Karterados village

The traditional village of Karterados is built beside a stream in a ravine and its existence is recorded back to the 17th century.

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The original dwellings are cave houses built deep into the rock face and there’s a lovely traditional windmill in the main village square.

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During the 19th century Karterados was one of the largest sea captain villages on the island.

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The name of the village has several explanations on the web – some say it comes from the Greek word ‘karteri’ a waiting point or ambush point because ambushes were set to trap marauding pirates.

Others say it means the watching or hidden spot due to the fact it nestles in the ravine.

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In fact, you’d miss a lot of the village if you don’t keep your eyes peeled. Hidden from the main road is the old village, a small neighbourhood of cobbled streets, Captains houses and cave houses built into the rock.

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The older part of Karterados village is all but invisible from the main street. The rock houses have been dug out of the ground and their roofs are on a level with the pavement.

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By the 19th century it had become a place of wealthy ship-owners.

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According to yet another web based naming story it took its name from the fact that villagers watched and waited for the return of the sailors who sailed to Russia, Malta and Egypt.

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Either way, and regardless of the actual origin of the village’s name, it’s a pretty little place to spend an hour or so.

Vothonas village

Vothonas is a small rock village and architecturally it is one of the strangest villages on Santorini.

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A tangle of paths climb up to the cave houses – some perfectly restored and others derelict and deserted.

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It’s a complex network of open and closed excavations, almost like being on an archaeological dig in places.

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As the coastal villagers did with the Caldera, so the people of the interior dug their houses into rocky walls of ravines.

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The houses come in all shapes and sizes and in all states of disrepair.

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The village is as traditional as they come. With meandering, sun bleached alleys, tiered rows of bells adorning the village church and weather worn doors aplenty.

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High on the hillside this duck egg blue church welcomes dedicated (and athletic!) worshippers.

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Back in the maze of streets you can spot every shade of pastel paint and this heavy duty wooden door has so many bolts that you have to wonder what it is they are hiding!

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A traditional feature of many Santorini churches are the multi layered rows of bells that form pleasing patterns against the blue sky.

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Agia Anna is the oldest church of the village that dates back to 1827.

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The most beautiful part of the church is actually the carved wooden panels inside which portray scenes from the Old Testament.

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As you aimlessly wander and enjoy the slow, peaceful pace of life, take a moment to appreciate the village craftsmen. They knew how to build strong houses with the cheapest of materials and exploited the depth of the gully to protect them from the winds.

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To end our little mooch around Vothonas here’s a trio of perfectly coloured windows and doors.

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Pyrgos

Moving on from the delights of Oia, we decided that the best way to explore the rest of Santorini was to follow other visitors leads and hire a quad bike for the day.

Our beast cost us 40 euros for 24 hours – if we’d haggled we’d have probably got an even better deal but we were itching to be off! Here’s Neil Born to be Mild!

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The first stopover on our whirlwind tour is the hilltop village of Pyrgos and we arrived early in the morning, just as shops were opening.

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Pyrgos is at the highest point of Santorini, with panoramic views of the whole island all the way to Oia and it was declared a protected settlement in 1995.

Pyrgos is a typical fortress settlement found around the Cyclades. On the hilltop you can find ruins of Kasteli Castle, one of the five ‘kastelia’ on the island.

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As you move up from the central square you can easily start to lose yourself in the labyrinth of back streets and quaint houses.

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As early as we were, we still bumped into huge groups of Japanese tourists all frantically snapping at the pretty details including this Juliette balcony.

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Heading through the village we find lots of cute details including this little painted donkey rock sign!

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We headed directly up to the castle first of all to enjoy the panoramic views across the island. The Venetian Kasteli has a commanding position at the very top of the village although it is mainly ruins now.

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You can see for miles and miles across the island. Large areas of the island are flat but there are impressive mountains and cliff tops too.

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Santorini is essentially what remained after an enormous volcanic eruption that destroyed the earliest settlements on a formerly single island.

