Along the Caldera- Day Two in Santorini

I woke up on my second day in Santorini not feeling very well. But I am no quitter. So in spite of pain and discomfort, I got up and went to get some breakfast and had decided I’d catch an early bus over to Fira for the day.

I unfortunately knew I needed to print my plane ticket for the next day, as Ryanair is picky about you having one before arriving at the airport, so I had to ask the hotel lady if I could. She let me, but she charged me five euros for the one page. I was pretty irritated by that, but I just gritted my teeth and rolled with it.

After a filling breakfast of bread and coffee and yogurt and fruit, I headed off to catch the bus.

Santorini has a super easy bus system. They get enough tourists, that they’ve made it pretty effective to use, though it is still a bit confusing the first time.

Basically you don’t need a ticket to get on, you pay when you board the bus.They have change and everything, just hop on and grab a seat if one is open, it’s basically more of a tour bus than a city bus format. The ticket salesman will come and sell you a ticket which you keep until you leave.

I arrived in Fira and decided to head out to see some of the city. I was already feeling pretty tired, but I didn’t care, I wanted to explore. So I decided I was going to do the hike I’d heard was amazing, from Fira all the way to the city of Oia on the far tip of the island. The hike was about ten kilometers, and although I was a bit nervous about my state, I decided I would do it nonetheless.

It was one of the most gorgeous hikes I’ve ever been on in my life. That’s coming from a Pacific Northwest girl who has been on more hikes than she can count.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It was sunny with little shade, but the walk along the caldera was stunning, and I have rarely been so in awe of nature as I was at this time.

I know I’ve done posts on solo travel, but truly, walking the edge of this island, staring out at the sea… I mean it’s something life changing. Going through a journey like that by yourself, getting to experience and enjoy and reflect, that’s truly beautiful.

I arrived in Oia a sweaty exhausted, but very happy mess. I quickly bought some water and then walked around the city taking photographs.

I had a very splurgy lunch in this cute restaurant with spectacular views. I had a pina colada, and a piece of pork with a delicious sauce stuffed with various ingredients. I finished with some Baklava feeling very satisfied.

I headed back to catch a bus back to Fira rather than walking back. I’d decided that was my reward for accomplishing my hike even exhausted and not feeling my best.

I had wanted to see the sunset in Oia, but I was nervous about trying to get a bus back to Fira and then another to Perissa. It just seemed like too much to manage, and besides, I was worn out.

I went and took another swim and got to bed early. My time in Santorini was almost up. I wished I could have stayed longer, but it was a spectacular trip while it lasted.

Journey to Santorini

When I asked for advice of where to go in Greece, this was the one island that seemed to pop up again and again. Every website of “top twenty things in Greece”, every other English assistant I asked, it kept coming up. So I knew I had to go.

Besides, Santorini looked like the perfect place to really get the ideal relaxing vacation experience, which I have rarely ever had in my life.

Oh I know, poor me, getting to go on fun family vacations all the time and never doing a resort. I’m so incredibly deprived.

But sarcasm aside, it is funny that my family tends to make vacations these exhausting events that leave us getting home more tired than we were at the start. The only time we ever attempted a relaxing beach vacation was a two day stay in Zihautanejo, Mexico, which ended with the entire family getting food poisoning (or… water poisoning rather), my back getting so sunburned I couldn’t wear a bra, and a hurricane rolling in as we were flying out. I’ve always kind of assumed we were cursed.

So Santorini it was, to finally get my fun beach vacation.

I’d opted to take the ferry, although even in May it was quite booked up so I ended up having to pay more for a “premium” seat type deal, which really didn’t turn out to be too fancy.

Nonetheless I took the bus early in the morning back to Heraklion where I managed to board my boat without trouble.

Unlike most ferries I’ve seen, it had assigned seats, but for some reason the crew were just shoving people towards the areas that were open. So I got scolded by a couple for trying to “steal” their seats. I found mine in the middle of the boat and settled in for a long ride.

