Make The Best Of Your Getaway To Santorini

Santorini is known to be an idyllic honeymoon destination. From the spectacular sunsets to the magical hillsides sprinkled with white houses, blue-domed churches, and twinkling evening lights, this Greek island is supposed to scream romance. Does that mean only couples in the thrills of love should visit? On the contrary, the island has plenty for those single and ready to mingle; from the various party beaches on Perissa to the stunning cliffs overlooking the glittering blue Aegean, the island has something for everyone. Given its immense popularity with tourists however, there are a few things you should keep in mind when visiting this island, as a stopover on your cruise of the Greek islands or weekend/week-long getaway from Athens or elsewhere.

Views from Santorini
The views are pretty alright…

Do: Rent an ATV

One of the fondest memories we have of Santorini is riding around from town to town on our ATV. Whizzing down the cliffs hugging the mountainside, with the beautiful white hillsides and deep blue Aegean on either side is an unparalleled experience.

ATV riding in Santorini
Driving from town to town on our ATV!

Depending on how much luggage you have, we’d recommend arranging a shuttle from the Fira (Thira) ferry port (where you’d arrive) to your hotel, and picking up your ATV from there. We decided to rent an ATV spontaneously once we’d arrived at our hotel, but you could get cheaper deals, especially in the summer months, if you shop around and reserve ahead of time online.

You don’t need a GPS – there is a main road running all around the island and it’s easy to figure out whether you simply need to head east or west to reach your destination. Note that you can get a little lost driving up and down the little roads leading into the towns off the main road, but that’s part of the fun, right? You won’t get seriously lost, it’s easy to spot the main road while driving around. Just relax and enjoy the amazing views!

Rent an ATV in Santorini!
Renting an ATV in Santorini is the best way to get around!

If you’d rather rent a car, make sure it’s a compact one. Parking in Santorini can be extremely tough. The streets are small and crowded, so a large vehicle, however prestigious it may be, can be cumbersome – not only to you but also to the residents and visitors around you.

Below are some views from our drives around the island; they’re really not to be missed! (Click on the images to expand)

Do: Bring lots of sunscreen!

Sunscreen is extremely expensive in Santorini, and you’re going to need LOTS of it, especially if you’re going to be riding around in an ATV or taking a cruise around the island. We recommend bringing as much as you can from home.

Beautiful Santorini
You wouldn’t want to miss even a day of this due to a sunburn!
Tanning in Santorini
Tanning for days!

Do: Book a day-cruise with Spiridakos

This is a phenomenal, affordable way to explore all the different beaches, volcanic springs, and snorkeling opportunities the island has to offer – without the summer Santorini crowds. There are plenty of cruises around the island, and we recommend you try one in order to be able to explore the remains of volcanic activity in the caldera that helped form the island. Read more about the cruise we took (and really enjoyed!) here.

Santorini

Do: Prepare for a packed ferry to, and chaos at, the terminal

We visited Kefalonia, Syros, Mykonos, Aegina, and Santorini during our six month stay in Greece. We were astounded at how crowded and subsequently chaotic the Fira terminal was during disembarkation from the ferry. Mind you, we visited in June, so while it was definitely tourist season, it wasn’t even the height of tourist activity (this would be during the July and August months). We took a ferry from Piraeus in Athens to Fira in Santorini and it was very crowded when we boarded the ferry, crowded on the ferry, and crowded and hot when we arrived in Fira. Mentally preparing for this and remembering that your entire stay on the island would not be that bad may help you get your trip off to a better start! There are plenty of towns and pockets of quiet solitude all around the island, to help you vacation in peace; you may even forget about the stifling crowds at the terminal.

Fira ferry terminal
Be prepared for a lot of tourists when you arrive!
Views from the ferry to Santorini
First glimpses from the Ferry; try to make it to the outdoor decks to enjoy the view during the ride!

Do: Book your shuttle from Fira to your hotel in advance

Most hotels, even the budget ones, will have a shuttle (or help you arrange a group taxi) from Fira to the property. As we mentioned above, your arrival in Santorini will be hot and crowded. Add to this the lines of tour operators and taxi drivers at the terminal, asking, and sometimes yelling names and waving boards frantically at you as you disembark. It can be extremely disorientating to organize transport to your hotel if you haven’t already made plans with a specific driver ahead of time. If you do anything for your trip to Santorini ahead of time, do this!

Do: Make sure your hotel has air-conditioning in the rooms

This may sound redundant to even check up on, but air-conditioning is an essential part of your stay in Santorini. Needless to say, the island gets very hot during the summer. Unfortunately, there are certain hotels which don’t have air-conditioned rooms. This can amount to be an unbearable experience. Yes, most hotels have pools and the ocean is “right there.” But you can’t sleep in a pool. Nights of tossing and turning due to the unbearable heat are probably not going to lead to a restful, enjoyable vacation. Booking.com has some incredible deals for Santorini, but ensure your property provides air conditioning in every room ahead of time.

Pool in Santorini (Oia)
One of the properties we stayed at had a fantastic view — you could watch the Oia sunset from the comfort of your hotel pool! We however don’t recommend staying at this property (Ether Studios); Villa Pezoula is a much better alternative (see below!)

We used Booking.com to find some amazing deals on Santorini. There are plenty of amazing properties on Santorini. Some are extremely high-end, and some have more of a homey Greek vibe, while still offering beautiful pools, breathtaking balcony views, and comfortable ensuite amenities. We stayed at two different properties, and highly recommend Villa Pezoula.

