Fira for families? Our sojourn in Santorini
Ah Fira – the town perched at the top of the Santorini caldera with unparalleled views over the volcano. Romantic, beautiful, unique – one of the top honeymoon destinations of the world.
But of course, we are far from honeymooners as we drag our two little cherubs around the world.
Interestingly, one of the main pieces of advice I read before travelling to Santorini was:
- Don’t stay in Fira if you’ve got little kids
Having been, stayed and loved, I think I can make a compelling case for why anyone with kids of any age should ignore this advice, and listen instead to my sage words of wisdom.
Arriving in the brave new world
Having booked Santorini for 7 nights, against all advice we had read on the Internet, we were a little unsure if we had chosen wisely.
The journey was smooth and once we got the Chubs to stop screaming and go to sleep, actually quite relaxing. As they made the call to line up to disembark the ship, we headed down with the throngs into the bowels of the ferry to crawl over the bags and people and drag out our suitcases ready to be herded off like cattle.
We made it downstairs before the ferry actually docked so we were able to watch the back-end of the ship open. I had flashbacks to various sci-fi movies where the pilgrims have been rounded up onto alien vessels and they all watch the door slowly open before they head out into their brave new world. That is exactly what this felt like.
As the doors slowly lowered, we could see a cliff of volcanic rock before us that looked almost like a moonscape. Not what we were expecting.
The port is also total chaos – we were being buffered and pushed by throngs of people and given that everyone is busy looking up for where their ride is picking them up, they have no peripheral awareness nor manners.
This is my first piece of advice – if the place you book offers you a transfer, absolutely accept it! This is not a place you want to try to bargain with a taxi driver who will likely take you to the far side of the island that’s nowhere near Fira.
After contending with our transfer driver’s brief altercation with a hot policewoman who demanded he wait until all the other buses leave before he leaves, and then having a go at him for holding up traffic (yes, a uniform can be dangerous sometimes), we started the climb from Thira port up to the town of Fira.
First glimpses from the caldera
Nothing can really prepare you for your first look at the view from the centre of Fira. It really is exactly like what you see in all the pictures.
Our ride pulled up at the end of a skinny laneway milling with people and were told this was our spot so we hopped out and gathered our immense amount of luggage to follow a man down the side of the cliff. It was all a bit hairy initially as I was carrying the Chubs, balancing the pram, bags and water bottles while Lovely Hubby and Miss Sparky were also laden with stuff negotiating the cobblestones.
When suddenly there it was – the completely breathtaking view that we had seen in virtually every picture advertising any part of the Greek islands. Everywhere you look, whitewashed cottages, sprays of Bougainvillea, blue roofs and the drama of the cliffs dropping straight into the ocean. Truly stunning.
It was a little hard to focus as we schlepped our way down the, sometimes very steep stairs, to get to our home for the next week, the lovely Villa Renos.
Villa Renos – Everything you could want in Fira
If you want a place right in the centre of the action in Santorini, Villa Renos is it.
Perched on the top of the caldera looking out to the volcano, it’s perfectly situated and equipped for every time of day or night. Every morning, you dine on the dining deck with uninterrupted panoramic views, while the owner Vassilis and his dedicated staff prepare you an individually portioned and unique breakfast.
You can while away the day in the tiny (don’t believe the creative photography on the website) but amazingly positioned pool and then enjoy cocktails at sunset either on one of the expansive decks or in your own private jacuzzi. You couldn’t pick a better location or nicer staff.
And the bathrooms! Words cannot describe.
I’m pretty sure this will be the only time I blog about the bathroom in any place we stay (except of course where the Chubs decorates the floor with his own smelly piece of art) but I feel it’s very necessary here. The bathrooms in Villa Renos are designed in the traditional cave approach that’s common on the island. But these are no ordinary caves.
We affectionately named our shower ‘the family shower’ as we could easily fit the entire family in there at one time and everyone had their own jet/s of water. Put on some cruisy chill out tunes that echo around the cave and you have an afternoon of entertainment for the whole family. Just awesome!
The ‘family bathroom’ and the main bedroom with stairs to the secret kids loft..
So do look it up and book direct if you can to get the very best rates – ask for Vassilis! A prince among men!
Villa Renos- Fira, 84700, Santorini, Cyclades Islands, Greece
Tel: +30-22860 – 22848
Fax: +30-22860 – 24041
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
My second piece of advice – even if it costs a little more, if you can stretch to it, it’s worth every cent to stay somewhere with a similar location. Whilst the other parts of the island are nice, nothing beats watching the sunset behind the volcano and drinking in every second of this view. Somehow, having to head back to some hotel on the far side of the island or having a view that’s not as recognisable would just not be the same on Santorini.
So what about all those Internet warnings?
The only thing we can think of that would put families off staying in Santorini is the stairs.
Whilst there were mornings where we had to draw straws to work out who had to lug the Chubs and who had to lug the pram and the backpack, once you got to the top, the arguments were forgotten.
Likewise, pushing a pram around cobblestone streets is not necessarily totally relaxing, but neither is any part of travelling with kids anywhere in Europe (except of course, when they’re safely tucked up in bed with a babysitter watching them while you sip champagne somewhere nearby). It’s all part of the fun and adventure and as long as you share the load, everything is do-able.
There are a lot of tourists in Santorini, and of course, they all want to spend a lot of time in Fira so it can get a little crowded. If you are smart though, and you plan your day, you can avoid most of the chaos. Most tourists seem to be dumped in Fira in the late afternoon, often to watch the sunset I presume, and then they all toddle back to their tour groups and cruise ships.
We learnt quickly that the centre of Fira (and Oia for that matter) is best avoided in the late afternoon. This is the time that you should be kicking back on your deck getting ready for the sunset and taking advantage of every second you have to absorb ‘that view’! After a few days, we learnt our lesson and spent every afternoon dancing up a storm with the kids and enjoying all the different shades of sunset.
And once the worst of the throngs move on, you can head up to find one of the lovely restaurants or take-aways to enjoy some of the delicious Greek food. Problem solved.
The only other thing I can think of is that Santorini is quite a bit more expensive than other places in Greece.
With that in mind, I offer My third piece of advice – You can do Santorini well in a few days. Once you’ve absorbed the view, ridden the donkeys, taken the cable car and visited a couple of villages, you are better off heading to one of the other Greek islands to really kick back and relax. Santorini is worth every cent but you only need to do it for a short time, unless your are one of lucky honeymooners of course!
So there you have it – a few words of wisdom, some pointers on where to stay and a couple of tips to be aware of. The most important thing with Santorini is to just go with it – abandon too many notions of doing touristy things and just focus on enjoying the views, the food and the people.
Oh, and make sure you’re fit if you can – it’s not ‘necessary’, but it will ensure that you enjoy your visit that little bit more if you don’t have to vomit up a lung every time you climb the stairs to the top.
As always, love to hear your questions/comments and please like and share if you know anyone contemplating a Grecian adventure.
Have a great week!