A long journey. Early in the morning at 5, by opening our eyes at Faralya, before the sun climbs up Babadağ and warm us inside, we are leaving. Following our wedding celebration with families and friends, our trip to Greek islands for honeymoon starts from the sweetest corner of Turkey. With the Greek team in the wedding, we fly to Athens from Dalaman. A smile on every face, peace, and serenity after a five-day amazing holiday…A beginning of a sea-beach-sun holiday which we crave for 4 years with my dear life partner Tassos. Still with a question mark! Sand, sea, sun…Us?
Our first stop is Santorini. Our trip which was started at 5, from Faralya brings us to our room at night in Thira, Santorini where we will spend 3 nights. A very welcoming lady and elegant room are awaiting us. We are very tired and excited about the upcoming day. We fall down to the soft bed at once. Exhaustion of days…We are sleeping until 10:30 next morning despite the screams and all the noise a group is creating downstair during their breakfast. We scrape off ourselves from the bed and going downstairs. A super rich breakfast is awaiting us. Tassos who knows my breakfast desire, take into account the breakfast reviews while choosing the hotel of course. After a delicious breakfast, we are leaving the hotel with a specific three-day plan that Maria created for us, who also understood our holiday style very well. We are thankful to Maria for this alternative plan she suggested which was contrary to most of the plans that tourism agencies and hotels are offering.
Besides everything, we need to see the city from the top at least once. Through narrow streets and twin gift shops, we are climbing to the highest point of the city and taking a few photos. The prices at the vitrines of the gift shops are worrying. As we learned many people are going to Oia for the sunset at afternoon. Then we need to go there before everybody and come back. We are catching a bus that is going to Oia to see this famous place which is covering all the touristic Santorini photos.
The classic Greek island houses facing the sea, painted white with a blue door and window frames, are jumping to our cameras like on postcards. After many stairs, we are reaching down to the port. By choosing one of the restaurants that Marina suggested, we are making the opening of the seafood of our honeymoon with octopus, mussels, fried feta, and salad. Not bad for the beginning, it is a little bit pricey. After eating enough and drinking our beer and wine, we have a 10 km walking plan but first climbing of the stairs. We understand after starting to climbing the stairs that we are already late, hundreds of people are walking towards us. Have to escape at once. Although, with a full stomach a hard climbing is awaiting us. Finally, we are reaching the top and we have to ask people the starting point of the hike. Unfortunately, the hiking paths are not organized in Greece like in Turkey. While we are completing our first kilometers, the sun is going down towards the sea. After a few panoramic photography trial with the town we supposed to reach the horizon, we are speeding up. By taking a photo break at the sunset time, before dark comes down we have to reach Imerovigli and Firostefani. Marina was telling that after those villages, it is OK to walk even at night until our town.
The lands and soil we are stepping on are volcanic. Santorini and surrounding small islands took their today’s shape 3600 years ago after the Minoan explosion of the Santorini volcano. The latest volcanic activity shows its face with an earthquake in 1950. On the second day of our trip, we will learn the volcanic history of the island in our boat tour.
These volcanic lands are hosting some grapes that are only grown on this island, therefore, in order to protect them, it is not possible to plant foreign species like Melot, Cabernet Sauvignon and it is even forbidden by law. On Santorini lands, there are 40 different grape species that are grown on these lands for centuries and the wine production of the island goes back to thousands of years ago. And of course, unique wines are produced which you can taste the volcano in our glass.
