September 25th, 2023
Paros is a Greek island in the central Aegean Sea. One of the Cyclades island group, it lies to the west of Naxos, from which it is separated by a channel about 8 kilometres (5 miles wide. The Municipality of Paros includes numerous uninhabited offshore islets totaling 196.308 square kilometres (75.795 sq mi) of land. Its nearest neighbor is the municipality of Antiparos, which lies to its southwest. In ancient Greece, the city-state of Paros was located on the island.
Historically, Paros was known for its fine white marble, which gave rise to the term “Parian” to describe marble or china of similar qualities. Today, abandoned marble quarries and mines can be found on the island, but Paros is primarily known as a popular tourist spot. The white marble found here is considered some of the the finest marble in the world being Parian which was used in the crafting of many famous marble statues, including Aphrodite of Milos that now resides in the Louvre.
Greek mythology states that the Cretan, Alkaios, was the first king of Paros and built a city on the site of the present capital of Parikia. At the time, Crete traded goods with Egypt, Assyria, and the Balkans. Paros was an ideal place due to its strategic position (in the center of the Cyclades) and fertile land.
Gasoline on Paros averages around €2.27 a litre which amounts to about $9.03 USD a gallon – getting pricier and pricier here on the islands!
Upon disembarking we were greeted by yet another Cyclades windmill:
Christine had booked this accommodation and there was a bit of a screw up that we realized yesterday morning; it was for September 25th, 2024!! She had contacted them and they said it was fine and we had to make our own way to the place. It was for two studio apartments on the edge of the town. We took a taxi over and upon arriving, learned that no, our rooms were NOT available but after Christine chatted with the manager he offered us 2 four person rooms at about the same rate BUT we’d have to wait until around noon to get in. So we accepted that and put our luggage in the hallway.
Christine needed a washroom and the woman there wouldn’t let her use one so she went to find one; next door was another small apartment building and after asking them, they said sure, come on in. Then she questioned them about vacancy and they offered her two rooms for a bit less than we were going to pay and they were ready so she said “we’ll take them”. When she told us, we got our bags and moved over. Here we got rooms with larger balconies (there was no pool at either place) and kitchenettes. They weren’t fancy but they were clean and the price was right.
After settling in, we decided to check out the beach and take a hike to another as well. By now it’s getting really warm and before making it to the next beach, we gave up. We could see it in the distance and it didn’t look any better than the local beach near our rooms.
We walked back and at least in this direction, we had a breeze as the temps were in the low 30’sC / low 90’sF. Upon arriving at the main part of the beach where there were no costly sunbeds, we found a spot under a tree and three of us (not Mark) went for a ten minute dip just to cool off. This beach is a blue flag beach.
Christine had been in Paros 40 years ago and worked here for a couple of months in her backpacking days so after our swim, her and Mark went to find the campground she had stayed in and then they wanted to visit a winery. Fran and Doug went back to the room to shower off, changed and then went into the town to walk around see two sites and find some beverages.
We first visited: Panagia Ekat Ontapyliani – which means “church with 100 doors” and walked around the place. It doesn’t really have 100 doors but it did have a lot of them
Then we walked through the town – what a pleasant stroll we had – nothing at all like the hordes of Mykonos but somewhat similar little alleys with not as many tourist shops though. We ended up back by the water to see the PAROS sign Fran had read about but it was underwhelming.
Enroute back to our apartment we stopped for some groceries and drinks and to inquire about boat tours around the island of Antiparos. Sailing around the islands was something Fran really wanted to do. Well, sailboats were not an option unless we hired one and paid the big, big, big bucks but there were day trips with several stops, lunch and snorkeling. We hummed and haaaed about whether it was worth €35 extra for a catamaran and decided to do some research in the room.
We got “home” and spent some time online waiting for Christine and Mark to return. They were getting fixings for dinner.
Upon looking into it, the extra 30% didn’t seem worth it so we reached out to the office we’d spoken to and we’ll hope to hear back in time to go tomorrow as the next day looks wet and not as warm. We heard back about an hour later that the boat was full and did we want to book the next day; as the forecast looked very overcast and 30-50% chance of rain all day, we said no.
