Greece – Santorini to Heraklion (Crete), 18 June 2009

Our boat from Santorini to Crete leaves in the late afternoon, so we had the whole morning to do some exploration. We took our little quad bike, and made our way in the opposite direction – North to the town of Oia. It was a scenic trip. After we got up to the town of Oia, we were able to look back on Santorini, and take in the beauty of the whole island.

We returned to our hotel after lunch in Fira, and decided to just hang by the pool, while waiting for our coach to the port of Santorini. When departing from Santorini by boat, do give it some time, as the transfer from your hotel to the port will often take some time. We arrived in the port of Santorini in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, our ferry did not do the same. It was late by over an hour, and H and I had several moments, whereby we started wondering if we actually missed our ferry somehow.

Thankfully, arrive it did, eventually. But by the time we got to Heraklion, it was dark. I really took free-and-easy approach to this trip – no plans, just hope for the best. So far, things have worked out for us, as there were always enthusiastic hotel/guesthouse owners, advertising their holdings to us. Things were, however, very different in Heraklion. There was NOBODY at the port when we arrived, so we were kinda screwed. Didn’t help that Crete is a pretty darn large island. Thankfully, we saw a lady moving towards the taxi stand, and she moved like a woman with a plan. We told her about our situation, and she said we could share a cab with her, and go to the hotel she plans to room at. Good decision that was. She picked Athinaikon Hotel, which was really not far from the Heraklion Harbor, and a short walking distance from the main town of Heraklion. With some luck, she is also an excellent bargainer, so she actually got us very good room rates, below the rack rate. (I think we paid about 40 EUR or something, which was about 10-20 EUR less than rack rate)

Heraklion is definitely a very different town from the towns in the islands we’ve been on the past couple of days. It is a good-sized town, and whereby tourism didn’t seem to be the main driving force. Ok, I just got distracted by the bowling alley and the McDonald’s, which always makes me jump to conclusions.

Oia, Santorini


Oia, Santorini


Greece – Santorini, 17 June 2009

Our first full day in Santorini. On our way to Fira town the night before, we walked by a place that did motor vehicle rentals. We saw a quad bike, so today, we decided to check out rental options, in order to facilitate our transportation situation in Santorini (not that great if you’re on foot, or trying to do it by public transport). Well, it was kinda a no brainer. When we asked about the quad bike, it costs 12 EUR for the day. We were sold without any bargaining. A small tip: we went for the one with a lower horse-power. You might want to consider the one with the higher horse-power, as Santorini is pretty hilly. We had a little bit of trouble on some of the hills.

Cool Buggy, Santorini

Some of the motor vehicular options available in Santorini

With our newfound mobility, we decided to head out to our first destination – a wine museum nestled in the middle of Santorini. We ended up at the Volcan Wine Museum (also known as the G. Koutsoyanno Poulos Winery) at around 10 am. For about 10EUR, they will give you a tour of their winery, and included in the price is a sampling of some of the wines they have, and a glass of wine of your choice, based on the samples. The tour was pretty informative, and the samples were fairly decent, too. I don’t actually know much about wine, so don’t take my word for me. Can’t argue with a museum tour and booze at the end! Well, it’s afternoon in some part of the world, right?

Volcan Wine Museum, Santorini

My travel companion and 5000l of wine

Volcan Wine Museum, Santorini

Selection at Volcan Wine Museum

Following our little museum excursion, we drove to another part of Santorini – Perissa Beach. Perissa beach is a black sand beach, and it wasn’t too crowded at this time of the year. We just found a cafe by the beachside, and settled down for some lunch, drinks, and a little chill out time. Yes, I had work to do, and had to carve out hour-long blocs by hook or by crook, even on vacation. Also, driving in the mid-day sun is an invitation for an early date with skin cancer.
Perissa Beach, Santorini

Perissa Beach

After our siesta of sorts, we proceeded to our final destination of the day – Pyrgos. It is supposed to have some churches, so off we went before the sun set on us. The church in Pyrgos is located on a hill, and involved walking through an uphill maze of staircases. I do kinda like the churches here – they are actually small, and manageable, versus large and impersonal. The view from the church is also pretty spectacular, and if you’re in the mood for more alcohol, there were stands along the way, selling home-made wines for like 4EUR.

Pyrgos, Santorini

Church at Pyrgos, Santorini

We ended the day by returning to our dinner place on the first night for more gyros pita (urgh!) and ended the evening with some drinks in our porch

View from our room in Hotel Olympia, Santorini


View from our room

Greece – Mykonos to Santorini, 16 June 2009

We took a morning ferry from Tinos to Mykonos, and after we disembarked, we headed towards another travel agency, and purchased our onward journey from Mykonos to Santorini on the same afternoon. We walked around a little, got some lunch (yes, that’s turning into a theme for our trip) There certainly were many Singaporeans around Mykonos; guess it wasn’t a bad thing we didn’t end up on some sort of regular tour route!

Boat to Santorini arrived slightly late, but well, at least it showed up! It was getting close to evening when we arrived in Santorini, and well, we had no plan for accommodations, but to hope for the best. Thankfully, like in Tinos, many of the guesthouse owners/their representatives actually waited as we left the boat. After looking through a few options, we wound up choosing Olympia Hotel in Fira, which was going for 30Eur for a double. It is a lovely, classic Greek white and blue building with a swimming pool. While it doesn’t have the infinity pools of some of the other fancier options, or sea views, it was fairly central, and a short walk to the town of Fira. Also, it’s just hard to argue with the price. The rooms were nice, and had an ensuite bathroom that was decent, too. The hotel staff are also incredibly nice.

After checking in, we headed towards Fira town, and ended eating – you guessed it – gyros pita again. This time round, this place had Asterix and Obelix as its mascots. We also made enquiries at one of the tour agencies in Fira town about getting a boat onward to the island of Crete.

Travel tip: During the mid/high season, ferries do fill up. You are advised to try and book ferry tickets at least two days in advance. We did that, and we almost always got the last seats left in the ferry. Close shave, if you ask me.

We ended the evening by chilling out at our porch with beers.

Mykonos Town

Town of Mykonos

Hotel Olympia, Santorini

Hotel Olympia

Hotel Olympia, Santorini

Hotel Olympia

Hotel Olympia, Santorini


Sunset from our porch

When the Detour is the Highlight: UAE, Iran, Greece, 04 – 24 June 2009

So, Emirates Airlines was having a super sale, whereby tickets to Europe were going for as low as 800 SGD. This was gonna be my last chance for a long holiday before I am done with my MA programme, and hit the real world. So, what the heck. E and I agreed on Greece. But I had some other crazy plan involved – a detour to Iran! I always wanted to go there after reading The Complete Persepolis. Since I found a cheap flight on Air Arabia from Sharjah, and managed to rope in some partners-in-crime (oh, my powers of persuasion), I was all set. Here goes!

04 June: Dubai, UAE

05 June: Sharjah, UAE

06-07 June: Tehran, Iran

08-10 June: Esfahan, Iran

11 June: Dubai, UAE

12 June: Athens, Greece

13 June: Athens, Greece

14 June: Hydra, Greece

15 June: Tinos, Greece

16 June: Mykonos, Santorini, Greece

17 June: Santorini, Greece

18 June: Santorini, Grecce

19 June: Crete, Greece

20 June: Crete, Greece

21 June: Crete, Greece

22 June: Kalambaka/Meteora, Greece

23 June: Kalambaka/Meteora, Greece

24 June: Athens, Greece