A Travellerspoint blog

Santorini, Greece

sunny 30 °C

The plan was to stay here for a week, but it was so good so we stayed for 3. The boat from kos got in late but the owner of the hostel we stayed at for the first 4 days (kostas studios) picked us up from the port, which is a terrifyingly sheer drop from the cliffs that make Santorini. Our hotels were both in Perissa beach, whish is 20 minutes from Fira the main town, but in my opinion, 100 times better. There are restaurants and bars the whole way down the beach that serve food and drinks on the sun lounges provided. Quad bikes can be rented to drive on the road for 15 euro or 30 for the more powerful ones- well worth getting one with a bit of grunt unless you want to be driving with a top speed of 27 kilometers. The beach is black sand and the water is clean and clear. Most cafes have wifi available on the beach too and topless sunbathing is acceptable. The sun is so much more forgiving thn the new Zealand or Australian sun, you can stay out all day and not get burned. The hotel was near a huge mountain with ruins on top and 3/4 up a church perched precariously in the cliff.

After 4 days at kostas we moved to Anny's studios which were a bargain at 24 euro a night and had a pool, sun lounges, book swap, free Internet. Our room looked over the pool and bar, which was great until 30 loud single over 50 American ladies booked in for 3 days and got hammered every evening and talked so loudly. But as the saying goes 'if you can't beat 'em, join 'em' so one night I went down and had about 5 rounds with them. They turned out to be hilarious they were on their way to Mykanos (look out boys) they were a real handful.

Half way into Santorini we found out Karo and a few of her friends were coming, so we decided to stay. We hired a motor bike and checked out Fira, it has nice views and plenty of places to eat and watch the sunset or ride the donkeys up from the port. The donkey were al decorated in beads, but I felt sorry for them carrying lazy, fat tourists up and down in the heat. The view was amazing though and a great place to eat saganaki (fried salti cheese) and share a carafe of wine.

Speaking of wine, another fun thing to donis visit a few of the wineries dotted all over the island. We found a wine museum that had been in the family for 4 centuries, it had taken the current owners 21 years to make the mannequins in the underground caves demonstrate the old wine making methods, for 7 euro you got a tour with guide (walkie ,talkie type thing) and 4 tastes of wine at the end. Santos was another one we checked out that had a great view of the caldera (volcano centre) and surrounding islands including fira and ia.

Ia was very picturesque, situated right at the top of the island it has the white churches with blue domes you see in the pictures looking out over the blue ocean. A must to go visit if you do nothing else on the island. Only 40 minutes from Perissa on quad bike or 20 from the centre of Fira. Another must if you like Mexican food with a view is visit the Mexican restaurant near santo wines. Good food and best restaurant view ever!!

There are heaps of tours available, we took a boat out to caldera and looked at smoke rising from the volcano then to the hot springs, they looked pretty dirty and weren't that warm so I didnt bother getting in, also the end of the season was approaching so the sea was quite rough and th boat ride not that pleasurable. Santorini is really chilled out near perissa, but there is still plenty to do. We went in sept so just missed the crazy season but the weather was still great and there weren't people packed all over the place. Rates were reasonable and it want isolated. By the time we left in early October though it was almost shut and the wind started blowing at night bringing the temperature down. Would definitely recommend going in sept and would return to perissa rather than other parts of the island, although ia is also a good choice, you can't swim in the ocean there.

Posted by Tamarillo 14:56 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Kos, Greece

sunny 28 °C

After a 20 minute boat ride from Bodrum,Turkey we arrived in Kos, Greece. It's a small island, about 1.5 hours drive from one end to the other and fairly sparsely populated, except for the main area where the tourist come in, there you'll find bars, shopping, pubs, restaurants. We booked accommodation down the end of the island in Kefalos. So 50 Euros later in a taxi we arrived at our destination, a quiet area of the island that seemed to draw in retirees for a holiday. Our accommodation looked nothing like the picture and after having a whole apartment to ourselves our new accommodation was old by comparison and a little cramped. It did have an electric plug in stove top to cook on, but it was very rusted and by the second day, when I turned it on it would short out the power for the whole block of units including the owners house out the back near our room. The owner didn't speak a word of English except hello and sorry, but she was a real grandma type and fed us fresh melon from her garden almost everyday. The extended family seemed to live at the hotel and in part of the back house too and every night there would be a BBQ and loud talking or babies crying until midnight. There was a little dirt area tough jutted into the hill that had a couple if tables and pine trees where we would grab a couple of drinks from the local super market and some chips and relax, listening to the pine trees in the breeze and looking out to the island in the ocean ahead. Kefalos seemed to often have a cool breeze that took the edge of the heat.

