It was the summer of 2014 and my friends and I were invited to attend a friend's destination wedding in Santorini, Greece.
This is our story ... a Lebanese, a Jordanian, an Omani and a Panamanian!
We depart Muscat, Oman via Qatar Airways and on our flight, one of my friend befriends a greek that would later meet us out on a night out in Athens. As a result of this new friendship, I share with you the selfie we took of us all at the arrivals section.
Now in Athens we decide to stay a few days before flying to Santorini for the adventure of a lifetime!
We visited the charming Monastiraki Square which other than being at the foot of the Acropolis, it is part of the historic districts with 19th century neoclassical homes, lots of pedestrian streets filled with open-air markets, stores, restaurants and a few ruins from the old Roman times.
We also spent much of our time in Plaka although we stayed at the Athens Diamond Homtel.
I also used Viator to book the Athens City Highlights Segway Tour where you are guaranteed a personalized two hour tour of the highlights of Athens. I had the pleasure of having Dimitria as my tour guide from the Acropolis through Hadrian's Arch, the old Parliament House to the Panathinaikos Stadium where the first Olympic games were held.
Delphi is a UNESCO World Heritage site that in the good old days used to be the site of the most important oracle of the god Apollo. Therefore, a pilgrimage site for many and revered as the center of the universe.
Our tour guide told us that those that used to visit the oracle would come to ask for different favors or would also come to ask about their future and that of their family. In one occasion, he said, that an man came to the oracle to ask about the gender of his unborn child; and after much deliberation, the oracle would give such an ambiguous response that would either way fall on the oracle's side and not necessarily on the response that the seeker wanted.
As I had previously mentioned, my friends and I had organized this trip to Greece with the main intention to attend a friend's destination wedding in Santorini.
We choose to fly as we had heard that the Aegean sea can be quite a bumpy ride to the islands, so we spared ourselves of such travel and decided to leave the long lasting memories of the ferry ride for our return back to Athens; which indeed, proved to be memorable.
More on our experiences at the end of this post!
What to see and do:
This family business offers a tour worth 9 euros through a maze of underground caves that narrates, through an audio guide in your language, the traditional method of growing and harvesting grapes since the 1600 until our days. The Drink Business considers it the 2nd best wine museum of the world.
At this museum we were introduced to the Santorini exclusive Vinsanto which is a dessert wine ... and so scrumptious in taste! Nonetheless, after our wine tasting, I personally enjoyed drinking the Kamaritis and bought two bottles to bring back home. This is the description of the Kamaritis as per the Koutsoyannopoulos winery's website:
"The name Kamarítis derives from the word kamara which means cave room. The grapes are sun-dried for 14 days, and their sugars are dehydrated and caramelised. Then, we begin the process of winemaking. The wine is aged in oak barrels for 10 years before bottling. We produce only 4.500 bottles of this sweet wine each year; this limited production was the secret recipe of the family's great-grandfather. This wine cannot be purchased outside the winery. Best enjoyed before or after a meal, ice-cold at 6-8ºC with fruit, dried nuts, cake, chocolate or poured on ice-cream. This is a completely natural product without additives. It is pure grape juice with 11% alcohol."
One of the major stops in this sunset cruise was that near Palia Kameni which is one of two volcanic islands in the middle of the caldera and in which you come across a hot spring; but to get there is an adventure in itself! As boats can't dock near the shallow waters, they stay a bit outside the entrance, so you actually need to plunge into the cold waters (quite a relief during the hot summer days) and then swim your way to the muddy-looking bay and into the hot spring. As you swim or walk to the hot spring, you will notice the goats on the surrounding cliffs watching over you.
The water at the hot spring is approximately 33 degrees Celsius and it is said that you can use the mud to cover yourself for therapeutic purposes. More info and photos of the hot spring here.
Nonetheless, later on we met a waitress at a local restaurant/bar called Tasos in Mykonos and she introduced us to Mastiha which to us was a way better alternative to ouzo.
Mastiha, like Vinsanto, is a European PDO (protected designation by origin) which is originally from the island of Chios and it's a brandy-based liqueur made with the resin of a mediterranean evergreen named Mastic.
On a personal account, make sure you try the Chios Homeric Mastiha first and foremost!
Enjoying a leisure stroll throughout the cliff-perched cobblestone paths can lead you to some of the best views of the caldera and the neighboring villages within Santorini.
This place is quite popular and can get busy by midday, so prepare well for it! It is called the red beach because of the iron-rich sedimentary rocks and sand you see all over.
Once in Fira, head to the ...
The Old Port is the docking place for many cruises visiting Santorini. As per WikiTravel:
"Go to the Old port. Whoever said "Getting there is half the fun" was likely referring to the Old Port. Or, in this case, getting there is 99% of the fun. There is almost nothing to do at the Old Port (except perhaps take a couple of pictures from sea level). But the ride down and up can be fun. Your choices are the cable car (€4 one way), donkey ride (€5 per person, plus a €5 "tip" for your "guide"). Walking is possible but not very pleasant, thanks to the donkey excrement covering the path; moreover, donkey drivers are bent on making life difficult for tourists who refuse their business, so donkeys are not at all encouraged to avoid people while walking up or down. If you want to avoid the smell and the scene, just take the cable car; even though the line may seem long sometimes (especially when people from the ships arrive and leave); it moves 36 people every 5 minutes or so. Some local mule guides may also try to cheat you by demanding a payment for walking down, they will try to sell you a small piece of paper that says ticket without any numbers on it. Ignore these people, the road is free. They will also try to convince you that the walk down takes one hour; it's a lie, it doesn't take more than 20 minutes, even zig-zagging to avoid the donkeys and their poo."