Santorini is absolutely breathtaking and is every bit as AMAZING as you’ve imagined it to be, but there are some things you MUST know before going. I’ve totally got you covered! Whether you’re a solo traveler, on your honeymoon or wanting to party it up, I’ve laid it all out simply and easily so you’ll have the BEST trip possible!
If you’ve done any reading up on Santorini, you’ll know that it is a HUGE tourist destination, meaning that at it’s peak season of June-August it is CROWDED. We LOVE to travel in the off seasons to places because it’s much more affordable and there are far less people. The only downfall, you’re rolling the dice with the weather.
So, if you MUST SEE Santorini with the BEST weather possible, then I suggest going in June-August. But, if you don’t mind a few cloudy days or chances of rain, then I highly suggest April, May, September or October. We went in April and had a few good days of weather and a few cloudy days.
Getting to Santorini is a little bit of a schlep, as you MUST go through Athens first. I HIGHLY suggest taking at minimum 1-2 days exploring the incredible city of Athens FIRST, as it’s a great introduction to Greece! You MUST stay in Plaka when visiting, because it’s the neighborhood of all things FUN! Our AIRBNB was located in the HEART of Plaka, just steps away from all the shops and restaurants, but still quiet! For $34 off your first Airbnb booking, check out my discount code!
Of course, while your’e in town, you must see the Acropolis and Parthenon. Entry is 20 Euros per person. If you’re planning to visit more sights and museums in Athens, I suggest purchasing the Athens City Pass, which will save you time and money. Be sure to take a stroll and shop through Monastiraki Market and purchase handmade Greek leather sandals at Melissinos, the Poet Sandal Maker. Grab a drink at sunset at 360-Cocktail Bar or at A for Athens Cocktail Bar to see the Acropolis by day and night, even though the drinks are overpriced (which is expected).
We took a food tour with Greeking.me, which was the highlight of our trip in Athens and Elena, our guide, was absolutely amazing! If you’re looking for more info about our food tour, check out my Blog Post: 10 Foods You MUST Eat In Greece or our Video from the tour! Enter my discount code BLONDIE for a 10% discount on both small tours and private tours! I promise, you’ll be thanking me later! They also offer many other types of tours in many other cities and islands all over this great country!
After you’ve roamed around Athens for a few days, you’ll be ready to venture to Santorini!!! There are two ways of getting to this great island:
Take a Ferry Boat to Santorini
If time is on your side and you’d like to see the beautiful Mediterranean by boat, then a ferry ride is a great idea! The ride takes around 8 hours, so be ready to relax. The ferry port is located 20 minutes via train outside of Athens. While there are multiple ferry companies that offer transport to Santorini, Blue Star came highly recommended from travel friends.
Fly To Santorini
While there are several airline carriers that fly to Santorini, you can totally fly budget there as well, thanks to Ryanair. We paid less than $100USD roundtrip per person, without checked luggage. Ryanair allowed us to take on a backpack and a small personal item each.
If your’e like us and you’re flying a budget airline, but don’t want to pay for the extra luggage, there is an AMAZING, safe and secure luggage storage facility right in the Athens Arrival Terminal. After collecting your luggage from the carousal and exiting the doors, take a left and walk to the very end. Care4Bag was super safe and secure. We left both our laptops, watches and jewelry inside without any issues. Plus they’re located inside the airport under 24-hour video surveillance, which made us feel a lot better.
TIP: Take an early flight into Santorini to save cash and maximize your day there. We flew in at 8am and it was PERFECT!
I always envisioned Santorini to be this tiny little island with its plunging cliffs and white washed, blue topped buildings. Guess what? Santorini is MUCH larger than you may think! It’s 18km (11 miles) from end to end and 12km wide (7.5 miles). Not so tiny after all, eh? This can make choosing a place to stay a wee bit tricky. It all depends on what you’re looking for…
Budget-Friendly & Fun:
If you’re on a budget, then Fira (Thera) is the way to go, as it’s much less expensive than the iconic Oia and is located much closer to the airport (see map above). It’s also the place to stay if you’re looking for late night fun and shopping. There is a whole LOT more going on in Fira than in Oia. This is typically where backpackers and budget-conscious travelers stay and will certainly be where we stay when we return.