Food around kefalos was quite cheap and the Greek salad would be served with no less than half a block of fetta on top, uncut. Ever salad I had, I would take home the extra cheese and pop it in the fridge for later. All the residential houses and some of the hotels had at least a couple of tomato bushes growing if not a plantation and a few melons. The tomatoes tasted great, unlike any others I've ever had. So sweet and juicy and plump. Must be something about the climate there and the red onions also tasted different, sweet and juicy, not hot at all. The local drinks were retsina which I think is made from pine resin, it's about 11% alcohol and tastes a bit like a truly awful white wine, but once you realize that it's not supposed to be wine and what it is made from, it tastes ok, like a piney scented dry white.

The highlight of kefalos was walking along the beach which is lined with family owned cafes and deck chairs for rent, turning the bent and stumbing across some ancient ruins, unsigned, just standing there on the beach. Parts of the floor still were covered up with pebbles and sand but underneath was mosaic flooring, I scraped some sand off with my shoes and feeling like a treasure hunter more mosaics were uncovered. I would've liked to stay there all week and uncover the lot but something felt naughty about just digging it up with out being supervised by an archeologist. Across kefalos there were a handful of half finish buildings that could not be completed because when foundations were being dug, ruins were found and apparently all further building in that area must cease if ruins are located beneath the soil.

A week in kefalos was long enough to see the sights, it's a sleepy village with not a lot to do, you can hire beach buggies to explore the island but we saved that for our next stop... Santorini.

Posted by Tamarillo 14:10 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Bodrum, turkey

sunny 32 °C

Last stop in Turkey was Bodrum which is only 20 minutes by boat to get to Kos, Greece. Stayed at some great apartments called Emelce Aparts, Bodrum. The place had a pool, 2 bedrooms, stove, balcony looking out over the marina and had views of an ancient ampetheatre. It was right up a bill but walking distance to both town areas. Towards the marina there was a strong yachting community and the cafes and shops all reflected this. There is water front dining, boats tours available, cold beer and places to sunbathe while chilled cafes serve cocktails or beer or snacks. There are also numerous kebabs shops and markets selling fakes and clothes. On the other side of the hill is a more touristy/party type area like the parry islands in Greece that have sun lounges and loud house music or cheesy top 40 playing, topless bathing and drinking. That side was packed with Brits and oldies getting their gear off.

The houses in Bodrum are all whitewashed, much the same as Greece, the big difference being you could still hear the mosques calling people to prayer 5 times a day and there were no blue domes anywhere. Near the apartments was a big hill as I mentioned separating the two areas of town we discovered. At the top of the hill was a local hangout that looked out over the bodrum castle and the ocean on either side. Locals would park their car, some took out tables and fold out chairs and sat watching the sun go down, eating chips and having a glass of wine or beer. Teenagers hung out across the street where there were several old windmills no longer in use but some were quite well preserved, they are 1.5 stories with stirs going up and round one side of the walll, then there is a little window whole at the top just under the roof and a windmill is attached to the front. they look out over the ocean on both sides. Bodrum can be as rowdy or as relaxed as you make it, some parts are similar to parts of the Greek islands but its a cheaper option because they're still using the Lira not the Euro. It's a small town so a week or so is enough to see most of what is has to offer. The beaches are quite small and have pebbles but the water is warm and clear.

Posted by Tamarillo 13:48 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Cirali and pamukale (turkey)

sunny 32 °C

Cirali is about 1.5 hours out of antalya and 12 hours bus from Istanbul. The buses available are great though and have television and waiters on board to serve refreshments. When we finally got to cirali our pansiyon - ugur pansiyon was the second to Lawton the street and was across the street from the beach. Cirali is a tiny village with lots of family run pensions, a few mini supermarkets and restaurants and that's about it. It's quiet, a good spot for family holidays or camping as there are heaps of camping grounds and the ocean is as good as flat.  There are also loggerhead turtles which hatch on the beach before dawn around august to September and we were lucky enough to see some hatch while we were there.  Cirali turned out to be a great spot, it was walking distance tot the famous Olympus - though it was rather hot walking during the day as in august the temp was 38 degrees celcius, it was 3 lira to get in and once through the gates you are free to roam around the ruins. The signage wasn't amazing and to be honest neither were the ruins but still worth a look. 

Also close by was the Chimera which the Romans believed were a flaming beast which was made of a snake, goat and lion. Nowadays it's best to go up at night to see the flames properly. It's a hike up a hill to get there, but once there, there are flames burning on the side of the mountain which have been burning for 2000+ years. 

The beach at cirali is so peaceful, the water is warm and great for a dip before dawn or just after sunrise after watching the baby turtles struggling to get into the water. Our little guy almost made it but was scooped up by the doc before he cooked in the sun. The water is so clear and even when you are out quite deep you cam still see the bottom, we bought a mask from the local shops and could see a couple of fish under water, they love it when you churn the stones with your feet and swim over to get the food. 

