A day in the US VI: St. Thomas

A day in the US Virgin Islands : St. Thomas
While planning a trip to the Carribbean you have several clusters of islands to choose from, one of which is the US Virgin Islands. This group is composed of St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John. Visiting these islands offers a bit more than just your standard beach vacation with diverse architecture (evidence of nations that colonized the islands in the 17th and 18th centuries) and culinary encounters, artisan fairs, and most fun of all if you time it right: Carnivals.

The islands have a long history of habitation starting with the first inhabitants, the Ciboneys  before 100 AD. There were various natives before Christopher Columbus visited on his 2nd voyage in 1493, claiming the islands for Spain. The battle between the natives and Columbus on the island of St. Croix is known as the first insurgence in the New World. Columbus continued his exploration leaving the islands largely inhabited and many counties began expressing interest in the 1600s. It was the Danish who established the first settlement on St. Thomas in 1672 and expanded to the other islands while establishing the Danish West India Company in 1733. St. Thomas became a trading post mostly for slave trading with more than 200,000 slaves forcibly shipped to the islands. St John and St. Croix were maintained as plantations supporting the trade economy. With Denmark ceasing human trade in 1792 and the discovery of sugar beet (instead of sugar cane) agriculture began to decline and the need for the islands as a shipping port with the industrial revolution also changed the economic environment. 
Little was heard of the islands until World War I, when the United States realized their strategic position and negotiated the purchase of the islands from Denmark for $25 million in gold. Now the islands are thriving destinations for tourism and I’m glad I got to see at least one of them on this trip. I’ll definitely have to take a trip back to experience the other beautiful islands. 
What to do on stop over?
With the close proximity of other islands, it’s really possible to do just about anything: Snorkel with rays, explore historic towns, taste test the best restaurants around, visit the most scenic beaches, or get a birds eye view of it all from the top of St. Thomas!
We found a fair priced tour to Magen’s beach and skyride so for ease of planning on this trip, we went ahead and booked that. 
We were picked up right outside our cruise ship by a local who drove us (and a fair few other people) around for the day in an open jeep – like tram. We stopped at 2 scenic pull outs as we crossed over the top of St. Thomas to drive down the other side to Magens bay.
The first view point had awesome views of the cruse port and St. Thomas bay. 
 Multiple islands in the distance we visible from this spot 
Our 2nd stop would look down on Magen’s Bay itself: 

Magens Bay sits on the North Atlantic side  of St. Thomas and is one of the world’s most beautiful beaches with pristine white sand stretching ¾ of a mile. The beach doesn’t get much wave action making it wonderful for floating and lounging in the warm water. (but not so much for snorkeling with the sand) You can see many varieties of fish and occasionally sea turtles, and in our case, enjoy the many types of water fowl that would make dive after dive fishing just off shore. The entrance to the beach (if not on a tour where it is included) costs $5 with free  picnic tables, toilets and public showers. There’s additional covered table spaces available for rent as well as snorkeling and beach gear and snacks for purchase.  
When we first got to the beach it was a bit overcast so we took a long walk to one end of the beach and back admiring shells and watching the birds dive.

Once the sun came out, the water was perfect and we spent at least an hour playing in the warm subtle waves. Overall I couldn’t have asked for a better beach day/ stop along our week long cruise. 
After a couple hours we cleaned up and re-boarded our jeep-bus to head back to the port and ride the sky ride to the summit of the island- Paradise Point. It was a short wait with a fun ride, and stunning views from the top looking right down on the cruise ships in the bay. At the top is a restaurant and some tourist shops that you can enjoy before heading back down to the port. We looked around for some souvenirs while walking the short distance back to our ship. All in all a beautiful day on a beautiful island. Next time I’ll definitely have to try the snorkeling or more adventurous sports
We scored a skyride cabin to ourselves 
View of the 3 cruise ships halfway up 
The sky ride heading back down after dropping us off
View from the tip top.  Beautiful bay! 
Other activities to try on St. Thomas or around the 
US Virgin Islands : 
Swimming/ Snorkeling at Trunks Bay St. John
Cruzan Rum Distillery Tour
Exploring main street St. Thomas
Buck Island National Monument (St. Croix) for diving/ snorkeling
Estate Whim Plantation Museum (St. Croix)
Cinnamon Bay swimming/ beach – St. John 
Take an Island Catamaran tour 
Hike the Reef Bay Trail do a secluded beach – St John 
Dive/snorkel the RMS Rhone
View of the port from our private deck on the ship
Virgin Island Culinary Specialties to try:
Pumpkin Fritters (tried on the ship and delicious) 
Kallaloo (meat dish) 
Red Grout (guava tapioca) 

