Trip To the Heaven Island, Santorini

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One destination of all that has ruled over my senses for a very long time would definitely be this little volcanic fruit of the Sea of Crete. This is one place that will elate your senses to live in a wonderland which will have its essence lingering around even after days months or years have passed.

Its an escapade that one will keep your picturistique appetite hungry for a very long time..

 For us, it all happened while we were planning to celebrate my wife’s birthday occurring in the month of May to Santorini, which was on our bucket list for a very long time now. The planning started way back early in the year 2015. As we both were mesmerized with the scenic landscapes of the island, it also provided me a once in a lifetime photo-op to capture it through the eyes of my lens. Hence I was not willing to delay our itinerary and miss out the best of what Santorini had to offer.

 Travelling was an ease, from Athens, where we had already spent two days experiencing the mesmerizing Greek Mythology. The transition from the Land of Gods to the Heavens was a filling treat. Though the Airlines we got our tickets done does not carry rave reviews. We travelled by Rayanair Airlines and we knew what it was so. The 45 minutes flight time from Athens International Airport to Santorini Airport happened before we could anticipate how the charm of the land is going to be. We picked up our transport from the taxi stand outside the Airport and it cost us 40 Euros from the Airport to the resort, Maison Des Lys. More about the resort in a while.

 Out of intention, I try to plan my itinerary with stays at different locations at the destination, if the time and budget permits. This, allows me to enjoy the varying hospitality and diversity prevailing under the same geographical boundary.

 We reached our resort in full zeal and the resort is located at the southern part of the island, in Akrotiri. Maison Des Lys, is a beautiful resort overlooking the Caldera with super charming staff to receive and make us comfortable while we waited to check in.

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Enjoying the magnificent caldera view

We reached in too early going by the designated check in time of 2:00 pm, and hence had to wait for few hours before we could lay ourselves to rest and start the day. However, the view from the resort is breathtaking and it refreshed us instantaneously. The sea water is absolutely calm, and the cool breeze from the caldera is just enough to hustle with your hair and upset them. Came to our mind “who wanted to check in so early”, while we settled into the pool chairs and kept staring into the horizon. And time flew by quickly.

 The rooms are classically decorated and spacious with frosted lamps to light it up and add to the feel of it. Though we opted for a suit with private pool, my take away from this stay was, when you have such an impressive view to drool for, these amenities probably take a back seat.

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The pool outside the villa

The staff welcomed us with providing us a Map, an Boat Excrusion itinerary that we might consider and other useful information about the island and to-do list.

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 The map provided by the resort as soon as we checked in. No the resort is not at ‘WE R HERE’ mark. Thats in Akrotiri.’

This resort offered several spots to enjoy in leisure and fabulous backdrops to satisfy the photographer in you. I had a longing to take my camera out since the time I had landed and this was my opportunity I was going to grab by both hands, Hence, we decided to delay our outing till evening and thought of capturing the backdrops this beautiful resort had to offer.

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 Some of the shots taken in the resort over looking the caldera while exploring the resort before we head out in evening

We enjoyed shooting the picturistiqe resort in the back drop of caldera and clear blue skies. Our excitement had grown multifold by now and hence we eventually decided to venture out and explore more.

The quad was already arranged by the resort staff from the Roussos Scooter Club @35 Euros per day tariff, and we finally headed out to explore islands shoreline. The gas stations are spread all over the island hence I would not recall any streatch which can leave you stranded in the middle out of gas.

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Outside the resort, overlooking the caldera, trying my hands at the quad

Two of the most famous beaches of the island of Santorini are Perissa beach and Kamari beach. The Perissa beach is a black vulcanic sand/pebble beach and it offers a shoreline with several road side eateries, restaurants and souvineer shops. We travelled in the month of May and it still got quite cold in the evening (~ 20 deg C). Since we mis read the weather, we were on the lookout to buy a wrap around for my wife and that led us to venture into these shoreline shops.

The shoreline is fabulous to either just stroll down the shore line or to land urself a spotaway from the Rock and let the waves start a conversation with you. The options of dining out alongside Perissa beach are aplenty. They offer great food for all type of appetites.

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Blue Dome church at Perissa beach

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Richa, in the backdrop of Perissa Beach

The cold got better of us quickly and after wandering around the beach for some time. We quickly grabbed our cozy filling meal at Aqua Beach restaurant and decided to head back to the resort. Mark it an end for a very exciting day one in paradise. Plannings for the next day had already started.

