Last Minute Sunset Cruise a Highlight of Santorini Visit

Everyone says if you visit Santorini you have to go on a sunset cruise and since I love both sunsets and boats, it was of the first activities on my list. However, when it came time to plan out our weekend, this proved to be a challenge. While reasonable prices had appeared months before, a month out, there were no trips available that weekend that were within our budget. So we decided to wait and see if our luck was better when we arrived or perhaps forgo the adventure this trip.

The Akrotiri Lighthouse

We got lucky. After arriving by plane and collecting our rental car, it was too early to check in to our Airbnb, so we decided to explore the island a bit. Seeing a sign for the port, we headed down a windy (think multiple switchbacks) road that ended in a parking lot at a small port. One of the storefronts advertised catamaran and yacht cruises, so we went in to inquire. We were offered a fair price that fell within our budget and signed up for a sunset cruise the following day.

The Red Beach

At the appointed time, a driver for Spiridakos Sailing Cruises arrived to pick us up (included in the price) and we headed to Marina Vlihada, on the south end of the island. There we were met by the crew and after removing our shoes and tossing them in a laundry hamper, invited aboard “Happy Day.” In all, there were 15 passengers: our group of three, two men from Sri Lanka, a family from Brighton, England and a group from China (some of whom had studied in the U.S) and a crew of three: Captain Isidoro, Vagelis and Eleonora who were all friendly, engaging and professional. As the catamaran got underway, we chatted and got to know each other. When the boat hit open water, we were invited to move up to the bow area of the boat and offered beer, wine and soft drinks.

Traveling along the coast, our crew pointed out the red beach, warning us to be careful if we decided to venture there as there have been recent instances of rocks falling on the trail. There was a brief stop for a swim, (snorkels provided) then we cruised past the “white beach, which though not really a beach at all, is strikingly beautiful. The journey was relaxing and since this side of the island is cliffs, the approach from the water is the only way to get to see the unique geology hidden beneath.

The hot springs near the volcano

Our cruise then took us around the lower tip of the island, past the lighthouse and then on to the Nea Kaeni volcano and hot springs where once again, anyone who wished to jumped off the boat for a swim. The water was reportedly “refreshing” which was enough to convince me I had made the right decision to stay onboard and take more photos. The hot springs were said to be warm, but according to one passenger, not as warm as the water coming from the hose the captain used to wash them off (keeping the yellow sulfur in the water rather than on their suits and in the boat). The tranquil scenery (including the Church of St, Nicolas at the water’s edge) held my interest while some of the others spent time in the water.

The Church of St. Nicolas

While this activity was going on, the crew was preparing dinner, both in the galley of the boat and on a grill set up on the rail. Dinner was served at two tables, inside and out, and was a delicious collection of fresh food: grilled chicken filleted fried fish, grilled jumbo shrimp, spaghetti with tomato sauce, a Greek salad (tomatoes, cucumber, feta) and bread with tzatziki or a yummy feta spread. As we finished eating, the tables were cleared and leftovers and scraps were dumped into a large basin. When the cleanup was complete, the captain announced it was time to feed the seagulls and tossed the contents of the basin overboard and we enjoyed the show as seagulls made repeated dives to collect our leftovers.

With happy full bellies and constant beverage refills, we began our journey back to the marina, still chatting with our new “friends.” The sun was setting behind us and though I took several looks back (and took a few pictures), the more compelling view was in front of us: the full moon high above the cliffs.

 

We got back to the marina, collected our shoes and were herded to the waiting “party bus” to take us back to our respective hotels. This ride was much noisier than the subdued one there – we had gotten to know each other a bit and some were still experiencing the effects of free flowing beverages. Being the first to be dropped off, we received an exuberant farewell from our fellow passengers. “Everyone” was right – this was a highlight of our trip.

 

Note: no compensation was provided for mention of any company here. The opinions are solely those of the writer.

A Refreshing Visit With The God of the Sea

I recently had the good fortune to travel to Greece for a long-overdue vacation with my husband. After a long flight, we didn’t want to drive too far, so we decided to start our trip to Greece at Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon. After a too-long detour on the highway (and paying more in tolls that we should have) we arrived at the Aegean Beach Hotel. The room was small by American standards (but typical for a European hotel) and simply furnished. The bathroom was modern and the terrific water pressure on the rainfall showerhead was a welcome surprise.

