Welcome to Part 2 of our travel log to Santorini, Greece! As you know if you’ve read part 1, this is the second installment of our brand new Vegan Travel series, where we give great recommendations for vegan travelers, from hotels to great restaurants (and bad ones too!), and of course, it’s a great opportunity to show you the photos and stories from our own travels! So today we’re returning to Santorini for some beautiful sights and totally delicious grub. Are you ready?
The truth is that every morning when we woke up in Santorini, we felt we were waking up in an entirely different place. We were staying in Oia, the most beautiful part of the island, and the light each morning made that beautiful bay completely different from one day to the next. I was soon waking up with the giddy excitement of Christmas morning, ready to walk quickly up the tiny street that took you from our hotel to the biggest view of the bay, to take a look at what the sun and the ocean had in store for me. There’s something about all that perfectly painted white of the houses in contrast with that deep blue ocean that makes this place such a peaceful feast to the eyes.
In this particular morning we woke up to a clear sky and the brightest sun, and after we all had breakfast together in our hotel room (check out part 1 of this story to meet the traveling team and read about breakfast recommendations in the island), we ventured out for a walk along the bay and then took a bus (the ride alone is a sight for sore eyes) and visited Fira, the largest part of the island. Fira had lots of restaurants over the water, lots of people walking around, shops and a very nice hustle and bustle. We only stayed about an hour as we waited for our next bus, but it was beautiful.
We then took our next bus to explore the ancient ruins of Akrotiri, a Pre-Historic settlement which was buried in ashes after a widespread volcanic eruption. The early settlements of this city (now named Akrotiri, original name unknown), date as far back as the Neolithic (around the 4th millennium BC). Due to the fact that it was completely buried in ash, much like the ruins of Pompeii, the city was remarkably well preserved when they discovered it. This is what we saw…
They have built an incredibly modern structure over and around the ruins while they continue the excavation, and it’s open to the public for a fee. Thanks to what they found inside upon discovery, they were able to find out that the city had been one of the most important ports around that time (amazing frescos of fishermen and flotillas were discovered almost intact), they had advanced drainage systems in houses and beautiful artifacts. We were sad we couldn’t see the frescos, but they are currently exhibited at the archaeological museum in Athens (for conservation reasons).
All you see is stone and ash, and the modern structure above your head might make you think you’re at a run of the mill museum. Make no mistake, when you’re at Akrotiri you’re actually standing on a city that was destroyed right there by the volcanic eruption that is thought to have destroyed the Minoan civilization. When you let yourself think that, as you walk and look at the houses, it’s kind of mind-blowing! Or perhaps I’m just the wide-eyed daughter of an archaeologist who grew up listening to stories like these. It is also said to be the inspiration for Plato’s story of Atlantis… so there you go!
We stepped out of Akrotiri, and we were headed for the red beach. But first… some vegan snacks of our little beach party!
These little fruit trucks are all around Santorini, especially near the beaches, and what better for a hot day at the beach than some fresh fruit?! We bought bananas, nectarines and plums, and continued on our walk to the red beach. We had a slight detour however. In the slightly deserted dirt roads that lead to the red beach, we found a little restaurant and decided to have lunch. There was some debate as to whether we should keep walking in case we’d find amazing restaurants by the water… beach style. It’s a good thing we decided to stay, you’ll see why when we get to the beach.
The restaurant looked simple, homey and smelled amazing. It was exactly that, Greek home cooking at its best, made entirely by a Greek woman who does absolutely everything in this place and knows how to explain perfectly how a dish is prepared and what the ingredients are. We ordered a bunch of little dishes for the three vegans at the table (my hubby, father in law and myself), and my mother in law ordered a seafood pasta, but as it always happens with vegan food, she couldn’t resist our little Greek yummies and dug into those also. We had an amazing Greek salad without the feta cheese (it’s very easy to enjoy a Greek salad anywhere in Greece since traditionally they place the feta on top of the salad at the very end, so they have no problem in you ordering it without the cheese, they just don’t put it on top at the end of the preparation.
We also had the eggplant salad (my second favorite dish in Greece after the fava). It was thanks to talking to the woman who owns this restaurant that we learned that most restaurants have two versions of the eggplant salad, one with garlic and vinegar (ding ding ding!) and one with mayonnaise. I can’t imagine the mayonnaise making this dish any better than it already was.
We also had my beloved fava dish (check out part 1 for a more detailed description, but it’s basically a yellow split pea puree with a veggie mediterranean topping and olive oil). They of course brought us a ton of that marvelous Greek bread, and we asked for a plate of their french fried potatoes, which I forgot to take a photo of, but trust me… Greek french fries are nothing like what you’d expect. Be warned… if you order them once, you’ll have to order them at every restaurant you go to! Just to give you an idea, they are very thick, very crispy but almost melt in your mouth on the inside, and they usually serve them sprinkled with fresh ground pepper and oregano or some other herb. They call them french fries but they’re so much more than that!
Happy bellies meant it was time for the beach! We walked for a tiny bit longer and then began walking up a hill with giant red colored boulders. Then, we saw this…
The photo doesn’t do the red beach justice at all. right there I’m standing over a very deep ravine with the waves crashing against it. And that big red mountain is much bigger than it appears here. See that little strip of sand below? That’s the red beach! But we had to walk over the boulders to get to it.
