Santorini: Bus Tour of Southern Part of Island

Friday, 15 June

Today we took a fascinating all-day bus tour of the southern part of Santorini. We visited a monastery, a winery, a small traditional village named Megalohori, the famous Black Sand Beach, and — perhaps most interestingly — the archaeological dig at Akrotiri.

Monastery

Our first stop was at the Prophet Elias Monastery, which is built on the highest point of the island, and from which there is a panoramic view of the entire island. It is an active monastery, so we weren’t allowed to actually go inside but we we able to enter a beautiful little church.

Santo Winery
From there we visited the Santo Winery, which is on a hill high over the sea. After a tour, similar but shorter than the ones we’re used to and with hard-to-understand English, we tasted three of their wines–two whites and a sweet wine called Vinsanto, apparently a Santorini specialty. The white ones, with names I cannot recall, were very good–one very dry, the other with a floral finish. The Vinsanto was way too sweet for me, but Bob enjoyed it.

Santo Winery

Wine tasting with French tourmates

Megalohori
Next, we visited Megalohori, the most traditional village of Santorini. Our escort led us through the narrow streets and described the traditional architcture of the village and the unique craftsmanship of local masons. He said that the village mandate is that no upgrading can be made, only maintenance of existing traditional structures. And new structures must mirro the architecture of the village. There is one hotel, but we knew that only because the guide pointed it out – it looks like a series of connected houses in identical style to all the others.

Village Square

Megalohori street

Rubble from 1950s earthquake

Black Sand Beach
Our next stop was a lunch/swim stop at the famous Black Sand beach in Perivolos. We had (another) great lunch at The Net, a little taverna on the beach. We enjoyed a fab pizza there, along with Fix Dark beer — that seemed appropriate to drink on a hot day at a beach with black sand (actually lava rock). The beachfront is lined with chairs and a variety of shade covers, with tavernas and cafes lined up on the other side. There are two other famous beaches, one with red sand and the other with white. The beach sand color variation is due to the surrounding area in which it was created. The red is likely sandstone (or sometthing with a lot of iron in it) and the white is probably marble.

Black Sand Beach
Note walkway due to sand being so hot

A dark beer at a black sand beach on a hot day
Life is good!

Akrotiri

Our final stop was a visit to Akrotiri, an archaeological dig of a site that goes back to 1600 BC. Our tour guide, an archaeologist at the site, told us the history of the most important Minoan site of the ancient world, and of its demise due to a series of earth upheavals 4,000 years ago. It was buried until the mid 20th century when an archaeologist discovered  and began to uncover it. Due to the volcanic ash, a large part of the city had been preserved underground since around 1600 BC. No, it is not Atlantis according to our guide, based on the writings of Plato, an ancient Greek philosopher.

To date, only 3% of the city has been unearthed, and only three of the homes have been completely explored. What has been found is evidence of a highly sophisticated civilization that had running water and functioning toilets among other things. Thousands of pieces of pottery, both for commercial and personal use, have been cataloged. Probably the most amazing finds have been intact painted walls that depicted everyday life for those long ago people. They show beautiful women with red lips and nail polish, gold earrings, and rouge on their cheeks; boys boxing (with a glove on just one hand–apparently the gloved hand was used to punch while the uncovered one was used for defense),  pictures of men in various poses, antelopes, birds, flowers, and more–all in multicolors that are still vibrant.

As she spoke and showed pictures, our guide walked us around a wooden walkway that brought us through some of the more complete excavations. It was an unbelievable feeling to be surrounding by artifacts that were 4,000 years old!

We were weary when the bus returned us to Fira, so decided to call it a day. After having some Greek frozen yogurt to cool off and revive our spirits, we caught a taxi back to Kafieris. There, we got a soak in the oversized spa, watched the sunset from the rooftop deck, then had snacks and leftovers on our balcony. Tomorrow was the sea excursion, which promised to be another exciting day.

Written and edited with help from my 10-1/2-year-old grandson Daniel

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