Much of the current island is made of layers of solidified lava. However you can still find areas that are from the former non-volcanic island.

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The Profitis Ilias mountains are one such place – the exposed mountain rock is made of the metamorphosed limestone and schist that formed the bedrock of the previous island.

Pyrgos is another place where the non volcanic rock is exposed.

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After pootling around the castle for a while we head back down into the maze of streets to admire some of the traditional craft shops that have started to ply their daily trade.

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These gorgeous colourful paintings utilise all manner of wooden backdrops including old window shutters and drift wood.

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The village has many churches, around 33 in total. That’s a lot of bells to peal!

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As we wind our way back down through the narrow twisting alleyways we have time to enjoy a few more of the colourful traditional arts including painted donkey bells and an odd little wooden rider!

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There’s a multitude of blues to be seen around the village from azure to turquoise, appearing in everything from peeling paint to plant pots and window surrounds.

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Here’s a last look before we head onto the next village on our quad bike whistle stop adventure.

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Donkeys and stairs

Much as it pains me (but possibly delights everyone else) this is the last Oia post!

One of the most archetypal images of Santorini is that of the island’s beast of burden – the donkey. Nowhere do they come into their own more than in the narrow alleyways of Oia, where cars can’t reach.

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Whatever your feelings on the morality of using these patient creatures for hard labour, you can’t avoid the everyday spectacle of them loaded up with a variety of different parcels and packages.

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Here’s a final few images from the winding, picturesque back streets and alleyways. Always culminating, suddenly, and breathtakingly with a view over the sea.

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As I load up the pictures I can still feel the sun baking down on us and remember the reflected heat from the streets.

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My multitude of photos serve as a visual diary to remind me of the many amazing things we’ve seen so far, and as a prompt for places yet to be discovered.

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Oia’s inhabitants call the town “apano meria” which roughly translates as  “The Place on Top of the World” and you certainly feel that’s exactly where you are.

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In 1976 the town was included in the programme for preservation and development of traditional settlements of the Greek National Tourism Organisation under Aris Konstantinidis.

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Over 15 years, the programme sought to preserve, restore and find new uses for selected houses and architectural ensembles representative of traditional Greek architecture.

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Many of the simple seaman’s houses on the edge of the caldera have become hotels, luxury guest houses and restaurants.

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The town is well noted for its white and blue domed houses. The houses are painted in white lime water so that the rainwater which falls over it runs down and can be collected.

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According to Wikipedia, another explanation given is that during the Ottoman rule of Greece, which lasted for over 400 years, Greeks were not allowed to fly their white flag.

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In defiance, in Oia they painted their entire housing complex in white, giving the village an effective white perspective and elegance. Of course there are other colour splashes to be found if you look hard enough.

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That’s it for Oia folks! I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing it through my eyes and might even be inspired to take a trip and explore its beauty for yourself.

Trinkets and seaviews

Oia is the photographic gift that just keeps giving I am afraid peeps! So brace yourself for a couple more posts of this little whitewashed slice of heaven.

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Everything is just so darned photogenic! Whether it’s colourful pumice stones to a trio of weathered doors, Neil genuinely feared that I would never let us leave.

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It’s this quaint gem like quality that attracts artists hankering to capture a little of its beauty and hoardes of tourists and cruise ship passengers.

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Thankfully, for us mere mortals with no artistic abilities, there are a multitude of adorable miniature scenes of the town to take away.

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Or, instead of a souvenir you could always rent a cat companion for the bargain price of five euros from the town bookshop.

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Oia overlooks two sides of the sea, western with Ammoudi bay, eastern with Armeni bay. However only the western side  faces the world famous sunset that is a huge draw for hundreds of people.

Forewarned about the gridlock that this daily scene generates, we headed away well before dusk!

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Slipping away from the main street you can wind your way down little heat soaked alleyways and lose yourself in the ramshackle jumble of delicious houses and shops.

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That iconic snap

Onwards with our whistle stop tour of gorgeous little Oia (pronounced EE ah).

