Unexpected Encounters on My Solo Trip To Santorini
Santorini was made for lovers. When you’re there, chances are you’ll see some newlyweds doing a photo shoot against the idyllic backdrop – blue-domed churches and jaw-dropping views of the Mediterranean Sea. I can confidently say that 99% of visitors to this island come with their significant other, friends, mom, or dog – some type of company. So what possessed me to take a solo tip to Santorini? I can explain.
I had been dying to visit Santorini for four long years! After seeing my college friend’s pictures of the white villas, I quickly placed Santorini at the top of my travel list. But my potential travel buddies were wavering about whether they would go. With a few weeks left in my 10-month European adventure, I couldn’t afford to wait for anyone. I was anxious about traveling solo, but the thought of not going was even worse. I went for it.
An early arrival
I woke up bleary-eyed at Santorini Airport after a two-hour flight from Rome. It was surprisingly bright and sunny outside considering that the local time was 7 am. I had scheduled an airport pick up so I waited in the arrivals area, fantasizing about lying down on a cozy bed.
Finally, my driver, a quiet old man about 5 feet tall, arrived and held up a sign with my hostel’s name. He seemed puzzled to see me standing there by myself but simply shrugged and led me to his tiny red sedan. We whizzed through the narrow, dusty streets of the island and arrived at the hostel, located right at the center of Santorini’s capital, Fira. As I stepped into the building, my nostrils were hit with a pungent smell coming from the hallway. It was so foul, but I was too sleepy to care! I just checked in, snuggled up in my bed, and dozed off.
After my nap, I went to the common area to socialize. The two Australian girls there were not interested in conversation at all and left. A little bit later, I saw a group of Americans gathered outside. They looked like they were ready to head somewhere so I eagerly rushed outside to talk to them. They were going on a hike from Fira to Oia with a local guide. The group hike had had been pre-arranged. Plus I only had sandals and flip flops.
I returned to the common area, thinking of what to do next. Slowly, all the excitement and anticipation that had been building up just evaporated. My hostel smelled awful, and I was there in the common area all alone. Anxiety slowly creeped in.
Maybe I had made a mistake.
Should I have come with someone? It was too late now. I had to figure out how to make the most of the next three days.
The first unexpected encounter
Walking around Old Town Fira, I admired the scenery while I looked for someone to take me a picture. That’s when I ran into Vicki, a Chinese Canadian college student who had been living in Thessaloniki for the summer.
“Can you take me a picture here, please?” I asked, excitedly.
“Of course! Are you traveling alone?” she responded, taking my iPhone from me.
“Yeah! I just got here a couple of hours ago. Are you?” I replied.
“Yes, I just finished teaching in Thessaloniki so I’m doing a Euro trip. I’m meeting up with my boyfriend in Budapest later.”
Vicki snapped dozens of photos of me on the steps of Fira as I fought to keep my hair from blowing everywhere. The wind was fierce! With this new development, my anxiety eased quickly. Vicki and I both wanted to eat everything on the island and take a ton of photos. Perfect match.
When we came across a donkey stable at the top of Fira Town, I was hesitant to ride one. I had never ridden any type of animal before. Vicki pushed me to do it. I found myself on top of a donkey, descending down some steep stairs to the bottom of the cliff. My new donkey friend galloped and zigzagged down the stairs as I hung on for dear life. My behind was in pain! But the view of the sea and the volcanic formations was just spectacular. Incredible! I was thinking, ‘Wow, I can’t believe this place is real!” Looking down at the caldera and the deep blue water inspired me. I have archived a mental picture of that moment.
Meeting Vicki provided another benefit: I got to leave my hostel. She had an extra bed, so I got my stuff and we headed back to her villa in the town of Kamari. Then we found ourselves in a debacle.
The thing with the Santorini bus system is that there are a couple of stops in the same area. The conductor yells out the name of the stop, but they all sound the same, so you really have to know where you’re going. Long story short, we got off at the wrong stop and wandered around for about 45 minutes trying to use Google maps (and Wi-Fi at local shops) to find the right location. The locals were really helpful, using their best English to explain how to get to our villa. Alas, we found the place! The arduous journey was worth it because that villa was just beautiful! A major upgrade! Everything from the flowerpots to the softness of the bed was impeccable.