This beach is what remained after one of the many volcanic eruptions the island has suffered over centuries. The mountain was bright red, but the sand you see in the back there kind of plays a visual trick on you. The part that looks like sand (light brown) is actually seaweed, and the darker part is the actual sand, which is completely black and made out of tiny volcanic pebbles. I had never seen anything like it in my life!
We made it! To a completely virgin beach. There’s nothing like it.
I love this photo I took of my father in law. The mountain had these strange doors every few meters. Does this situation and my father in law remind you of anything? A character in Lost perhaps? Obsessed with… doors?
Here’s the thing, I can’t look at the sea and not go in for a swim or at least a dip! The water was freezing, and the sun was hidden behind the clouds, but after much yelling whenever a wave came, I did it… my first swim in the Aegean Sea. After a while of being out there in the water in complete silence looking at that giant red mountain, I was in total bliss. I asked the others to join me but only my mother in law dared to get into the freezing cold water. I would get almost all of them to swim within the next few days… after I did it once, there was no water too cold… you just couldn’t get me out of the water! The little rocks below are what the bottom of the ocean is formed of. Perfectly rounded volcanic rocks that go from tiny pebbles to giant boulders and from gray, to black, to red.
We ate our fruit for dessert and then began the walk back. Few places are as special and magical as this one…
For dinner that night we went to a local pizzeria in Oia because my hubby was craving a veggie pizza. They made his without cheese and veggie toppings without any problem (sorry I don’t have a picture!), but I decided to have their roasted vegetable sandwich. It doesn’t look like anything special (and sorry I took a bite before I could take a proper picture!), but the sun-dried tomatoes alone made the sandwich worth it. Sun dried tomatoes in Santorini are a force to be reckoned with. I even brought two big bags home with me to recreate some Greek recipes. The sandwich also had arugula, roasted peppers, eggplant and zucchini and as I mentioned, lots of sun-dried tomatoes!
Something great happened earlier that day. Exploring one of the little Greek markets where we usually bought our breakfast items, I found a box of a typical Greek dessert called Kataifi (similar to a Baklava) but truly sweet, chewy and delicious. It was totally vegan! We bought a box for those times you had a little sweet craving and the restaurant might not offer a vegan dessert option. These sweets are sold everywhere in Santorini and it was a completely naughty treat. It’s made with almonds and phyllo, and all the oils used are vegetable oils. If I remember correctly, the Baklava also used vegetable oils instead of butter, but it had honey, which I know is a personal call for some vegans, so I’m just putting it out there as well. Either way, check the label just in case.
The next morning, we had run out of breakfast goodies in our little kitchen at the hotel, so we ventured out for breakfast. Take a look at where I had my breakfast that morning. Yes, such a place exists.
Not only did we have the most beautiful view (do you see what I mean when I say the light made Oia look different every day?), but I ordered the most amazing breakfast, something I had never seen or tasted before, olive bread. I had it with two tiny espressos and it was to die for.
Since it was our last full day in Santorini, we decided to rent a car so that we could explore the rest of the island (local buses are great but you end up waiting a very long time if you miss one). We were on a beach craze after our red beach experience and so we headed out on our first beach hunt of the trip. Have you met our new baby (the camera)? We still have no name for her… any takers?
First stop, Kamari beach.
Another beautiful beach with black sand, surrounded by mountains. I love this picture of us, but I love this one I took of my in-laws even better…
After some sunbathing and chatting, we headed out to Perissa beach, where we stayed for the rest of the day, and again… I took a wonderful dip in the Aegean.
Perissa beach is full of little restaurants from which to choose from, and we went for one that had so many vegan options it was so hard to decide what to have! It was also called Perissa, and after being a guest at the restaurant, you were invited to use their beach chairs and umbrellas (perfect for a siesta after the feast you’re about to see).
We started the meal off with some french fries (what is it about the beach that always makes me crave some fries?), and according to the consensus, one of the best dishes we had in Greece, these grilled mushrooms. I cannot even begin to describe the flavor and texture. I have never had anything like them.
As a main dish I had their amatriciana pasta with vegetables which was remarkable. It had mushrooms, peppers, fresh tomatoes, a bit of spice to it, herbs, olive oil and perfectly cooked pasta. Everyone was digging in to try it.
My hubby and father in law shared a few dishes, including this amazing plate of falafel, hummus and more fries! Lucky guys!
An espresso with a view?
This beautiful doggie seemed to be ordering to go.
This cutie pie came up to us when we had finished eating and were heading for the beach, and he decided to join us for a siesta and some cuddles. He stayed with us until we left, but took breaks to say goodbye to some of the previous tourists he had accompanied earlier. This is no joke! He even went up to people’s cars to say goodbye and then came running back to his little spot next to my husband’s shoes.
That night we were so full from lunch that we simply took one last walk around the bay and had a small bite to eat, I had a tomato and cucumber salad, and then some tea. The rest of the fam indulged in Kataifi treats.
The next morning after breakfast, we said goodbye to Santorini. Next stop… Mykonos! Coming really soon in our next installment of Vegan Travel in Greece!
Restaurants, Beaches and Sights
Taverna Glaros (where we had lunch after visiting the ruins of Akrotiri)
Melenio Patisserie and Cafe (where we had breakfast and I had the olive bread)
Perissa Restaurant (where we had the mushrooms, pasta, falafel plate and a wonderful day at the beach)
UPDATE AND NEWS!
After several years blogging here at Little Green Kettle, we’ve made the blog bigger and better! Meet our new blog everyone!: www.brownble.com