Though the day had ended but I was still not done with my urge to keep my camera aside. Being an ameture photographer, I was overtly excited with the plethora of opportunities I would get even before the trip even commenced. Thankfully my loving wife was equally excited and we wanted to grab every moment by open arms. So once reaching back at the resort, we planned another attempt to shoot indorrs this time and tried to capture the essence of the villa we were staying at.

As the day was getting darker and the date was set to change, we were getting closer to the time and moment behiind making this whole trip happen. My wife had her birth anniversary with the change of date and she was over cloud 9 to welcome it with some style. So we decided to continue our idea of having an indoor shoot and make the most of the time and place. Some of the shots taken that evening are shared below. I am not a proclaimed or a professional photographer, however, I have to admit its not an easy to task to plan and execute such shoots. But my fondness to this art makes me to go that extra mile and try as much as possible and we both absolutly love this addiction. Sharing below are a few shots taken that fun evening.

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Late night shoot aside the pool. It was cold and windy. Some how we managed to get a few descent ones.

It was already 7′ in the morning the next day and the I was facying the idea of capturing the resort in the morning. Since we missed it the previous day, I, once again head out to catch the beautiful caldera while the clouds were still lingering around in the distance making the island peaks lost in the haze.

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Morning shoot in the resort. It indeed had a fabulous setup for photography.

Exploring more of resort and keep capturing frames is not an easy adddiction to overcome when one is at a resort like this. However, since we had plans to carry our zeal outside, we shifted gears and head out to the another favourite beach on the island, The Red Beach.

The Red beach offers a dramatic shoreline wherein the hills drastically cut themselves and drown into the aqua blue of the sea. The reach to the beach is with small hiking ascend and descent. The red volcanic stones dominate the view and hence the name. There are few shops around the beach that provides some eateries. This beach is not as long as other more populate beaches of Perissa and Kamari on the island but this is a perfect escapade especially when it provides more dramatic landscape to look out for. Also,this beach should offer one a better privacy as many of the tourists dont bother to hike all their way to the beach. Definitely recommended.

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Red beach, red with stones. A Gem of a place.

After exploring the famous Red beach we eventually headed up north to the capital town of Fira.

Directions to Fira are quite easy to follow and the ride is scenic and bright. Just be little more careful while you have rented out a quad as there are some hairpin turns wherein the quad feels like it has an idea of its own to make your distance short.

Fira is a busy town and has many public parking places to tax your vehicle. The town will appears to be the most populated one as to us it had the longest presence on the road which takes you further up North of the Island.

A plenty of tour operators, Moto rent outlets, souvenir shops, restaurants, hotels make their presence here. We parked our quad at Parking Lot 2 which was a short distance walk to Fira town center. As we happened to find out later on, Fira has the only Hospital of the island with basic medical facilities. For anything worse, one flies to Athens for further caring.

Adjacent to Fira town Center, also is the only Police Station we noticed on the island and a Taxi stand from where one can call for Radio taxies and also board buses to reach different parts of the island.

The Mantra to explore Fira and all other towns and villages on the island was on foot and take whatever path you come across.  There are no rules to reach the best view point on the island, it’s just about how much one can explore. We set our foot right and kept going from streets to verandas to corridors.

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It was like an artists work to walk around these streets and capturing them

Fira impresses one with the hustle bustle of being the the main town on the island. And one can observe that by the no of people in the streets. There are many restaurants that overlook the caldera and provide excellent view points. They might be on the expensive side of one’s budget but still worth giving a try.

By now they town had already swollen up with tourists and sun was on the top. We decided to refill ourselves at one of those many tempting restaurants and we checked in at Don & Donna. Now this turned out to be a shell shocker as this probably would easily qualify as the most expensive meal we had in our entire stay on the island.

The charges were exorbitant and before we could even sip into the last of the cactus juice, we were already had hit hard on our wallet. The food was alright however, the price per item was obviously on the higher side as the side is like pitta breads were charged expensively. Please review before you plan to visit this restaurant.

As the town of Fira demands a lot of on foot exploration, we then decided to spend out our evening not wandering around more but to sit back and let the moments pass by themselves. It was the time to head to Kamari, the busiest beach on the island.