We awoke on Tuesday to an email today from the same company saying that we could have booked the more expensive catamaran for today but they had to know by 10 last night. Fran checked the weather again and now the rain has pushed off tomorrow until the evening so she sent an email saying we’ll go tomorrow.
Earlier than we expected the next morning, Christine messaged that they were ready to leave at 7 – their ferry is not until 9:30 but whatever. We said our so longs, “see you in two days in Santorini” and back to bed we went for a bit. We decided that we should really check out more of the island since we’ll only here 3 days and will probably not come back.
So after we got up, Fran did yoga and Doug walked over to the port to see about a rental car. After showering, Fran got breakfast ready, packed up some stuff for our ‘day trip’ and waited for Doug to return with the car. He managed to get a six hour rental (but really 6.5) for €35 and upon his return we ate our brekkie and headed out.
Now Paros is much smaller than Naxos and other than the many beaches, does not offer that much outside the main town of Parikia where we were. We did want to at least see some of the other beaches and there one town that looked interesting inland and another that was recommended to us on the north coast.
So first stop was near the middle of the island, the town of Lefkes but before reaching it, we saw two things:
First was a marble sculpture “factory”:
then secondly, we saw signs for an ancient marble quarry and had to stop. There wasn’t much there but if you used your imagination you could see where large slabs would have been taken.
Across the road, you could see a more recent quarry still in use.
Lefkes is a quintessentially historic Cycladic village boasting narrow stone laneways, stunning traditional and neo-classical architecture, and delicious tavernas, friendly locals, and that pleasant vibe found only in Greece.
The town was built in the 17th century, a protected enclave from the rampant piracy that plagued the Mediterranean waters during this period. At one point, it was even the capital of Paros, and it’s evident today in its grand (and somewhat dilapidated) old buildings. Its protected position in inland Paros also led it to become the farming epicentre of the island.
You have to park outside the town and walk in as most of the streets are pedestrian (and motorbikes) only. It was a pleasant stroll with a similar feel to Naxos, Paros and Mykonos but a much slower vibe and so many less people.
It was getting very warm again and the humidity was already on the rise by 10 am.
Upon returning to the car we went to the northeast corner of the island to see two beaches; the first, Santa Maria was quite lovely:
We had three more to see but if they don’t seem as nice, we thought we’d come back. There was a section with sunbeds and umbrellas but we expected they wouldn’t be cheap. We did bring a small beach blanket to sit on but with no shade, we wouldn’t last long.
Next was Langeri Beach but the roads area around it was being developed and the road to it was blocked off. It was too hot to hike out to something we weren’t sure would have shade!
So we carried on southwest to the fishing village of Naoussa, parked outside it again and spent about ¾ of a hour walking around it. While it was cute, it didn’t have the feel of Lefkes and it had lots more tourists.
So back in the car we went and drove northward again trying to reach Kolympithres Beach – we sort of saw it but it was not easy to get to with many large boulders to crawl over so we mosied on up to Monastiri Beach and it was quite beautiful with lots of sun beds that looked really nice and luxurious – so we had to find out the price to determine if we wanted to stay.
Well at €35, 40 and 50, it was too rich for our blood so we took a couple of photos and decided to head back to near our apartment where we could get the 2 sunbeds and an umbrella for twenty. If we were going to spend big bucks, we wanted to stay more than 2.5 hours as we had to get the car back by 3:30.
We returned to the apartment to drop off some stuff, change and drove about one km way to the €20 chairs on nice Livadia beach with a bar attached to it for service.
We hung around till nearly three, went “home” dropped off everything and drove back into town to drop off the car. On this island we drove a whopping 52 km / 31 miles.
We both went so that we could then take another walk around the alleys of Parikia. We did that for about 45 minutes and then walked back to the apartment for some online time before going out for dinner.
We had dinner at a restaurant on the beach at the end of our street. While it was a decent sunset, as there was a bank of clouds that the sun sank into so we didn’t see it set into the sea.
We enjoyed some pizza and cold beer and walked back to our room.
Wednesday, we awoke to partly cloudy skies but no rain in the forecast until later tonight so we felt good about having booked the boat trip. The excursion includes two meals, snorkel gear, pool noodles and beverages including beer and wine.
