After spending a full day in Athens browsing through the flea market in Monastiraki, watching the changing of the guard at Syntagma Square, exploring the Acropolis and its monuments, and walking around Plaka “village” in the city centre, we took a flight to Mykonos.
Mykonos, well known for its beautiful beaches and wild party scene, attracts mostly young people. During our visit in April 2015, I (aged 60 at that time) might have been the oldest tourist on the island! Actually, Mykonos has many attractions. I took a stroll through the labyrinth of narrow pedestrian shopping streets in Chora (which the locals call Mykonos) that is lined with small souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants. If you are lucky, you might meet the mascot of Mykonos – Petros the pelican. Other attractions are the iconic windmills, Little Venice (with old houses located on the edge of the sea), beaches with golden sand and crystal clear water, and the mesmerising sunset.
We took the public bus (15 minutes, €1.80) from Fabrica station, which is a stone’s throw away from our hotel to the world-famous Paradise Beach. The place was very quiet and there were only a few people lounging on the beach. But in summer, this place comes alive with youngsters from all over the world partying all night long at the seaside bars and nightclubs.
It’s hard to miss the iconic windmills of Mykonos.
From Paradise Beach, we hiked to Platis Gialos via Paraga Beach and Agia Anna Beach. It was an easy and scenic 3km hike. At one point, we were walking on a trail that follows the top edge of a coastal cliff.
From Mykonos, we took the Seajet 2 high-speed ferry to Naxos island (35 minutes, €38) to take the Blue Star Ferry because the Blue Star Ferry that goes to Santorini does not stop at Mykonos. As the Seajet 2 entered the harbour of Naxos, we could see its most famous landmark, the Portara, which is an 8m-high marble entrance gate of the 6th century BCE temple of Apollo which once stood on the hill overlooking the harbour. We had more than two hours to kill, so we went to a restaurant by the harbour for an early lunch.
A narrow pedestrian shopping street in Mykonos.
Just as we were finishing our lunch, the Blue Star Ferry came into view. It’s the largest, most stable and most reliable ferry in Greece. Unlike the smaller ferries (the high-speed ferries and catamarans) which may change their schedule at very short notice or may not leave port altogether due to rough seas or strong winds, the Blue Star Ferry sails 365 days a year, transporting passengers, motor vehicles and cargo between the major Greek islands. I was impressed with the facilities on the ferry: boarding escalator, restaurants and cafeteria, a bar on the open deck, elevators, a gift shop, ATM machines and even shower rooms. The journey to Santorini took two hours and cost €30 for Business Class seats.
The famous Red Beach of Santorini.
Santorini is an active volcano that is partially submerged in the sea. The last big eruption 3,600 years ago caused the central part of the volcano to collapse, creating a crescent-shaped caldera. The island with pretty white cube-shaped houses (painted white to keep the interior cool) clinging to the cliffs and the blue-domed churches constructed on the edge of the caldera, set against the azure Aegean Sea, is a popular wedding and honeymoon destination. The terrain in Santorini is not suitable for those with mobility issues, though. Everywhere we went, it was either walking upslope or downslope on uneven cobbled streets or steps.
We chose to stay in Fira, the capital and transport hub of Santorini, and took the public bus to Oia (the most beautiful village in Santorini), the Red Beach and the black pebble Kamari Beach. Santorini is not known for its beaches because the beaches here are made up of black, red or white lava pebbles.
Horses transporting tourists from the port to Fira.
Hiking in Santorini is not to be missed. The most scenic hiking trail is the 10km-long Caldera Trail which starts from the cable car station in Fira and follows the rim of the caldera to Oia (via Firostefani and Imerovigli).
During the one-hour hike to Imerovigli, we were walking on a partially shaded, narrow, paved path just outside the doorsteps of houses, boutique hotels, cafes and churches, with the stunning view of the sparkling blue Aegean Sea and the Kameni Islands on the left.
One of the many blue-domed churches in Santorini.
From Imerovigli, we took the bus to picturesque Oia. (Hiking to Oia from Imerovigli would take another three hours of walking in the hot sun, on dirt path and in challenging terrain.)
We went again to Oia in the evening to watch the sunset. The view was spectacular and the atmosphere was great with buskers playing lively songs including the world-renowned Greek song, Children of Piraeus (the theme song of the 1960 Greek movie Never On Sunday) By 6pm, all the viewpoints were packed and when the sun finally sank below the horizon, the crowd broke into applause.
Take a bow, Mykonos and Santorini, for you are two of Greece’s most precious gems.
The views expressed are entirely the reader’s own.
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