Nisos Thira, Megalochori, Greece.
Billy Joel didn’t write this song. I did. The lyrics are in my mind and I have thought about last summer in Greece with about the same frequecy as my bike commute, which is daily. I think about Santorini and it calms me like the humming of a singing bowl. I thought about it last fall as the leaves were changing colors and the air was growing brisk. I ruminated about it when the snow was falling in the winter and in the spring when it sounded like someone dumped a bucket of marbles on the roof as hail clattered and the skies thundered. Memories of my Santorini bike ride got me through.
The whole adventure was both last minute and planned. How is that possible? I would travel to Greece and if I could get a bike ride or two, that would be a bonus. Trip planned, but sometimes you need to be there to figure out the rest. I had no idea if I could pull off a bike ride on the island but I was going to try. I was sitting in the lobby of the hotel and I mentioned the idea to the host. He was not impressed. He was concerned it would be too dangerous. I remember saying, “Okay, sure, but… do you know anyone?” He said he would check. I had the impression that he was not going to check but wait for me to forget about it.
Lo’ and behold there was a travel magazine on the table in the lobby and I was thumbing through it and saw an ad for Santorini MTB Adventures. I wrote down the number and the email. I sent an email first, in which, I described my bike experience and how much I wanted to make this happen. Shortly after I clicked SEND my phone rang and it was a woman who wanted to confirm that there was a opening the next morning. Could I be ready at 9AM? There was jubilation and dancing and I was beaming the rest of the day as like a child on Christmas Eve. I couldn’t go to sleep.
I packed bike shorts and a top because that’s what I do for most trips. You have to get in gear when a bike opportunity rings the bell. The next morning I was waiting at the door at 8:30 for the 9AM pick up as anxious as if this was a first date. Soon I would rendezvous with a bike on a beach and I would see the island from the saddle of an electric mountain bike. Ride on.
Vassili and Katarina were our guides. It was me and a young couple.
The adventure started at Perissa Beach. I don’t remember much about the beach at the beginning of the trip because all I wanted to do was hike my leg over this bike and get going.
Perissa Beach is in the backgroud. Gorgeous, but at the start of the ride and when I shot this pic, I didn’t even notice the beach. Bikes on the brain!
The e-bikes c have 9 speeds and 4 modes: Eco, sport, tour and turbo. Disc brakes. I have an e-bike that has pedal assist. Same idea but there’s a little more boost in these models. They are a modern day mule and easy to use. Vassili was lead and I followed behind him. I could feel all the commuting miles pay off as we biked up and down and around. The couple followed behind me and Katarina brought up the back.
We puttered around the parking lot for about 10 minutes getting used to how the bikes handled and then we were off. Vassili would take pics here and there and we would also have moments when we stopped to snap a few pics but he strongly advised us to keep both hands on the handlebars and not take pics while we were riding. Okay, who told on me! But it’s true, the terrain is varied and rocky. I knew immediately I should behave myself. I only took pictures when we stopped.
Santorini is full of those hills that don’t look like much, but suddenly your in the middle of a climb that was so gradual you can almost hear the ground giggling at your attempt to summit without downshifting.
See how it is. Seems easy enough and then right at the top of the picture it gets steep enough to make you wish for an escalator.
At each turn there’s a reward of something that you’d miss if you weren’t on a bike.
Then the narrow alleyway opens up to something else that takes your breath away.
Our first stop was for a bit of refreshment at a café.
There were infinite nooks and crannies that demanded attention. We parked our bikes and went exploring.
The next stop was Gavalas Winery. We parked our bikes and settled in for a treat which included wine tasting.
My favorite part was when the guide at the winery, another Vassili said,
“Fermentation needs patience. While drinking needs company.” Also they wanted a wine that was “Red to your eye, Rosé in the mouth and white in the after taste.” I enjoyed all four wines we sampled.
My only significant regret was that I didn’t buy some wine or have some shipped. If you like wine, you should check out this winery. I thought I could probably find it somewhere in the Northwest, but I was wrong.
Vassili the bike guide brought us these amazing “energy” bars.
Everything does taste better on vacation!
Then we’re on our way again to see more sights.
Bring on the oxygen because the views from this spot are spectacular. I was overcome with emotion at truly awesome sights.
Super steep getting down to a church, but worth it. This is an excursion that welcomes all levels, but keep in mind, there’s sand and gravel and significant climbing in and out of areas like this. Bikes stayed up top and we walked down to the church.
You can ring the bells!
The Monastery of Agios Nikolaos in Santorini: The historical female Monastery of Agios Nikolaos is located between the villages of Firostefani and Imerovigli in Santorini. The monastery is dedicated to three saints, Agios Panteleimon, Zoodoxos Pighi (which means life giving source in Greek) and Agios Nikolaos.
View from just outside the church doors.
Selfie time. The ride was about 15 miles total. I saw sights that I wouldn’t have seen any other way.
This is the famous black beach. It is actually a sharp pebbly one and I strongly recommend proper footwear. If you’re there in July it’s very hard to walk on with your bare feet. The sea was gorgeous. Plenty of comfortable seating available.
Perissa Beach is where we started. By the time you get back to the lounge chairs you are ready for a dip in the water and a cold beverage of your choice.
This is the look of contentment.
Would I recommend Santorini MTB Adventures? Without hesitation I would recommend them! I loved every second of the bike ride. I was sad it came to an end. This would hold me over for a few days. I would be heading back to Athens after Santorini and yes, I found bikes there too. More in another post about biking in Athens.
Santorini is in the Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea. Way back in the16th century BC it was devastated by a volcanic eruption, forever shaping its rugged landscape. Jules Verne wrote about it in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in 1870. There’s some perspective for you. Since this trip many details of life have garnered my attention. Sometimes we get lost in the minutiae of the day. But in the quiet or even busy moments between the storms I have been able to get myself back to a Santorini state of mind. A few hours that transformed me and my perspective on life. We all need places like that. I can get myself there with each and every pedal stroke on any day, rain or shine. I hope you have a place like that too.
Thanks for reading. Now, get up and get out there and ride your bike!
P.S. I am heading back to Santorini this summer. More MTB adventures await, I hope.
I really do love Santorini!