November 03, 2015

An Ill-fated Journey to Atlantis

The lost city of Atlantis may not be quite as lost as you thought. In fact you can visit a ruined city on the Greek island of Santorini (Thira) which may in fact be the fuel for the Atlantis legend. That is, if the public transportation gods of Greece don't thwart your best efforts to see it!

On our trip to Greece this past spring, Danny and I ventured from our home base of Oia on Santorini to visit the archaeological site of Akrotiri, situated on the opposite end of the island. The island of Santorini is a actually a live volcano, which last erupted in 1956, but famously erupted in 1646 BC, splitting the island into several pieces and likely causing the downfall of the Minoan civilization.

The island on the right is actually the volcano.
Akrotiri, however, was not obliterated by Santorini in the same way Vesuvius destroyed Pompeii. One can only surmise that violent earthquakes or some other premonition of doom preceded the eruption, as the archaeological survey of the site has revealed numerous household items but no human casualties. If only the Pompeiians had paid attention when Vesuvius warned them with earthquakes!

The last day of our visit to Santorini dawned cool and rainy, but that didn't deter us from waiting in the town square for the public bus to Fira, the capitol city of the island, in order to switch buses and continue on to Akrotiri. Estimates from the time-table schedule had us arriving in the ruins within 90 minutes, plenty of time to enjoy the site before catching a late lunch.

Ah, the well-laid plans of mice and men...

An hour later, the bus still had not arrived. By this time, the crowd of waiting vacationers had swelled to roughly 70 people, and we made small-talk with a recently engaged couple from the UK. Just as we were about to split a cab-fare to Fira, the bus finally arrived. The well-behaved crowd turned into a mob, elbows flying as each jockeyed their way towards the front of the group, any and all semblance of a proper queue flying out the window.

"I've been waiting for ten minutes! I'll be damned if I miss this bus!" said one lady. Try waiting for over an hour, I muttered under my breath as I rolled my eyes at her.

We didn't make it onto that bus.

Maybe disappointment jaded my opinion, but I found Fira
to be chitzy compared to Oia.
Fifteen minutes later, another bus arrived, and the scene replayed itself. However, this time we managed to make it on board. The bus driver packed the seats and aisles before pulling out of the square, leaving many people behind. Danny and I began to wonder if we even had enough time to make it to Fira then onward to Akrotiri considering that our plane left the island in under six hours. The apparent inefficiency of the public transportation had us worried.

Within an hour, we were deposited in Fira. And then we waited for the bus to Akrotiri. Six buses and an hour later, with no bus to Akrotiri having once showed despite the fact that a bus is due every 30 minutes, we officially gave up our idea of visiting the ruins. We wandered into Fira to find a bite to eat and meander through the town (quite uncharming in comparison to Oia) before returning to the square for a bus to Oia. Mercifully, the bus was only thirty minutes late.

So long story short, don't trust the public transportation on Santorini! Rent a car, a scooter, or hire a taxi. Heck, make the walk yourself if you have to! But our plans to see the lost city of Atlantis were foiled for want of a reliable transportation system.

Oh, well, better luck next time, right?

Well, there were a few charming things about Fira!

Have you ever had to modify or cancel portions of your itinerary due to transportation? We seem to have ill-luck with public transportation as we "enjoyed" a nail-biting delay on Mt. Vesuvius and then more delays on our train from Naples to Rome!

Linking up for #TravelTuesday!


  1. I've always wanted to visit Santorini!!!! That place seems so incredibly beautiful! And I didn't know that about Atlantis - so cool and all the more reason to go there (taking the taxi then) :)

  2. I hope you get to go back soon! That really sucks. And I hope that "10 minutes" lady heard you. How frustrating!

  3. Oh my gosh this story makes me want to swear - I hate when people do that! It happened to us on the way out of an evening event at the zoo in Edinburgh and there were hundreds of people at the bus and literally people walked in front of us and made it on the bus and we were left stranded because we're not animals...grr

  4. Wow getting on to that bus sounds like a horror scene! I had heard about the horrible public transportation in Santorini and thankfully we had enough people that renting a car was almost the same price. It was worth it to pay a little more and avoid situations like this one! At least you know for next time!!


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