See you another time US Virgin Islands! 

Walking Tour of old San Juan

Historic San Juan in a day Walking Tour
Whether you have an extended stay in Puerto Rico, or less than a day from a cruise stop over, here’s my walkable itinerary for seeing the best of San Juan.Puerto Rico in one day! Experience history, art, shopping, and admire tons of cool city architecture. 

The San Juan Port in the historic area. Grab some bottles of water from the shops around the port as you’ll head up the hill on Calle Marina street to Castillo San Cristobal, the largest fort built by the Spanish in the New world. 
Distance ~0.5 miles 
Along the way you’ll pass some squares with little shop tents if you’re a fan of the blown glass, one of the tents that is along the way makes little blown glass animals right there for figurines or jewelry. You’ll also see lots of brightly colored buildings and as you finish the uphill trek, you get an awesome view of the port looking down on the big ships docked there.
Peak down all the colorful alleyways as you trek up the short hill

Vising Castillo San Cristobal
Hours: 9:00-6:00 PM everyday 
Cost: (16+): $7.00 
*If you have a National Parks Pass, you can get 4 adults entry for free. 
This fort as mentioned is the largest Spanish fort in the Americas, spanning 27 acres. It took 150 years to build with construction beginning in 1634. It covers the Eastern gate of San Juan Island and its walls extend in either direction of the coast. There are 3 levels to explore: cannon embrasures, sentry boxes, tunnels to explore, and exhibits to learn about the former military quarters. All in all, it’s a great stop and won’t take longer than an hour for self-guided tours. 
**You can also get married here.. *swoon*
After San Cristobal, follow the sea coast along Calle Norzagaray where you can explore old parts of the wall that made up San Cristobal’s defenses with multiple garitas (guard towers) and historical markers. Learn about the La Perla area of San Juan where another fort used to be as you make your way to Castillo San Felipe del Morro. Here walk across the great lawn taking in all the kite flyers and the size of this incredible fort perched on the bay. 
Distance ~ 1 mile

Vising Castillo San Felipe del Morro
Hours: 9:00-6:00 PM everyday 
Cost: (16+): $7.00 
*If you have a National Parks Pass, you can get 4 adults entry for free.
If you have to choose between visiting the 2 forts, this would be the one to go with. While overall containing less “acres” than San Cristobal, this fort has 6 levels and unparallel’d views of the bay and San Juan Isle. While San Cristobal was built to defend against land invasions primarily, this fort was built to defend the bay. And defend it did as there is only one instance where the fort was penetrated by enemy invaders making it the most successful of all the Spanish forts built at that time. Construction began in the 1500s when the battery and tower were built to protect the harbor. In 1632, the governor of San Juan began construction on San Cristobal and the city walls. It was also the center of Spanish life at the time so the structures contained within the fort have a lot more complexity making the tour a bit more interesting.
After a visit to the fort, walk down the stairs on the right/ East side to the start of multiple trails. If you follow the same trail to the right/ East it will take you to the cemetery you pass as you approached the fort from the street. Heading left/ West the path wraps around the bottom of the fort and connects to the Paseo del Moro trail. 
Views looking East along the Paseo del Moro trail 