On our way to Kamari, we accidently happen to come across Wine Museum Koutsoyannopoulos in Vothonas. This was not on my itinerary as I am not much into Wines however, this turned out to be a changeover experience for me. The vineyard hosts an impressive storytelling and an underground cellar museum to elaborate on the process of making some of the finest wines available. The tour ends with tasting four of their best wines to offer and an option to purchase one if it suits your liking. The four wines that we tasted were Ksera Homata (White Wine), Ampelones (Aged Red Wine), Kamaritis (Sweet Wine) and Vinsanto (Sweet Wine). All of the wines tasted fruit nector though we loved the exclusive Dessert Wine, Kamaritis and immediately ended up buying one to celebrate for the oncoming birth anniversary of my wife.

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Aah, it tasted sweet and wonderful.

Continuing with our destination of Kamari Island, we started back on the roads. There are many small narrow streets which can lead one to different parts of the beach once we are close by. Take any of those routes, park your car/quad/bike some place and beach is an easy stroll from there.

We did not want to acquire any of the beach beds and decided to sit on the pebble beach dipping our feet into the cold water. This is the place and moment when you can be just yourself. We spent rest of the evening talking, watching the day getting darker and just being ourselves. The sun sets on the other side of the island hence one cannot see the famous sunset over the horizon from this side of the island but none the less, it’s a calm sight to enjoy and spend you evening with.

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Kamari beach and the Kalmness around.

We bid good bye to Kamari when it started getting cold again as the sun set down. This was our last evening in the town of Akrotiri and as I mentioned earlier, the next day we were checking into the most beautiful and sought after northern town of Oia. Excitement was through the roof for both of us and we could not wait for the start again.

The next morning, post all the packing and settling down of pending expenses we waited for some more time before we checked out. The usual check in times for resorts/hotels in Santorini is 2:00 pm and hence usually one has another morning to spend at the resort. We asked for our usual American Breakfast at the room itself and enjoyed the filling treat.

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Just before checking out. With our beloved ride for a day. We had much fun together.

Stepping into the next phase of our stay was both exciting and hard for for us. We had fond memories associated with this resort, Maison Des Lys, and it had made our experience of this ever wonderful place even more cherishing. I would rate our stay at Maison Des Lys a top slab in all aspects. The staff were very cordial for each and every query we had. It provides fantastic view of the caldera, day or night. It’s a pity that I don’t recall the names of the front desk staff to wish them the great work they are doing to make their guests at home. Its definitely worth the experience we had here. With a promise to return back some time again, out transport to Oia had arrived. And yes to mention, the resort provides free transportation to any other part of the island the day one checks out. Top Stuff. Happy.

Our next destination was the famous Oia town up in the north. While I was planning the itinerary, I noticed that Santorini had an affinity to the windmills and they are as synonymous of the island as were the blue dome churches. So why only enjoy the sight of them but rather stay in one.

Sounds exciting.Ooh Yes..!! It is.

We had our next accommodation planned at the fantastic Golden Sunset Resorts in Oia. And I can vouch on this that this is one of the most photographed structures in Oia alongside the Blue Dome Churches.

We had our stay in the Windmill Suite, which stood tall almost unanimously glorifying the view of the Oia’s northernmost part. Oia is more densely populated, with narrow streets, may be because of the landscape wherein the resorts and hotels are too close to easily be mistaken as one. Golden Sunset Villas are situated a little up the hill and after coordinating with the owner, we were received by the owner himself with a small luggage carrier. You cannot lose your way if you are staying at this resort as the Windmill suite could be seen from distance as a milestone. Another nearing resort was Fanari Villas and these two shared the walls together. Once we were received and checked in the iconic Windmill suite, it was almost stepping into a new world altogether.

We checked in to the Windmill suite of ours and being very candid, I even missed the entry to the suite as this suite is so different then the other accommodations provided at this resort. The suite has its own verandah to sit out and enjoy the view which is a subject of envy to any of the fellow guests and passer byes. The resort provided unhindered view of the caldera and its one of the most famous points to view sunsets from. It is also very close to the Amoudi Castle.

We checked into the resort and to our surprise, the Wifi was not good enough to provide coverage inside the Windmill. On confirming this from the front desk, it was sure that the coverage for the wifi would not be possible inside the Windmill. As I also noticed, this was a pressing issue with other guests as well. Though it would have been great, but we sacrificed this necessity as everything else in the resort and around were just breathtaking.