A four story hotel on the beach with a mountain behind
The Aegean Beach Hotel from the Temple of Poseidon

All rooms at the Aegean have a sea view and the balcony was a terrific place to view the sunset. As we were arriving, a couple kayakers were pulling in their boats, making me wish we had more time to stay.

After settling in, we went in search of dinner. Though the hotel has a restaurant, we had plans to eat breakfast there the next day and decided instead to try the restaurant on the road in, a fish tavern. Though it was a bit chilly, we opted to eat outdoors (when would we have another chance to eat seated next to the Aegean Sea?). With our limited knowledge of the Greek language (read almost none), we decided to count on the recommendation of our waiter and were not disappointed. Our introduction to Greek cuisine and portions left us full and happy. We started with a Greek salad, followed by possibly the most delicious mussels I have ever tasted (we couldn’t determine whether it was because they were a roadside restaurant with tables and closed umbrellas across the road and by the seafresh or if there was a secret ingredient in the sauce our waiter neglected to mention – I asked what was in it). After asking our preferences, our waiter recommended a grilled fish (which we were relieved to learn was priced by weight, not portion) which he brought to us whole, then removed (almost all of) the bones so we wouldn’t have to.  We joked about the cats lurking about, hoping for us to drop a piece of fish. (Our waiter told us they get the bones, later.) Over his protests that it might be too much food, we decided to add calamari. When we had (mostly) finished our meal, baklava appeared for dessert, “on the house,” which is a pleasant surprise in much of Greece. Of course we found room, it would have been rude not to.

A stone temple lit up on the top of a mountain
Poseidon is lit up at night

We walked back to the hotel, admiring the view of the temple lit up at night. The bed was comfortable and the sound of water lapping the beach from the open door was soothing, making sleep come easily. The morning greeted us with gulls calling and dogs barking in the distance. Breakfast was an extensive buffet, including hot choices as well as yogurt and spoon sweets, breads and cakes, meats and cheeses. A Nescafe machine produced coffee that was surprisingly good (unlike experiences with Nescafe here).

the Aeagean Sea with sailboats, and varying shades of blue water, with small islands in the distance
A nice view to wake up to

We set off to visit Poseidon, via a trail from the hotel parking lot (which allowed us to leave our car there, rather than struggling to find a spot around the buses). The walk was an interesting one – the terrain changed from grass to rocks to lava rock and we encountered a bit of looped barbed wire adjacent to the Temple property along the fork of the trail we chose to take.

a white stone embedded in the earth next to a cliff on the edge of the sea
The wind kept me from getting a closer look

When we arrived, we saw a notice that there was a film crew making a movie and that entrance gave permission to be filed. (So if you happen to see a Chinese movie filmed at the Temple of Poseidon, look for me in the background.) The temple itself is awe-inspiring and there are other things to see. In addition to the temple, there are ruins from the settlement steps leading upward with ruins of foundations on either sideof Sounion which was an important port as early as 510 BC. The day we visited, there was a strong wind, making me wonder how many people Poseidon caused to be tossed into the sea from where I stood. While there were some interesting ruins near the edge, the wind kept me from getting too close to investigate closer.

a small island in the sea, a larger one sits behind it

Nearby is the Temple or Sanctuary of Athena. Unfortunately, this has not been as well preserved as Poseidon’s. All that remains is the foundation of a temple, which was built in the middle of the 5th century BC.

 

a foot at the water's edge

 

Saying goodbye to the cape, we decided to stop for lunch in Lavrio, a small town we drove through on our way there. After a short walk through town, we randomly chose a place with outdoor seating and decided to share a plate rather than ordering too much. We decided on a grilled meat platter for two. The meal started with a dish of tzatziki (the best I’ve had before or since) and toast. Our meal shortly followed which was a mounded plate with a variety of meats, and pita. As we quickly discovered, lurking cats (and sometimes dogs) are frequent sights at outdoor restaurants. Here we wondered how often one particular cat caught a new patron unawares while sleeping on one of the chairs. We failed to finish this time and took the

Sign over a door in Greek naming the restaurant
Home of the best tzatziki found this trip

leftovers with us to snack on later. Again we were brought dessert, (gratis) which was just as tasty as the rest of the meal. I asked the waiter what it was, commenting that it was delicious and from his reaction, I wondered if it was his own concoction. It was deceptively easy: biscuits with layers of yogurt and apricot. I’m not sure I’ll be able to duplicate that either. After lunch we were back on the road, headed north, to continue our adventure.

Note: No compensation was provided by any business or organization mentioned here. The opinions are solely those of the author.