Paseo del Moro

This trail was my favorite part of San Juan. (shocker right.. I do love trails) It follows the old wall almost around the entire western side of Old San Juan with nothing else along the way besides the ocean and cats. The old wall has been wonderfully maintained dating all the way back to 1630! Between the wall and the ocean, it’s like walking into Pirates of the Caribbean scene.  Along the trail you can also watch the big ships leave from port back to the open ocean easily catch wildlife (other than cats) out in the water.  The area directly under the fort has multiple tide pools that can be peaked into, but be careful not to slip on the wet rocks or get soaked by a sneaky wave. 
Watching a large ship sail out of San Juan Bay
The area which is maintained by the NPS like the forts, is also serving as a cat sanctuary with little cat boxes, food, and water to help the strays out. There were so many adorable cats, most of which won’t let you get too close but will play with a bit of string if you have some. (My dad led a cat by the string quite a ways down the path as it follow and continually pounced on it)
After following the trail a ways (approx. 0.75 miles)  you’ll have two options to make you way back into town and then back to the port. The first option is to turn in at the Puerta De San Juan The Iconic red gate that served as the doorway for dignitaries and bishops to enter into San Juan back when there were only 5 gates into the city.  
Or another 5 minutes down the path, the trail ends at a beautiful fountain on the Paseo de la Princesa which is lined with shops, galleries, and also includes for those of you who skipped out on bathrooms at the forts, a public toilet.
Watching a cruise ship sail past the old San Juan walls out into open ocean 
Both gates are great options and worth seeing if you have to backtrack as the path between the two has beautiful trees overhanging the path and the fountain is really cool. The old gate takes you down Caleta de San Juan straight to the San Juan Bautista Cathedral. From either location, make sure to head over to Fortaleza street to see the fun umbrella covered walkway and explore more little shops and restaurants. And from there with whatever time you have remaining, head back to your hotel or cruise ship. 
Distance ~ 0.75 miles depending on the road you take

Walking Distance for entire loop ~ 3 miles/ 5 km

Colorful buildings of San Juan visible over the old wall
The Paseo del Moro is also a wonderful walk to do at sunset 

Other Points of Interest around San Juan to check out in a day:
Museum of Arts of Puerto Rico
Condado Beach 
El Yungue National Forest and waterfalls 
Tour of the Bacardi Distillery 

A love post about Block Island

As my previous pointed out we had a 7 PM ferry to block Island to catch so in that 1 day we went from NYC subways, taxi cabs, and trains, to ferrying on over to Block Island from Rhode Island. It was a chilly ride with light sprinkling and some serious heaving and surging forward and back. Like if you stood on the bow, you may have been doused a time of 2. Luckily it’s just an hour ride over.

Cutest little New England sight to welcome us in. 
The STUNNING house I got to stay in compliments of incredible friends with family connections. 
The house has 4 “rooms” and another open loft room. The 2 rooms downstairs were occupied by the couples on the trip while my lonesome self had the upstairs loft and rooms to myself. The room I used only had 1 single bed but… by the time I wanted to take a picture I had made quite a mess of the bed so decided to take a pic of this room instead. haha basically the same though. 
 Outside the 2 small rooms there is the open loft. 
With window looking right out to the ocean! What a view to wake up to each morning! 
So Day 1 on Block Island was explore by car day and 1st stop was at the Mohegan Bluffs which were named after the native tribe the Niantic indians chased the Mohegans over the bluffs in a battle for territory. The bluffs stand at about 150 feet high and are eroding constantly with at least 250 feet of known erosion. There are about 100 steps that get you close to the bottom, and from there a short trail to the beach. (The trail was fairly muddy so we descended as far as we wanted before heading back up.) 
The bluffs offer a great view of the Block Island Wind Farm which is the United State’s first commercial offshore wind farm and just began operations at the end of last year! (A fun fact that Katie loves to tell me is in the construction of the wind turbines, they actually had to stop for a day as there were loads of hammer head sharks swimming around the bases) 
At the base of the stairs looking out at the beach 

