Arrival on Anafi

The Saonisos left the shores of Riva Cove and sailed across the straight between Thirassia and Santorini. It’s a busy channel used by cruise liners, passenger ferries and tourist boats alike. This view never fails to amaze me. The island looks like a collapsed chocolate sponge dripping with white icing. I don’t know if this says more about Santorini or my love of cake!

Before heading to Anafi, we call in at Athinios Port where a large group of people board. This time I’d remembered how little shade there was on the top deck so I’ve taken a seat on the lower deck. When arriving at a port I like to go to the back of the ship and watch the disembarkation and boarding which is always fascinating. This isn’t possible on the Saonisos because the back of the boat is a working area for crew only and is full of ropes and winch mechanisms.

The ship sets sail towards Akrotiri where the lighthouse of the same name sits at the tip of the cape. Sailing close to the coastline, the mysterious geological makeup of the island is revealed. Santorini was originally a limestone rock. Successive volcanic eruptions over hundreds of thousands of years created layers of pyroclastic and lava rock that painted the landscape in a rainbow of colours. In this short stretch of the island alone, the palette ranges from white to black with pink, red, sulphur yellow, ochre and burn umber in between. You can see where Santorini’s famous Black, White and Red Beaches get their name.

Before we head out towards Anafi, we pass Vlichada with its naturally formed stone pillars providing a unique architectural backdrop to the beach. Beyond this sitting high up on a hill is Emporios the largest village on Santorini. This piques my curiosity and I make a mental note to come back to Santorini one day and explore it further. Out of season of course.

After an hour or so we begin the approach to the port on the Southern coast of Anafi. The island has been on my list to visit for many years but it has always been difficult to weave it into one of my previous itineraries. There is one main settlement on Anafi. Chora is located on Kastelli Hill tumbling down below the small Kastro. There are a few accommodations close to the port but I’ve chosen to stay in Chora.

Anafi has an interesting history. In the 19th century, the island was renowned for its skilled craftsmen, particularly its builders and carpenters. When King Otto came to the throne in 1832 he had an ambition to rebuild Athens into a city that befitted its magnificent historical past. It was the Anafiots that he called upon to initially rebuild his palace. They arrived in Athens in the 1840’s, and built their homes on the northern slope below the Acropolis. The houses were built in the same Cycladic architectural style and also named after their home island.

When visiting Anafiotika you will get the sense of being in a village within a city. Only around 50 of the original houses remain as many were demolished during archaeological excavations in and around the Acropolis, Regardless, Anafiotika retains a lot of its charm and should definitely be part of an itinerary when visiting Athens.

My host at Antonia Rooms has arranged for a taxi to pick me up from the port. It’s a little chaotic as we disembark with everyone scrabbling for the few available taxis. Thankfully I found my driver quite easily. It takes 10 minutes to drive up the snaking road to the car park and square on the edge of the village. The driver gives me directions to Antonia’s and I climb the street to find it. Within minutes I heard a lady calling my name. Antonia is running after me and immediately takes my case from my hand. Two minutes later we arrive on a charming little street and the entrance to the rooms. However, my built-in vertigo alarm bell begins ringing immediately! There are two sets of steps down to the rooms that are rather vertigo-inducing.

The first set is manageable because there is a high wall on either side of me. The second flight though, has a low wall on one side with views of the drop below. I was amazed at how quickly Antonia leapt down the stairs without hesitation even with my suitcase. I on the other hand cling desperately to the wall on my left taking one step at a time trying to look as ‘in control’ as possible.

My room is at the end of a pretty shared balcony covered with grape vines. Everything inside the room is immaculately clean and well-maintained. Before she goes, Antonia shows me a shared kitchen where there are cooking facilities. I know that I won’t be doing any self-catering but it’s useful to know.

Apart from the steps, I’m very happy with this as a place to stay. I did deliberate on whether to ask Antonia if she had another room on a higher level. After sitting on the balcony and taking in the view towards Kalamos Rock I decided that I would stick with the tortuous steps just to retain the view and shade of the vines. BTW the Kalamos Rock is the second largest monolith after Gibralter!

Despite Anafi being far out at sea, the heat is still oppressive. Apparently, we are now coming into the second heatwave since my arrival in Greece. Even on top of Kastelli Hill the temperatures are still quite debilitating. I have a feeling that I’m going to be spending a lot of time on the beach!

Once unpacked and changed, I head out for something to eat. At the top of the steps and to the right is Liotrivi Fish Taverna. The terrace of the taverna is above my room and I can hear the chatter of voices and clinking of glasses before I leave.

The taverna has a small terrace that overlooks the island. I’ve arrived too late for a front-row seat but I’m happy and hungry enough to take a table in the indoor section. The young women that work here are friendly and efficient and make me feel very welcome. I like the idea of having fish as it’s the taverna’s speciality but I don’t have the motivation to wrestle with the bones – I’ll save that for another night. Tonight I have the Santorini Fava and grilled chicken washed down with white wine. If I drink the lot it may take the edge off the walk down the steps!

As I’m here for 6 nights I find the closest minimarket and stock up on water and a few supplies for breakfast – that is as far as my self-catering will go! Now let’s face those steps and see what tomorrow brings! ❤️

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