Finding the key to the lost city of Santorini

On Instagram, behind a filter, we see the vivid blue and flawless white churches that lie in the lost city of Santorini – but is it everything the serene photos promise?

As I looked over from the clifftop, I realised I’d never been to a place quite so perfect. I was drowning in euphoria.

One of 2018’s top luxury destinations, Santorini is currently leading on the list of most photographed places in the world, with thousands of snap-happy tourists going to Greece to see its beauty.

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I was lucky enough to go last month, when the weather was warm and the swarm of summer tourists were yet to fly out.

We stayed in Oia, famous for the caldera, created after a disastrous volcanic eruption almost 2,000,000 years ago.

The result was devastatingly beautiful, as although it ended the city’s civilization – it created an alien paradise which will take your breath away.

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After the volcano, Santorini became known as the ‘lost city’; almost a hidden wonder of the world.

Years later, people began to build on the steep cliff the volcano created – with views so beautiful you’ll be lost for words.

When I turned around to see the view for the first time, my heart sank into my chest and my eyes almost filled with tears – I couldn’t believe a place like this existed – and I was lucky enough to see it.

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As I walked through the narrow village, I got a real sense of how luxurious Santorini really is. Packed with designer shops and 5* suites, there’s no shortage of cash here.

It’s restaurants aplenty, too, serving incredible seafood and steaks, along with traditional Greek cuisine.

Tip: Head through the cobbled side streets for quieter, more traditional tavernas

Whilst staying in Oia, we dined at the Canavas Oia Suites, a luxury boutique hotel, nestled into the edge of the cliff boasting the village’s most spectacular views.

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The hotel’s ‘Petra’ restaurant was worthy of a Michelin star. Serving a fine dining menu and the world’s most expensive champagne – this was a real treat – and something that most of us could only ever dream of.

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Tip: Don’t wear high heels, you’ll regret it. There are SO many steps and cobbles. You will fall – like me.

After enjoying an impeccable dinner, we went on the search for some late night fun.

If you’re looking for nightlife, you probably aren’t going to find much in Oia. There’s one late night bar called Meteor, which stays open until around 2am and plays some great music.

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However, the booze is flowing in Fira. Located around 30 minutes from Oia, you’ll find an array of bars, clubs, and pubs to suit all ages – open until around 4am.

Murphy’s Irish bar is the place to go to watch the football, and just around the corner you’ll find a row of night clubs, perfect for those who love to party.

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If you want to see Fira by day, I recommend walking from Oia. It’s not for the faint hearted – as it’s a seven mile hike- but I promise you the views you’ll see on the way are worth every step. Even if you are bright red and sweating you’re back out. 

It’s an easy route to follow and you’ll see dozens of tourists taking the same trip. There’s a small kiosk around three miles in, so you can stop and get a drink if you need to.

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Tip – Don’t do it with a hangover, don’t wear white trainers, and remember to take loads of water. 

When you arrive in Fira during the day, you’ll notice it’s a lot more commercial than Oia – you’ll spot the McDonald’s straight away.

There’s a really nice Greek restaurant tucked away up some stairs in the centre. It’s called Parea Tavern and they do the most amazing seafood.

They even have an in-house ‘Fish Doctor’ who will debone your fish with medical precision. Take a look.

Tip: Don’t go to a Chinese restaurant called Fu Li Hua. We waited over one hour and thirty minutes to be served what can only be described as a spicy oil soup. 

In Fira, you can walk down to the port where you’ll find dozens of water taxis and tour boats. From here, you can hop on and take a tour of the volcano – and it’s pretty amazing.

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There are hundreds of stairs, but, if you don’t fancy the walk you can take a cable car to save your feet.

On the way down, you’ll see a lot of tourists taking a donkey ride, which personally offended me – and I’m by no means an animal rights activist.

The animals looked distressed, and the overweight Greek men didn’t really have control of them – so be mindful of a stampede.

Tip: The queue for the cable cars is really long. If I were you, I’d just embrace the walk.

When you do eventually reach the bottom, the views are sublime, overwhelming almost, and you’ll feel lost in an ocean of magic.

If you’re looking for even more adventure, you can get a water taxi to the volcano and walk to the top. You can even swim in the hot springs that lie beneath.

There’s plenty more to do in Santorini, from wine tasting to scuba diving, but I feel it’s really a place to unwind and forget the stresses of everyday life.

Whilst there, my worries vanished, I was simply entwined in enchantment.

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The days spent sitting by the edge of the cliff, enjoying a cold beer in the sunshine were my favourites. But maybe I’m just a simple girl who enjoys the simple pleasures.

Santorini is a place of luxury – but in my opinion, money can’t buy the experience you’ll get whilst your there.

