Visiting the Island of Santorini, Greece With a Dog
We arrived on Santorini island (also known as Thira) from Athens after a long ferry ride at the principal port of Athinias. After pushing our way through the crowds, and after some negotiation with different bus drivers, we finally made our way to Oia (The “o” is silent thus pronounced Ia).
We drove through the capital of Fira – a much busier place than where we were headed. You see Dear Reader, Santorini is known for the towns that cling to the top of cliffs…but all the photos you can find when you do an internet search on Santorini are in fact of one particular tiny town on the island. The town of sunsets. Oia.
As we approached Oia, the biped’s excitement was palpable. Mine too; after all it was our first “real” stop on our grand adventure.
We settled into our hotel and quickly the tiny streets of Oia beckoned.
The first thing we found out was that the town is 100% pedestrian. The streets are so narrow that the only way to get around is on foot. The bipeds and I wondered quietly and within very little time, with nowhere for me to really “go”, I was allowed off leash. What a joy!
Quaint little shops, restaurants and boutiques waited. The views took our breath away. We found a lovely little restaurant, where we ordered a delicious meal and breathed a sigh of relief. Getting there had been such an ordeal but we had arrived and it was worth it.
Over the next few days, we meandered through the tiny streets finding dozens of stairways and pathways. We discovered the two trails that take you to the ports way below. You can either walk the many hundreds of steps as we did, or take the donkeys. The choice is yours! I loved the stairs so much, I would run ahead as fast as I could and then sit in a shady spot waiting for the bipeds to catch up. They took longer, catching their breath at the many platforms with benches or stopping to take in the views and to take photographs.
Our days slipped by in the hot summer sun. Like the cool breeze from the sea, we randomly went where our feet would take us stumbleling upon an Ouzo distillery, and gotting lost in the ancient back streets. We discovered an old abandoned Church with relics still inside. We went all the way down the steps to where the fisherman hung their daily catch of octopus in the sun to dry. We stopped for lemonade and had lunch followed by a cooling dip in the pool at our hotel. We walked into art galleries, found spots to sit and just take it all in. Dinner was an adventure in finding a spot where we could watch the sun setting while we ate. We often got lucky, but the evenings were a lot cooler than expected and Mom in particular suffered from the cold north wind that would suddenly surprise and chill everyone. So, bring a light jacket my friends.
And all of this … dog friendly. So much so that I spent 3 days off leash.
From time to time a biped would pick me up. You see Dear Reader; sunsets are so famous in Oia that busloads of tourists arrive just for that one daily event from other towns on Santorini. The crowd was always a happy one; playful with lots of lovers, honeymooners and photographers. But that meant a lot of feet. So I was often found tucked safely in the crook of an arm around 9:15 p.m.
As for the wild dog and cat problem everyone had warned us about? In Oia, the locals have decided to deal with it as a community. Many of the animals had flea collars on them. There were water dishes here and there and food stations as well. Many were tagged to indicate they had been spayed or neutered and there were little donation boxes where you could leave a little something towards their care. If all the towns in the Greek Islands did this; the problem I believe, would soon be resolved.
If you want beaches… those too are dog friendly!
The red sand beach is accessible by boat or on foot (a good treck) and crowded. It’s simply not our thing. We chose to go to the Vlihada beach instead with its dark sand and quiet atmosphere. A mix of pumice stone and volcanic ash, this beach glitters in the sun like expensive midnight black gems. There is a small fee for chairs and sunshade/umbrella (3 Euro per person) but it is well worth it. There are bathrooms and a small restaurant at the marina just a few steps away and the best way to get to the beach is to rent a car, a four wheeler or scooter (look around they are all in competition with one another and ready to make a deal). We discovered this wonderful little beach because it is where our sailing adventure started and ended. I really believe it is where the locals go rather than the hordes of tourists. For us, that made it perfect.
Ah Dear Reader… I really could go on and on and on. Santorini and Oia in particular, have it all. The blue church domes, the white washed buildings glittering like freshly fallen snow on the ridge of sharp cliffs, the ruins of an old Venetian Castle, windmills, lovely people, delicious food and unparalleled dog friendliness. The art galleries, little churches and Greek Taverna’s all pull you in and make you feel like you’ve stepped into a magical painting.
And it IS a most romantic place; every night was crowned by a sunset. If you ever have a chance to go … do, you will not regret it.
Pictures speak louder than words so I leave you with those. Plenty ( I know 172 is way way too many but… ARGH SO PRETTY!!)… of those.