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?
Having two weeks in a place is such a luxury when you travel. Holidays can be so expensive and I know so many who have had to sacrifice a second week this year due to costs. We're all familiar with that feeling that we never have enough time to squeeze everything in, well I'm definitely guilty of trying to squeeze too much into a break. I can't help myself, I just want to do, see, eat and experience everything a country has to offer, which doesn't often leave much time for relaxing! You'll know from my previous posts that I love keeping fit and active, even when I travel and so I'm sure you'll know that I'm game for trying any new ways of getting out there and pushing my body. So when I realised the amazing opportunity to try something a bit different that lay waiting in Santorini, I jumped at the chance. If you like to exercise this one is a great way to combine history and working out while taking in a spectacular view of the island.In the south-west of the island lies the biggest mountain of the island, Mesa Vouna. This stunning peak has the town of Perissa nestled against one side, while the town of Kamari can be found on the opposite side. At just 369m, it's only a baby in the mountain world, but it's still a worthy climb and well worth it for the experience. We set off at sunrise to try and find the path, which was just a few fields behind my apartments, along the way stumbling across some donkeys preparing for their huge climb over the peak. It was around 5.30am and barely touched by the light, we began our journey - why so early you ask? Well I quite enjoy an early start to the day anyway, and quite frankly it gets so damn hot there that you definitely wouldn't want to attempt this climb beyond 9am or you would be standing up there in 30 degree heat! With the incredible excavations and discovered ruins of Ancient Thira sitting at the top and just waiting to be explored, I wanted time to appreciate it.The walk is around 8km and if you're relatively fit it'll be a breeze, you can complete it in an hour or two - more or less depending on whether you stop along the way. We actually saw a couple of guys who were running up and down the mountain several times - so if you fancy a really grueling workout it's right there waiting for you. I wore running shoes when I took on the climb but my mum and dad managed it fine in sturdy sandals. We took breakfast and plenty of water along with us, you'll need both as the shop at the top is sometimes closed and you might not be able to buy anything for the climb down. I would really recommend hiking up the mountain from Perissa as you actually get the experience of walking up the rock face rather than a man-made path like the one waiting on the other side. It also means that in the morning you will walk in the shade which is a blessing when you're faced with bright, burning heat down the other side. Along the way look out for signs marking graves on the hillside and plaques explaining the history, these are worth a read if you're interested.When you finally reach the top - just stop and breathe it all in. The view is incredible across Kamari and Perissa with the ocean on either side and the volcano within view. It's definitely time to stop for a few photos before climbing the next short hill to Ancient Thira - the ruins cost 2 euros to enter and are more than worth it for the stunning views waiting from the top and a glimpse into a city of the past. The site is not open on Mondays and only opens unil 2.30pm on some days so be sure to check ahead of walking. The hilltop was first inhabited by the Dorians, whose leader was Theras, in the 9th century BC. Thira was later occupied in the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine eras, with most buildings surviving today from the Hellenistic era (around 4th century BC). If you like history and visiting ancient ruins, you'll be in for a treat with remnants of the ancient houses, cemeteries and even a theatre overlooking the ocean waiting for you. It was amazing to what was found by German archaeologists between 1895 and 1902, and then later by N. Zapheiropoulos in 1961-1982. I personally love experiences like this, I love delving into the past and imagining the whole communities that might have lived in ruins such as Pompeii, Angkor Wat and Sukothai.When you're walking around it's worth checking out the boards that are placed around, they're all written in English and give you lots of information about the different buildings and what once would have laid there. Buildings from different periods are mixed together throughout the site along one main street, which is intersected by smaller streets. Sights worth checking out include the two agoras where you can see the ruins of several Greek temples, and don't miss out on seeing the Roman baths and stone church of Agios Stefanos. The arc of the theatre was one of my highlights with a panoramic view of the Aegean - to think Greeks long ago sat there watching theatre much like I watched movies at the open-air cinema later in the week was crazy. For a cheeky look into the past, you should check out the view over the site from the large Terrace of Festivals - in times gone by boys would have danced naked there to honour Apollo, and you can still find some nearby phallic graffiti.The climb is a great experience and was one of my highlights of the holiday, all three of us enjoyed it and the early start even meant that by the time we reached Kamari, we still had a whole day to top up our tans on the beach. The ocean at Perissa hides quite a strong current at times so be careful when swimming, Kamari on the other hand is much more sheltered and perfect for a swim or a snorkel. We spent a couple of days on the beach there, exploring the town and eating out at the many restaurants. And after such an early start and the steep walk up the mountain, I can't think of a better way to spend the afternoon than napping in the sun and swimming out to the nearby rocks. Just what the doctor ordered.
