Out of this world for good reasons, I believe. It’s certainly as different from the UK or most of the rest of Europe as you can get; and different from our every day life – whether working or retired. Santorini is a unique place because of its geology. The island, except for the calcareous mountain of Profitis Ilias, is the remnant of a giant caldera, which blew up in what is believed to be the biggest volcanic explosion on Earth, in 1450 B.C. You can see layers of ash, pumice stone, pyroclastic flows and lava everywhere around the island. And, in case you thought it was all quiet and dormant, go to the small island of Nea Kameni in the middle of the caldera, to see still-active sulphur vents and lava flows from recent eruptions (the last one was in 1926).
Without leaving Santorini, you can still see remnants of buildings destroyed in the 1956 earthquake. But don’t believe for a minute that it’s all doom and gloom. The whitewashed houses, blue church domes and shutters everywhere contrast sharply with the background of black lava, stones and earth in shadows of red, yellow and a full palette of colours around most of the island. Add to this the blue of the sky and the intense blue of the sea and you do have the feeling that you are indeed in a place out of this world.
In case you get all dreamy, your rambler leader will put your feet firmly on the ground – over and over again, during the whole holiday. Because it’s a rambling holiday, you walk – a lot. You walk on dusty paths made of pumice and volcanic stones and old mule tracks. Our walks started from the hotel in Karterados, a stone’s throw away from the island’s capital Thira, or we took a local bus or coach to a suitable starting point around the island. On every walk, around the corner there is always a surprise: a view, interesting lighting, a chapel, a taverna with cold water and unlimited supplies of the local beer Mythos – not to mention food and the desserts.
Add to the mix archaeological sites like ancient Thira and villages with Venetian citadels and you never have a dull moment.
Then there is the island of Naxos. A few hours away by ferry from Santorini it is a different world again. Greener, gentler and with a more “normal” geology. Then again, define normal: if you believe that walking for miles and miles on mule paths made of beautiful marble is “normal”, then so be it. Naxos is overflowing with marble.
Add to that, in no particular order, beaches, the smell of herbs, donkeys and mules, cats lazing around, stray dogs sleeping or playing everywhere; and friendly locals who wave and say “yassas” to these foreigners wearing funny hats and big boots, walking instead of taking a car and spending their time relaxing in front of a coffee!
***f you would like to see the entire holiday photo album click here.