We had a leisurely start to the day and after packing up our day bag, we walked over to the port to get on the “Meraki”.
The check in time was 9:40 and we were there slightly before that and were surprised to see at least 18 people on board already. We paid the balance of our reservation and were seated. A few others arrived but the boat did not seem at capacity as there was still some room (we were told max was 30). We sat in between an American couple, Debbie & Neil from Michigan and an Australian couple, Liz and Steve from Perth. The majority of the passengers were young but there were about a dozen of us “older folks”. We also met a couple on board from outside Quebec City.
The excursion set off at 10 as scheduled and we had four stops over the course of our seven hour journey. We rounded the north end of Antiparos and stopped at a swimming beach first.
The sun was not out and although the water was clear, we did not see any fish. Fran asked the captain which spots were best for snorkeling as she didn’t want to put in her contacts until necessary. She was told the other three spots were better so she waited and only our Aussie friend, Liz, jumped in with several others but really only less than half the people went it. We were served little hors d’oeurves of bread with cheese, ham, tomato and cucumber for our first “meal”.
Next stop was next to Despotiko Island and much better as the sun had popped out and everyone seemed to jump off the board. Here we saw maybe five kinds of small not very colourful fish and as expected, there is no coral.
While we sailed a bbq lunch was being prepared – chicken skewers with a pasta salad, a Greek salad, tzatziki and bread which we ate once back on board.
From there we continued southward around the tip of Antiparos and stopped at a inlet with a sea cave. That was pretty cool. There was also some diving off the cliffs which maybe a quarter of the people partook of.
We then began our journey northward back to Parikia (the main city on the island where we are staying) and our final stop was the Blue Lagoon – it did not have too many fish except by the rocks but the water was an amazing colour due to the white sandy bottom. Here not everyone got in the water but of course, Fran had to snorkel one last time.
We arrived back at the dock right on time at 5 and we felt we’d had a good trip. It was good value for the money, we met some nice people, of course, got to snorkel and the weather held for us. It maybe hit 26 C / 79F today but the humidity is still around 70%.
Christine had advised Fran she’d arranged a ferry pick up for us tomorrow in Santorini but did not know the cost. When Fran called to check and confirm our pick up (we arrive at 3:30 and they don’t get in until 8:15) she was told it was €40! We decided it was smarter to get a car for the three days for around €90 and that way we could spend some time touring around.
During the evening, we heard from Annette that they too will arrive tomorrow about a half hour before us, so we suggested they could wait for us and we’d drive them to their hotel – they couldn’t get in where we’re staying but found something close by.
By bedtime, we’d no confirmation on the car rental so we’ll have to deal with that tomorrow morning. Our ferry is not until 1:30 so we hope that’s enough time.
Next morning we awoke to gentle rain – didn’t appear to have been for too long and it stopped soon. After exercise, Fran called the hotel to cancel the pick-ups and Doug spent more time online trying to get a car. We both accomplished our tasks and Fran went to pay the bill and ask for a late check out since our ferry was not until 1:40 pm.
At 12:30 we checked out and walked over to the dock and our ferry left a few minutes late. The trip to Santorini was about two hours. We spotted two cruise ships in the Paros harbour when we left – first we’d seen during our stay here.
September 28th, 2023
Santorini officially Thira and classical Greek Thera, is an island in the southern Aegean Sea, about 200 km (120 mi) southeast from the Greek mainland. It is the largest island of a small circular archipelago, which bears the same name and is the remnant of a caldera. It forms the southernmost member of the Cycladesgroup of islands, with an area of approximately 73 km2 (28 sq mi) and a 2011 census population of 15,550. The island was the site of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history: the Minoan eruption (sometimes called the Thera eruption), which occurred about 3,600 years ago at the height of the Minoan civilization. The eruption left a large caldera surrounded by volcanic ash deposits hundreds of metres deep.
It is the most active volcanic centre in the South Aegean Volcanic Arc, though what remains today is chiefly a water-filled caldera. The volcanic arc is approximately 500 km (300 mi) long and 20 to 40 km (12 to 25 mi) wide.
