Our last night in Santorini was relatively uneventful.
We were both still exhausted from the previous night and just settled into our new hostel (Fira Backpackers Hostel) for our last night on the island before heading to Ios the next day. While we were relaxing we decided to start planning our next steps. First we had to decide where to go when we got back to Athens from Ios. The decision came down to either Bucharest, Romania or Split, Croatia as those had the cheapest flights from Athens. This decision had some weight since the city would be where we begin using our train pass and start the real backpacking through the continent. We went back and forth; going to Bucharest meant that we’d get to Hungary in time to see Tanner’s friend who was there for a few days, but Croatia made more sense geographically. We ended up going with Split and in doing research for what to do there discovered that we can book a week long trip on a yacht that takes you through the islands and down the coast. Although it was a little expensive we decided to go for it since it was the last window they had available with summer winding down, and we’d heard great reviews from other travelers that had done it. This meant that we’d be spending 2 total weeks in Croatia but that’s not necessarily a bad thing since it’s supposed to be a reasonably affordable country, and, just as important, it doesn’t count against the 90 days in Schengen Zone.
We also befriended a trio of girls from Canada who were going to Ios too. I told them how we were hoping to chill there and try to save some money and they looked at me funny and said that Ios is one of the biggest party islands. Dang it. But also stoked I guess. They also mentioned that they went to Mykonos and though it was very pretty they felt old there (and they were younger than me) and also that it was full of gay men. Nothing wrong with either of those things but it felt better to hear that since it’s the second most popular island after Santorini and we were skipping it. I’m sure it’s a ton of fun there but it’s also probably more of the same.
The next day we took the ferry to Ios and honestly I think Ios is more beautiful than Santorini. It’s less developed and has more of the classic Greek island look you associate with this area. White buildings and blue-domed roofs are everywhere but the city is still relatively small. The hostel we booked, George’s Place, seemed almost too good to be true online. It was half the price of the other more popular hostel AND we’d be getting our own private room with separate beds instead of having to bunk up in an 8 person room.
Well it also included a free transfer from the ferry port and lo and behind George himself picked us up. We got to the hotel where he introduced us to his wife and daughter, who all run the hostel with him as a family business. The daughter Margarita showed us around and the place was actually great. We kept waiting for a catch but the only hiccup was that the bathroom light was out which they fixed immediately. There was a balcony with a great view and the room was super clean.
Based on Margarita’s recommendation we took the local bus towards the North end of the island to catch the sunset. It was of course beautiful and way less crowded than Santorini.
That night we went to the bars and clubs on Ios. After walking around the strip of bars we landed on a place called Lost Boys (which sounds like a gay bar but seemingly was not) which had a lot of drinking games like beer pong set up. It seemed pretty cool but was mostly empty which was surprising since it was already after midnight. There were a few folks there though and we started chatting up a pair of Australian girls that had just gotten back from doing a Croatia sail week similar to what Tanner and I just booked. They seemed to think our company wouldn’t be as fun (we booked a cheaper trip) so we’ll see if turns out she’s right, but it would be a bummer since we had still dropped a good amount of cash. I grabbed a drink and started talking to the bartender who was also Australian and had come to Ios 4 months ago and never left. He said the reason it was so quiet was because the summer season is winding down. This also made me concerned about our Croatia boat trip.
Back with the Aussie girls we started talking to a pair of younger Australian guys who had just finished high school and had also done the Croatia boat trip. They were clearly drunk since each of them had like 3 t-shirts from the local bars which you get by ordering and drinking 7 shots. They reassured us that the boat trip would be the time of our lives so we’ll just have to see how it shakes out.
Tanner and I left Lost Boys to go a more popular spot called Traffic. It was a 7€ cover charge but it included a drink so not too bad. Things started to pick up and the bars got more crowded so we bounced around few more spots and ended up getting home pretty late.
The next day we slept in a bit then went to Mylopotas beach which was like a painting. It’s a crescent-shaped beach surrounded by hills and th water was a beautiful shade of blue. It’s like it gets better and better every new place we go. We got a bite to eat and checked out some shops to buy new swim trunks but we were still so wiped from the night before we just caught the bus back to the hotel and passed out again.
That night we went out again but this time met up with a group of Canadian girls we had met earlier on Santorini at their hostel bar where we also bumped into the same Aussie girls from the night before. We went out with all of them but it was a really quiet night at the bars. Things never really picked up all the way through the night but somehow we ended up staying out pretty late.
The next day we decided to actually do something besides just drinking and laying on the beach. We wanted to rent scooters to ride around and explore the island but were told that we needed motorcycle license to rent them. They offered ATVs to rent but I was concerned that those wouldn’t have the same speed of a scooter. Well I was wrong. We went with the ATVs and those things could fly. We took them out to the northern beach where we hit a small snag when a Frenchman ran up to us and asked if we could take him to the hospital. He had been climbing on the rocks on the beach when a wave knocked him off and he got huge gash on his leg that was bleeding pretty profusely and needed stitches. Tanner drove him to the hospital on the back of his ATV while I chilled at a cafe on the beach. His trip took about 2 hours so it was getting late in the afternoon once he got back, but still we took off to the south end of the island for about a 45 minute ride that was easily the most fun thing we have done on our trip so far. On the way there we rode up and down the swtichback roads of the island mountains which provided the most beautiful views. It was actually kind of dangerous since I’d get distracted looking out over the sea watching the sunset instead of focusing on driving.
By the time we got to the southern beach of Magnanari it was late in the day so we just walked around a bit (the beach was of course beautiful again) and snapped a few pictures before heading back since we didn’t want to drive back after sunset. We returned the ATVs then got dinner and chilled a bit before heading to the bars. This time we didn’t meet up with anyone beforehand but ended up running into a group of Lithuanians we had met on our first night. We hung with them off and on for most of the night before eventually parting ways around sunrise – just in time to walk back to our hostel and get packed up for our 7am ride to the ferry.
The ferry took about 7 hours to get us back to Athens and we were so tired we slept pretty much the whole way. Once we got to Athens we just decided to go straight to the airport even though our flight wasn’t until 10pm since we were both still so exhausted from being out all night. We got to the airport around 5pm but couldn’t check in and get our boarding passes until an hour and half before our flight which was a minor bummer since it meant we had to wait outside of security and couldn’t chill in the lounge. But be careful what you wish for since we ended up getting way more lounge time than we wanted when the flight was pushed to 4am. That meant back to back nights with no sleep and I was already starting to feel sick. At least I got to use the time to catch up on Game of Thrones before getting to Croatia.