Are you ready for a quad bike adventure paraphernalians? We’re exploring Thera’s southern beaches, lookouts and tavernas. Slap on some sunscreen, make yourself comfortable and enjoy the view as we ride the caldera road.
The southern end of the crescent is the Akrotiri Peninsula. The town of Akrotiri itself is off the beaten track. Tourist attractions are away from the town so traffic rarely enters. Hotels and restaurants are run by the local farming community with produce generally fresh from farms and the sea. Menus are prepared daily; cooked simply and traditionally.
One of the tourist attractions nearby is a Minoan Bronze Age excavation site. A settlement akin to Pompeii; well preserved under lava and ash. Extensive modern excavation began in 1967, but artefacts were found in the late 1800s giving clues to the site’s history. Situated on the sailing route between Cyprus and Minoan Crete, the 3 storey buildings, preserved frescoes and foreign artefacts indicate the town had a prosperous copper trade. In the late 17th century BC, the eruption of Thera put an end to that. No human skeletal remains have been found at the site suggesting an orderly evacuation before the volcano erupted.
From the excavation site, Red Beach (officially Kokkini Beach; kokkini being red in Greek) is very close. Arriving at the car park we have no doubt we’re in the right place. Agios Nikolaos Church has a backdrop of the contrasting red lava cliff and rocks ambling into the sea are the same rich colour. The beach itself is a 10 to 15-minute walk from here and sand shoes are advisable rather than thongs/ flip flops/ jandals (whatever they are where you’re from). Landslides are fairly common here too, so be careful! Alternatively, you can take a boat from the Akrotiri archaeological site straight to the beach avoiding the steep descent from the clifftop path. The snorkelling here is spectacular; the red rock contrasting beneath the crystal blue water. Umbrellas, loungers and refreshments are all available at the beach.
Back on the recalcitrant Rottweiler we make our way to Akrotiri lighthouse where the views are stunning. Yachts are out today and the obligatory cruise liners tag team their moorings. Parking bays along this road make perfect photography stops. At the lighthouse, walking trails around the point are signposted with distances including one leading back to Red Beach.
We’ve worked up a bit of a thirst now and arrive at a family run taverna for a beer with a view. On the twists and turns from the lighthouse, it’s the first taverna on the left. The family are from a fishing background. They’ll let you know what’s fresh on the day and what the price is per kilo. This is not to suggest you purchase a kilo, but your price will be calculated on weight.
Refreshed from our Fix (a brand of Greek beer) we continue to Perissa Beach. Follow the signs to Emporio. From Emporio, there are 2 options. Continue on the main road straight to Perissa or take the southern turn to Perivolos Beach. Perivolos and Perissa Beaches join so it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. Restaurants, bars and hotels line the waterfront. The club scene here attracts international DJs and celebrity spotting is not unusual. If you’re here simply for a cocktail or, better still, a delicious homestyle meal you’re also in the right place.
Eyeing the specials boards outside each taverna, we choose The Volcano Restaurant – Taverna. It’s family run, as many are, and Yilmaz introduces us to his parents. His Mum runs the kitchen, Dad’s front of house, as well as ‘chief cheese maker’, and Yilmaz manages the show. Today he suggests we indulge in Mum’s baked lamb with local tomatoes, garlic and plenty of olive oil. She’s stuffed whole squid too so we’re into that with a side of crisp fried eggplant. The local rosé is more than quaffable and it’s beginning to feel like sightseeing will be shelved for the afternoon.
After grazing, we’re brought into the fold to chat with the family. (This is what vacations are about for us) They’re genuine and caring and eventually the Ouzo appears. As we discuss the island with Yilmaz we decide we’ll save Kamari Beach for tomorrow. It’s very close to the wineries and the brewery we’ve planned to visit so we’re hoping to find a friendly family run taverna there too. Holiday itinerary flexibility: now, that’s a thing we love….