The memorial stone for the Mohegan Bluffs which is actually found at the lighthouse parking and not the bluffs parking. 
The SE lighthouse, located on the Mohegan bluffs of Block Island. This lighthouse was built in 1784 and is renowned as being the most architecturally sophisticated lighthouses from the 19th century. So way to go Block Island. It really is a gorgeous lighthouse! 
Fun fact? Remember how I mentioned the Mohegan Bluffs eroding 250 feet? Well they actually had to MOVE this 2,000 ton structure back 300 feet in 1990 or it may have been lost. As it is still a functioning lighthouse, they couldn’t move it back further than that so we’ll see if it will have to be moved yet again!
Next up on the Block Island tour: North Light Fibers Mill to essentially see the animals. There’s a lovely range of animals to check out but my favorite (in fact most everyone’s favorite) is the Zedonk. Also plenty of Llamas roaming about. If you’re in need of some wool socks, highly recommend checking out the store cause they had so fantastic ones made exclusively with Merino wool for $25. Still regretting not getting a pair.  
Up next: lunch and a stroll on the Town beach. Both the sand and water were so inviting but man it was too cold for that! Still lovely and you can see one of the ferries. 
And as the sun set on our first day we headed down to Ballard’s for some BANANA mudslide action. Even though it was freezing and basically drinking a shake may NOT have been the best way to warm up, I couldn’t leave Block Island without trying one. 
And heading back from there we were treated to the most AMAZING sunset right from the front porch. From the house you get a great view of North Light! (photos coming up) 
None of my photos are edited so you can believe that sky really was that incredible! 
And the light reflected back on the house made for a great show of its own! 
Next activity? In all seriousness I was assured you can’t go to Block Island and NOT do a puzzle. So rather ambitiously, we started a 1,000 piece puzzle that night that wouldn’t even fit on our table completely. (the corners hung off. haha) 
Day 2 started with a lovely walk straight from the house to the North lighthouse. 
The North light is situated right on Block Island Point. The current structure is actually the 4th lighthouse to have been built in that spot and was completed in 1867, only 38 years after the first structure was onsite. It’s quite a bit smaller that the SE light but just as charming and much more beach accessible. 🙂 
So from there we went to the point which due to very interesting tide currents, creates a V-point. 

Looking back at the lighthouse from the point
So we did the car tour, so now onto the most natural way to get around the island: the bike tour! We started at the house and rode into town, making a stop (conveniently going up a hill for a break) at the labyrinth. 
It’s called the “Sacred Labyrinth” and is a narrow circular walkway lined with stones where you can “unplug from the distractions of the modern world and enjoy the peace and quiet of a walking meditation” by following the path. It was interesting, although I didn’t even make a full circuit before breaking the path. I guess walking meditation just isn’t for me. haha 
Biking along the road our first stop just as we were getting into town as at the Poor People’s Pub. It was a nice stop along our bike route although their Root Beer Floats I must say were quite overpriced. 
Then onto the iconic “OAR” restaurant for drinks with a view. They had such a fun outdoor environment with lawn chairs and lots of dogs! We finished our bike tour back at the Ferry terminal to drop 2 of them off making our One way excursion somewhere in the 5-5.5 mile range. 

Then we headed back for dinner and to laboriously finish the puzzle. (which we did… hours later haha) 

The last day we were up bright and early to close up the house and catch the 11 ferry (with everyone else) off the island. UNFORTUNATELY, it was only 1 enclosed single deck and pouring rain so everyone wanted to be INSIDE. Meaning our sorry butts getting there 10 minutes before leaving were left with the floor seats. haha The wet crowded floor that is also not helped by the ocean and the serious swaying that was going on. Needless to say I was glad I had some food in my stomach.. but not too much. It was a rough start to Memorial Day. haha

Block Island Costs:
The ferry from Pt. Judith, RI to Block Island: $12.50 each way
Various beverages from Ballard’s, Poor People’s Pub, and The Oar: around $10 average
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner we were blessed to have a kitchen so we cooked/ prepared stuff for those meals and thankfully brought most of the groceries with us on the ferry. (The food is crazy expensive at the stores ya’ll. Plan ahead!
And also thanks to my wonderful, amazing friends the lodging, car, and bikes were all covered. thanks again guys!