I was up and down a lot. I went outside some to admire the views of the water, especially as we pulled away from Crete. After that it was pretty dull so I settled in to rest up until I arrived.

The boat pulled in after a few hours at sea. I was immediately greeted by the rocky cliffs of Santorini, the long winding road going up up up to the main part of the island.


I was told by my hostel I’d have transportation from the port. I went to the sign they indicated, but unfortunately the man there told me I’d have to pay. I was very confused, so I tried calling my hostel. The lady who picked up the phone didn’t really understand what I was saying. Clearly she didn’t speak good English. Just as I was getting frustrated, thinking I’d have to pay for a ride, a lady came up and told me it was fine and the man had been mistaken.

I let out a sigh of relief and got into a shuttle that was going to take me to my hostel.

Now, on Santorini it was a tough choice of where to stay. But I admittedly was feeling in the mood for some beaches, which meant I picked a bit cheaper place outside of the cities over on the far side of the island near Perissa.

The driver dropped me off in front of this lovely little hostel. The lady I’d spoken with on the phone was waiting for me. She led me to a room, though it ended up being the wrong one, which she did correct fairly quickly. I was then led to the right room. It was cute and clean. My only issue is that there was only one key… so in order to leave the room open for my roommates, I had to leave it at the desk when I went out. I have to say, this place did not function well as a hostel as a result.

I changed into my suit with a light skirt and top over, and then I headed down towards the beach for the day.

IMG_7758 (2)

I initially settled in a public area, resting beneath a small umbrella at a place that wasn’t open for the season yet. It was nice, but I did want to explore, and I was nervous about leaving my stuff for too long while I went swimming. So I took off down the beach.

I looked at various different restaurants, realizing this was probably the best option. I could find a good place to get some drinks, and maybe some food, and then I could leave my stuff a little bit more secure while I enjoyed the water and the sun.

This worked fairly well. I spent most of my day at a restaurant called Saffron, ordering some drinks and enjoying the water and comfy beach loungers. I people watched and simply relaxed. It was really needed after so many long weeks of teaching in rainy gray northern France.

After a full day a the beach I went back to my hostel and spent a little time at the pool.

I read and relaxed as the sunset, before heading back to my room where my roommate had showed up. She was from Argentina, and she was not at all pleased with where our hostel was in relation to everything on the island. I told her it was maybe a ten minute walk to the beach, and she said that was too far. I laughed a bit as she went to go order delivery food and sit by the pool.IMG_7805 (2)

I got to bed early, because in spite of doing a relaxing beach vacation for one day, I was determined to do some serious travel the next.

Exploring Crete

I woke up in my lovely studio on the island of Crete and felt like I’d stepped into some kind of dream. Greece itself has always seemed like some kind of fantasy land to me, but to actually be there, waking up and looking out my window to see the sun shining on the sea, illuminating the mountains and the fields, it was exhilarating.

IMG_7639IMG_7640 (2)

I had breakfast on my balcony and sunscreened up before heading downstairs. I had opted to wear shorts, even though I knew this made me clearly stand out as a tourist. It was just too hot and I knew i was going to be outside for much of the day.

I’d opted to spend my morning going to explore the ancient city of Knossos.

It was one of the things that had drawn me to Crete in the first place. When planning my Greece trip I’d googled recommendations of the best places to see, and Crete was featured on quite a few lists, so I knew I had to get there.

So Knossos was a top priority to see as it was supposed to be one of the most important places on the island.

If you’re there in the summer there is a bus directly from Amoudara to Knossos, but in the off season it required a ride into Heraklion and a transfer from there. Thankfully it wasn’t too hard to figure out.

After arriving I headed into the gates. There was quite a line, but I wasn’t deterred. It wasn’t cheap, and as I wasn’t sure I was going to the archaeology museum I didn’t bother to buy a joint ticket (this ended up being a good choice).

The palace ruins stretched out before me. There were guides hovering offering tours for extra money, but I opted to walk around and read signs.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I soon found out Knossos was not quite as exciting as I’d anticipated.