In Greek mythology, according to Apollonius Rhodius in the 3rd century BC, this is where the origin and sovereignty myth of Thera being given by Triton in Libya to the Greek Argonaut Euphemus, son of Poseidon, in the form of a clod of dirt was founded. After carrying the dirt next to his heart for several days, Euphemus dreamt that he nursed the dirt with milk from his breast, and that the dirt turned into a beautiful woman with whom he had sex. The woman then told him that she was a daughter of Triton named Calliste, and that when he threw the dirt into the sea it would grow into an island for his descendants to live on. The poem goes on to claim that the island was named Thera after Euphemus’ descendant Theras, son of Autesion, the leader of a group of refugee settlers from Lemnos.
Our ferry docked in Santorini port:
We ended up arriving just before Dave and Annette.
We began to look for the rental car company’s sign. When we couldn’t find, it Doug called and the fellow showed up and took us to a white Peugeot 301 sedan – way better than the usual 5 door hatch back. After some confusion and paperwork, we got going up the switchbacks up the side of the island. It’s hard to get a shot from down below them, so here’s a google provided view:
We drove Dave and Annette to their hotel, Villa Manos, and only 2km further was ours: The Santoterra Antigua – built into the hill and the rooms were like caves.
We had a two bed two bath suite with a large living area, with a fridge and kettle, no kitchen and the price includes breakfast.
There’s a pool:
Inside it’s like you’re in a cave – only one set of windows above the main entrance:
With a cool, funky bathroom:
There is a pool:
And up on the roof there are two hot tubs:
We got settled and Whatsapp’d Dave and we all decided to eat at the restaurant at their hotel. Upon arriving, we had a glass of wine/beer and then went to dinner.
Elona, at our hotel had advised us we should leave about 7:30 to pick up Mark and Christine at the ferry port to allow for traffic. We did just that and arrived before 8pm. Their ferry was about 10 minutes late, they found us and we drove back up the switchbacks in the dark to the hotel.
We all got in our swimsuits and went for a soak in the hot tubs. They were not all that hot but it was a nice way to end the evening. We also saw the super moon above us:
Next morning we enjoyed breakfast by the pool:
And then planned our day; we would drive to the north end of the island to see the famous city of Oia and then meander back to in between Firosteni and Fira to check them out on foot.
We called Dave and Annette and offered them to join us so four of us: Christine, Annette, Doug and Fran squeezed into the back seat and long legged Dave joined today’s driver, Mark up front.
On the 13km / 8mi drive up we began to see people walking about 3km before the city; what was up with that?
We stopped at one lookout for pictures:
And then upon arriving in Oia, we figured out why people were walking – it was chaotic, crowded and overrun with people which parking almost impossible. It reminded us of Mykonos. We all got out at one view point, and then Mark and Fran went to find parking which they did in about 600m / 1968′ We all joined back up and decided to make our way to a recommended view point.
Well, we made a few stops in shops and as we got closer and closer, the hordes got worse and worse as we could see three large cruise ships in the port and the walkways were filled up. We got to a spot for nice photos and called it; it wasn’t worth making our way through all that humanity.
We got back to the car and drove south along the main road to Firostefani, found another parking spot and walked over to the alley way. Fran had stubbed her toe that morning and it was beginning to throb and turn purple and she didn’t want to do the planned hike out to a castle. Luckily Dave had some extra strength Tylenol and that helped a great deal.
Here we all split up; Christine and Mark went to do the hike, Fran and Doug walked over to find the gondola with the stairs that go up and up and up from the old port (we’d seen the contestants on an Amazing Race Australia have to climb them!) and Dave and Annette were going to stroll and find a coffee place. We made a plan to all meet up again at 2pm.
We made it to the cable car office and the line up to board was massive (it seems this is where the “boat people” get up onto the island – they are ferried from the cruise ship to this small dock and take the gondola up). We didn’t want to wait in that line up so we looked for a place where we could see the massive winding staircase.
We found an okay viewpoint where we could see sections of it:
Now we’re quite thirsty and need a washroom so we stopped at the Mickey Dee’s to use their facilities and then bought some drinks to take to a different view point and them make our way back to the meeting place.
