walk from Fira to Firastephani (That's where Villa Ilias) is a  short but we felt it was very long since it was our first time there. There is a little pool in the hotel and the first thing we did was dipping in the water. That soothed the tired bodies. The view from the room was magnificent. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. That evening after dinner we walked to the Fira town and enjoyed the evening shopping around. Path to Fira is lovely. In the evening it got little mistier and bit chilly. But I enjoyed it.
The hotel staff was good, breakfast was great and view was superb. 

Day 3: We started our third day with a very fresh and filling breakfast. We planned to spend this day travelling around the Island. The first thing we did was renting a motorcycle. Not really a 2 wheel bike we ended up renting a 4 wheel desert rider. The renting places gave the maps and the good thing is there is nothing much know about the roads. There are very few main roads. In many of those junctions you can find sign boards with information. You can also get a clue by observing the paths other travelers taking.   
Map of Santorini

Perissa (Black Sand) Beach
Red Beach
 Just another tip from our observations; renting places ask you to put fuel for like 10 euros. You really don't need it. 3 euro fuel is more than enough for a day. By the end of day 3 we have been to red sand beach, black sand beach (perissa beach) and Oia. Oia is a very attractive place. The buildings, walking path and everything else is white. Whiter than Fira. It seems very elegant. People say that Oia is the best place to see the sunset. But I prefer Firostefani over Oia.

Day 4: According to the plan we were suppose to board our ferry to Milos at 4 pm. But we went to a ferry agency and asked whether the ship is coming on time. I'm really glad that I asked about it before hand because the ferry has been moved to 19.50. Which is a delay of around 6 hours. When ever you are booking ferries between islands in Greece remember that rescheduling of ferries is very normal. Keep a good time gap when your booking your airlines and other fixed stuff. Finally the ferry delay gave us more time in Santorini. 

In the morning we checked out from the hotel. But left our bags in the luggage room and could still use pool of the hotel, shower rooms and dining room until we leave. That made our day very convenient. The path from hotel ( end of Firostafani) to Fira has a magnificent view of caldera.

Path from Firostefani to Fira
Donkey Taxis

From Fira we took a donkey ride to the old port of Santorini. The path was very steap and there are more than 350 steps to walk down to get there. Donkey ride was very slow but a brand new experience. Then we spent few hours in the port just relaxing and came back to Fira by cable cars (which took 3 min to get back). Then we did some souvenir shopping in Fira and returned to the hotel. Fira is a very busy touristy place. Never select that place as a relaxing destination. And if you are planing to go down by the cable car go early in the morning. Around noon there was a queue of more than 200 people. Fortunately we missed it. But believe me standing there in the queue under the scorching sun  is not a pleasant experience.

Finally in the evening we took the ferry from Thira to Milos. It was only 2.5 hrs. .When we got down from ferry there was a small girl holding our names in the port. Luckily the hotel owner has come to port to pick us (not only to pick us, those hotel owners come to port every time when there is a ship arriving.). 

Day 5: The hotel we booked in Milos was really nice. It doesn't any view, but it was very close to the center (Adamas) of the island. We had a nice breakfast from the hotel and we started walking around the center and had a relaxed time in a beach closer to Adamas.  Nothing much special happened on day 5. We spent the entire day relaxing in the beach and enjoying fabulous sea food. On our way back to the hotel that evening we made an advanced payment to a sailing boat for next day around the island tour. 

Around the island cruise normally leaves around 10am and returns around 6pm. They take you around the western side of the island. The western side of the island is hard to reach through a motorbike or car, because the peaks are very high and the roads are not that good. The best way to go to the west side of the island is by sailing boat. They also fish while travelling and they cook Greek traditional food on the way. If you are not happy with octopus it will be a problem. 

Day 6: We had our breakfast and got prepared to our sailing trip around the island. We were the first to reach the boat. But unfortunately they've cancelled all the trips on that day. The wind on the west course has gotten too strong and the sailors said its not possible to go there swim in that shore. So the tour was cancelled. But we didn't get discouraged instead rented a motorcycle. They just advised us not to swim in any beach facing north and no to take any of the high landed roads. 

First we visited Plaka and Klima. Plaka is the old city center of the island. And Klima is a small finishing village close to Plaka. This finishing village is some what different from many other finishing villages you see in the world. Those finishing men has created closed rooms for their boats to protect them from the harsh winter and pirate attacks. So its like a car parking garage but only thing is it opens to sea.
Hotel in Milos 
(Moschoula Rooms and Apartments)


Paleochori Beach (Volcanic Cooking)

St. Kyriaki Beach

Since the sea in north side was so rough we rode to the south coast of the island. 1st we went to Paleochori beach and next we visited the Ag Kyriaki. Paleochori beach sand is mixture of sulpher. It is bit yellowish in color and when you put you feet under the ground you experience the burning sensation. The ground the sand layer of the beach is really hot due to volcanic activities. There was a one restaurant which sells "Volcanic Food". Which means they make a soup or something using the ground heat. Then we went to Kyriaki beach which has a view very similar to Paleochori.

Day 7 : This was our last day in Milos. The ferry was scheduled at 3.30pm. Again in the morning we checked ferry timetable from a travel agent. No surprise. The ferry been cancelled. Luckily our flight was at the next day evening. We booked the next ferry which was scheduled to leave around midnight. We booked it with a cabin so we can sleep until we get to Athens. Then we canceled the hostel booked in Athens. We thought to kept the bike we rented the other day for the entire day. We started the day with exploring some other places in north.


Achivadolimni Lake

First we went to Papafragas (Filakopi) where we have seen very nice volcano like beach. It was a very windy day and the sea was so rough. No one was there. But it was a very small beach compared to other places. Then we kept riding to the end of the road and we came to Pollonia. It is a big village/city like Adamas. There is a farely large beach and plenty of restaurants. Then we walked to the most top tip of pollonia where we had a very nice view. Then we went to Sarakiniko.

Sarakiniko is totally built from lime stone. Total white lime beaches resembling snow fields and complete absence of flora are unique features of Sarakiniko. When you look at the place from far it looks like nothing but snow. There we spent some time swimming on shallow water bay. If you are going there take food and drinks. There are no shops closer to Sarakiniko beach. But that is something I have seen good in Greece. Almost all the beaches had at most one shop. The travelers have more than enough space to stretch their legs and relax.

Finally we came back to a beach where you can find the one and only lake in Milos. The Lake and sea are separated by a road. I do not really advice anyone to visit to that lake lake though. Its just a dry land (may be it has some water in the rainy season). But there is a very nice view of west side mountains from there. The west side mountain peaks are higher than 700m. It will be a nice place to visit (but car rental people said it will be really windy during this time of the year).

Finally we went back to the hotel and had a swim. Then got prepared to come back. The ferry trip was nothing exciting, because we booked a cabin and slept tightly.

Day 8: We arrived to Pieraus port at around 6 am and we took the metro to the hostel  "Athens Backpackers". As soon as we got to know about the ferry delay (cancellation) we canceled the hostel. But we just went there to see whether the booking was really canceled. Yes, it was cancelled. But they have charged the whole amount. Remember if you are cancelling only a one day, dont do that. Then you will loose your money and the bed. But the person who was there allowed us to have breakfast and to keep our bags. After the breakfast we just had a walk around the city and bought some souverniers. Then after having lunch we took the bus from Athens to Athens air port.

This holiday was the first holiday getaway i had. Previously I have traveled to some other location including driving around Europe. But this felt so good, more relaxing than any other trip.

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