Splurge & Relax:
If budget is not a concern and you’re looking for more of a quiet, intimate experience, then Oia is THE place to stay. Oia is THE part of the island in all the pictures of Santorini that you’ve seen. The blue topped, white washed buildings and streets all exist in Oia. This area is a great place to stay for honeymooners, couples or if you just want to kick back and relax. Most shops and restaurants close by 10pm and nightlife does not really exist in this portion of the island. Because this areas is the most popular, it gets SUPER BUSY! Oia Castle is THE place for sunset, which means during that time of the day, herds of people will come in from other parts of the island.
It was my birthday, so we opted to stay at Filotera Suites, which was an absolutely perfect accomodation. It’s located just at the very beginning of the Oia boardwalk, so it’s still SUPER quiet. We stayed in the executive cave suit with a private balcony and heated jacuzzi, which was perfect for the month of April, as it was still a little chilly. They include the MOST DELICIOUS breakfast in the room rate, which is served on your balcony overlooking the caldera. Filotera also offers a public pool, restaurant and bar. The hotel went ABOVE and BEYOND to make my birthday special by baking me a delicious cake! It was truly a slice of heaven!
Food is the way to my soul and Santorini has no shortage of good eats, all over the island. You’ll have a huge range from more budget friendly to 5-star dining. I’ve highlighted quite a few that we tried and/or came highly recommended, but will BOLD our favorites.
- Vitrin Cafe Creperie- If you’re looking for the most quaint breakfast place in Santorini, then Vitrin Cafe is your place. Plus they offer up the BEST food ever! Indulge in crepes and coffee with EPIC views of Oia! The decor here is totally adorable and their big, gentle sheepdog is always hanging around. I ordered a crepe with banana, strawberry, chocolate and ice cream, which tasted like heaven. If our hotel didn’t include breakfast, I would’ve eaten here every morning during our entire trip!
- Pito Gyros- We LOVED this place so much, we ate here twice! The service is great and so is the food. They offer up a lot of vegetarian options as well.
- 218 Degrees Cafe Restaurant- GREAT Mediterranean food with great views.
- Paradox Thai Restaurant- We lived in Asia for 2.5 years, so no matter where we go, we always seek out Asian food (it’s in my blood now haha). Paradox Thai Restaurant is located on the street behind the Oia Boardwalk and is a great place to eat if you’re looking for a change form gyros and seafood. The Pad Thai & Green Curry were both great!
- Kastro- With beautiful views and a great seafood menu, Kastro is the BEST for an affordable, more upscale dinner.
- Ammoudi Fish Taverna- Located at the water level of Oia, this fish tavern is unique and has SO many fresh seafood items to choose from.
- Aroma Avlis- GREAT wine and food with a beautiful presentation! This restaurant came recommended from a local who lived on the island for years. You won’t be disappointed! Do note this restaurant is beautifully decorated, but it does NOT have a view.
- Lotza Restaurant- Lotza offers great views of Oia with family- friendly service and great food. I had the BEST Greek Salad here.
- Sunset Sangria Bar- If you love sangria and sunsets, then this is THE BEST place to go!
- Fino Cocktail Bar-Delcious cocktails and great eats!
- Lucky’s Souvlakis-I think we ate souvlaki 10 times while we were in Greece and Lucky’s Souvlakis is one of the best on the island.
- Galini Cafe- A GREAT spot for brunch, lunch and dinner.
- Remvi- This restaurant offers great views for sunset, but with a bigger price tag and more formal setting.
- Salt & Pepper-For fresh seafood in Fira, definitely eat here!
- Idol Restaurant- Amazing seafood, views and service! This is the perfect dinner place!
- PK Cocktail Bar- Great for coffee in the morning or cocktails all day long.
- Tango Bar-Posh cocktails with epic views.
Avocado Cafe- When you hike from Fira to Oia, be SURE to stop and eat at this restaurant! The avocado salad (surprise) and veggie risotto are on point.
- Santo Winery-A restaurant and winery that is highly popular with tourists. It offers epic views and wine flights. SOLD.
- The Good Heart-A family owned tavern with delicious, fresh food.
- Taverna Aeolos-Home cooked food with friendly service. Check out one of their cooking classes!
Local Food & Wine To Try
Donkey Beer- Brewed by the Santorini Being Company, you cannot come to the island of Santorini without having a Donkey Beer. It comes in five different flavors: yellow donkey, red donkey, crazy donkey, white donkey and slow donkey. Try them all and see which is your favorite!