We had about 30 minutes to kill before 2 so we found a little café that serves ice with an amazing view and stopped for expensive milk shakes – €10 each. We had opted for milk shakes because one measly scoop of ice cream was the same price and this way we got more bang for our euro! 😉
About five minutes after we ordered Dave and Annette walked by on their way to the same view point and by the time they returned, we were done and Dave took a bunch of photos for us:
Then we all walked back together to the meeting point where Mark and Christine were waiting for us.
We had someone take a few shots of all of us for fun:
We decided we’d had enough of the crowds for today, so we returned to the car, dropped off Dave and Annette, returned to the hotel where we stayed behind and Christine and Mark went to see about finding a brewery or winery to visit.
We got into our swimsuits and chilled by the pool for a while reading then went into the room to get online for a while and began to discuss with Dave and Annette where to go for dinner. We met up at a restaurant near their hotel for dinner.
Christine and Fran ordered “a kilo of house rose” that came in a pitcher: it was barely okay:
Fran and Annette had the chicken souvlaki and it was the best she’s had on this trip; Doug had anchovies but was not impressed.
The restaurant had great paper table cloths and Christine got them to give us two to take home:
Dave and Annette were heading back to Athens the next day so we said our goodbyes. Upon returning to our hotel, we took another soak in the luke warm hot tub.
The next day, Mark volunteered to take Dave and Annette to the airport at seven and later we took the car exploring the south end of the island and we avoided the crowds by doing so.
The first thing on our agenda was to drive up a windy road up a mountain for views:
Here’s a pic of the road and here’s the views.
Then upon heading back town we went to check out the black beach town of Kalmari; here Christine wanted to do some shopping so she went on her own and the 3 of us took a stroll along the beachfront shops and then we went into a café for drinks and Christine just happened to walk by and joined us.
Then we stopped to sit on the black beach at Perivolos – we went for a swim, Mark and Christine went for a walk and we just relaxed a while enjoying the sunshine under a tree.
Our next stop was to see the town of Akrotiri which has a castle and an old church. We parked as close as we could and wandered up:
This town is also where “Greece’s pompei” is located but it was rated all that highly and was pricey to get in so we passed on it. We then found the not so great dirt road down to the Red Beach. We parked at the end of it and walked the rest of the way down which was not far. The sand is actually more black than red but there is a good amount of red sand and pebbles and the cliffs are red.
We sat on the beach taking in the views. Fran decided she needed to go for a swim so she got changed and did just that.
Just beyond here was the location of the White Beach but it’s only reachable by hiking a ways so we skipped that. We returned towards Akrotiri and then continued on to the point of the island where there is a lighthouse.
From here you are able to capture the sunset without being in the crowds of Oia at the north end of the island. (Remember Santorini is crescent shaped so there are two points facing west.) Enroute we stopped at a view point of the crescent shaped body of water on the west coast of Santorini:
We had brought some food to make a picnic lunch: lots of left over bread from both us and Dave and Annette, a full jar of jam, some fruit and drinks. We were early as sunset wasn’t until 6:45 but we chilled waiting. As with many of the sunsets we’ve tried to see here, as the sun is sinking it hits a far off cloud bank and we don’t get to see it sink into the sea.
We did manage to get some shots before it disappeared into the clouds though:
When we realized it wasn’t going to be great, we began to head back to the car because although the place wasn’t super crowded, we were definitely not alone and wanted to get ahead of everyone heading back. We were back at the hotel by a reasonable time and since we had an early flight the next day back to Athens to catch a connecting flight to Cyprus, we hit the hay after another hot tub.
As Mark and Christine don’t fly out until later in the day, Mark drove us to the airport and returned to the hotel.
We quite enjoyed Santorini if you forget about the city of Oia and its crowds. We would recommend visiting but skip the northwest end unless you know you are out of season or you know there are no cruise ships in the harbour that day. There are many boat excursions you can take here as well but we had all decided we’d had enough boats!
Fun facts about the Greek Islands:
- Greece has over 6,000 islands while only 27 are inhabited
- Crete is the largest of all the Greek islands. …
- Greece’s blue doors keep away evil spirits. …
- Rhodes is the most popular holiday spot in Greece. …
- Santorini is an active volcano. …
- Pelicans are the mascots of Mykonos.
- The Greek Islands are bathed in sunshine almost 300 days a year – one of the sunniest places on the planet