Much of what there was to see was reconstruction, and it was reconstruction done in an early period when there wasn’t a lot of research done to see how accurate the reproductions might or might not be.

It was also just really crowded. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like in full tourist season.

Anyhow, to any planning on going I recommend good walking shoes, plenty of sunscreen, and willingness to use your elbows.

After finishing wandering the various parts of the palace, I headed back out and went to the bus. I took it back to Heraklion where I decided to find some place for lunch.

I ended up at a place right near the harbor. It was obvious I shouldn’t have gone in. The waiter was far too eager to get me through the door, but I didn’t really care. I had a pretty greasy and not very good gyro, but it was at least filling.

After finishing my meal I headed down to the harbor to walk around. I was feeling a little poor after going to Knossos, so I opted to just look at the outside of the Phoenician fort instead of paying to go in. I then walked back up the hill to the walls surrounding the city where I took a nice long walk. It had beautiful views and I really enjoyed myself.

I spent a little longer in the city before boarding a bus back towards my hostel.

I changed into my suit back in my room and headed down to the beach. It was less than a five minute walk down to the sand. I found a free spot to lay my towel, and I sat and looked out at the water.

I did wade a little, but it was too cool to really enjoy swimming.

After lounging for a bit I went back to the pool where I dipped in for a bit, but again was too cold to really last. Besides, I couldn’t shake my old swimming lessons as a child where the first rule was “never swim alone.” Hard to do as a solo traveler.

I went upstairs and showered before throwing on a skirt and top and heading to dinner. I’d seen good trip advisor reviews about a tavern down the road, so I walked down to find this quaint little place with a lovely porch. It was the perfect setting for an evening meal. I had meatballs in a sauce with rice.

IMG_7742 (2)

I was given a free dessert again, but I was still slightly hungry walking back, so I picked up an ice cream cone at a shop on the way and took it back to eat on my balcony as I watched the sunset. I couldn’t have asked for anything more perfect.

I had a roommate that evening, she was from Denmark and we exchanged advice about traveling.

And then I headed to bed, because I had an early morning coming to get to Santorini the next day.

From Thessaloniki to Crete

So I’d decided to stay in Thessaloniki only a day and then fly down to the island of Crete from there. However, the best plane deal I could find was either extremely early in the morning, or in the early evening. I opted to go for the evening and give myself a few more hours to enjoy Thessaloniki before I left.

This turned out to be a pretty good decision with the holiday the day before, as that meant I wasn’t able to see any museums or monuments from the inside.

The morning of my last day I woke up and had some breakfast at my hostel before leavign my bags and heading down the hill into the main part of the city. I decided to start with the Rotunda for my explorations.

One of the things Thessaloniki is famed for is it’s very beautiful early Christian art. Indeed, as I stepped into the rotunda I could understand why.

The structure was built in Roman times but was then taken over to become a Christian church. Later it was converted into a mosque and the beautiful mosaics were covered over. Thankfully the plaster wasn’t damaging, and today most of it has been chipped away to reveal the beauty underneath.

It was truly beautiful, not a really time consuming site by any means, but definitely one worth seeing.

After leaving the Rotunda I headed down the hill towards the archaeological museum.

I decided to go ahead and purchase a pass that would get me into multiple other locations in the city, hoping it would be worth my while.

The museum itself had quite a few nice artifacts. I really enjoyed my time there. However, it was not laid out very well and I was scolded my staff once or twice for going in a wrong way. Could use better signage.

After the archaeology museum I headed to the museum of Byzantine culture, also on my pass. The museum was in a lovely modern building that curved around up the levels to allow you to see everything. The only problem was it was completely empty. I know it was lunchtime, but still… there were no other tourists. Which made me feel very self-conscious let me tell you.

Once I’d finished awkwardly perusing I headed over to the White Tower. I had a pass to go up it as well and since I still had plenty of time I opted to do that.

