We were able to get off the ship around 8am in Santorini, and my mom and I were on the first tender boat that left from the ship. The ship was not able to dock since Santorini doesn’t have a harbor, instead the ship just dropped anchor a little bit off of the shore. Then tender boats took passengers from the cruise ship to the shore. Once on shore, we headed for the donkeys in order to make it up the hill and into town. We were a bit worried that they might hit the donkeys in order to get them to go uphill, but I had a particularly good experience. I was one of the last of the group to get onto a donkey, but my donkey was not messing around near the back of the line. My donkey took off at a fast speed and pushed its way past all of the other donkeys. Early on, it got into a little bit of a tiff with another donkey and tried to bite it. Well of course the other donkey tried to bite it back, but my donkey was having none of this, so it took off at a fast clip right to the very front of the line, and stayed at least 20 feet from the next closest donkey the whole way up. My donkey literally went into a gallop to get out in front. I didn’t even know that donkeys were able to gallop before that!
The ride up was strenuous for some other people in our group who fell off, and a teenage girl was crying. My mom’s donkey was in the very back of the group so she had to witness all of the drama while my donkey kept up a fast pace and then paused to rest every once in a while. The view going up the hill was so pretty but the experience of riding the donkey was so unique. Since we were the first group to be heading up the hill, the majority of the donkeys were being shepherded downhill to bring tourists back up, so hundreds of donkeys were walking or running at us half of the time. My donkey did a good job of dodging the herds for the most part, but I did end up with a few bruises from some accidental collisions. I think they say that the whole riding the donkey up the hill experience is supposed to take about 10 to 15 minutes, but in reality it took us about 30 minutes to make it all the way up the hill to the town of Fira at the top.
We breezed through the main streets of Fira fairly quickly on our way to the bus station. I had read a description of the town of Oia in our travel information, and I really wanted to go see it. Oia is described as being exactly what you picture when you think of white buildings with blue roofs overlooking the sea; typical Greece. And that is exactly how it was! We got there early enough so that there weren’t too many tourists running around and so we got tons of stunning pictures of the little town. We only stayed for about an hour because there is nothing to do in Oia besides admire the views and take pictures. You can shop or find something to eat, but it was expensive and we weren’t hungry yet, so we decided to head back to Fira and find a nice place for a snack. Getting a bus to Oia was not stressful at all, but getting back was an entirely different story. So many tourists were jockeying for a position in the line for the bus and all the taxis in the area were in use. I bought a donkey magnet from a store by the bus stop and picked up a Bacardi Breezer as well. The owner of the shop told me that I might want something stronger to make it through the chaotic bus ride. I laughed and took a motion sickness pill.
We missed the first bus that came, and waited another 15 minutes until the next bus came. This time, we fought our way to the front and onto the bus. Even though we pushed and shoved in order to make it on the bus, we still ended up smashed in and standing in the aisle as the bus whipped around the corners for the 25 minutes back to Fira. The guy who collected the bus fares pushed his way down the aisle collecting everyone’s money and it was super hot on the bus. Once we made it back into Fira, my mom went to a café for some white wine and Greek yogurt with honey and walnuts. I convinced my mom to ride the donkeys back down the hill, which was another great and totally unique experience. Not as many people rode the donkeys down the hill, preferring instead to walk or take the gondola ride. I love animals though, and I got another awesome donkey. This one was the front of our small party of just 3 and it even made noises, the standard “hee-haw” and more! In between my mom and I was this lady who had a knee injury who was literally freaking out the entire time. My mom was quick to point out when the donkeys were slipping on the rocks and the dangers of riding a donkey downhill, which really did not help the situation but provided quite the comedic relief for me. Finally we reached the bottom and my donkey even barred its teeth for the camera when my mom took a photo of us. Riding the donkeys was definitely my highlight of Santorini, along with the gorgeous views!