We sleep in a little and are up at 6:30am. We shower, get dressed and enjoy a nice breakfast at the hotel with a sunny view of the ocean and pool. It is 75 degrees and windy today, as we meet the group at 9:30 by the bus.
Our bus tour is lead by Jacob, and he narrates the history of Santorini as we drive south.
Today we visit the archaeological site of Akrotiri, a Minoan Bronze Age settlement that came to an abrupt end in approximately 1613 BC with a catastrophic volcanic eruption. Beginning in 1967, excavations of the Minoan town revealed buildings, drainage systems, and pottery, but no human remains or gold valuables, indicating locals had time to flee before disaster hit.
We were absolutely blown away with how incredible this site was! Dubbed the ‘Pompeii of Santorini,’ we are lead through a guided tour by the amazing Penny. She explains how advanced the people of Akrotiri were – from indoor sewer systems, elaborate paintings and frescos throughout the homes (see The Spring Fresco and The House of the Ladies). In 2016, these frescos were the inspiration behind the latest collection from the iconic French fashion house Dior. After a 45-minute tour, we hop back on the bus and make our way up the street for a little photo op.
We enjoy a panoramic view of the island from above. After taking some scenic windblown hair photos, we load back on the bus and drive down to Venetsano Winery.
The drive to the winery is a winding road down the side of the island, with views of winery grapes being grown as far as the eye can see. The grape vines are unique to Santorini as they are grown low to the ground, as the wind would knock them over. The island only produces about one million bottles of wine each year, with 30% being exported.
The winery, Venetsanos, is set on the side of the cliffs and has a wide view of the entire caldera. We enjoy a rooftop wine tasting of three of their local wines – the Santorini, a crisp white wine. The Mandilaria, a red dry white (this was my favorite), and the Liastos, a straw wine, otherwise known as a raisin wine, that was beyond sweet and the most delicious and unique wine I’ve had. Unlike many other sweets, this 11.5% is naturally sweet in that it is produced from grapes that have been sundried over the course of 7-10 days (hence raisins).
We enjoy our wine paired with meats, cheeses, crackers, olives, and a sweet sun-dried tomato dip. This was such a charming way to spend the early afternoon, as we sip on our wine, and enjoy the view of the boats coming in and out of the caldera.
After the winery, we return back to the town of Thera, where Jacob ends our tour at the Museum of Prehistoric Thera.
For €6, we enter the history museum, where all the pots and artifacts found from the morning’s visit to Akrotiri are on display. We see the famous frescos and pottery that were excavated from the archaeological settlement. The details and craftsmanship on these were stunning! We couldn’t believe how well preserved everything was!
After the museum, we had the afternoon to ourselves, so Jay and I decide to walk the streets to the top of Thira for some pictures. We had such a fun time passing the little whitewashed restaurants, with tourists enjoying their shaded patios. We passed so many pink, hot pink, and dark pink bougainvillea crawling up the sides of the doorways (a perfect photo opp for passerbyers). The sun was now hot above us but the sea breeze blowing around us made the walk comfortable.
We stop inside the Catholic Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. The cathedral is a three-aisle basilica with a dome and sparkling chandelier.
We then venture to the very top where we snap some classic photos with a famous Santorini ‘blue dome’ in the background. We gaze down below at the entire city and enjoy the best view as we sit atop the hillside.
Now hot and a little hungry after the hike up, we venture back down to the shops in search of some ice cream. We find a gelato shop and Jay orders a scoop of passion fruit sorbet and I get the mango sorbet. It was so refreshing and we sit on a bench and cool off with our delicious treats.
We then zip across the street for an afternoon snack of a strawberry coconut and pineapple smoothie for Jay and some tzatziki dip to share. We enjoy the shaded patio where we could rest our feet and people watch. So many tourists are leisurely walking the cobblestone sidewalks, eating street gyros, purchasing souvenirs, and wearing the most colorful and fun clothing. We loved seeing what everyone was wearing on vacation!
We return to the hotel to freshen up before our group dinner. We meet at the hotel lobby and walk to our hotel at the top of the city center. The restaurant was named Cafe Bar One/Off the Cliffs and it was another gorgeous restaurant with water views. We eat our way through appetizers of tzatziki, hummus, and greek salads, and the main course is moussaka. We sip on some white wine as we all catch up on what each other did for their free afternoon and watched the famous Santorini sunrise. It was a charming night and we were full and happy as we returned to the hotel. Tomorrow is an exciting day with a catamaran cruise and beachside dinner.