So not a bad memorial day weekend at around $55 plus grocery costs. Definitely recommend checking this little island off the New England coast a try! (But maybe wait till steadier weather cause those beaches really do look amazing!)

The colorful beaches of Santorini

 Greece Day 6: Bus day. Started off with more yogurt and some bread from previous day’s market shopping then hopped on a bus. Due to some not very clear directions on the part of our hostel, we hopped on the wrong bus as we’d meant to go straight to Red beach and the Akrotiri light house but instead ended up in Kamari.
No matter, wanted to see black beaches as well so easy place to start. In the first 2 photos that huge high point is where the ancient ruins of Thira are found.

 We could see the switchbacks up there but weren’t feeling ruins today so we spent an hour or so on the black PEBBLES of Kamari beach enjoying the sunshine. Then we found out there are no direct transfers from Kamari to Akrotiri and we’d have to go back to Thira so we booked a taxi/ transfer to the town of Pyrgos in the center of the island for 15 euros.

 Kamari Beach
 Pyrgos blue domes 

Pyrgos was a fabulous little town with lots of blue domes and tons of cute little allies to explore. (more so then Oia and Thira) so we spent some time walking around and enjoying the churches.

 Now from here we were told there’s a bus from Pyrgos to Akrotiri (red beach) but whenever I tried to clarify which bus stop we were supposed to wait at we got pointed in different directions. Finally a bus driver told us to get on and that they’d take us to the proper stop. WHICH TURNED OUT TO BE IN THE MIDDLE OF NO WHERE. so anyways we found ourselves at a cross roads near Santo Wines where there WAS a bus stop but absolutely no schedule to consult. We had an idea of what direction we needed to go but that was about it.
LUCKILY an older couple from Chile stopped to ask for directions to RED BEACH!!! (not sure why they thought the 3 girls on the side of the road would have any idea) But since we did have an idea we pointed them in the direction of Akrotiri and like a lightbulb, we all simultaneously realized that this couple had an empty backseat. SO HITCHHIKE we did. They were so nice and I turned on my gps so we guided them right to red beach. SUCCESS. We’d made it

There is a short walk down a path to get to the beach which is then a combination of small pebbles and actual red and black sand. Very unique and with the crystal clear water, very beautiful! We went for a quick swim and then laid out for an hour or so to dry off. 
Black and Red pebbles 
Tippe and I playing in the water with the catamaran tours behind us 

 After playing at the beach we hit another snag. As it was now after 4 the bus only comes every 1.5 hours to Akrotiri….. so we sat around for an hour waiting for our ride back to Thira.
But then it was TREAT YO SELF time. Since it was my last night in town, we splurged on a fancy roof top restaurant. These views were all taken seriously from our table!

 Again the evolution of a sunset. Love the lone sail oat out sailing by Thirassia

I was wanting seafood and feeling adventurous so I ordered grilled Calamari (squid) It was huge and delicious! (minus the tentacles… those were tough and besides a few bites, left pretty much untouched)

 The sunset was shaping up to be quite beautiful. 

 So many colors! Thanks Santorini for showing off on my last night! 
 Cruise ships sailing away after the sunset in Thira 

After dinner we snagged some more gelato from the 50 shades of grey shop (seriously still dreaming of that gelato) and walked around Thira to enjoy the lights for a while more. We caught them also bringing the donkeys up for the night which was fun to see.

But my night was far from over. At 10:30 I got a transfer from the hotel to the airport for my flight with Ryanair back to Athens. Which unfortunately left super late at almost 1 AM which didn’t put me into Athens until almost 2. Then I had an airbnb booked for the night who picked me up and took me to a bed for the night. (I’d considered just staying in the airport but I’d read they aren’t very friendly to people snoozing in the airport and I wanted to lay down before 20 more hours of traveling) And my airbnb was great as my host was the cutest little Greek lady who had snacks and herbal tea waiting for me.
The next day she also had breakfast for me! And took me back to the airport for my returning flight at noon. It was a fabulous trip!

