Tuesday, July 27, 2010

My Big Fat Greek Adventure - Kalispehra, Santorini (Part 1)


The other major towns, Oia and Fira, are up high on a cliff, and thus without beaches.  The northern part of the island does have some beaches, but we weren't able to visit them this trip.  One of the first things we discovered about the beaches of Greece (and really, perhaps most of Europe) was that we were definitely not in the conservative United States.  So:
The girls were tanning as well.

Black Beach
The south eastern part of Santorini, where the town of Perissa and Kamari are located, are where the most popular beach areas are.

After getting settled on our first day, we realized it would just be foolish to not immediately change into swim-wear and take our nap on the beach.  We asked several girls at our hostel, two of which were leaving the next day, about how the beach chairs work.  I had already read in my Lonely Planet guide that we would need to pay for the beach chairs and umbrellas, but the girls said that there were some places that we could just buy a drink and sit at the beach for free.

Later, I learned that these "organized beaches" were the more popular beach spots.  There were also "unorganized beaches" that did feature any chairs or umbrellas.  Personally, the black sands got so hot under the sun, I was very happy to have a chair and umbrella to settle into...especially during naps.

We walked around a bit, just to explore our surroundings, but we decided not to walk too long and settled at the Waves Chill Out Bar.  When we first walked up to the bar area and asked about paying to use the chairs and umbrellas, this one very tan man proceeded to greet us in a very smarmy way.  We felt a bit uneasy about how friendly he was, especially after all the warnings we got about talking to strangers/Greek men.
Beautiful Perissa Beach.  To my left.

Later, he was walking up to all the umbrella and chair sets, and we realized that he was the man who collected the fee.  Even later, I realized that he was completely harmless, and reminded me of one of my really good friends (for those in the know, we ended up calling him "Greek Perry").

We also ended up befriending the two wait staff at Waves, and this location became our spot on the black sand beach.

Do you see that mountain in the picture above?  Vikki, one of the wait staff, told us that there was an Indian in the mountain.  At first, I was like, "Someone's living in the mountain???"  But, apparently, she meant that there was a profile of a face that looked Indian.  I really don't know how to be politically correct about that.  But we laughed at how we didn't see it at first.  Do you see the Indian?
More beautiful beach.  To my right.
I know this might be getting a bit ahead of myself, but we were so glad that we were staying where we stayed.  We couldn't imagine paying for an expensive hotel, unless we were really planning to spend more time at the hotel than at the beach.  We didn't get to see Kamari, which were the more popular beach spot for black sand, but it was on the other side of "The Indian."  Nonetheless, Perissa was perfect.  It was small enough that we recognized people and people recognized us.  Everything was walking distance.  With Santorini being as small as it is, it wasn't too far from the more dense areas.  Plus, Perissa felt like our home away from home.
The sand was more like small pebbles.
Though people talked about making sure we had shoes for the water to protect us from sea urchins, we didn't really have any encounters with any.  The floor went from black sand/small pebbles, to larger pebbles, to an algae-covered hard and slippery surface.  In some spots there was a step up you needed to take, and in others there was some small seaweed bushes you needed to step over.  But the water was clear, and the water was salty.
What what?  Waterproof camera FTW!
Seeing the ocean floor made us curious about
what it looks like back home.
Perhaps little fishies swim with us as well?
Once we were completely immersed in the water, we wished each other a Happy 28th Birthday and congratulated ourselves for achieving our 28th Birthday Goal.
Red Beach
On our 3rd day in Santorini, July 10th, the day of our hangover (I swear, I'm going to get to this soon), we managed to get ourselves energized enough after our after-breakfast nap to take an adventure out to Akrotiri - the location of some major excavation and the boat that would take us to "Red Beach, White Beach," as the men would yell to the tourists.

To get to Red Beach or White Beach, we would take the bus (1.40 Euro per person) to Fira, and transfer to the bus going to Akrotiri (another 1.40 Euro per person).  The bus between Fira and Perissa ran every half hour during the day, and every hour after 8pm.  The bus from Fira to Akrotiri ran less frequently, at around every hour to every hour and a half.  The last bus leaving Akrotiri to Fira is at 8:20pm, I believe, so you better be prepared!

Also, when the bus pulls up and it looks like the luggage compartment is opening, don't be alarmed like we were at first!  Their public buses look like those heavy-duty tour buses, with cushy seats and AC.  But most passengers come in through this side door.  It was pretty neat.

