Santorini | Greece Travel Guide

Ever since instant classics, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and My Big Fat Greek Wedding, I’ve known Greece was a place I would visit. Santorini’s picture perfect cliffs topped with blue and white buildings is an instantly recognizable island. Up close, the deep, blue ocean mirrors C-shaped island making for an amazing sight! This Santorini travel guide is part of a series within my Greece travel guide.

 

If Santorini is on your bucket list, today’s Santorini travel guide should be a great tool for you to help focus your online searching, pinning, and researching. You can also follow along with a travel map (also great while actually on the island) and see our entire Greece itinerary.

Island overview:

Getting to the island of Santorini is quite the trek regardless of how you arrive. Logistically, it was best for Santorini to be the last stop on our trip. We flew into Athens and spent 2 nights there, then we flew to Mykonos for 3 nights, and finally, we took a ferry to Santorini.

{Travel tip: before you book your hotels,  consider the ferry schedule to maximize your vacation time. We took the morning ferry from Mykonos to Santorini, leaving us most of the day to explore instead of in transit.}

Before I get into the details of our trip, it’s important to understand the landscape of the ancient volcano. You’ll arrive at either the port or airport in the middle of the island (note sailboat below in the middle).  It’s about 40 minutes from either all the way to Oia at the top. If you’re looking into the middle, called the caldera, things are generally more expensive but the views will take your breath away.

You’ll see on the map all the little blue and white houses, which are popular areas to stay. Additionally, the grapes represent wineries, the umbrellas mark the beaches, and in the middle of the caldera are hot springs marked with steam. I noted our basic sailing path from Oia to Akrotiri (which does the reverse in the afternoon).

Next, I share about where to stay,  what to do, and what to eat!

Where to stay:

Typically, visitors will stay cliffside in Oia,  Imerovigli, or Fira (listed from $$$ to $). The beaches are to be visited,  but typically you would not stay at the beach. While we were able to find quite a few luxury properties, we decided to prioritize the view above other features or amenities for our stay on Santorini. There won’t be any hotel chains you are familiar with on the island and it’s easy to get lost online looking for a place to stay on Santorini.

We stayed at Genesis Cave Houses in Oia which couldn’t have been a better location. You won’t see the actual sun setting over the water each night (if you have that view, you likely have people climbing on your balcony too). We were just a couple minutes from the main walking street and Oia Castle, but down enough that the daily tours weren’t walking in front of us when we sat on the patio each afternoon. This part of Oia was a perfect location and I’d stay in the same area if I were to do it again. You can see the precise location on the travel map.

{Travel tip: forgo the hot tub and save some money. Opt for a pool on the property instead or take a catamaran to enjoy the ocean.}

We enjoyed one night in the hot tub, but I would probably opt for a property with a pool over a hot tub next time. If you’re outside, others can see you so no hot tub is private. Other than that, you’ll want to make sure you have wifi as you will not have cell phone service in the cave house. Each room is built into the side of the island.

I received a couple of recommendations for places in Imerovigli and Fira, let me know if you’re interested in those! Since I didn’t personally stay, I am not publishing them. Imerovigli and Fira offer direct views of sunsets and the same cave houses as Oia, but a little less foot traffic and perhaps a little more privacy.

One last thing to note about where to stay, we found big savings by going prior to May 1st (the official start of tourist season). We’ve also heard after November 1st the rates will drop again. While the nights were a little chilly, the days on Santorini were mild and we were able to divert those funds to other parts of our trip.

What to do:

You could literally fill a week and still have things to do on Santorini. We had a long list of options, but I think we spent our four days wisely.

Explore Oia on foot: On the day we arrived, we check-in to our property and explored Oia. This town looks so different from the morning, to the afternoon, and into the evening. You could easily spend most of a day exploring the various paths, shops, churches, and restaurants.

Enjoy the sunset: literally every night we sat outside and watched the beautiful sunset. You’ll start to notice others gathering about 2 hours in advance above Ammoudi Bay where the views are the best. Oia Castle (shown below) has the most in-demand spot to capture the sunset. It was fun to people watch, enjoy a glass of champagne or wine, watch the donkey come up from the docks, and relax. When the sunset finally hits, we finished up our drinks and headed to dinner. No matter where you are on the island, seeing the beautiful sunset colors reflect over the ocean is a beautiful sight.

Eat a gyro (or 4): While Nick’s doesn’t look like much outside the bus station, their gyros were our favorite. They stick their french fries IN the gyro. Serious game changer, yall! At 3 euros each, the price was great too. They have a little outdoor space you can sit and while no view, you’ll be glad you went.