The town reached the peak of prosperity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Its prosperity was based on its merchant fleet, which traded in the Eastern Mediterranean.

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The two-story captains’ houses built on the highest part of the village are a reminder of the village’s former affluence and many have been converted into very swanky hotels and apartments.

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The town has a myriad of white washed blue domed churches and quaint, traditional Cycladic houses and cave houses that are carved into the rock face on top of the cliffs.

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In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the town was a mariners town. The town’s fleet floated across the seas to build its prosperous trade with far flung countries.

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All around are the iconic blue cupolas of the many churches. Nestled next to the colour punch of hot pink bougainvillea it creates a mouthwatering scene.

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Part of the town was destroyed by a huge earthquake in the 1950s. The 7.8 magnitude earthquake on 9 July 1956 caused huge amounts of damage. 

The earthquake was followed by many towns folk leaving and in 1977 Oia had only 306 inhabitants.

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But finally, after traversing the winding back streets, I eventually come across the iconic view that I have been wanting to capture for years!

The blue cupola, the deep dark blue of the sea – here eventually was the quintessential image of Santorini that I had been hankering after for as long as I have perused travel brochures.

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I am one extremely happy little bunny! But of course I can’t just take one picture – oh no! Not me.

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Looking a little shiny and sweaty here, and the sunglasses hide the almost horrifically maniacal delight that I am currently experiencing.

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Neil meanwhile has been steadily bronzing throughout the first three days of the holiday, to the point where he appears to have been dunked in wood stain – particularly effective when placed against a white wall ..

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Final shot of the beautiful domes. So wonderful that I wanted to pick them up and take them home. Luckily you can pick up a tiny replica to take back in your handluggage.

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Oh Oia!

For many years now I have dreamt of capturing a certain image. A single blue dome, atop a blindingly white building, isolated against a breath stopping sea view.

And the location of this haunting image? Oia, a tumbling town at the North West of Santorini.

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Oia is carved out of the cliffs, and visitors can see houses built for Venetian sea captains as well as the more typical “cave houses” of the villagers.

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You’ll find the pure white buildings with colourful roofs that are typical of Greek architecture.

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Every corner and alleyway reveals a scene so gorgeous that it almost seems stage managed. it is all so perfect it seems unreal!

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Whether it’s beautifully colour coordinated paint work to a joyeous tumble of dwellings heading precariously down the cliff face, Oia has something to delight even the most world weary traveller.

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As you head down the little alley ways off the main street, finally you start to come across the truely iconic images that this island is famous for.

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The vivid blue domes contrast yet harmonise with the white and pink of the surrounding buildings and the deeper blue of the caldera beyond.

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I simply couldn’t drag myself away from this scene. It’s something I had wanted to see for so long that I had to pinch myself.

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With the heat beating down, and the hoards of other snap happy tourists filing past, it’s not quite as serene and peaceful as the photos might lead you to believe however ..  .

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But is is still infinitely worth it. We caught the little local bus from Perissa. You have to change at Fira, as with most services and it took about an hour and a half to arrive.

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Oia deserves more than a single post so you’ll be delighted (!) to know that I have enough pictures to fill at least another page . . including the iconic picture that I had been waiting for!

Wedding of the year

So it’s time for the main event, the reason we’d all converged onto the gorgeous little island of Santorini. My beautiful little cousin’s wedding!

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No apologies for the completely family centric posting of lots of posey pictures of people you will never have heard of (and probably have no interest in either!) But hey, it’s my blog, I’ll pap my peeps if I want to 🙂

The setting for the ceremony was the Chapel of St Irini, perched on the cliff top overlooking the Caldera as the sun started to sink low in the the sky.

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Here’s the wedding setting with stunning views as its backdrop. But it was scorching and we all drooped a little as we waited for the bride to arrive! Here’s a few snaps of yours truly with my parents.

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We’re not often this glam it has to be said and I was not sure whether to feel complimented or slightly offended by the amount of people who couldn’t believe it was me!!