The windmill suit is quite different from all the other accommodation one will experience, as each room is located atop of other one with steep steps or ladders to climb up. This resort is not very recommended to people who have concerns with climbing up and down with steep steps. As on the lighter side and rightly mentioned by the owner, “you can come back anytime and whenever you want, but please don’t get drunk” . That says it all. But we were thrilled with every aspect of the suite and it was an experience that we were going to enjoy to the fullest.

After checking in and settling down our stuff, we head out to see Olaf. Aaah, I missed mentioning about Olaf. While we were exploring places on our own, I was also on a lookout to find a tour around Santorini which not only takes me to no-so-known places on the island but also introduces me with the real spirit of it. Olaf carries photography tours of Santorini, wherein he not only takes you to various parts of the island which are not much on tourist radar but also helps you improve your photographic skills.

Since I was already looking for such an opportunity to mix both the pleasures I registered for this. If similar interests tickles you, look no further then contact Olaf Photographic tours.

We immediately got ready to head out again as we had an appointment with Olaf. His offering include pick and drop from your designated hotel. He reached out to the rendezvous point in some time and we set sail to explore the unseen Santorini. The first stop of ours was the small village of Emporio. This village offers the very different and subtle Santorini. Children playing in the courtyards, Old men and women walking slowly through those narrow milky white passages greeting with an affectionate smile will make your day for sure. I had to thank Olaf to bring me to this part of the island. We kept wandering into narrow streets discussing the traits and tips of photography alongside knowing the history of the island from someone who had spent around 8 yrs living among the locals. This was a very complete outing for both of us and we were receiving a lot from his end.

Since it was his fort to take us to places less known to tourists we were able to capture some really nice moments during this tour.

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To relive the spirit of Santorini, visit its villages.

We lived a fabulous experience with Olaf exploring the village with Olaf and it was time to attend the Caldera Sunset. Since it was time, we headed out to another undisclosed destination along our fantastic host for the evening.  After a short drive, we reached to the port of Athinios. This was an impromptu visit as it was not planned and we were mostly clueless about the places we were going to visit.

The port of Athinios was a short drive off the main road to Fira from Emporio. It was not a very busy port and had a few ferries taxed. Again, it was not high on tourist density so we had the whole landscape to enjoy and try shooting as well. With some tips I tried my hands at few shots there and the results were quite fabulous for my satisfaction.

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As, it was almost the sunset time we darted back to that undisclosed point which had to offer the best sight of the evening. And on the name of my holy God, it was. We were so much into illusion that I can’t even recall the name of the spot at this moment. But the pictures say more than a million words and it’s so much evident from the sun set shots that I was able to capture.

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The mysterious unknown spot of the evening

I am unable to recall the exact location of this place however, it was one of the most scenic sunsets I had seen in my lifetime. The dramatic change in the colors in the sky was nothing less than a fairy tale been recited in from of your eyes. It was hypnotizing none the less.

With those magnificent impressions in mind we left for the last leg of our trip with Olaf. We were already overwhelmed with the experience we had till now and I could not have done any better then to plan a day spent this way.

Oia was the final stop for us and I was still in awe of the moment. Oia on the other had been drastically different in the terms of visual delight. The whites and the smooth lamps lit hill slopes are a subject of canvas and brushes. We quickly reached out to a spot which had another delight stored for me. As suggested by our apt guide, there is a period post sunset of about 15 – 20 mins where the skies provide a fancy blue and that was the best time to capture the last memorable shot of the day.

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This would easily be the most memorable day of our whole trip and that we had relished it to the very end. It was a great learning curve for us and I got more than just photographic tips and venturing out at the end of the day.

We had met a friend of ours while we were travelling to Santorini from Athens and so it was time to meet up and share the experiences so far. Oia was on full bloom by now, markets were full of tourists and restaurants were getting filled up in no time. We, along with friends decided to meet up at Pelekanos on the Main Pedestrian in Oia. It has a great ambience with small bar at the lower levels and an open seating over the top. The entry to the restaurant is through a yellow door which could easily be missed.  The food was great for both Vegans and No vegans at a reasonable price.

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Fun time at Pelekanos 

We shared our experiences of the day spent and both of us were too excited to hear the other one out. My friend had done the Boat tour to Volcano and Hot springs and looking at his pictures I must say I wish I could add another day on our itinerary. It is also highly recommended to do one of them. The boat round trips could be picked up from either Amoudi Port or the Armeni Port, and none of these trips essentially require pre-bookings. We missed it this time around, but this makes up to the top of my to-do list for the next time.