Join my free travel resource library
Get full access to unpublished solo travel guides, travel checklists, packing lists, giveaways, and more.
You may also like: Solo Travel Safety: How I Dealt With a Stalker in Croatia
The second unexpected encounter
I had not planned on visiting Kamari Beach, but it was right next to the villa so off we went first thing the next morning. This was my first encounter with a beach that didn’t have white or brown sand. I was stretched out on a beach lounger when an African man approached, carrying a batch of colorful bracelets. I immediately recognized his Nigerian accent so I excitedly struck up a conversation with him. His name was Emeka. Like me, he was Igbo so we started speaking our language! Small world, right? I ended up buying a blue and white bracelet from him.
Now comes the really fun part: the food! Spanakopita? Check. Yemista? Check. Dolmathakia? Check. But one dish dominates them all: Shrimp Saganaki. It is rice with large shrimp, fried feta, tomatoes, oregano, some spices I don’t know, and olive oil. It is one of the best things I have ever eaten in my entire life! Lotza, a small restaurant in the town of Oia, served me this most delectable feast. For that, I am eternally grateful.
More solo travel tales:
Sunset at Oia
Oia, arguably the most beautiful town in Santorini, also offered us another gem: the sunset. The first time Vicki and I tried to see the sunset, everyone and their mom was there. We came right when the sunset was starting, but that was way too late. Every square inch of the area was occupied with people. When I say every square inch, I mean it. Thousands of people crowded there.
We barely saw any of the sunset so we hadto return to Oia the next day. This time, we came an hour early. Then the phenomenon began, and everyone whipped out their cameras and videos to document the spectacular sight. I wanted to be fully on the moment so I took a ton of photos at the beginning and put my camera away. The verdict? It was better than most sunsets I’ve seen, but not as incredible as I expected (or maybe I was just mad that I had to sit for an hour just to see the sun go down.)
Feasting on Feta
Vicki and I spent our last day on the island eating and shopping for souvenirs. Then in the late afternoon, we met Irene, a red-headed woman with a sweet, high-pitched voice. Her souvenir shop was down the street from my (former) hostel in Fira. Irene recommended we head to Akrotiri, where we could eat at her friend’s restaurant and also catch a boat tour to the famed Red Sand Beach. Irene gave us careful instructions on how to get there, drawing out points of interest on a map.
We rode the bus down to the southern tip of the island. While we did not find Irene’s friend’s restaurant, we did find another restaurant in the area – The Cave of Stolidas. That’s where I had my first Greek salad in Greece! It was fresh with blocks of feta on top. But that wasn’t enough feta for me. I ordered Saganaki once again, but this time it was the traditional type: a square of deep-fried feta. I thought it was a little too thick and greasy or maybe the Shrimp Saganaki was just a tough act to follow.
The boat ride to the Red Sand Beach was well worth it, too. There were giant rock formations on the sea along the way, a really enchanting sight. It was also fun to spot all the other boats and yachts passing by. We didn’t actually get off the boat to frolick on the beach because it was just a tour. Rain-checked for next time.
You may also like: Solo Female Travel Tips: Positano, Italy
Now, the dreaded part: the end. The next day, Vicki boarded a ferry to the island of Paros, and I reluctantly boarded a flight to Barcelona. I really really really wished I could stay a couple of more days and so did Vicki. It was a short trip, but I felt a deep sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. I did it! I went to this love island alone and did a bunch of cool things that I would never have done if I had traveled with friends. The fears that had been swirling in my head now seemed so misplaced. It was so empowering to know that I could venture somewhere alone, stay safe, and have a great time!
Vicki and I have kept in touch, and I plan to visit her in Calgary one of these days. Cheers to new friendships and new beginnings. Have you made it to Santorini or any of the Greek Islands? What was the highlight of your trip? Share your experience below in the comment section.
If you liked this post, please share!
Are you visiting Santorini? Don’t stay in a smelly hostel like I did? Browse affordable hotels in Santorini. Book through my link to get a $25 cash reward.
Join my solo travel community
Get access to unpublished solo travel guides, travel checklists, discounts, giveaways, and more!