Other foods to try in Santorini (recommend from a friend who lived there): fave beans, capers, sun-dried and cherry tomatoes, and white eggplants.
Wines to try in Santorini: white wines called Assyrtiko, Athiri & Aidani, and their digestive sweet “Vinsanto“, made out of white sun-dried grapes. The Best wine brands are Hatzidakis and Sigalas.
Oia has so many little winding streets and things to see. Get lost in the white washed buildings for a while and explore! There is an eclectic bookstore on the main strip, so many beautiful boutiques, cute little cafes and picturesque views everywhere you look!
Sunset Point-Oia Castle
Santorini is known for it’s sunsets. The BEST viewpoint on the entire island at Oia Castle. We went in April and it was STILL CROWDED, so be sure to GO EARLY to get a good spot. There’s something truly magical about watching the sun set over the caldera. Its breathtaking!
Hike Fira to Oia
If you only do ONE THING I recommend, PLEASE DO THE HIKE (unless you’re physically not capable, of course). This is one of the most GORGEOUS hikes I have ever done!!! I totally suggest starting in Fira and ending in Oia. That way you’ll be able to finish your hike and catch the sunset at Oia Castle!
This mild-moderate hike (there are a few LARGE hills) starts at hotel Atlantis. You can take the bus or a taxi from Oia to Fira. A taxi will cost you 20 Euros. There are MANY restaurants and cafes along the way, but after the 2 mile mark, they get few and far between, so it’s best to eat earlier. Avocado Cafe is absolutely delicious and the perfect spot to grab a bite along the way. Be SURE to bring water, a hat and wear tennis shoes! If you don’t stop for food, then the hike takes about 3-4 hours and is nearly 7 miles (11.3km).
Rent ATV’s & Ride Down To Akrotiri
We didn’t get a chance to do this because we were just into resting and relaxing, but, if you have the time and want to explore, then renting an ATV is the BEST way to go! You can explore the entire island, but be sure to stop at all the beaches and ride all the way down to the lighthouse at Akrotiri to see the sunset. Be SURE to bring a long sleeved with you, because after the sun goes down it gets REALLY COLD! There are countless amounts of companies that rent ATV’s and they all charge pretty much the same rate.
Wine Tasting & Vineyard Tours
Santorini wine is VERY popular because it’s grapes are grown straight from its volcanic soil, giving it a distinct, robust taste. There are many different wineries to choose from, it can honestly be overwhelming. Santo Winery offers great views and wine flights, paired with delicious eats, although it is VERY touristy. If you’re looking for an authentic experience, try visiting the wine museum Koutsogiannopoulos, where you’ll get to learn sooo many fun facts about wine and of course sample it! Cheers!
Akrotiri Archaeological Site
If your’e into history, then making a stop at the Archaeological Site in Akrotiri is a MUST. This ancient city that dates back to 17th century B.C., was once covered in volcanic ash and has just recently been uncovered. This site has frequently called the Pompeii of the Aegean.
Cliff Diving off Amoudi Bay
It was waaaaaayyyyy too cold to get into the ocean when we went in April, but cliff diving is a must do for the thrill seeker when in Santorini! For all the details, check out the Blog Post from The Runway Journal.
Picture coasting along the Aegean Sea and viewing Santorini’s beautiful beaches from the water. You’ll snorkel, have drinks and even eat on the boat. Or, better yet, viewing the island as the sun sets behind it’s magical caldera. This has been said to be the highlight of many travellers trips to Santorini and will be on our list when we go back (the weather just didn’t hold up)!
Santorini has multiple beaches, all with different types of sand. There are three beaches that are the most popular: the Red Sand Beach, Black Sand Beach, & White Sand Beach. The black sand and red sand beaches obtained their color from the volcanic eruption. While the Red Sand Beach is the most famous of the three, you should totally rent an ATV to explore them all! Check out Greeka.com’s Blog Post about the 10 Best Beaches in Santorini for more info!
- If you drink alcohol, get duty free while you’re in Athens Airport on the way to Santorini. We picked up some champagne, wine and liquor to make cocktails in our room.
- Arrange tranport ahead of time with your accommodation, especially to/from the airport. Taxis are outrageously expensive and have been known to take advantage of tourists.
- Make reservations for dinner, especially at popular restaurants during peak season.
- However much money you’re planning to bring with you, take twice that! Haha, I’m kidding, but seriously bring more money than you think you’ll need. Santorini is certainly not cheap!