Our Plan for the day
Our plan was to sail from Mykonos to Santorini on a catamaran. We would reach Santorini in the early afternoon, pick up our rental car and proceed to some sightseeing.
Returning the Rental Car at the Port
We returned our rented car to the Avis Office at the port. Though the location of return was not the same as the location of pickup, Avis did not charge a one way fee. Since we returned the car in the same pristine condition as when we picked the car and with a full tank of petrol, there were no additional charges. So the final final cost for two days of car rental was €77.It was very convenient that Avis office at the port was just a couple of feet from jetty where our catamaran would berth. So once we were done with the paperwork at Avis we just need to walk 200 meters to the jetty with our luggage which was not too troublesome.
Waiting for the Catamaran
We were at the jetty early and there was not many people around. There were no jetty staff or catamaran staff who we could approach so we did not know exactly where to wait for the ferry.
One thing I knew for sure was that we were at the right jetty as its location was marked on my map by the staff that sold me the ferry tickets.
Half an hour later the crowd started coming in . Buses were bringing in and dropping load of people. We saw a queue being to form, so we quickly joined in the queue. I presumed we were all waiting for the same catamaran.
We just waited and waited and dare not move away from our queue because that was what all the others were doing. I guessed we were on holidays and were to take things slow and easy so waiting should be part of the game. After waiting for about 45 minutes we finally saw a catamaran coming from afar. Sigh…we were finally moving….
Arriving at Santorini on Seajets Catamaran
After we boarded the catamaran we had to leave our luggage outside the door that lead to the lounge areas where the seats were located. There were not enough racks to store the luggage so they were stacked one on top of the other on the floor and along the walkways.
The seats in the lounges were very comfortable, just like airplane seats. The ride was very comfortable, not bumpy at all. In fact the catamaran was so stable that I did not know it had left port and was already midway in the sea. After about two hours we reached Santorini. Unlike those that arrived on an open deck cruise boat like to Blue Star Ferry cruise, there was no open deck on the catamaran for us to enjoy the view of Santorini caldera.
It was after the catamaran berthed that was when a mad rush started. We were trying to leave the lounges area but could not as there were human blockages at all the exit doors. The tourists were not passing through the exit doors smoothly, they stopped just outside these doors to pickup their luggage. If they were lucky they would get their luggage and move on, but some luggage were buried beneath the others. These tourists would jam at the doorways waiting for the ferry staff to dig through the luggage to get to theirs. Luggage on top that were not claimed as their owners were stuck in the lounges, were pulled out, dropped and stacked all over the place. It was so chaotic!
I was sure that such occurrences were frequent affair and had been in existence for a long time, why was it that the ferry company had not created a process that prevent this chaotic situation and provided a better experience for its customers and its own staff?
New Port to Town
Seajets catamaran stopped at the new port, Athinios of Santorini. The port was at the bottom of the caldera cliff. The cliff looked very rugged and high and the first question that came into my head was how to get up the cliff with our luggage.
The dramatic high red colored cliff was part of a collapse caldera. Santorini was a volcanic island. It was originally a single island which was broken into several islands set in a ring after going through many major volcano eruptions.
At the port there were several restaurants and car rental companies, unfortunately Avis was not one of them. I had booked an Avis car but unfortunately Avis Car rental outlet was located in Firostefani so we could not pick up our car, dump our luggage into the boot and drive up the cliff.
Luckily there were taxis and public buses transporting tourists to Fira town. We boarded a public bus and paid €2.30 per person for our trip to Fira.
The bus climbed swiftly up a zigzag road from the base to the top of the cliff. Looking down to the port from the bus window was quite an amazing view.
Lunch at Fira
The bus stopped at a bus terminal at Fira, everybody alighted so we did the same. Based on my google map we were about 1.3 km from our hotel. So we were prepared to drag our luggage and walked all the way to our hotel in Firostefani, the town next to Fira. 1.3 km did not seem too far to walk but as we found out later it was very difficult to walk with our luggage.
Though our luggage had wheels, it was difficult to drag them through the cobbled sidewalk which sloped gradually upward. The wheels kept getting caught between the gaps of the cobble stones. Maneuvering a 24 inch luggage and one heavy backpack was really very tiring for me.
After about 200 metres we came to a street full of cafes and restaurants and we were only too glad to stop for lunch. We sat at the outdoor seating of a restaurant, Vithos Cafe. It was one of the first restaurants on the right side of 25is Martious Road just beside Alpha Bank.We ordered salad and a chicken pasta dish. Bread, butter and water were always part of the meal. The meal was about €20. It was very enjoyable to eat, to look a the tourists that walked by on the street and to surf on the internet. Our hotel was already booked so there was no rush to get there.
Avis Car rental Office
We were dragging our feet over lunch because we dreaded the walk ahead. We need to walked about another 1 km down the road to reach our hotel. So far the first 200 meters walk was terrible, and along the road we had not passed by any bus stop or saw any bus driving through so it seemed that a walk was inevitable.
We finally started our walk again doing it slowly, the road was still going up slope and after about 300 meters my husband told me that there was red Avis signboard just ahead. I told him that based on google map the Avis Car Rental office was near to our hotel so it couldn’t be just ahead and he got it wrong.
Well he was not wrong! Google map was wrong! The Avis Car Rental Office was located in Fira and not Firostefani!
The good news was we could pickup our car and drive to our hotel, but the bad news was the office only opened from 5 pm to 8 pm, what an odd timing.
We called the office number but the staff told me he could only come in at 5 pm, so we had to wait for about an hour for him to turn up. The Avis Staff came in on time and we got our car.
