One of the most desired views in the world... Santorini has always on my bucket list and I had the great pleasure of going in 2019 during my summer Europtrip. It was my last destination in Greece, so I had high expectations!
Some of you will not like this, but my experience with Santorini wasn’t as mind-blowing as some of yours. Not to say it is not beautiful, it IS beautiful, but the summer crowds, and the Greek hustlers really got the best of me here. So, a lot of my time in Santorini was spent at my hotel, which I am really not mad about, because the view was truly incredible. This way I didn’t have to mingle with the cruise ship go-ers and people trying to sell me something. I also may be a bit biased, because my experience in Greece before Santorini was more about hanging with locals, exploring with the top down… much quieter places than Santorini.
I don’t want to rain on the whole parade, Santorini is stunning, magical, and all of the above – just maybe don’t go in August? Nonetheless, you CANNOT miss Santorini, cruise ship crowds or not, you have to make it here, at least once.
I took the boat from Naxos, to Santorini – so it was really convenient. Book tickets in advance, because they do just get more and more expensive (especially peak season). And that is something coming from me, someone who likes to go with the flow on my trips and try to book as little as possible. We booked with Ferryhopper (LINK).
If you aren’t Island hopping or if Santorini is your first stop, you can fly from Athens (about a 45min flight) and is usually very affordable. You can fly Ryanair, Sky Express, or Volotea – flights leave about every hour. Also, similar to the ferries, book in advance if you are heading to Santorini in peak season.
Airport code: JTR
ARRIVING IN SANTORINI:
As I mentioned, I was coming from Naxos, so I arrived at the ferry port. Overwhelming is the best word to describe my arrival. Thousands of people coming on and going off the boat and even more people shouting taxi prices and collectivo options for you to get to your hotel/airbnb.
I tried to haggle with a few, then was again, overwhelmed, so instead opted for the public bus. When I say public bus, I don’t mean public bus similar to a “chicken bus” in Guatemala – I mean, it was a nice, coach bus. AND it costs only a few euros a person, rather than 40 euros the taxi companies wanted from me, whereby I would’ve also been cattled into a cramped vehicle with 10 other people to drop off. So, moral of the story – take the public bus. It stops in Thira and then take a taxi or whatever you need from there. Much cheaper and much easier.
While in Santorini, we rented an ATV every day. Why? Because we bargained for 40 euros a day, and it worked out to be the same price as getting a driver/taxi to and from dinner, but we also had the luxury of using it to explore every day.
*Note: if you want to use your credit card, ask in advance to confirm. Much like other places, cash is King here, and you may get hassled to pay with card from these ATV companies.
WHERE TO STAY:
This is perhaps the MOST important aspect of your Santorini stay. I went back and forth for weeks, opened probably 2000 tabs on my computer, made a spreadsheet (things got a little out of hand), JUST to figure out the best place to stay in Santorini.
I wanted a good value, comfortable bed, hot showers, pool, and of course a killer caldera view on the cliff side. Try finding that for under $600 a night in Santo. Well I did, of course, but it wasn’t easy.
When you begin looking, you realize there is the cliff side with caldera views, and then the “other” side - or you can stay along the black sand beaches. The “other” side is about half the price as Caldera views and also has its own great views with many new resorts and hotels going up. This would be a great option for those trying to budget, but still have a luxurious place, then wander over to the cliff side for dinners, etc.
I was set on cliff side, so when I researched, I started to learn there are three main areas – Fira/Firostefani, Imerovigli, and Oia. Oia is where all of the Instagram photos are taken. And the photoshoots you’ll see there, WOW. Imerovigli is between Fira and Oia, and Fira is a bit more of a party/lively vibe. All have insane views. We stayed close to Imerovigli, which turned out to be really nice because it was much quieter than the other two. All three areas are a delight though, and you will be glad you stayed on the cliff side, if you can fork out the cash.
TIP: Make sure your hotel/Airbnb has a pool if you are there in the summer. Thank me later.
THINGS TO DO:
1. Catch every sunset
Duh. This is very obvious, but if you are there during peak season, and ESPECIALLY if you aren’t staying on the cliff side, you need to mindful of sunset timing. Make reservations to match the sunset, find your perfect spot, get cozy and enjoy. I was so so happy that we could watch from our hotel, with a hot tub and privacy and glorious visuals.
PRO TIP: If your hotel has a cliff side sunset view, stay in one night and watch. Let everyone else panic and go searching for the perfect spot. Most people leave for dinner before sunset, so you will likely the peaceful view all to yourself.
2. Rent an ATV
Even if you don’t rent one everyday like we did, definitely get your hands on one of these bad boys during your stay. You can explore the ins and outs of the island, and pit stop along the way. Plus, it’s a fun adventure!
3. Take out, cheese & wine
If you are sick of the crowds and/or just want a nice romantic dinner in after a day of adventure, grab some cheese, wine, and set up shop at the hotel/airbnb. We did this a few times, and it really was some of the nicest evenings we had. Peaceful, romantic, gorgeous views, and you can be comfortable in your cozies if you need a bit of a break .
PRO TIP: Why not? Souvlaki has good local Greek food, AND they deliver. Surprise!
4. Ammoudi Bay
A little different from the churches and white washed houses, Ammoudi Bay is the perfect escape and a great find. You can even swim in the ocean off the docks. Eat at the Ammoudi Fish Tavern for the best Octopus in town, or just have an espresso and take in the views of the Bay. If you do have an ATV parking will be a breeze.
5. Black Sand Beaches
The best beach in Santorini is Perissa, in my opinion. We took our ATV and drove all the way down the stretch of the beaches until we got to the end (close to the cliff). There are MANY cafes/restaurants and beach side loungers on the way, but we found a fun place with some music, nice loungers, and a bit less crowded, right by the cliffs.
PRO TIP: Find a place where the sunbeds are included when you buy lunch/drinks. Some beach clubs charge you for beds + lunch/menu, but there are a few that waive the bed fee if you are eating and drinking. We grabbed a bottle of wine and lunch and posted up all afternoon. PS. The black sand is HOT. Just a warning.
6. Santo Winery
If you can combine this with a sunset dinner, you wont regret it. Santo Winery is right on the cliff and offers pairings, tastings, and has a killer view!
NOTABLE RESTAURANTS: (all with Caldera views)
Fira: Argo, Nikis
Oia: Sunsets Restaurant, Oia Geftis
*Reserve in advance and request sunset table/view. Most don’t have opentable, but they have website or you can find them on facebook and “book” that way.
Overall you will have an amazing time in Santorini. It was a bit busy for my liking, but that’s to be expected when the view is that spectacular! Santorini is a once in a lifetime experience!
What I’d do differently next time:
I would’ve traveled here in the offseason if I came back again. But other than that, I wouldn’t change a thing!
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