Have you climbed a mountain - where? What are your favourite ways to stay active when on holiday? Have you been to Santorini?
Those of you who follow me on Instagram and Twitter have been berating me over the last two weeks for teasing you all with photos from my rather lust-worthy holiday. Sorry, I'm so not sorry about it. It was without a doubt one of the best holidays I have ever had and oh my, have you seen how crazy beautiful Santorini is? I'm not lying when I say the Greek island has been on my Must Visit list for years, and now having spent two weeks there I can officially say it is just as incredible as I dreamed. All those times I scrolled infinitely down websites and Instagram feeds taking in every dreamy image and every scrap of information about the island, and finally I had the chance to see it with my own eyes. I am such a lucky girl. Even more so, because I wasn't supposed to be going! My parents had booked themselves a holiday, not knowing when I would be back in the country, but when they realised I would be home, they booked me on to the holiday with them as my birthday present. Officially the best parents and the best birthday present I could ever dream of.
Where to stay
We stayed on the south-east of the island in the popular resort of Perissa - it's a good choice if you find the prices a bit steep in Oia and fancy actually being on the beach. After visiting both Oia and Perissa, I would say that for a week or longer holiday, Perissa is a perfect place to stay, but if you're just going for a few days you would probably want to stay in Oia. Perissa is nestled at the bottom of the mountain and it's the only place in the world I have seen the mountains meet the ocean on a beach of black, volcanic sand. Even in peak season, Perissa has a relaxed and quiet feel to it and the beaches are never overcrowded, nor are the restaurants. It's a good place to stay if you want a mixture of relaxing, exploring and activities during your stay - we found it a great base for visiting the rest of the island and enjoying trips. The buses give you great, reliable access to other areas such as Fira, Kamari and Oia, or you could hire and car or bike. Most places in Perissa come with a pool and there are a lot of self-catering apartments available which is great for those that have children or prefer to do their own thing.I stayed in a self-catering apartment at Sandy Villas, this place was great with huge rooms, private bathrooms and balconies for each apartment. My room also came with a small kitchen including a hob, fridge and basic items. It had a bar and lounge area with wifi (although rubbish) and offered the largest swimming pool in the area. It was set back from the main strip and closer to the mountain, but I loved that it was a short walk away from everything and it meant having a stunning view of the mountain and the ocean from my balcony, and getting woken up by the donkeys in the morning. A true Greek experience. The owners were very welcoming and friendly, all of the staff were so lovely, especially when they realised I was staying alone. I was really impressed with the place and would definitely recommend it for others travelling as a group, a couple or independently. With a shallow pool, this place is well-suited to young children and many of the groups staying had children with them.If you're looking for something a bit more adult, try Anezina Villas, it's much more suited to a couple on holiday with smaller rooms and more of a hotel feel. It was a lovely apartment for my parents with a private bathroom and balcony, although they did find the rooms a little stuffy. It came with a small kitchen area with a fridge and all that was needed to make simple foods if you preferred to have breakfast at the apartment. The outside area was the absolute highlight - the bar and seating around the pool was gorgeous and for sunbathers, you were treated to the most comfortable sunbeds I have ever laid on. Short of being a waterbed, I don't think they could have been better quality. Likewise, the pool was fantastic for adults, very deep and large enough to enjoy a good swim - not great for children due to the depth.The apartments also come with a swing and play area, a hot tub, and sit nicely in the centre of the town, perfect for strolling to the beach or out to dinner. Both places were fabulous and we would really recommend them if you're planning a trip to the island.
Where to eat
If you're heading to Perissa, have a wonderful time. It's a fantastic place to stay and perfect for a holiday in Santorini. If you have any questions about the area or planning your trip, leave a comment and I'll do my best to help you out!
By the time you read this, I'll have already been in Santorini, Greece, for a week of sun, sea, sand and... cocktails! After years of fantasising about ticking this incredible beauty spot off my bucket list, the dream has become a reality and I'm out here enjoying the full Greek experience. It's been years since I was in Europe and it's given me a whole new appreciation for this amazing place. I won't talk about what I've been up to too much - there'll be lots more posts coming up when I'm back in the UK. For now I'm enjoying some well-deserved relaxing and some quality time with my family.
If you want to keep up with my adventures on the island - you'll want to check out my Instagram takeover for Travelex UK - I'll be taking over the channel today until Wednesday to share some highlights of this incredible place with you all.