Watch a fake wedding: Photo shoot weddings were everywhere. At first, you might be all excited to have witnessed a newlywed capturing some pictures after their ceremony, but then you’ll see five more and figure out they are all just creating content for publications. We had some fun and enjoyed the people watching!

Rent a 4-wheeler and explore the island: For about 35 euros you can a rent 4-wheeler, called a quad there, and get off to explore the island. We spent about eight hours one day going to a couple of wineries, getting a waterside lunch, and seeing some of the beaches. It was great to go at our own pace and explore whatever we wanted to see. I’d definitely consider this a must do!

{Travel tip: for a high-value, inexpensive day, rent a quad and spend the day exploring entire the island}

Take the steps to Ammoudi Bay: Known for their sun-dried octopus, there are several great tavernas to try the grilled octopus at in the water’s edge. It’s a 300 step trek down, but you’ll want to take a cab back up (not the donkeys).

Get in the Mediterranean Sea: It will be cold, but you’ve got to touch the crystal clear water! One fun way to do this is on a catamaran. I’ll share more about our half-day experience soon. The hot springs (green water a few pictures below) was a bit more bareable but still takes your breath away. It was a picture perfect day!

Visit the unique beaches: Because of the volcanic history of Santorini, the sand on each beach is very different. You are able to see black, white, and red, sand all on this one island!

Go sailing: The best way to see the island is from a boat, hands down! You can appreciate the scale of the cliffs, see the various land forms, and the majestic coves and remote beaches all in one day. We had a fantastic day on the catamaran with Sunset Oia and you can see the route we took on the map up above.

Visit the wineries: Since wine making was one of the first exports from the island, it’s no surprise there is no shortage of wineries to visit. We went to several, but Venetsanos was our favorite for the views! We also went to Artemis and Koutsoyiannopoulos which were great too! We had planned to go to Santos but ran out of time. I’ve also heard great things about their place as it is the most commercialized.

Where to eat:

You’ll find lots of options for eating, so I will highlight a few of the places we went and added all of the memorable ones to the travel map so it’s easy to find them on foot if you’re there and need help!

{Travel tip: The house wine in Greece is pretty good! Don’t feel like you have to splurge on a bottle}

Nico’s Place: If you go to Oia, you NEED to visit Nico’s for a gyro. Inexpensive, yet absolutely delightful! It’s right near the bus station, but be careful, there are two gyro’s places right there! See the travel map for the precise location.

Ambrosia: For a nice meal with a gorgeous view, Ambrosia is a quieter place with about 10 outside tables. They even brought out blankets for the ladies as the evening chill came in. Reservations are required in advance.

Meteror Cafe: We enjoyed omelets and espresso here one morning while looking out into the caldera. There were not a ton of full-service breakfast options and this one is right at the main walkway split making it easy to find.

Ammoudi Fish Tavern: Known for their grilled octopus, this was a great spot for us to eat tapas-style. We loved their octopus which is sun-dried then grilled to a unique, light flavor. Their greek salad was also one of our favorites on the trip.

{Travel tip: get the grilled octopus in Ammoudi Bay after watching the sunset. A local specialty with a unique flavor!}

We did have an interesting experience finding something to eat near Kamari beach. I wouldn’t suggest eating in that town unless you are starving, but the black sand beach was worth the trek!

For our itinerary, we arrived on the ferry mid-day and made the trip up to Oia to get settled in. We got some gyro’s at Nico’s and explored Oia before getting some champagne to watch the sunset. The next day we sailed around the island and relaxed on the catamaran before heading back for an afternoon nap followed by more sunset watching and going down to Ammoudi Bay for dinner. On our third day, we explored the island on quads and enjoyed a lot of wine. We ended that night with a nice meal at Ambrosia and some stargazing. On our last day, we went to the Oia Castle and explored more of the city (the paths seem endless!) before some more gyros before catching our flight.

If you’re planning your own trip, four days seemed just about the right about of time without changing towns. We thoroughly enjoyed staying in Oia and were glad we spent the money to be right in town.

We had some great recommendations from the owner of our villa (George was great!). You can tell he wanted us to love Santorini and we appreciated his insights, especially for the best gyros at Nico’s. Recommendations really up your travel game!

A special thank you to these travel companions who put up with me and my camera for a solid 9 days!

You can find more travel guides as well as our past itineraries and travel maps to help craft your next vacation.

Get lost exploring – ask me questions – I’m here to help!

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