It is essential to attend one of the wine tasting events in order to taste these unique white wines of Santorini, which are produced with the grapes indigenous to Santorini. Since we learned the touristic ones are not very informative, we choose a local restaurant-cafe (Pelican cafe-restaurant) which is offering wine tasting event in their old winery. Maria is giving us a tour of a small paternal winery and afterward, sharing all the secrets of the Santorini wines with the company of goat cheese and bread. Aidani is the first one we taste. It is one of the three main grapes that are used in the island for white wine production. It goes well with fruits, seafood and white meat with its mix aroma of lemon, tropical fruits, white flowers, and spices. The second wine is Assyrtiko which covers the 80% of the wine production of the island. It is being thought that they are the oldest vineyards of Europe. Since the rain is very limited in the island and also because of the strong winds, in order to protect the grapes they use a different pruning technique in the island which is called Kouloura. With this technique, the branches are in a circle shape and the grapes are protected inside this circle from the sun and wind. Assyrtiko wines are made of this grape only, 100% and it has a lively acidity with some green apple, pineapple and lemon aroma. It is in harmony with seafood, fish, pasta, white meat, white cheese, and vegetables with lemon sauce. The third wine is Nykteri, another traditional wine of Santorini. It is being produced by very mature, ripe Assyrtiko grapes and aged in oak barrels. The name is coming from “nykta” word which can be translated into English as “night”. The reason is, in order to prevent the oxidation, the stomping of the ripe grapes is taking place during the night. Harvesting time is from mid-August to late August, therefore the acidity and alcohol that is produced are high (at least 13.5%). This makes it a great candidate for aging. The golden yellow color gives the taste of a mixture of fruits and oaks. You can see the traces of lemon, pear, vanilla, and hazelnut. Despite the fact that it is a white wine, it goes very well with all kind of meat. Especially they suggest to try it with lamp. Other than that, it goes well with seafood and fatty fish.
Pelican cafe-restaurant wine tasting
Another wine is a blend of 85% Katsano and 15% Gaidouria, Katsano. Both grape varietals are not known or grown on the island and they only cover 1% of the total vineyard. Both varietals are ripened early August. You see the aromas of flowers, honey, and lemon at Katsano and it goes well with salad, shellfish, fish and white meat. These are the wines that Maria introduced us with their secrets. Other than these, we also try Mavrotragano red wine and sweet famous Vinsento. For last 2 years, we got used to red wines of France and Geneva, so we did not enjoy Mavrotragano. Vinsento, on the other hand, is a naturally sweet wine and it is produced with the sun-dried grapes. The grapes are harvested at the beginning of August and left under the sun for 10 days. The stomping takes place with traditional methods, the fermentation happens with the wild yeasts until Christmas and aged in Russian oak barrels. The fruity taste, intense honey, raisins and dried prunes are welcoming you. They do not use any technical treatment so production takes place with traditional methods and only a limited number of bottles are leaving the island.
The third day, we are going to famous Gavalas winery and we do not enjoy the wine tasting here since it was very quick and careless. But I have to say it is one of the most touristic and busy ones. Here, as different than the previous one, we are trying Voudomato rose wine. Voudomato is produced by Voudomato red grape which is covering only 0.5% of the vineyards, so it is a very-limited production.
Akrotiri people who left their houses maybe in order to return one day. You see the beds that are put on top of each other in the photo below.
The first day was full of hiking, the second day was with wine tasting and boat tour and the third day is for visiting the other end of the island, Akrotiri, and Faros. We are renting a car and visiting Megalohori where the famous Gavalas and Venetsanos wineries. After the wine tasting, we are going towards Akrotiri. Akrotiri excavation site is a Minoan Bronze age settlement which is connected to Minos civilization. The city is buried in volcanic ash in the Theran eruption about 1627 BC and so preserved until today. The people who lived in the city and on the island had abandoned it before the eruption by taking all their valuable belongings. However, in the cellars, barrels filled with wheat and barley are found. Akrotiri is a well-advanced city compared to its time with three-story buildings, furniture, and advanced drainage systems. Unfortunately, there is no information inside that you can read. We got some interesting information from a person who is working there. There is a toilet which has been found in the second level of a house with a drainage system which is the first example from those times. The person who gave this information to us says that they are complaining about the lack of information too and the reason for this is to protect the existence of the tour guides. And she is stopping talking about it even when a tour guide is passing by. Like this, we are experiencing the corrupted system of tourism in Greece just like in Turkey. But at least, here there are people on duty whose jobs are to tell people not to touch the historic walls and structures which are different than in Turkey. Thanks to this consciousness, you are not stepping the thousand of years old structures like you do in Efes which is one of the most important sites of humanity.
