There's nothing like a good day trip to break up a holiday, whether you go off to visit another nearby island or just another town, it's a perfect way to experience something totally different during your trip. We were in Santorini for two weeks so we made sure to organise plenty of day trips and activities - like climbing the mountain - to break up our time sunbathing on the beach. One of my absolute highlights of the holiday was a bargain day trip we took from Perissa to explore the nearby active volcano, to swim in natural hot springs and mud baths, and finish the day with a cruise around the Caldera. You'll see this trip on offer a lot when staying on the island in various different forms, but it can be difficult to ensure you don't get ripped off when booking without doing a little research. Luckily for you, I've done the research for you so you can sit back and enjoy the trip!
Booking the trip
We booked our trip at a Perissa travel agency after checking out several to compare prices, it's always worth comparing at least three and seeing if they can offer you a discount for group bookings. A few euros doesn't sound much, but it makes a huge difference to your pocket if you have a big group of people. We booked our trip with Star Travel, on the main street, who were great - they offered a full day trip with all three attractions for the same price other companies were charging for a half-day experience. At around 20 euros per person, we could be picked up from the agents in the morning and taken to hike up the active volcano, we would swim in the hot springs then break on the nearby island of Therissa where you can enjoy a peaceful lunch before heading home and cruising around Oia and the famous Caldera. A pretty busy day, but one worth experiencing. Not only do you get to tick some pretty amazing sights off your Santorini bucket list, but you also get to do it at a steady and enjoyable pace.
Climbing the active volcano
An amazing experience to see the volcanic, bare landscape set against a background of ocean and Santorini coastline. Just out in the bay from the island, it's just a short 5-10 minute boat ride before you land here and prepare to climb the volcano. I wore running shoes but you can easily do it in sturdy sandals, I saw some in flip-flops but I wouldn't recommend it. You have to pay a few euros each for entrance to the volcano, then it's off up towards the crater. The hike takes less than half an hour and isn't too strenuous but it is hot - make sure you have water and sunscreen - and be aware that it is at least five degrees hotter at the top. The walk up is incredible - take a second to appreciate the stark landscape - and when you reach the crater it's amazing to walk around. Annoyingly you will be surrounded by boat-loads of tourists and plenty of selfie sticks, but it is still worth a visit and it is possible to find a quiet spot. Listen out for your tour guide talking about the history of the volcano, it has an interesting past, and then stroll around the crater taking in the 360 degree panoramic view of ocean and island. Watch out for our pal Walle who sits up there 24/7 monitoring volcanic activity and serving as an early warning for the island to be evacuated in case of emergency.
Swimming in hot springs
Back on the boat and we cruise round the volcano and off towards the hot springs which sit in the shadow of a nearby island. As you approach, you'll see further in where the water changes colour to a deep rusty, brown colour, where the mud carries no end of minerals. The boat stops around 15-20 metres away from where you will be able to touch the ground but you do have to jump off and swim for it - if you're not a confident swimmer stay on the boat. A short swim across and you can swim/walk across the rocks to enter the hot springs, feeling the water warming your skin. It's only just above body temperature but you can feel the difference and it's lovely to sit there in the water. I recommend rubbing the mud all over your skin - everyone thought Mum and I were mad for doing this but it makes your skin incredible soft. I was aiming for five years younger but I don't know if I quite reached it. We have just half an hour to enjoy the mud baths before heading back to the boat, but it's the perfect amount of time as we were starving by this point. Swimming back you definitely feel the cold hit you as you leave the hot springs but luckily the clear sea water washes off any remaining mud before you climb back on board.
A relaxing lunch on Therissa Island
Next our journey took to to the island of Therissa, a step back in time to the Greece of years ago. You can walk up to the main village but it is a very steep climb and we weren't sure we would have time to squeeze that in with lunch. Instead we pottered along the shoreline to one of the restaurants and sampled the stuffed vegetables and freshly caught calamari - I've become addicted to calamari over the last few weeks. It was a perfect relaxed lunch with a beautiful view of all the boats and the crystal clear waters. All of the restaurants serve the freshest of fish and for roughly the same prices so choose any and enjoy the setting. After we ate, we decided to wander along the shore to the windmill at the other end of the beach so we could check out the views and shops along the way. It was a lovely little walk and with two hours there we had just enough time to see everything we wanted to see before heading back to the boat to get a good spot at the front for our Caldera cruise.