Cost for day 6:
Bus from Thira to Kamari: 1.80 euros
Private transfer from Kamari to Pyrgos: 15 total (so 5 pp)
Bus from Pyrgos to the cross roads: they didn’t charge us so that was nice
Hitchhiking from middle of nowhere to Red beach: priceless- also didn’t charge us
Bus from Akrotiri ruins (red beach) back to Thira: 2 euros
Breakfast/lunch: still made due with left over sandwich stuff and yogurt from previous days market shopping. ( we had a mini fridge in our hotel room to store stuff)
1.5 liters of water: 1 euro
Fancy smancy dinner: 16 euros
gelato: got 3 scoops this time so 5 euros
transfer from hotel to airport: 15 euros (the other girls stayed another night in Santorini so I was on my own at this point)
Ryanair flight back to Athens with early check in: $23
Airbnb for the night: $60
Cost for host to pick me up from Athens airport and take me back the next day: 20 euros
Total cost for last day/next morning: 150

Total cost for ENTIRE Trip including all night stays, food, and flights (so basically everything except souvenirs): $943

A boating tour around Santorini

Greece Day 5: Boating day
We booked a super ridiculously long 10 hour tour with King Thira boat tours through our hostel for $45 to take us to the Volcano, Hot springs, Thirassia, and Oia. They weren’t picking us up until 10 so we got up early to head to the market for some food for the day. I ended up with sandwich making materials, chips, water, 1 soda, and yogurt for breakfast for around 11 euros.

 The bus took us to the main port on the island (not the one directly under Thira as it is not bus accessible) where we boarded our very piratey-esque boat. Then we turned on the motors to get going set sail for a day of adventure.

 Thira from below 
 A zoomed in version of the lovely switchbacks we did just the day before to visit the port 
 The Volcano bay where we parked to take a short hike

It was a short ride of like 40 minutes to the Volcano bay. Entrance to the volcano site cost around 2 euros so if you go make sure you bring a bit of cash for that entrance fee. We had 2 hours of leisure to eat our yogurt we brought with us and hike around the volcano.

 All the boats parked. (ours is the 3 mast one on the right) You can see Thira in the background. 
 Volcanic rock with the Greek Flag and Thira in the background. 
 The trail cutting through all the volcanic rock. 
 The throng of people you start off with. The tour guide was walking with us and stopping at points of interest to talk about generic volcano information so never fear. You can easily do your own thing and pass the mob of unprepared flipflops and wedge wearers. 
 Nearing the top of the crater where there is a loop trail. 
 I love Cairn gardens
 Awesome views when you’re smack in the middle of the Caldera. 

 Volcanic rock with a view of Oia in the distance
 Thira in the distance. 
 The central crater

 Back on the boat it was another short 30 minute ride to the hot spring area. (above) The boat gets you as close as it can and then you’re in for a swim. It’s SO COLD at first but as you swim up that channel a ways it goes from ocean to heated pool to bath tub to hot tub! All the while you can feel different currents of hot and cold water. It is QUITE the swim as it is 100% deep the whole time so you’ve gotta be really good at treading water or an expert floater (like I am) haha

 I almost talked myself out of it since it was a little chilly but SO GLAD I did it. Even if you just make it to the mouth of the channel it will be warm enough and unlike any other experience. After the 30 min swim it was less than 10 minutes to Thirassia where we had 3 HOURS to dry off. Left: The port of Thirassia. We spent the first hour or so just sun bathing on the boat to dry off.

 3 hours though was WAY too long. 2 hours maybe. Still would’ve felt long but would’ve been better. For the last hour everyone had returned from eating lunch and was chilling on the boat. Then it started raining, all the shops in the port closed like 30 min before we even left… and it was a waste of time. My 1 big criticism is the pointless 3 hour stop at Thirassia.