On the Fira/Akrotiri bus, you drive down the western coastline of the main island, so you get amazing views of the caldera.
Thirassia, Palea Kameni, Nea Kameni, and the blue blue ocean.
Fira/Thira on top of the cliffs.
Those blue domes that everyone's so familiar with are all church domes.
Once you reach the final stop of the bus, you then have to head towards a tiny dock where men holding on to boats are screaming, "Red beach, White beach!"  Clearly, you're not at your destination yet.  You then have to trust that these men will take you to the actual Red Beach, considering that the area you're currently at is mainly restaurants.
Boat to Red Beach, White Beach
It's about 5 Euro per person to ride this boat.  If you want to get to Red Beach, you also have the option of going through a parking lot, and climbing a not-so-bad-as-it-looks cliff to get to Red Beach.  But you have to take the boat if you want to go to White Beach.
Do you see the tiny people climbing the cliff on the right?
Red beach is so called because of the red cliffs that surround it and the red pebbles that dot the sand.   I imagine that the redness comes from some sort of volcanic activity, similar to the red dirt in Hawaii, that resulted in high levels of iron.  Either way, it's gorgeous.
"Okay, now jump off the boat..."
Red Beach does not have a dock that the boat can stop at to let people off., so you will go down a ladder into the water once the boat has stopped.  If you're not prepared, your clothes will get wet.  It was somewhat of a surprise to all of us who were visiting for the first time, but it was also really cool for Jenny and me.

We opted to not pay for the chair and umbrella, and the sand was still pretty hot.  But the water was perfect, clear, and sparkly.  Again, the sand gave way to pebbles, which gave way to larger rocks, and finally to some sand with even larger rocks.  The landscape was gorgeous and magnificent.
Clear waters.
A bit rocky.
The deeper you go...
As we got to Red Beach later in the afternoon, the boat to return us to Akrotiri had stopped returning by around 6pm.  Most people were gathering their belongings and braving the rocky cliff.  Eventually, we had to do the same, and it was so worth it for this picture:
Efkharistoh, Red Beach.  Thank you, Red Beach
White Beach
The next day, July 11th, we planned to rent a vehicle and visit White Beach and Fira/Thira.  Out of all the vehicles and modes of transportation, we had the option to rent a scooter/motorcycle, a 4-wheeler, or one of many cars.  But we were super excited, perhaps too excited, when the only available vehicle for that day was the Fiat Panda.
What a freakin' cool name for a car!
It took us a bit to understand how to use the manual vs. automatic controls, but it was a very nice and reliable car.  It was only 38 Euro, I believe, to rent the car for the day through Ankor Travel Agency in Perissa.

So, this time around, we were prepared for the boat ride to White Beach, unlike one of the other tourists who stepped onto the boat in khakis and fancy dress shoes.  But we weren't prepared for how beautiful the scenery was going to be.  I'm once again assuming that White Beach is so called because of some sort of volcanic activity from long ago.  I couldn't even begin to guess what minerals are in the dirt to make it look so iceberg white.
White cliffs.
White Beach.
Here, the beach is covered in large pebbles of gray and white, which made me feel that a beach chair was necessary for comfort.  It was a tad more windy, so the waves were a little rougher.  If you have sensitive tootsies, you might want to leave flip flops near the edge of the water so that you can easily get back to your beach chair.
Rocky beach.
High cliffs that were somewhat blinding in the sun.
More people getting off the boat.
While swimming at White Beach, you'll realize that it's relatively shallow.  As someone who's 5'4", I found that the area closer to the shore was walkable, but any little bit beyond that required me to tread water or swim.  But, there are sometimes larger rocks underwater, so you might have to keep your eyes peeled if you don't want to accidentally kick a rock.
Pebbles and glistening water.
Sand and rocks.
Watch out for the larger rocks!
There were several large rocks that jutted out of the water, and we imagined that there were some hidden caves and openings in them.  Jenny had the goggles, so she was able to swim out a bit further.  But the waves were stronger, as if to keep the caves secret.
Still close to shore.
We swam out a bit further.
I stayed here, Jenny kept exploring.
Coral on the rock.
The waves were pushing me all over!
But I got some good pictures.
White Beach was an awesome location.  If we were in Santorini for longer, we probably could have visited both Red Beach and White beach a couple more times.  The water feels almost healing, especially considering how salty it was.

In the last couple of days, we decided to stay close to home to take advantage of the beach as much as we could.  We definitely became familiar with the black sands and the ocean floor at Perissa.

Next time we go, because there will definitely be a next time, we might stay at Perissa again, but stay longer so that we can explore more of the island and more of the parts we didn't get to see.  We were glad that we didn't go island hopping, considering that there was so much to see and do in Santorini.  Our goal was to beach it up and tan it up.  In my last post about Greece, I will do a before and after picture, and you can be the judge of our success.

Coming up next:  Kalispehra, Santorini (Part 2)

1 comment:

  1. So, so SO jealous. Your photos are bringing to life my own distant memories of my visit to Santorini!


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