IMG_7605 (2)

I took an audioguide, but it ended up taking forever since ALL of the signs were in Greek and the audioguide simply translated. I’m a pretty fast reader so it was a pain to stand there and listen when I could have just skimmed on my own. Regardless the tower was still fun, and it had very nice views of the surrounding areas which I enjoyed seeing.


Down at the bottom I decided to start heading back to my hostel to grab my bags. I was worried about being late for my flight, so I opted to leave early.

I walked back up the hill and had the staff call me a taxi so I could save some time and not have to worry about a foreign bus I didn’t know how to use.

I climbed in and my taxi driver had to navigate the confusing maze of streets on the hill. He nearly got stuck three or four times. Definitely was some swearing in Greek I’m pretty sure. Anyhow, after a little bit of frustration we did get off and head on the way to the airport.

I arrived and went in, deciding I’d just head straight through security to save myself any worries. I soon found this was a poor decision.

The waiting room for all the gates had a small amount of seats, some bathrooms, one tiny coffee shop, and a little convenience store. There was no wifi. And there were no power outlets anywhere to be found. For such a major city I was shocked. But I forget of course that I come from a wealthier country, and this was one time I simply had to accept that things aren’t always the same in other places.

Finally I was on my flight. It was filled with a bunch of noisy teenagers who kept bumping my seat, but thankfully it wasn’t all that long. And there were complimentary beverages which I always appreciate (especially on the cheapy European flights that I’m not as used to).

I arrived in Crete in the early evening. I exited the airport and went to find the bus to get to my hostel. Thankfully I found it and there was even a man there who spoke some English and was able to tell me which bus I needed to take.

I found Crete’s bus system (at least in Heraklion) was pretty good overall. They had ticket machines at a lot of stops, so it was easy to purchase a ticket, and then you just stepped on and handed the driver it and pulled it so it ripped. The buses also usually announced stops, both in Greek and English, though this wasn’t always working. I took a seat and waited the long thirty minute ride out to Amoudara, a beach area in Crete slightly outside of Heraklion.

I’d debated about where to stay in the city. I’d considered just doing an AirBnB but those were much more expensive than a hostel. Unfortunately the only hostel in Heraklion didn’t have stellar reviews, so I opted instead to go to a place outside the city center and risk wasting time on transport. Besides, it had a pool and was close to the beach, so what more could I want?

I arrived at Manos Studios and was greeted by a very friendly man who ran the place. He told me since it was the off season I was going to have a room all to myself (normally reserved for six girls). I was delighted. I also found as it wasn’t a “hostel” persay it had a full kitchen attached. Needless to say I was very pleased.

IMG_7627IMG_7628 (2)

I then went off to find dinner. There was a restaurant right across the street and I was told they had decent fare. Sure enough I ordered a plate of a variety of Greek specialties to try. It was huge, but I was very hungry (having not eaten since breakfast) so I wolfed it down while sipping at a fresh squeezed orange juice.

IMG_7635 (2).JPG

After enjoying my meal I went over to the little supermarket next door and purchased things for breakfast the next morning and then went back to my room. I lounged by the pool for a bit, but it was too cool to swim. I decided I’d try that the next morning.

I went to bed early and enjoyed not having to deal with noisy roommates. It was a lovely change.

Off to Thessaloniki

So I woke early to get going out of my hostel. I had breakfast first, a surprisingly filling fare for an included meal. Waffles and scrambled eggs, meats, cheeses, olives, fruits, bread, spreads, coffee, hot chocolate, tea, juice, and water. My word what a feast! I ate my fill before checking out.

I debated calling a cab to get to the bus station. Honestly, it wouldn’t have been very expensive, but I had overestimated my time so I had a good hour left until my bus was leaving, so I opted to walk.

I used thirty minutes to get to the station. I was already a little confused stepping in. A  lot of the signs were only in the cyrillic script of Bulgarian. So I thankfully found the desk of the bus company I booked and asked them where I should be.

They spoke enough English to help and got me to my platform in time to hop on my bus.