Oia and Caldera Cruise
How better to finish the day than with a peaceful cruise around Oia - a chance to finally view it from the ocean in all its splendour before making our way along the Caldera by boat. I'll be posting about my day spent in Oia at a later date - but you must without a doubt experience Oia from the ocean, within the town during the day and of course, at sunset, to get a real feel for the town. It's spectacular in all its forms and not at all overrated, every time I was in awe of the beauty and the magic of this stunning location. And of course, a boat cruise around the island in the afternoon sunshine is a perfect way to experience Santorini. There's something so peaceful about being out at sea, perhaps it's the mermaid in me but it just soothes my soul every time. Clear, endless waters, overlooked by centuries old white windmills - that's what Santorini is all about and that's what this trip will give you. All those dreamy island views you've been stalking on Instagram in the months leading up to your trip.I can't recommend the trip we went on enough - it gave us everything we wanted and more. You get to see a whole different side to the island, a natural and raw side to the landscape that often isn't associated with the more manicured beauty of Santorini. It's a perfect way to spend a day during your holiday to the island.
Have you been on this trip - what was your highlight? Do you love boat trips, where was your favourite one?
Okay so to say my expectations for Koh Phi Phi were low was a serious understatement. I really couldn't bare to leave Koh Lanta and to say goodbye to all my friends. Everything I had heard about Phi Phi put me straight off the island. I know, I know, all those who have been will say it is beautiful and picturesque, some even dare say it is the prettiest of the Thai islands. I couldn't agree less. Those who have been to Koh Lanta will understand my shock horror at seeing how dirty, chock-full of tourists and how commercialised Phi Phi is in comparison, and from the moment I arrived on the island I was already counting down to the day I could leave.
Just to give you a taste of what my expectations were based on, a friend who I had met in Koh Lanta had just arrived from the island and she had told me about when she was swimming in the sea, felt something on her foot and picked it up thinking it was a stick - it crumbled in her hand, it was a giant lump of shit. This was definitely one of the worst stories I had heard about the island, but the others certainly didn't paint it in a good light. So you can understand why I was instantly put off, but for the Phi Phi lovers, give me the benefit of the doubt because despite this I still went to the island to form my own opinion.
I was staying at Rock Backpacking, which was great value for money at 300 baht a night for a dorm with fans. The toilets and showers were so clean and the guys who ran it were so helpful - all wifi on the island was abysmal though due to the sheer number of people there using it. I would recommend the hostel, although I was a little disappointed after being told it was the party hostel and finding everyone already asleep when I returned each night abut 3/4am. Wusses. There were nice people staying there, but a lot of people on holiday who were just there to get drunk and not to meet people. I prefer more backpacker central places where people actually want to get to know each other.
My first night there was spent watching the sunset from the viewpoint - so beautiful. I actually went back another night with a new friend and a guy proposed to his girlfriend while we were up there. So cute. I found the best little place for Pad Thai - seriously a godsend after finding nothing but kebab shops elsewhere! Went back loads for authentic Thai food, which was seriously lacking in other restaurants. Had a massage, manicure and pedicure, all for £10 - bargain! Then spent the rest of the night watching boxing, fire shows and exploring. My second day was spent trying to find a clean stretch of beach where the water wasn't covered in a layer of scum - finally found somewhere and sunbathed all day. Bumped into a couple I met on the ferry to Koh Lanta - they barely recognised me as I'm so black now. We spent the rest of the night eating food, going to the boxing - my friend actually competed for a bucket and ended up knocking the other guy out cold! Then we headed to the beach and made some other friends while watching the fire shows.
The next day, I had booked on to a boat trip around several beaches and islands, with plenty of opportunities for snorkelling for just 600 baht (£12) Met a guy called Tibby on the boat, he was also travelling solo from his home in Belgium before starting a new job in Melbourne. Bonding over the terrible food, we snorkelled and marvelled at all the amazing fish beneath the boat - such beautiful colours! The next stop was Bamboo Island which was so perfect and untouched - the sand was pure white and the waters so clear with reef right next to the beach so perfect for more snorkelling. We got a bit carried away spotting fish and ended up being the last ones back to the boat. After a couple more stops, we ended up at Monkey Beach, where monkeys just run wild on the beach and grab food from your hands - so cheeky! I brought along some bananas and fed them, the babies were so cute! They were all so tame, usually monkeys can be a little scary.
After this, it was the highlight of the trip, we'd been waiting all day for Maya Beach (where The Beach was filmed) and it didn't disappoint. As we pulled up in the long tail boat, it looked exactly like it does in the film, minus all those damn tourists! Such a beautiful place, you can see how it would inspire any director, set between these huge cliffs with pure white sand. I managed to find a nice empty stretch of beach to sit and chill out, then Tibby came and joined me and we took lots of photos before our time was up and we headed back to the boat. On the way back to Phi Phi, we stopped at sunset point to watch the bright orange sun burn it's way down into the waves, dead silence on the boat, everyone was speechless at the beauty of it all.
I have so many pictures and so much to tell you guys about Phi Phi that I've split this into two posts for you... The next one will have the pics from Maya Bay and everything else I got up to! I will also try and share the video of the boxing on my Facebook page as it takes ages to do it on here, so give the page a like and check it out!
For those who have been to Koh Phi Phi, what did you think? I'd love to know if anyone shared my experiences or if actually you loved the the island just as it is...