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The chapel is a popular choice for weddings and you can even see family members get hitched over the internet if you can’t be there in person as they have a live web cam feed. Handy for my grandparents back home.

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Finally after watching the nervous groom and his best man head to the alter, here comes the beautiful bride.

Headed up by a traditional greek band, followed (in the Greek tradition) by the bridesmaids, mother of the bride and then father of the bride and the gorgeous girl herself (sob)

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While we wait for the vision of loveliness to make her way to the alter, the guests get papped by the highly enthusiastic wedding photographer (it’s a novel experience for me to be on the receiving end of the lens for a change)

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However, despite my aversion to appearing in front of a camera, I think we all scrubbed up quite well. I think I’ll wear sunglasses in every snap from now on . . .

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After hearing the vows in Greek and in English, the happy couple exchange rings and sign the wedding book.

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The band continued to serenade throughout the ceremony.

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And within just a few minutes it’s all official! A wonderful venue, stunning backdrop and truly wonderful experience for two lovely people.

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As glamorous as I was striving to be, the rather brisk winds at the top of the clifftop wrecked havoc with my hair! Hence the grump!

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Finally here’s just a selection of group shots from the day.

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Whole group of glamourous, gorgeous people!! What a marvellous bunch we are 🙂

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Self conscious wave (always hilarious when we’re told to look like we’re having fun . .cue everyone looking stilted and slightly awkward)

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Throughout the day I did become very aware that I had THE shortest dress of the whole group. This become more apparent when having to Greek dance later . . .

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Plus it was the first time in about 15 years since I had worn high heels. And I remembered why I hadn’t done so for so long. It was SHEER TORTURE! Like little spikey, man traps on my feet.

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Finally here’s a final group shot of us all at the venue – Pyrgos Restaurant. A restaurant with a panoramic terraced view over the island. The bride and groom made a super glamourous entrance in a helicopter.

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More clifftop views

So, thanks to some posting error on my part, the first part of our clifftop walk appears to have gone live before it should have! (Growl) You can check out cliff top walk part one here.

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In a nutshell we set out to walk between Fira and Oia along the cliff top over looking the Caldera. As usual I was too hot and too grumpy to actually complete said task .. .

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However we did get to explore the stunning, archetypal Greek settlements along the way.

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Getting a brief taste of luxury amongst the exquisitely restored cave houses that nestle into the cliff face.

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The glare of the sun off the whitewashed walls was quite overpowering at times and the narrow alley ways become a focus for all of the day’s heat.

Thankfully, soon enough we reached the empty, undeveloped coastline. Behind the man, to the far far left of the photo is Oia, our overly optimistic final destination!! Needless to say, Oia was not reached this day!!

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As we headed out of the final village and onto the more open coastline we encountered one of the islands most iconic animals! The donkey!

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The next note worthy event is the glamorous wedding that we’d come to Santorini for. Cliff top views, helicopter arrivals – beautiful bride!

Pictures to follow (of course!)

Colours of Greece

Mooching around the back streets of Santorini’s capital city Fira we encounter endless splashes of colour, from tea towels to pottery.

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The turquoise of this door frame contrasts deliciously with the salmon pink of the begonias. Meanwhile Neil adopts his usual role as human photo prop and delicate ceramic bells jingle beguilingly from a shady doorway.

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Here’s the simple yet imposing facade of Fira Cathedral. Inside a ferocious little woman ruthlessly patrols, throwing out tourists who breach the no shorts, no photos, no noise rules.

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Back on the street modern art jostles with the usual tourist souvenirs and we’re treated to some stunning views.

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Here’s the vertiginous view down to the harbour. it’s a fair old trek down but thankfully you can always grab the cable car back up.

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Doors to nowhere offer dizzying views over the serene Caldera and windows with a dash of colour beg to be snapped.

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Simple colours and lines form the uniquely Greek architecture while pom pom slippers and drift wood art work tempts the wallet.

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Next up we attempt the cliff top walk between Fira and Oia. Prepare for some of the most envy inducing views ever!!