Santorini is one of the most magical places I have ever had the pleasure of traveling to. Sunsets bouncing light off of a sea of white and blue buildings in Oia, the wind flowing through your hair as you ride an ATV around the picturesque hills, squishing your toes into black sand and cool Mediterranean waters, making the steep climb up ancient volcanos, dancing the night away with newly made friends in Fira, and digging into freshly made baklava from a cute little bakery down the street. If you want a trip to remember, then look no further than Santorini. Here are 5 tips to help make the most of your unforgettable time there!
1. Lay of the Land
Oia - This is the place that you see in all the Instagram photos with the beautiful white and blue buildings. The sunsets here are famous and rightfully so. Also, Oia definitely has the best shopping. We went into so many cute little shops and had the best dinner (though it was pricy) here at sunset! It was my favorite town and a definite must-see!
Fira - This is such a cute little town and I think the best place to go out at night! They have a nice selection of clubs and bars to go to, this is where all the locals come to party.
This is also where the Old Port is located. If you are doing any sort of boating excursions they will most likely leave from this port! You can take a cable down at the pricy cost of €6 each way (cash only) or they have a trail which the donkeys go up and down that you can walk down for free (I don't recommend walking back up because it is extremely steep). Taking the donkeys up or down is also €6 each way. The views are gorgeous. which is why I wish we could have walked down so we could stop and take pictures. There is also no ATM at the port...which we learned the hard way when we ran out of cash and couldn't get back up. But that's a story for another time...
Kamari - This sleepy little sea town is precious in its own right. It has a completely different feel and my favorite beaches! There are restaurants that have lawn chairs on the beach you can sit in as long as you order something off the menu. If you want to go scuba diving or snorkeling, they have that here in Kamari.
Perissa - If you have heard of the black sand beaches, this is where you will find them! They really are stunning and a unique experience. There are lots of restaurants along the beaches that have delicious Greek food and places to sit along the beach.
2. Where to Stay
There are so many places to stay in Santorini that the search can be overwhelming! These are my top 3 options in different price ranges for accommodation on the island.
$ - Caveland Hostel
This is where we stayed while in Santorini, and I can't recommend it highly enough! It is located in Karterados which is a 25-minute walk to Fira, or a less than 10-minute drive. The hostel itself is beautiful and where I took the photo posted above. It has a pool and it only houses a small number of people so you make friends very easily with fellow travelers. I made so many incredible friendships here and wouldn't have traded it for anything!
$$ - Airbnb
If you want a more private stay then Airbnb is always a good option! There are so many amazing places to stay all over the island at different price ranges. So it is definitely worth checking out.
$$$ - Dana Villas
If I had the money, this is where I would stay! It is located in Oia and has a private pool in some of the villas overlooking the beautiful mediterranean sea. HERE is a link to a video someone posted. This is definitely a bucket list stay for me once I have a budget big enough!
Unfortunately, you cannot get around the entire island by Donkey, but you can get around on the following:
ATV- In my opinion, the best way to get around Santorini is by ATV. They have rental shops sprinkled throughout the entire island and rates are pretty consistent everywhere you go. You will need your driver's license so do not forget to bring that! This really is the most unforgettable way to get around, it is so beautiful and fun, affordable and in itself is an incredible experience.
Car Rental- this is a good option if you have small children with you or any fellow travelers with a disability. It is also pretty affordable. Check out rates here!
Bus- There are buses that run all day all over the island, the only thing that I found about the buses is that you are entirely on their schedule. I wouldn't call the people of Santorini a very punctual group as a whole, so even though this option is very affordable at (€1.80 a pop), you have to be willing to wait around quite a bit.
Taxi- This can be a more expensive option. We took a 15-minute ride from the airport to our hotel and it was €30...but if you don't plan on moving around the island too much, this can end up being a more affordable and convenient option.
4. the Best Season to visit
Winter - this is the low season for the island, and the weather is pretty unpredictable. BUT if you don't plan on swimming, or suntanning, you will beat the crowds and still be able to see a majority of the sites that Santorini has to offer! Do keep note though that some of the island's restaurants and hotels will be closed due to it being low season.
Spring - The weather is getting warmer, but the water is still very cold! I recommend coming in May (when I went). It is still less crowded because the busy season hasn't quite started yet, and the weather is warm and beautiful during the day with wonderful chilly nights. If you want to enjoy everything, but with slightly fewer crowds, then May is a good time to come.
Summer - the most popular time to come to Santorini is of course the summer season! But it is popular for a reason. The water is nice and warm and the sun will kiss you wherever you go! This is also the best time to island-hop to other islands close by, because it is basically the only time of year that the other places cater to tourists. So, to have that classic experience, it's the time of the season for lovinnnnn' Santorini!
Fall - The fall is a great time to visit anywhere in Europe! Especially the beginning months like September and early October because it is still warm and like what I said about May, it is less busy!
5. Popular excursions
Boat tours - There are so many different boat tours to choose from! The most affordable one (^pictured above^) we found was a day trip to the volcano, a swim in the hot springs (which proceeds a freezing swim to get there) and then we ate at a quaint little restaurant on a tiny island. HERE is the link for that particular one. There are definitely more lavish options here. Like this 7-hour dinner cruise, with a glass of wine included.
Wineries - there are so many beautiful wineries on the island! Check out this article stating the 3 best wine tours in Santorini!
Scuba diving/Snorkeling - explore the waters of Santorini! Here is a link for Trip Advisor's top 10 Scuba and Snorkeling in Santorini!
Sunsets - Oia is famous for its beautiful sunsets! They have cruises that you can go on to see the sun wash over the white and blue buildings, or you could book a reservation at a scenic restaurant to secure your spot! Or the most economical option would be to scout out a good spot and get there at least an hour early, and don't forget your camera!