We promised ourselves with making this trip the next day. Our conversations were growing more intuitive and fond so I invited my friends to our Windmill house. Oia can get quite chilling in the evening and it is mostly windy in this part of the island. We all settled ourselves into the arm chairs out in the open sipping in the favorite Greek wine. Soon it was time and we all crashed into beds after sharing blissful memories to carry on.

The next day was our last day at the island. We were still contemplating the idea of whether to venture out to the volcano and hot springs tour or just set out feet rolling and explore Oia ourselves. Somehow we settled for the later. We started with the street voyage and took every small turn we encountered.

As I had mentioned earlier as well, that’s the best mantra to complete your trip. So we head out into the direction of the Amoudi Fort. It is quite a short walk from the resort stopping and capturing every turn as it came.

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Random shots taken on our way to the fort

The fort offers an unhindered view a top of it And it also is among the most favored places to capture sunset from Oia. We realized how critical it becomes to reach early and choose a spot later in the evening. So if this is on your radar to watch sunset in Oia, make sure you pick up the spot early.

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View from a top the fort

We were also on the look out to the most photographed spot of Oia, those iconic Blue Dome churches in sight. One has to look for 49 Golden Silver on the Main Pedestrian and take the small street right across to it. Another landmark to not to miss this turn is a church that is located right on the corner of this street. We followed the instructions and reached the coveted spot.

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Those megical scenes, the blues and whites

The narrow street that takes you to this spot has a dead end to the left of it. It reaches to a boutique resort and it’s instructed to not to make a lot of noise there. These spots are the chosen ones for photographers and posers alike. If one follows the steps going down towards the domes, one will find more spots to shoot the domes. My suggestion would be to wander further down and see if you can find a better spot to shoot from.

We kept doing down the stairs and shot many nice street photos of the hotels, houses falling in our way down. This was turning out exclusively about finding as many photogenic spots as possible and capture as many as possible. And it was finally providing the photographer in me more than I had ever expected. I loved shooting here and the one thing that I was missing at times in my arsenal was a wide angle lens. So to all the photographers who would carry the same enthusiasm as I did, make sure you have one wide angle in your bags while you pack in.

At times there are some fabulous things are awaiting you when you see no road to lead to them. It happens to us as we followed one to the trails that looked like a dead end to us. It apparently looked like a trail that leads all the way to the sea below and had absolutely no signs of being used for a very long time. The grass and bushes had covered maximum of the steps and there were boulders and pieces of volcano rocks fallen apart from the towering cliffs. This turned out to be a secluded part of the shoreline where there were no signs of anyone visiting. It had some shops from the past which were closed, sealed and abandoned. The spot was thrilling and spooky at the same time. We explored all the way to the bottom of the trail and found a beautiful rocky spot to dip our feet into. It was calm, isolated, not on the map and away from all the buzz of the town above us. I just happened to find this trail but I would not be able to direct anyone to the spot. It was a fluke for both of us. But we managed to spend great time there and shoot come candid moments.

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Some place we accidently reached and had a fun time

Haha.. That was so much fun to be crazy and finny while no one was watching you. After playing around with water and ideas we headed up the hill and reached back to where the entire buzz was going on.

And now, it was time to enjoy the hospitality of the Windmill and become a subject of envy to a whole many who would line up outside the resort to capture the sun falling down in the back drop of the windmills. We hurried ourselves towards the resort, picking up a bottle of wine on our way. The gathering of people at the fort was increasing rapidly and soon it was evident as why. This unarguably is the best evening I had spent. The sight was stellar and so was the moment. The presence of so many around, the joy and the fun of being with your loved ones was phenomenal. We witnessed the sun going down while talking about how wonderful this trip for u had been and how we are going to leave pieces of our heart while we say adios to the heavens the next day. With some more memorable shots of the evening, I would really like to thank you all for being very patient bearing with my words and my excitement. I will absolutely love to visit here some day and for those who still are weighing the thought of doing so, my say to them is, and it would be a trip of your life time that you can tell stories about to your loved ones for years to come. So make it happen..!!

Thanks again. Stay safe and Stay blessed.

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New-0732New-2272The crowd that gathers at the fort to view the sunset and the last evening at this fantastic trip of ours

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