Santorini, a volcanic island in the Aegean Sea, has long been on our list of beautiful places to visit. So when we discovered it was possible to visit as a day trip from Crete on the fast SeaJet catamarans, it was too good an opportunity to miss.
There are regular services from Heraklion and Rethymnon, taking roughly three hours. We booked ours in advance online with Paleologos Shipping based in Heraklion. We had to set out at an unearthly hour in the morning for the port, wandering through Rethymno’s deserted streets at around six in the morning (and passing the last of the revellers at the all-night bar on the corner of the harbour). But we had a chance to snooze on the voyage, and then up onto the top deck for some magnificent views of our arrival into the Caldera or volcanic crater of Santorini.
It’s widely believed that Santorini may have been Plato’s lost Atlantis. There’s evidence to suggest that the originally circular island of Strongyle was destroyed during a massive volcanic eruption during Minoan / Bronze Age times at around 1500BC. Of course, this is the stuff of myth and legend, so in the end it’s down to what you believe. But the case is certainly compelling! What’s left in the present day is a series of islands in a circular shape around a huge and deep sea-filled Caldera – approximately 400 metres deep, so none but the very largest ships would be able to anchor here.
On arriving at the port of Athinios, the scale of our tourist invasion became apparent. Several hundred passengers were suddenly discharged onto the waiting line of maybe a couple of dozen coaches. Off we went in convoy to the pretty little village of Oia on the northernmost tip of the caldera. There’s a huge coach park on the edge of the village, but it was already packed to capacity from the earlier ferry arrival to the island. If you’re thinking of an idyllic and peaceful Greek island, think again – the narrow streets compare with London’s Oxford Street at Christmas. But we managed to find a few quiet moments to take in the views!
Then back onto the coaches for the short trip to the island’s capital, Fira, for some free time. A bite to eat on a rooftop taverna, lots of souvenir shopping, and some photo opportunities from the high viewpoint over the caldera before embarking on the coach and ferry for our evening return trip to Crete.