Lighthouse and the view
The next stop is the edge of the island Faros. There is a lighthouse here and you can have a top-view of the other small islands around and the volcano. After a 15 minute stop here, we are heading towards Pyrgos to stop the noise of our stomachs. Pyrgos has the highest point of the island where you can have a panoramic view of the island. Very narrow, traditional Greek streets and the view worths to have this climb.
The views from Pyrgos
After finishing Santorini, our second stop is Folegandros. Folegandros is a pretty small island with 700 registered inhabitants. It has many small, cute hotels and the untouched beaches and bays that are not invaded by beach bars, roads and restaurants yet. In addition, I can say, we experienced the best hotel experience in Folegandros. Polikandia is a family business. Three brothers and sisters and their parents are giving you an unforgettable hotel experience.
While we are leaving Santorini, we are taking a late evening boat and after we arrive at Folegandros and are looking for a taxi, Stelios from the hotel we will stay is approaching us saying “Bre Fragkos, we waited for you all day”. Since we did not have a chance to check our emails, apparently we missed his email and we did not know that they are coming to pick us up from the port. Stelios, since we have not come with the other boats during the day, was thinking that we will definitely come with this boat and was awaiting us. Stelios is one of the three siblings. Thanks to him, we are experiencing the best 5 days of our honeymoon with the suggestions he was giving to us. The beaches they were suggesting us were the ones that are not reachable by bus. You have to take a boat or take a bus and walk for 5-6 km on paths. Polikandia Hotel is just a few minutes away to the center of Chora which is offering many delicious options for dinner. The first night, we are going out to discover the Astarti Bar which we read about from some travel blogs. It is a very cute bar in the square of the town just next to the church. The owner of the bar is a very friendly and fun person and we will be hanging out here for the next five nights. What did we not eat during these five days? Fish, octopus, stuffed tomatoes and peppers, cheese pie, semolina halva, famous matsata with rabbit meat at Ano Meria, and of course souvlaki.
The next day, we start walking from Chora to Agali beach. The following 5 days will go on like this. After a nice breakfast on the morning, 7-10 km hiking and reaching a bay and swimming naked in nude-friendly beautiful beaches and read a book…Everyday, by following a different path, we are walking almost whole island this way. Knowing that these bays and beaches will not be destroyed and invaded by crowds, sunbeds and beach bars because of the protection laws is an amazing feeling that I am not used to as a person from Turkey.
Folegandros is really a small and silent holiday destination. The time is stopping on this island and you leave yourself to the unique beauty, wild rocks and bluest sea of the island. You witness all kind of tones of blue and green of the sea in every bay, and the wild beauty of the under water with your snorkel. During the days, after enjoying the beauty of the desolate beaches by walking the goat paths, you are having fun with the delicious Greek food at the traditional tavernas and bars and beauty of the summer nights.
Five days we spend on Folegandros, we walk at least 35 km and revealed with the beauty of the bays that I mentioned. And while we are leaving Folegandros and Polikandia Hotel, we are hugging with three siblings and promise to come back. And really just after stepping on the boat, we find ourselves making a holiday plan to return here with our friends.
The third and latest island is Milos. The place we chose to stay on the island is the port town Adamas. Adamas is a classic port settlement. There are many tour boats at the port and touristic restaurants and bars. If you are looking for a cute, traditional Greek town, it is not the correct choice. In that case, the place you can choose in Milos seems like Pollonia. On our first morning on the island, we are starting from Adamas to visit the northern beaches. The first stop is the Sarakiniko beach which is formed by volcanic white-gray rocks shaped by waves and winds. It is a must-visit place on the island. However, this characteristic structure of the beach makes it very popular so as you can imagine many people are coming here. It is better to visit it early on the morning before it gets crowded. When we arrived it was pretty crowded already, so we head towards our second point on the map after taking a few photos.
