Post 9 of a series – you can read my other Greece posts here.
On our last day in Santorini we had three more things to tick off the list: Akrotiri archaeological site, the very literally named Red Beach, and dinner while watching the sunset. The weather wasn’t on our side, but the island still gave us a wonderful send off.
Wanting to get an early start, for breakfast we grabbed pastries from Bakery Svoronos on Fira’s main road. I chose a traditional cream pie – possibly the sweetest thing I’ve ever eaten – while Steve went for a chocolate and banana croissant. Both were absolutely massive! We ate them as neatly as we could at the bus stop while waiting for the bus to Akrotiri.
We didn’t know what to expect from Akrotiri archaeological site, but it turned out to be a huge warehouse containing a partly-excavated pre-historic town, dating from the second millennium BC. The modern building is cleverly designed to maintain a constant climate and brightness, so as to best preserve the remains. Walking inside, I was amazed by how large a space it was and how complete the structures were. Every one was identified and explained by detailed information boards. Elsewhere, deep pits showed where excavators were currently at work.
Mostly we were looking down at the ancient town from an elevated boardwalk, but in parts we were able to descend and walk between the preserved buildings, which made it easier to imagine the town as it once was. Painstaking archaeological work at the site is ongoing, meaning that in several years there’ll be more of the town to see.
It had started drizzling by the time we re-emerged, but we started walking to Red Beach regardless. It’s an easy walk down the road from Akrotiri, and unmistakable when you reach it. Having walked through a car park we emerged onto a grassy outcrop overlooking the most unusual inlet. In the overhanging cliffs, coal-black rocks turn to chalk-white and prevalently to rust-red: a spectrum of colour appearing even more striking against the turquoise blue water beneath. A narrow path along a crumbling cliffside – you could see where there had been recent rockslides – curled round into a pile of boulders that disintegrated into a small beach.
I wouldn’t have wanted to sunbathe under these overhanging cliffs as some people were, but we decided to risk a closer look. We scrambled over the boulders and stopped on the beach to take some photos, and found that the red rocks looked even more unusual with waves crashing over them.
Before heading back to Fira, we retraced our steps and followed signs to the ‘white beach’; but when we got there, there was no beach at all! The tide had come so high – likely helped by the increasingly heavy rain – that all that remained was black rocks and a rather sad-looking cafe, its covered terrace filled with people sheltering from the storm. We nestled in between them to wait for the bus.
The rain had thankfully stopped by the time we got back to Fira, and we went straight to Nick the Grill on the main road to grab some quick sustenance. Steve got another gyros, while I got a cheese-filled sausage on a stick. We ate them sat on a wall outside and spent the rest of the afternoon wandering Fira’s shops buying souvenirs, mostly food, before walking back along the seafront to our cave house. We went for a swim in Ersi Villa’s tiny pool before changing into our glad rags for dinner.
With it being our final night on the island, cocktails were in order. Unfortunately they seemed to be equally expensive everywhere, so we just went to the bar that looked nicest. Mylos drew us in with its cool terrace of sleek white sofas and glorious sea views. The cocktails on offer were very interesting – mine came in a stout jar filled with ice, a spoon of sour cherry jam and instructions from the waiter on how best to enjoy it! Both this and Steve’s whisky-based concoction were very strong, and served with a plate of posh cheese-flavoured breadsticks.
We’d booked a sunset dinner at Remvi, one of Firostefani’s more affordable seafront restaurants, the night before. But we were disappointed when the owner told us we couldn’t sit at the prime sunset-viewing table on the terrace because the weather was too bad (despite the fact it had stopped raining hours ago). Instead we were sat at a table next to the window inside, which wasn’t really the same.
The meal was still a great end to our holiday. I had stuffed pork fillets, while Steve had Souvlaki. The best part was dessert: a melting-middle chocolate pudding. We watched the cloudy sunset through the window, and it was still rather lovely.
The unique beauty and tranquillity of Santorini are things that can’t be washed or blown away – only darkened and roughened up a little. We left Santorini the next day, but I’m certain our magical memories of the island will never leave us.
All photos and text (c) Juliet Langton, 2015. All rights reserved.