Make every moment count.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at thelunarbabe@hotmail.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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How to find the magic in Marrakech

There’s a lot of magic in Marrakech. You’ll find it weaving through the mystical maze at the souks, and pouring from the waters of Oozoud falls.

The colours of the city will flash before your eyes, and the aromas of spice and leather will awaken your senses.

If you’re visiting Marrakech, get set to take a carpet ride into the world of the unknown – and if you’re looking for magic, here’s where to find it.

Jemaa el-Fnaa

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Jemaa el-Fnaa is the city’s largest trading square – and a popular meeting point for tourists and locals alike.

Here you’ll find over a hundred stalls selling an array of local delicacies, from Es Cargo to spicy lamb tagines, along with freshly squeezed juices, sweet pastries, nuts, figs and dates.

You’ll also find snake charmers, show monkeys, and if you’re lucky you’ll spot the illusive ‘street dentist’ pulling molars in the street.

The square is particularly breathtaking at night, as the atmosphere is electric.

Watch Arabic dancers moving to the beat of drums, as the light from hundreds of colourful lanterns flickers in the moonlight.

Although it’s enchanting, it’s also crowded – meaning you need to stay safe.

Be careful upon entering the square, as here you’ll find ladies offering henna tattoos. Keep your hands in your pockets or they’ll grab hold of you in a bid to ink your skin.

Steer clear of the snake charmers and monkeys or you’ll end up with one on your shoulder – and be demanded to cough up some cash.

Don’t let this put you off though, as Jemaa el-Fnaa is a wonderful place and will give you a true taste of traditional Marrakech.

If you do happen to get stung by a street trader, it’s easier to just pay them a small amount of money to avoid getting into unwanted bother.

The souks

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To lose your senses in a city of mystery, getting lost in one of the many souks should be at the top of your list.

The largest souk in Marrakech is at Jemaa el-Fnaa, which connects a honeycomb of alleyways leading into what feels like a parallel universe.

As you enter the souk, you’ll find everything from traditional Moroccan teapots and handmade ceramics, to magic lamps and Ali Baba dress robes.

It’s easy to get lost in the souk – and once you’re in, it may feel like there’s no way out.

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Items for sale here aren’t priced, so you’ll have to haggle.

To avoid getting your fingers burned, it’s a good idea to visit the Ensemble Artisanal before hand.

The Ensemble Artisanal is a fixed priced indoor market on the other side of Jemaa el-Fnaa. It’s only around 300m from the square – and hard to miss.

Look for the name in large letters above the large wooden door.

Inside, you’ll find all the items for sale at the souk, only there’s no haggling and everything has a price tag.

This should give you an idea of how much the items are worth, so you don’t up paying a small fortune for something that’s only worth pennies.

Oozoud Falls

After a couple of days in the city, you may need a break from Marrakech’s madness.

The busy streets, the crazy traffic, and the rush of adrenalin can be a lot to take in.

If you want some peace and quiet – Oozoud Falls is a must.

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Tucked away in the Atlas mountains a three hour drive from the city, you can hear the splash of Africa’s highest waterfall, along with the footsteps of wild monkeys who live in the surrounding trees.

As you embark up the mountain you can see the homes of the Berber villagers who live there.

The Berber tribe is scattered across North Africa and speak a minimum of nine languages including Arabic, French and English.

Berber villagers will greet you with a warm welcome, offering traditional tea in their small, rustic restaurants – mainly built from clay, mud and straw.

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As you head up the mountain path, you’ll find dozens of olive trees and wild monkeys who’ll sit on your shoulder in exchange for a couple of nuts.

Reaching the top, you’ll be blown away by the views. From here you can see the spectacular palace, home to the King of Morocco.

On the way back down the views are even more mesmerising. The breathtaking scene will stop you in time and trap you in a temporary paradise.

You’ll see a number of handmade, wooden boats – dressed in soft pastels and decorated in colourful flowers, rowed by villagers who’ll take you underneath the falls for photographs.

Trip advisor organise this trip for around £25 per person, but you can also arrange in the city of Marrakech with a local tour operator.

Majorelle Gardens

Marrakech is famous for its stunning mosaics, and Majorelle gardens is home to some beautiful artwork.

A little set back from the centre, probably around 30 minute walk from Jemaa el-Fnaa, you’ll find the gardens paying tribute to Yves Saint Laurent, who lived in Marrakech for a number of years.

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The garden is enchanted with splashes of royal blue and canary yellow, which created the setting for some of the designers most famous photo shoots.

You can go to the YSL museum for around £4, where you can see inside his famous house and look at some memorabilia.

This is a major tourist hot spot – so it’s probably best to go early in the morning to avoid queuing outside in the heat.

If you can’t make it to Majorelle gardens, the Cyber Park is also worth a visit. This is in the centre of Marrakech, just by Jemaa el-Fnaa.