After taking a look at Alogomandra and Papafragas beaches, not thinking that they are very interesting, we continue to Pollonia. For many others, these beaches can be very nice but after Folegandros, it seems very difficult to like one for us 🙂 While passing through Pollonia, we realize this was the place where we should have stayed. With the traditional Greek houses and taverns, this is the place which will satisfy our expectations rather than Adamantas. However, it is not time yet to take a stop and fill our stomachs. We let the car follow the road and find ourselves at Polychronis beach. Tired of looking for an interesting beach and hot weather, we are taking a break for a beer at this beach which is pretty loud with its beach bar. After having our beer it is time to continue to explore. After Pollonia the view is not very good. Because we are at the side of the island which is about to die due to mining activities. From any corner, a truck can appear, and you are getting upset by seeing already dead hillsides. What is sadder is, the local people on the island are not aware of how mining is bad. When I asked if there is any chance to stop mining activities in the near future and got the answer of why would they, I could not find something to say. But the situation is this. While half of the island is under protection, the other half is abandoned to die. We, however, continue with the car to Cape Kastana. Cape Kastana is a beautiful bay with its red-purple rocks and stones. And a good snorkeling point with its aquarium under water. This place is also a nudist beach so, we are saying goodbye to our swimming suits and welcoming freedom.
On the way back, since we are very hungry, we are stopping at Pollonia and deciding to eat at Gialos which is suggested by the hotel and has almost a thousand reviews on bookings.com and TripAdvisor which we trust a lot. And indeed, we are eating one of the most delicious octopuses of our life while watching the beautiful sunset.
The plan of the next day is to have a boat tour in order to visit the west and southwest part of the island which is under protection. We are choosing the Volcano tour which calls themselves alternative tour. Because they have a fast boat they are going everywhere before all the other tours so you can enjoy before they get crowded. Also it is a small boat and a maximum number of people is 15-16, which is good if you do not like those classic crowded tours. We are starting the day with luck by seeing a few dolphins. Snorkeling time is coming. Our leader is young and not professional. In our first snorkeling tour, he is forgetting to check other people and not realizing that they are not coming until we come at the entrance of the cave. Therefore, he is going back to take them while we are waiting. On the other hand, they are not giving any security information and any information not to harm the nature. Even though they are simple things like not stepping on the rocks, not collecting rocks or sea shells, these are the most common rules people are ignoring most of the time. Contrary, we see our own leader is standing on the rocks and destroying it, we understood they do not even know these rules either so all these beauties are under danger of getting destroyed in a short time.
With these boat tours, you can see the west and southwest of the island. What about the east and southeast parts? Unfortunately, they are under destruction with the mining. So, you are facing with an island which is both under protection and destruction. If you can go down, the old sulfur mines are in a very beautiful bay. However, the road seemed very dangerous to us and we did not drive all the way down. The beaches on the south part of the island that you can drive are Provatas, Firiplaka, and Aghia Kiriaki. With sand, sun, sunbeds and beach bars, they are nice beaches for many people. However lying down even for 5 minutes, and swimming in shallow waters are getting pretty boring so we did not spend time on these beaches. However, as I said, they are nice beaches, especially for families.
Thiorichia Old Sulfur Mine
The most interesting part of the island is Catacombs at Tripiti. There are tombs at Catacombs which were used by first Christians between 1-5th centuries. 5-7 people are buried in every tomb, and more than 2000 in the whole place. There are 3 independent galleries at Catacombs which were built in the volcanic rocks. With the new addition which was built on 20.yy, they are now connected. Each gallery has a 1-5m width, 1.60 to 2.5 m height. You should also see the ancient theater in the region. Located on the east side of the island at a very strategic point, its history goes back to 9/8. BC.
Briefly, Santorini, Folegandros, and Milos with their very different character are offering very interesting options to you according to your holiday style. For us, Folegandros took place in our memories with its unique beaches and bays, untouched beauty, cute Chora and very friendly locals. And we definitely go back there one day. Santorini fed our awareness about white wines and we will remember Milos with its beautiful nudist Kastana beach. Like this, we are coming to an end for the honeymoon with the dreams of coming back to Folegandros.
Gözde Saral Fragkos 🙂