While it was a bit confusing and not a lot of directions were given in English, the bus itself was quite nice. Decently comfy seats, chargers, and even wifi (though you had to ask for directions on that…and I really didn’t care that much as T-Mobile was still providing me with cell service), plus screens to watch tv in Bulgarian if you desired. And then even more surprisingly the driver came through with snacks and drinks that were apparently all included. Yay for that.

We had one stop in the middle to use toilets (aka holes in the ground) and buy snacks if we wanted before getting back on the bus.

The only other stop we made was at the border. I was a bit scared because the border guard just took my passport from me and left the bus. He was going to get it stamped, but for a moment I was afraid I wasn’t going to get it back since I was one of the few non EU people on the bus.

Thankfully he did bring it back with a new stamp making it clear that I’d been to Greece! Yay for more passport stamps.

Now the last part is the confusing one. I’m pretty sure I got off at the wrong stop.

The bus did stop a few places to pick up passengers, but the driver never said anything.

In Thessaloniki (yes I could see on the map on my phone) the driver turned and said something. Since I could see we were in the town, albeit about fifteen minutes early I climbed off, even though most passengers appeared to still be sitting there.

Well, the bus station that I’d googled prior to arriving was maybe a 3 kilometer walk from my hostel. That wasn’t ideal but was doable. With the holiday I knew it was unlikely I’d be able to get a bus. The station I was at was much further, so not possibly walkable, or at least not if I wanted time and energy to see the city.

Thankfully I had a list of directions for a taxi driver, so they were able to understand where I needed to go. So I opted to just grab a cab.

It wasn’t exorbitant and saved me time so I was glad I’d done it when the driver dropped me at the bottom of the road my hostel was on.


I climbed up the steps to Little Big House, the most adorable hostel I’ve ever stayed in. It was perched up in this quiet little neighborhood on a hill overlooking the city. When I went inside it got even better. One of the women running it greeted me. She made me a coffee on the house (iced after my long climb) and then walked me through all there was to see in the city before taking me up to my room.

IMG_7509 (2)

I sunscreened and changed into a skirt to be a little cooler. In Greece most women don’t wear shorts, but you see plenty of tourists doing it anyways. But for my first few days there I did try to be authentic and dress more modestly. Makes it easier if you want to go into any churches too.

Ready for the sun and heat I set out to walk further up the hill to the Trigonian Tower, a part of ramparts surrounding the city. I admired the views and walked over to a church that was supposedly founded by the Apostle Paul. It wasn’t open, but I enjoyed walking around the outside.

Since it was a holiday, most things were closed, but the fun thing was there were a lot of people out and about. There was music and just a variety of things going on in the city. I enjoyed seeing some of that along the walls and down at Pasha’s Gardens, which weren’t all that pretty but did have nice atmosphere with lots of people gathering. I snapped some photos and walked down the hill towards the city center.

There was a free tour leaving from the rotunda, so I opted to join that. There were only a few other people there, and I soon discovered why. It’s probably the worst free tour I’ve ever had. Not really all that interesting, kind of mundane all in all. I knew it was bad when most people just skipped out at the end instead of leaving a tip.

IMG_7546 (2)IMG_7542 (2)

Still it did show me some of the major parts of the city that weren’t open at the time anyways. So that was good.

Afterwards I headed back up the hill to a place where I remembered my hostel had said was good food. On top of having really good cuisine, they also had a lovely view of the city. As the sun was going down I was able to watch and then see the lights go on for the city walls.

A cat came to join me for dinner, they are all over Greece, so I soon became used to them, but I thought it was amusing at the time.

I had stuffed grape leaves for an appetizer, and then a plate of meatballs and potatoes with a yogurt sauce. And they even brought me a small dessert free of charge at the end (apparently this is common in a lot of restaurants… or at least the ones I visited). All in all I was quite pleased.

I headed back to my hostel to relax for the rest of the evening. Had some good conversations with two of my roommates from Germany and Belgium. It’s always awesome to meet fellow travelers from all over the place.