Travel

Take a break to this exotic island

A view of Santorini Island, Greece. PHOTO | Jackson Biko
A view of Santorini Island, Greece. PHOTO | Jackson Biko  

Let nobody lie to you, Greece might be in a hole financially, but Santorini— their small island 200 kilometres southeast of their mainland — isn’t cheap.

As expensive as it is, it’s one of the most visited parts of Europe with about two million visitors thronging there last year, an island that is only 18 kilometres long from one end to the other. (Kenya did about 900,000 visitors last year.)

Everybody wants to go to Santorini because everybody talks about Santorini.

And takes pictures of Santorini. Santorini loves being photographed.

In fact, Santorini is the “slay queen” of Europe, to use a much younger analogy. And to think that this wonderful and magical place—one of the Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea—was as a result of a volcanic eruption in the 16 Century that shaped its rugged landscape when it formed a volcanic caldera.

There are two major towns in Santorini, Fira and Oia which is to the south and clings just above the blue waters below.

They don’t have much of beaches to speak of (red and while lava pebbles) but nobody goes to Santorini for the beach (what is lovely Watamu for?), you go for the magnificent views and the allure of luxury.

I stayed in the village of Oia, which is more expensive but with much better views.

I figured that I will never really go back to that Island (because there are a million other places to visit in the world) and besides, why travel all the way to Santorini to stay in a rubbish place? There are hotels going from anything between Sh30,000 a night to Sh300,000 a night.

We booked ourselves into a very quaint lovely hotel called Armeni Village Rooms and Suites in the heart of Oia village. Think panoramic views, terraces hanging right on the edge of the cliff where breakfast is served as the sun rises behind you and lights up the whole white chalk villas.

Ships and luxury cruise liners sneak past in the distant blue sea. It’s a picturesque view.

Because it was my birthday, I spent days waking up, having breakfast, lying by the private pool with a book and when the sun is too much in my face, leaving for a brisk walk in the village, lunch in one of the restaurants with balcony views, back in the afternoon to sit in the outside jacuzzi, getting drunk at the terrace as the sunsets and then a romantic dinner in one of the numerous brilliant restaurants in the village. Repeat.

I had a whale of a time but after the fifth day I was sick of it and was ready to come back home to our beloved traffic jams. But here is what you can do in Santorini if you are curious enough to go:

Shopping

Outside a luxury menswear shop two old trendy men with white manes smoked . They had trendy coats and trousers that didn’t reach their ankles. I walked in and asked for the price of a silver bracelet. “1,200 dollar,” an attendant told me listlessly. There was Jimmy Choo and countless luxury brands like Bazaar, Drakkar and Ecru. Even their names sound dear.

But also there are some nondescript boutiques where you can get items for a deal; scarves, rompers, shoes, jewellery and sunglasses. All you have to be is patient to walk around. I’m not a clotheshorse and I’m not patient, so shopping wasn’t for me.

Food

There are not more than 30 cabs in Santorini, so we took one of the shuttles and paid about Sh 1,200 to Amoudi Bay, five minutes drive away. (It’s very hilly coming back so, no, you can’t walk!) Amoudi Bay is a little charming port of Oia, a tiny settlement at the natural bay.

The view is a-ma-zing! This is where seafood lovers throng. It’s got several restaurants lined at the bay overlooking the sea and the cliffs beyond. Great for dinners and lovers. A starter in one of the restaurants we visited—Volcanic Blue— was going for something like Sh1,200 per person.

Mains, were going for an average of Sh3,000 per person if you are into lobsters and such like things. I didn’t look at the dessert menu. To their credit their seafood is fresh from the sea. The ambience is wonderful. The mood is just perfect.

It gets chilly, so wear something warm, or you will have to hand the lady your jacket and feel your nipples harden from the cold. No fun, because nobody ever enjoyed muscles with solid nipples.

Art galleries

There is a lot of walking in Oia village in Santorini. In fact, you walk everywhere. The streets are narrow and there are no vehicles, just tourists, many many tourists. You will see newly wed couples taking pictures in their wedding clothes.

It seems like a place to have a wedding, or wedding pictures taken. Oh, this mention has got nothing to do with art galleries but those are there in plenty. There was one called Galanopoulos Art Gallery.

I only mention it because I liked the name—Galanopoulos. Very Greek. The artwork therein, as in most of these galleries are very Greek which panders to their ancient history. There are also a lot of sculptures in some galleries with naked men with flat abs.

“Greek art is so vain!” I told a friend and she didn’t even hear what I said. She was busy staring at the gallery attendant who looked like a Greek god. Very annoying.

Sunsets

This you have to see because, what else will you be doing in the evening after a whole day lounging? There is a place called Castle of Oia where the whole island seems to gather in at 6pm to watch the sunset.

It gets full so you have to get there early and get a vantage point. It’s a tourist spot and there everybody comes with a camera. The sunset here is something from a science fiction movie.

The sun from here is large and orange and it looks like someone dyed it in orange dye and left it to float in the horizon. White folk love this view. (I counted the black faces there on the two occasions I was there; we were four on the first day and five on the second). Go see this sunset.

Cruise

Book a cruise through your hotel. They are many. It’s about a little over Sh30,000 for two for a whole day’s cruise. The cruise liners (capacity of about 20) offer food, wine and bitings.

You can carry your own drink, like I did my whisky. (At first the occupants stared at me, by the end of the trip we were all sharing my drink and singing me a happy birthday song) They can get drunken and fun, those cruise trips. You go around the island, stop at specific spots to swim.

I enjoyed that tremendously because I love water and I love serenity and I loved the idea of drinking whisky while lying shirtless on the deck.

If you prone to seasickness, please get some drugs from the local pharmacy.