The night before, my traveling partner, Joel (an old friend from New York), and I had a seafood meal at Taverna Katina in the tiny port of Ammoudi. We had just finished viewing the sunset which we had learned has made Santorini famous throughout the world.
The taverna was somewhat of a trek from the main village and sat at the base of a steep hill, 300 steps below Oia. Wearing the wrong set of footwear (sandals), it took awhile to reach the port. The authentic seafood dinner (Greek salad, perfectly grilled sea bream and octopus, a carafe of the house red wine) was well worth the hike and provided more than enough nourishment and goodwill to carry us 300 steps back uphill to Oia in the quiet starlit evening.
Oia is mesmerizing. You won't be able to take your eyes off her whitewashed buildings and blue-domed churches nestled on the rugged reddish-brown cliffs at the mouth of a caldera. Yes, there is an active volcano lurking beneath.
Santorini is the largest remnant of an ancient island that experienced perhaps the greatest volcanic destruction in history. Legend has it that it was part of the lost continent of Atlantis. It is one of the Cyclades, which is composed of islands arranged in a circle (kyklos) around the sacred island of Delos, the mythical birthplace of Apollo (the Sun God).
We decided to take the 5-mile hike from Oia to Fira, Santorini's equally enthralling (albeit busier) main village, the next stop in our trip. For about 3 grueling hours under the intense noonday sun, we followed an undulating rocky path with sweeping views of Oia and the cliffs of the caldera on one side and the Aegean Sea and smaller Cycladean islands on the other.
We hiked to the top of two hills; the sight of classic Greek churches with white walls and blue domes perched atop each, inspiring us to continue on despite breathlessness and fatigue. I think I've never been happier seeing a church! The aridness of the land and intense heat of the sun made me think of St. Paul's journey through the Greek islands which he was instrumental in converting to Christianity two millenniums ago.
The five-mile trek left me exhausted only to be rejuvenated by the breathtaking views from the balcony of our hotel at Fira.
From that same balcony, we've enjoyed coffee and breakfast in the early morning sun, with the indelible backdrop of the Santorini landscape.
Over the past 3 days, we've explored the meshwork of streets in Fira, visited the ruins of Ancient Thira, waded in the clear waters of the Aegean sea and relaxed in the black sands of Perissa on the southern end of the island. But at the end of each day, we've come back to our sunset – the highlight of each day in Santorini – when for a few minutes everyone stops to savor, with awe and longing, the beauty of a setting sun.
It is indeed a sight to behold; one that brings together people of different races, ages, and persuasions; those who have come from afar weary from work, or exhausted from long mountainous hikes, or refreshed by the blue waters of the Aegean Sea.
At the end of each day, as the sun's reddish golden light fades in the horizon in Santorini, the labyrinthine array of colors and reflections from Apollo's orb is both spectacular and poignant. – Rappler.com
The author is a pediatrician practicing in New York City. You can follow his travel blog at wandersofoz.com