 A long look at Oia, our final destination. 
 A rock with it’s own church

We had thought that we’d be watching the sunset from the boat but alas… it was a drop off in Oia to watch the sunset (what sunset?) which we’d done the day before. We were a tad bummed but as the sky was completely overcast and it was still drizzly, we were probably better off in town anyways.

BUT we did have to climb up from the port. SO MANY STAIRS (but not as bad as Thira) We had about 2 hours in Oia to kill until the bus would take us back to the hotel so we found a gelato shop that was out of the cold wind and had wifi and set up camp. Not the most thrilling evening but we did go to see if we missed anything at sunset and we definitely didn’t.

So all in all many pros and cons to the boat excursion we did. It was the cheapest boat excursion (as the catamaran tours started at 95 euros for 5 hour trips and didn’t take you to hike the volcano) and there were many cool experiences to be had. BUT the 10 hours thing just allowed for way too long of stops and felt like quite a waste of time. These were the options presented to us by our hostel. If you do enough digging before hand there are likely shorter options for cheaper. Next time I think I will dig a bit more.

Breakfast/lunch/dinner: 11.5 euros for a loaf of bread with deli stuff to make sandwiches, chips, apple, soda, and water for the day
Gelato: 2.50 for 2ish scoops (wasn’t nearly as good as the previous day gelato in Thira though)
Boat tour with King Thira tours: 45 euros pp
Entrance to Volcano: 2 euros pp
Hotel again divided by 3 people: 19
Total for day: 80 euros

The hike from Thira to Oia, Santorini

Greece Day 4: Santorini. As our flight didn’t get us in until well after midnight and we still had to get settled, we slept well into the next day only leaving our hotel, Villa Manos to walk into the main town Thira around 1. The walk was about 20 minutes (with 10 minutes on a narrow road with no sidewalk and almost no shoulder) but we did stop by a market and pick up cheap waters (1.5 liters for 35 cents!!! WHAT!?)

Thira is the capitol city of Santorini or the main town so we sought out the post office for post card stamps and explored the shops to pick up some souvenirs and wait out the hottest part of the day. (it was hot!) I loved all the church architecture and the walkways which had beautiful stone work done. Between the 3 of us we got caught up in quite a few shops with the longest being in a painting shop where we each got paintings haha. (but they were legit hand done for only 30 euros for like HUGE paintings!)

Thira itself is a fun place to explore with so many shops and hotels and restaurants around every corner. However make your way out to the coast and the views are very rewarding!

First on our checklist was to walk down to Thira’s port… which is quite the hike my friends for what goes down.. must come back up. I was hoping for a spot to jump in and swim but in Thira port, there is no such place. 🙁 We passed A LOT of donkeys on our way down as well but I had previously promised myself I wouldn’t ride one (though they looked to be pretty well taken care of despite things I had read earlier)

Looking back up at Thira on the way down to the port… about halfway down

The port! There are a few option to get back up from here. 1st is the cable car: cost is around 5 euros. 2nd are the donkeys: Cost around 7 euros
Third: the option we crazies decided to go with was to walk. The walk is paved switchbacks with wide stairs (approx. 600 of them!!!) and took us about 20 minutes to get back up (with rest stops) MAKE SURE you have water with you for you WILL need it. We all finished our massive 1.5 liters of water on the way back up.

Looking out from Thira at the volcano island (left) and the 2nd inhabited island of Santorini: Thirassia (right)

After our grueling climb back up from the port we immediately got more huge waters and started out on the coast hike to the town of Oia. (pronounced EEAh guys) It is approximately 11 km between the towns but as both towns are extremely long, you can count on adding at least another 6 km between walking through the towns)

Not too many blue domes in Thira but still some pretty architecture. From this view you can see the highest point of Santorini where the ancient ruins of Thira are. 

There are signs within the town to keep you on the correct path but I will say there are not THAT MANY. There WILL be moments of doubt, but when in doubt, stick to the coast and wider pathways.