Our pansiyon (ugar pansiyon) had bungalows or rooms, we had 3 to a room as ange met us in istanbul and travelled down to cirali with us.  The property had a huge garden, hammocks, wifi in the garden and 5 cubby/treehouses that weren't in trees with cushions where the wifi was available. We ate most meals in there cooked by the family and had many cold beers there too.  The family also drove us down to Olympus and to the chimera which was great.  Breakfast was buffet if usual Turkish breakfast consisting of fresh bread, cheeses, olives, jams, fruit. Lunch and dinner had no menu, just tell them what you want and they'll make it. They served up the best freshly made hummus one night, sprinkled with paprika mmm. 

The history if cirali is quite interesting and like the rest of turkey has a long past, the bay used to house pirates and of course Olympus was a place of power for the Romans.  Worth reading up on before you go. 

Next stop was pamukale by bus, there are 2 reasons to go to pamukale and the whole place can be covered in a day so 1 night is enough, we booked 5 and it was a mistake. There is nothing else to see except for the old roman ruins which include bath houses and the old town where you can see the still standing public toilets and where the shops used to be in the main street. Also the highlight and major drawcard is the huge white terraces that you're allowed to swim in. They take up the whole front of the mountain and there are small pool that Clepatra believed would make one beautiful if bathed in. Amazingly even thought this place is protected by unesco, you can still swim in the white and pale blue waters on the calcium white washed mountain. Each pool is like a private cascading infinity pool perched on the mount and it is easy to feel like royalty while you're bathing in them.

Posted by Tamarillo 13:39 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)


sunny 44 °C

So 2 nights in Dubai because we missed our first flight then couldn't get another till 4 days later. The. When we got to the airport we discovered the travel agent we rescheduled with had only booked josh's flight to Dubai and not mine! After 2.5 hours of running from desk to desk trying to explain our situation to people who's English was very limited we were finally directed to a desk where I was on standby and was immediately given a boarding pass. So we ran down with our bags, hopped on the bus all flustered to make it to the gate on time only to be told that our flight was delayed by an hour. An hour later we were boarded only to wait on the plane for another hour then unboarded due to mechanical difficulties. Finally at 1am we were boarded onto another plane 8 hours later, after having a few scotches with a lovely American chap who was moving from china to Dubai to teach English. I called lisas friend who we would be staying with and advised we would be late. Arrived before 7am the following morning and the temperature outside was already mid 30's. By the time we'd been able to negotiate our way through customs (straight through nz passport) and get breakfast which was a dealing itself as Ramadan it was 9am. The cafe inside the airport had trellises up so no one could see people eating inside the cafe. Many of the men were wearing a traditional dish-dash ( white pants with a long white top covering and a white sheet on their head and black rope around it and the women were mostly dressed in black burkkas or wore long clothing and loose floor length coats over the top.


Near the airport is a community where a lot of the ex pats stay, town is a short drive away where they have the largest building in the world, a monstrous 136 story building with poles that goes miles into the sand to keep it steady, also there is worlds largest shopping mall over 1k across, worlds biggest fish tank inside the shopping mall so large we caught a boat across the top and fed the fish and worlds largest dancing fountain like the bellagio in Vegas. Temperatures soared to 43 degrees celcius and the weirdest thing was that it was mug heat because we were near the ocean no dry desert heat like I had expected. The shopping malls had a dress code and signs saying knees and shoulders must be covered but there were still a few people walking around who hadn't covered up. Inside the mall was a ski field complete with tobogganing! And everything was expensive. Food courts were all completely shut down so no stops for coffee. Eating or drinking anything in public was completely forbidden, also no gum or smoking until after the last call to prayer after the sun had sunk.


We were lucky enough to get a seat at an Iftar tent which is where the Muslims go to break the fast. Dates and water are served first then there is a buffet style banquet put on and the food was amazing. Half a lamb cooked with rice was on offer, small kebabs, curry, salads, Babaganosh, bread, hummus, kofta, desserts. Huge feast and the tent was right on the beach looking out to the famous 6 start sail hotel. There was valet parking and everyone drove either a BMW, merc or Audi. Money was prevalent and it was obvious. The wages there are tax free so if you have a half decent job your wallet is bulging full. The buildings seem to be replicas of other famous buildings around the world, the 'gherkin' was there, big Ben, etc. Plenty to see and do. The locals all dine outside in the winter when the temperature gets to a reasonable 26 degrees, even at night it doesn't really cool down, so we were running from air con buildings to air con cars. Cool place, quite spread out, lots of cash. Minnie who we stayed with said there is a trend of living above your means by many of the locals there. But also a lot of real wealth, apparently under those layer of black are designer outfits worth thousands. Definitely a rich persons playground or a great place to earn a lot of cash.

Posted by Tamarillo 07:57 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (0)

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