On May 23rd 2019, I left Milan, Italy and flew to the island of Santorini in Greece, via Athens. I stayed at the Lilium Hotel in Fira before transferring to a different hotel where the group was staying. I was joining a photography tour: Photography Workshop Adventures (PWA) led by Laurie Cohen.
I arrived in time for sunset and saw this view from the hotels' terrace. The cruise ship was one of many that we would see during out stay. We were told that Santorini actually started to limit the number of cruise ships allowed to the island to restrict the number of people in the streets.
As I usually do, I arrived a day early for the tour. The hotel provided a shuttle service into Fira (see halfway down the map) so after breakfast, I went into the town to explore on my own. Fira is a city of white-washed houses built on the edge of a cliff. There was a young couple who also came into town from the hotel. I ended up walking with them on the Fira-Oia hike which is one of the highlights of visiting Santorini. The hike took us along the caldera cliff and through the villages of Fira, Firosterfani, Imerovigli, and Oia. I almost made it to Oia before I turned back after a few hours.
There were so many hotels with beautiful terraces overlooking the water. The many hotels are a necessity because of all of the tourists arriving in the summer months. Fortunately, we were just ahead of tourist season but it was still crowded.
Walking along the trail were magnificent views.
On the right side of the photo is the main road beside the towns. In the far distance you can see the small town of Oia. Both the blue sky and ocean were incredibly blue.
When walking you could see into people's "back yards". There would not be a lot of privacy if you lived along the path but the gorgeous views might be worth it.
Skaros Rock is a large rock promontory on the Agean sea. The formation was created through the volcanic activity of the nearby Santorini caldera. Given the elevated position of the rock, it made a great defensive fort initially used in the early 13th century by the Byzantine Empire. I didn't actually hike down to the rock which would have taken an additional hour or so.
It was like my camera had a mind of its own- it would not stop taking photos of this beautiful island.
Even though the tour had not officially started, Laurie picked me up at my hotel and we went to dinner at the Santos winery where we had magnificent views at sunset.
We started the official tour the next day and walked in the town of Fira. This was the main road -part of the hiking trail. So although it was midday, you can see that it was busy but not overly crowded to the point where you could not walk without bumping into someone. In high season, this would not be the case. The cruise ships bring in thousands of tourists which is great for business but not good for walking.
A church reflected in a hotel window.
Normally, you would see cruise ships way below the town. The ships use tenders to get the people to land. Since the initial tender boats coming into Fira are reserved for the passengers taking the excursions, it could take a while to get into town if you had not booked an excursion. Once you get to land you can take the cable car up to town or you can take burros. Of course there is also the option of walking up substantial flights of stairs.
One of the more colourful churches in town. I'm not sure where I have seen more churches than on the Greek islands we visited.
In the late afternoon, we walked in Imerovigli for a welcome dinner and terrific views. All of the villages had lots of hills so perhaps it was more of a trek than a walk.
As we were walking, the fog rolled in and it became difficult to see much of anything.
The sun came out suddenly and lit up the village and cliffs. This view was from our restaurant- fortunately we were pretty close to the railing and there was a space for us to get the shot.
Sunset from the same area. We were so lucky that the fog lifted and we had great colours afterall.
We waited for the lights to come on before leaving for the evening. We actually had quite a walk back to the car. Parking was not always so easy in the town.