The rental rate for three full days was €64, the car was very new, a small red manual Toyota without GPS.
Before I left Singapore I had already booked a car from Avis and the cost was €121 with GPS, the GPS was €30. Two days ago when I was in Mykonos I did another check on the rental rates of Avis Car at Santorini and found that the rates had went down a good deal. So I cancelled by earlier reservation and placed a new reservation under my husband’s name that was how we got that fabulous rate.
The Avis staff told us that he was the only Avis staff in Santorini, in the afternoon he had to man the Avis Car Rental Office at the Airport that was why he could only come into the Fira Avis outlet after 5 pm. Now we had an issue, three days later we would be returning the car at the Airport at around 5 pm so if he is not going to be there how could we return the car? The final agreement was that we could bring in the car for his inspection and finalise the paper work at Fira in the morning then continue to use the car until we return the car at the airport.
Strolling from Firostefani to Fira
After we checked in to Sofia Hotel and unloaded our luggage, we were ready to head out again. Sofia Hotel was along a footpath full of cafes, restaurants, hotels and souvenir shops, travel agencies and more.
After leaving our hotel we walked southward, the footpath branched out to more footpaths, some went up some went down, each one passing more shops, cafe, hotels, churches and houses. The entire town was built on the slope of the cliff facing the sea. The footpaths formed the pedestrian walkways that linked the houses and there were many layers of houses on the slope. The view of these whites houses on the slope of the cliff was very beautiful.
As we walked on we came to the cable car station. The cable car link Fira town to the old port (Skala). It was packed with tourists queuing up to take a ride down to the old port. The old port was where big cruise ships would berth.
Another way down to the old port was via the steps that go zigzag down to the port. Tourists could take a donkey ride down the steps or attempt to use leg power but it was a long way down.
The sun was setting over the Aegean sea, many like us stopped at a vantage spot to take photo or to see the spectacular sun set over the sea. It was awesome!
It was only at the cable car station that we realised that the footpath had brought us from Firostefani town to Fira town. If we were to walk further inland away from the cliff we would reach the restaurant where we had lunch in the afternoon. This evening walk did not seem as long as the walk in the afternoon.
After the sun went down, Santorini turned into a magical land. It was so spectacular so beautiful, every direction we turned we saw beautiful lights, they could be the lights of a cafe terrace, lights from a shimmering blue swimming pond, lights from the domes of a church, lights that run along the wall of the walkway, lights from a willmill. Stunning!
The beauty of the night scenery of Santorini exceeded that of Mykonos. We walked back slowly to Firostefani, back to our hotel. Along the way we stopped many times to take in the view.
Night Trip to Oia
When we reached our hotel we were reluctant to go in, the night was still young and we still wanted to explore. We walked to a car park nearby to pick up our car and drive northward to another town, Oia, which was at the north tip of Santorini. The staff at the Avis car rental office had told us that Oia had the best sunset in Santorini. Though sun set was over we still wanted to drive up to Oia to take a look.Oia was about 8 km north of Firostefani and the drive would take about 20 minutes as according to my google map.
It could have been a very enjoyable drive if the road was better lighted. Unfortunately the road was dark, narrow, very curvy and some sections had steep drop at the sides of the road. I felt on the edge all the times. There were a few cars and buses on the same narrow road and I felt very uneasy whenever a vehicle overtook us or whenever my husband overtook another vehicle. He told me that he was driving within speed limit but I kept telling him to slow down.The road was one lane in each direction and whenever an oncoming car or bus passed our car, it felt too close for comfort.
When we reached Oia, there was not much to see as most of the shops were already shut. We ended up going into a convenient store to buy some ham, cheese and bread for our breakfasts for the next few days.
We looked around for a cafe but could not find one. Oia was not as vibrant as Firostefani or Fira, there were less people about. Disappointed we decided to go back to our hotel and come back in the daytime. Our return trip was much more enjoyable. Since this was the second time driving along the same road, though it was still dark and narrow I felt calmer, familiarity helped. Our car was practically the only car on the road so there was no worries about overtaking or oncoming vehicles.
We had time to stop by the roadside and to admire the night scenery whenever a certain view captivated us. The land, the houses, the sea and the moon came together to form a very serene and breathtaking picture.
Our Accomodation for next three Nights
I had booked my room at Firostefanie and the price was very good. For three nights I only need to pay €120, the room came with ensuite bathroom, double bed, free wifi but no breakfast. There was also a free car park within walking distance to the hotel.
At the point of my online booking, the pictures that were displayed for the hotel showed a dining room and lounge with a view of the Aegean sea. So I thought that in the dining room or lounge of Sofia Hotel we would have a fantastic view.
Well this was not the case! Because the dining room and lounge belonged to a restaurant that was in a building opposite the hotel. It had some sort of a affiliation with Hotel Sofia and you get 10% off the bill if you go to that restaurant for meals. This was really a misrepresentation of Hotel Sofia, its room rates was so good because it did not have the expected Aegean Sea view!
Hotel Sofia was owned by a old lady named Sofia. Sofia ran a souvenir shop on the ground level and a hotel on the 2nd level. The hotel was along a footpath with houses and shops on both sides of the footpath. This footpath run parallel to the outline of the cliff, so the houses on one side of the footpath overlook the cliff and had the Aegean Sea as their views. Sofia Hotel was on the other side of the footpath so even on the 2nd level of the hotel you cannot see the Aegean sea, its view was blocked by the buildings directly across it on the other side of the footpath.