YAY Blue domes! 

There are many beautiful stairs within the town. (like this) on your path to Oia, you won’t go up any of these as they mostly lead to hotels and restaurants.

A church in Thira
Making our way through the town. It took a long time to clear Thira. 
But finally, we were on a dirt trail out of the town looking back at the long coast. 

Starting to see Oia up ahead! Still a long way to go. 

One of the signs on the trail to keep you on the right path. Once you are out of the town, it is very easy to stay on the trail.

A Carin garden on the trail to Oia

There is a brief section of the trail that spits you out onto the main road. It is less than a Km on the road, but be careful as the shoulder is not very wide. Before long you will see the trail (with a sign) pick up again.

Looking back toward Thira. Part of what makes this trail so long is that the island is not a straight shot. You have to follow the curves and yes you have to go up all the hills. The trail goes up at LEAST 2-3 big hills instead of going around them. Make sure you have good footwear as there is loose volcanic rock in a lot of sections. 

Finally seeing the beginning of civilization up head with a church. The first thing we’d seen in miles.

There was also a cute dog at said church. 
Coming into Oia at long last! But still a ways to walk before we were ready for the sunset! 
Another beautiful church before we got into town. (sans blue dome though) 
Must. Stay on. The path. Blue domes in the distance!!! 

Ah a sign which actually tells you the distance! All the previous signs just gave you an idea (legit idea) of how long in time you will be walking. Say 3 hours. haha 

1st things first after all that hiking.. we were starving so we fell upon the first market we came across like ravenous wolves. I ended up with a very complete meal of a loaf of bread, apple, and bottle of coke. haha

From Oia looking back at Thira. 
The main square of Oia. To the right is the pathway to the buses. (as we learned later as we FOR SURE were taking the bus back haha) 

We got in with just enough time to stake out a good sunset watching spot. We explored the end and snapped a photo of the famous windmill. But then continues on to a better spot.

Basically follow the crowds but before you get to the rock where EVERYONE goes, take a right to a little side street where you get almost as many views for your shot, but a lot less people to contend with.

Now time to wait out the sun. (about an 1.5 hours since it set around 8:20) 

You can see a bit of the windmill peeping out by the dome (which to our sadness was not blue )

There area we were at also began to fill up with people but we had staked out our spots well where NO ONE could stand in front of us.

Lots of boats arrived to watch the sunset from the water.

The evolution of a sunset

As soon as that sun set out of site we hit the ground running to make it back to the buses. We got there in time to catch the first bus out (Barely) and the line looked pretty long as most people don’t shell out the money to stay in Oia… we must ALL get on the bus back to Thira.

Right: Thira lit up at night.

Now we knew we’d earned some gelato so we explored a bit of Thira until we came upon the MOST delicious gelato ever. They had a lot of different flavors but the 2 I settled upon was the 50 shades of grey flavor ( which they said was black vanilla, tasted like a cross over between white chocolate and vanilla) and Vinsanto which is their dessert wine on the island and had sun dried grapes (not rains) mixed in. Both flavors were sooo good, I will be forever dreaming of that gelato.
So we took our delicious dessert out to view the beautiful lights of Thira. We picked up our painting we had purchased previously and not wanted to hike with along with a few other souvenirs before making the scary walk back to Villa Manos. (it was after 11 that we started back and while the bus schedule claimed to go until midnight we couldn’t find any buses going our direction)

Day 4 costs: Breakfast at Villa Manos- a very small waffle for 5 euros
Our 2 giant waters total: 1.70 
Painting: 30 euros
Other various souvenirs: classified
Dinner of bread, apple, and coke from the market: 3 euros
Gelato: 2 scoops for 4 euros
Bus from Oia back to Thira: 1.80
Night at Villa Manos: 56 euros (again split between 3 people) so 19 pp
Total cost for day: 34.5 if you don’t count painting or 64.5 if you do
Total distance walked/ hiked: 17 miles