Friday, August 30, 2013

Syros Island

At the beginning of the month, A and I had to travel to Syros to get him an extension on his 3 month tourist visa.  Syros is the capital of the Cyclades (our island group) and serves as sort of the "city hall" for the islands.  Its also where my father was born, because his dad was assigned here as a police officer for a few years.  We were meant to only stay one night, but after arriving we were so impressed with the town that we may have purposely missed our return ferry the next day.  Syros was beautiful with marble streets, so many different architectural styles, a huge harbor, and very friendly locals.

We spent 2 nights in the town of Ermoupolis (the port city and capital).  Everyone says that the islanders don't want a lot of tourism on their island, and we were so glad by this because it meant that everything was very cheap.  We stayed at a small hotel right on the water in the middle of the city and only paid 35 euros a night (this is probably what it costs to CAMP in Santorini in August!).

The town square was lovely and even offered free wifi {A was pleased}.  It was bordered by cafes and ice cream shops and reminded me of the large piazzas in Italy.  It was filled with people at all hours of the day; even at midnight you see small children running around.

We loved the people we met on the island.  Everyone was friendly and whenever we opened our map we were asked if we were lost and needed help finding anything.  We also noticed that there are many international people living on the island and even chatted in Spanish with a group of locals from Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador - would've never imagined that happening on such a small, Greek island!

And the food.  Oh, the food!  Every night the streets were filled with tables and chairs and nearly everyone ate outdoors.  We took advantage of all the fish and seafood on the menus and definitely ate to our hearts content.

Fun fact - as with all Greek islands, there are many, many churches.  In Greece you'll see icons of Saints in supermarkets, government offices, police stations, etc., but whats different about this island is that it is home to the biggest Catholic population in all of Greece.  There are about 9,000 Roman Catholics, which is nearly half the island's total population!

On our second day we took a taxi (only 4 euros) up to the town of Ano Syros, which overlooks the port city and has a medieval style to it with narrow, windy streets.  We walked around, peeked into the tiny artisan shops, and made it all the way back down to the water on foot.

We loved Syros because it had the hustle and bustle of a small city (there was even traffic, which we haven't experienced since May) yet it was a traditional, laid back island (with 4 hour siestas) all at the same time.  I truly hope to visit again, as long as we don't spend 9 hours on a boat to get there again! :)

Note: All pictures taken from my iPhone.  
I really need to learn how to use my professional camera!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wanderlust Wednesdays: Natural Wonders {Red Beach}

Most people who haven't been to Santorini don't know that the biggest volcanic eruption in history happened right here.  The eruption, over 3,600 years ago, wiped out the entire Minoan civilization that existed here and it is what shaped the island's unique landscape that the island is known for today.  If this bit of history hadn't occurred, I'm sure that Santorini would not be one of the most visited islands in Europe, as it is today.

Because of this eruption and the way it re-shaped the island, we were given the beautiful caldera view and the volcanic soil that produces the most delicious and sweetest cherry tomatoes you will find.  The eruption also created Red Beach, my favorite beach on the island!  The hot lava has stained the entire area with deep orange and red colors and the water is shallow, warm, and crystal clear - perfect for snorkeling!

It took us awhile to get here this summer {we don't have weekends!}, but thanks to Santorini's terribly long power outage last week, we had a day off and had the chance to visit for a quick swim.

True Colours

Today I'm linking up with Casey of True Colours!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Greek Island Travel by Ferry

Cruising past Santorini's volcano
Did you know that there are thousands of islands in Greece?  Of these, only around 200 are inhabited and about 20 have their own airport, which means travelers must arrive via ferry, just like in Mama Mia!  For the most famous islands like Mykonos, Santorini, and Crete, you usually have the option of a high or slow speed boat to get you there from the mainland.  The high speed boat is usually at least double the price, but saves you hours of time!


A couple of weeks ago we traveled to the small island of Syros and only had the option of the slooooow ferry.  A flight would have been 15 minutes, but it took us 9 hours to arrive because we stopped at so many islands along the way {I felt like I could've swam there faster!}.  While people, motorcycles, cars, and trucks were getting on and off our boat, I was on the top deck enjoying the view and deciding which islands I hoped to visit one day.  :)  

Here are a few pictures I snapped of some of the ports we saw traveling to and from Syros:


Pulling up in Folegandros we could tell right away that it was very small and remote; only 700 people live on the island - it seems like the perfect place to just get away.  It is very close to Santorini and we've heard that it has great beaches.


The close neighbor of Folegandros, the water was beautifully different here than the deep Santorini blue we've been used to seeing these last couple of months.  Looks just like the Caribbean, no? 


Ios has a party island reputation, it could be the Greek Ibiza.  We couldn't see much of the town from the port, but we did spot this party boat blasting pop hits next to us.


Paros, first famous for its marble, seemed the most interesting to me.  It is larger than Santorini and I loved the palm tree lined streets that I could see from the ferry.  This island seems to offer something for everyone.  There are many ferries connecting Paros with Santorini, so it would be easy to visit both.


This island is HUGE!  It is the largest island of the Cyclades and is the most self-sufficient do to its fertile soil.  There is a lot of history here - we were even able to see ruins from the port.   


We were very surprised to pull into such a big city.  Not only that, but the architecture had color!  The port photos didn't come out so well (dusk + iPhone = badly lit pics), but believe me when I say that the port city {and capital} of the island was beautiful!


On our return from Syros it took us 11 hours to arrive.  This was our view at the bottom of the caldera as the bridge was pulling down to let us off that night..  Finally!

Have you visited any Greek islands?
Which one, if any, is on your wish list?