Travel

Tales from the east coast of Santorini

With its black sand beaches and azure waters, Kamari lies at the heart of the Zen universe

Imagine a tiny corner of an island which came into being after a volcanic eruption more than two million years ago. Now envision the same spot morphing into a village that is the heartbeat of joy and Zen — this is Kamari, the pride of Santorini.

Situated on the south-eastern coast of Santorini, the quickest and most comfortable way to get here is to take a 45-minute flight from Athens. From Santorini airport, it is less than half-an-hour by road to Kamari. The ferry from Athens is cheaper, but takes seven to eight hours and travel can get a bit tedious.

We flew in a rather tacky aircraft and landed on an equally shabby airstrip. Our local tour operator was waiting with a wide grin and elaborate instructions. The hotel in Kamari turned out to be a modest place on the famed Black Beach. We checked in, had a quick breakfast, changed into our ‘beach clothes’ and went exploring. One look at the sea — a gently undulating carpet of blue — and I was mesmerised.

True blue

We flopped down on the nearest beach chair and soaked in the sights. The black gravel and sand complemented the blue waters. Tourists in various stages of undress were either sun-bathing or swimming.

As we stepped into the waters we were in for a shock — it was lined with pebbles of all sizes and shapes. Every step made us wince. Besides, we had to negotiate the stones carefully, or there was the danger of slipping. After a cautious and rather painful 15 minutes we managed to reach a spot where we could swim.

With the sun shining brightly, many of the revellers had found shelter under beach umbrellas and some were braving the heat in search of the perfect tan. We were refreshed but hungry, and went in search of a ‘loaf of bread’ for the hardcore vegan and ‘anything goes’ for the omnivorous yours truly.

The beach is lined with a number of taverns offering eclectic menus. Chatty managers solicited customers. We walked into a tavern and ordered pizza for the lady and grilled shrimps for me. The food was great and so was the view of the sea.

In the evening, we decided to explore the ‘village’ which has one street that stretches for more than a couple of kilometres along the seashore. It is lined with hotels suiting different budgets, taverns catering to every palate, shops which are a tourist’s delight and a couple of 24x7 supermarkets. We came across an artist painting, scenes from Oia, the ‘showpiece’ town of Santorini, completely oblivious to the disorder around him. There was another lady creating hand-painted miniatures from ancient Santorini and also selling artificial jewellery. Further, a man, who resembled a gigantic version of Asterix, was offering corn cobs at a ridiculously high price of 2 Euros.

Slice of Santorini

The bustling streets, brightly-lit shops, bracing breeze, friendly smiles and cheerful faces from every continent — this was the first time I felt that even chaos could be comfortable. Later, our hotel manager told us that Kamari had one of the best open-air theatres on earth.

Early next morning, I went to the beach to capture the sunrise, a scene right out of a Renaissance painting. It was deserted, except for a couple of swimmers and a pup which was grappling with a plastic bottle — the only litter I found on the seashore.

Greek odyssey (Far left) An Orthodox Church in Kamari and the famed Black Beach

Greek odyssey (Far left) An Orthodox Church in Kamari and the famed Black Beach  

A man, who told us he was from Ghana, approached us. He painted during the off-season and sold his creations the rest of the year. The paintings were outstanding and we picked up a few.

In the evening, we decided to go to a Greek restaurant.

A young man was playing a string instrument and a couple was dancing. There is a very quaint Greek tradition of smashing plates and shouting ‘Opa’ to express appreciation and joy.

It was on this note of song, dance and tradition, that we bid adieu to Kamari.

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Printable version | Jul 14, 2020 6:09:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/tales-from-the-east-coast-of-santorini/article28862939.ece

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