Visiting charming Fira in Santorini
Fira in Santorini is the “it” town and this is where the tourists head to. Our driver dropped us off near the main square after picking us up at the airport and I was taken aback to see the number of tourists in the main square.
It seemed like Goa!
We dropped our luggage in the hotel which was a minute away, got some dinner and walked around the Fira streets which are charming.
What to expect in Fira
Expect beautiful charming streets, full of tourists and shops. Lots and lots of restaurants, bars and clubs. Clubs are not my scene so I will skip commenting except to say that I saw tourists girls walking on the street at 5:30 am in the morning after a night of partying. Oh yes another one — the first night here, we could hear the bass from the club next doors upto 3 am!
That aside, the town is charming — to say the least.
Day 1 in Fira — Things to do
Old Ferry Port
Total time — 3 hours
We walked up west to go down to the old ferry port and we were completely blown away by the sight of the caldera — I don’t think pictures do justice to this view.
Anyways, the walk to the old ferry port is called the 588 steps to the port. It is quite a steep walk down with plenty of opportunities to click pictures of the caldera.
Turns out that donkeys are quite the thing in Santorini and this path had tourists coming up on these donkeys. I support a donkey charity in India and had an unhappy look watching the donkeys lugging humans up the stairs.
The walk down is strenuous and the end reward was a beer. Well not quite — I ordered an Ouzo (dry anise flavoured aperitif) thinking it was a beer and was pleasantly surprised.
We hung around for an hour. Clicked pictures and took the cable car up where we spent more time clicking pictures.
Total time — 4 hours
We rented a car and headed down to Kamari beach. Alex (our car rental guy) told us that don’t trust Google and just follow the directions on the road. It was surprising to see how much we have come to depend on Google maps that it was difficult to adjust to signs on the road. That said, it wasn’t too difficult finding our way to Kamari beach — after all it was less than 5 miles away :-). The walk around Kamari definitely reminded me of Goa. Tourist lined shops and restaurants right next to the beach.
The beach doesn’t have sand but black rounded rocks.
Lots of tourists sunbathing around here.
We grabbed lunch at an eatery and spent time feeding some lovely cats. My wife is afraid of cats and on this trip she has started becoming friends with some. We then drove back to Fira.
Pampering ourselves in Fira
We walked around stores and my wife decided to get her hair done at Stellas while I decided to get a fish manicure. If you haven’t done it before I recommend it.
It’s mind-bending to see that rather than you eating a fish, the fish eats you :-).
Evening sunset and dinner in Fira
As the evening wore on, we headed back up the steps and to watch the views of the Caldera. It was a foggy evening and we didn’t quite have the sunset but the view itself was worth it.
We ended up going to a restaurant called Rastoni which has fantastic views, restaurant staff and food. I loved them! While writing this blog, I found out that they are really highly reviewed.
My personal highlight in Fira
While waiting for the sunset, I happen to meet this gentlemen who clearly was 80+ and selling post cards to make a living :-(. He could barely walk and I saw him make his way towards me but I wasn’t quite sure if he was going for the view or coming in for me. After taking about 3 minutes to cover a 10 feet distance, he uttered the word “postcard” and I bought one.
I saw him sit down tired with evidently more work to do for the evening. We approached him and asked if we could buy his entire post card collection which was less than 20Euros and he was elated. He was so happy to do a picture with me.
It’s heartbreaking to see that he has to hustle so late in life — life’s not fair. At the same time, I noticed how incredibly blessed and happy I felt to just bring a smile on his face.
Note to self — need to do more to help old people and animals!
Planning details — Airport to Hotel
We got our hotel to arrange for a pickup from the airport. The charge was 25 EU for 2 person. This was a mini-bus with other passengers along and the ride to Fira was about 25 minutes. The driver insisted on taking payment after dropping us which is not what the hotel had told us. The Hotel person (Elaine) was surprised himself and was going to check back.
Planning details — Accommodation and Car Rental in Fira
We are staying at the Hotel Tataki (booked from booking.com). The hotel staff specifically Elaine (from Albania) has been really good. This is as central in Fira as you can get — the Caldera is about 2 minutes walk up, the cable car is about 5–7 minutes away, the main square is 2 minutes walk down.
You step out from the hotel and you are in the middle of a bustling tourist street.
They helped us organise car rental with …. (to be updated). Alex who rented the car out was absolutely delightful to deal with. He sat us down, oriented us to Santorini, things to drive around and see. The car itself — a hatchback was $47 Euro/day with complete insurance coverage.
I would highly recommend both the hotel and the car rental company.