The beautiful Villa Pezoula
Villa Pezoula

The owners at this beautiful villa tucked a few kilometers away from the center of Oia are lovely; extremely helpful and friendly, offering home-cooked breakfasts and extremely clean and comfortable rooms with great amenities. Want a balcony overlooking the glittering sea waters? You’ve got it. An amazing pool to lap around in? All set. Stunning views as you sit outside in the large outdoor cabana, enjoying a scrumptious breakfast? They offer it. If we ever go back to Santorini, we’d definitely go back there!

Villa Pezoula
Villa Pezoula
Villa Pezoula
Villa Pezoula

Here’s a link to help you find the best deals to Santorini!

Do: Dine with a view and try the Moussaka

Santorini offers some spectacular views of the Aegean as you enjoy a delicious Greek salad, souvlaki, or fresh yoghurt with honey.

Dining in Santorini
Lunch with a view
Dining in Santorini
Not a bad view!

While the fresh Greek salads were my meal of choice while living in Greece, Moussaka is a dish you should definitely try while in Greece (given that you eat meat!) It’s a delicious, authentic Greek meal that is a must-try.

Try the Moussaka in Santorini
Moussaka

There are also plenty of little café’s dotting the streets of Oia that offer a delectable assortment of desserts; we recommend having lunch at a spot with a view and walking down to a different café for a dessert of yoghurt with fruit and honey, one of the best meals I had during my stay on the island. Keep in mind that restaurant meals are expensive in Santorini, as you’d expect, so plan accordingly.

Where to eat in Santorini
Drive around to find some amazing cafe’s!

Lunch in Santorini

Lunch in Santorini
You can find the loveliest cafe’s if you drive around

Do: Visit Imerovigli

Most visitors to Santorini flock to Oia. From the beautiful white walkways, to the restaurants overlooking the volcanic craters, to the lovely souvenir shops selling “Santorini coral” bracelets, Oia really is a beautiful little town to visit.

Oia, Santorini, streets
The streets of Oia

That being said, there are plenty of other (quieter) towns to visit on the island. We highly recommend driving to the picturesque Imerovigli and taking in the breathtaking views. Maybe even stay a night in Imerovigli, if you are so inclined.

Imerovigli
Shot taken in Imerovigli

Don’t: Stay in the center of Oia

You might be tempted to look for properties in the heart of beautiful little Oia. Don’t – it is crowded and overpriced. It is much better to rent an ATV/small car and stay a little outside of Oia, or even Imerovigli or Fira if you prefer.

Colorful church in Santorini

Do: Walk around!

There is an assortment of beautiful churches and quiet local homes tucked into the hillsides on the island. Parking your ATV/car and spending an afternoon getting lost in the little winding streets is a must-do.

Church in Oia
Walking around beautiful Oia

Do: Visit the ruins of Akrotiri

There are a host of archaeological and prehistoric museums on Santorini, not to mention Byzantine castle ruins. We elected to visit the ruins of Akrotiri, a Minoan Bronze Age settlement that was destroyed in the Theran eruption around 1627 B.C. The remains of this settlement are now set up in an archaeological site partially open to the public. We found the site extremely informative, and would recommend spending half a day exploring the remains of this settlement. There is a well set-up, self-guided tour through the homes and cultural remains of the people lost to this natural disaster, and it is an interesting historical recap of life on the island thousands of years ago. It is astounding to see the advanced trade routes set up between the Greek islands, even hundreds of years Before Christ.

Akrotiri ruins

Akrotiri ruins

Akrotiri ruins

It can also be a useful respite from the blazing summer heat!

Note that the ruins were not crowded when we visited in June, which may be another reason to spend a more cultural afternoon here.

Akrotiri ruins

Akrotiri ruins

Akrotiri ruins

Akrotiri ruins

Don’t: Try to catch the sunset from the main streets of Oia

We recommend against this during the summer months especially. We’d heard about the famed Santorini sunsets and caught a glimpse of the people lining the Nikolaou Nomikou (main) street to catch the sun kissing the waters of Aegean, and ran for the hills. Thankfully, we had booked a hotel that offered private views of the sunset, and so should you. We cracked open two beers and watched the sun go down in the privacy of our own, quiet, hotel. This is a much better, (romantic) alternative to standing shoulder to shoulder with dozens of people, fighting to catch the beautiful Oia sunset.

And now the million dollar question: are the Oia sunsets as magical as they say they are? We won’t deny that the sunsets on Santorini are pretty spectacular. Oia is a stunning place, offering breathtaking sunsets. That being said, you can catch the same spectacular sunset aboard a Santorini cruise – and this amounts to a much more memorable experience. We don’t like to compare the beauty of one place to another – Santorini is amazing in its own right, and we highly recommend visiting this beautiful island, keeping the aforementioned caveats in mind.

Note that donkey rides are pretty famous around Santorini. We personally didn’t try it, as we try to stay away from the more touristy activities (and to be perfectly honest, I couldn’t stand the smell…) Not to mention, we’re not the biggest fans of animal-based tourist activities. However, our friends tried it out and loved it, so it’s really up to your discretion whether you try this out or not – just try to ensure that the animals are being treated humanely by their owners.

The sunsets in Santorini are undeniably spectacular; but try to visit some other islands we well while you’re in the country! We recommend Kefalonia, Syros, and Aegina for more authentic Greek island vacations. If you’re looking for the party scene in Greece, look no further than Mykonos.

Check out the link below to find your own i-deal getaway to Santorini! (See what we did there?)

Incredible Santorini views
Bliss in Santorini

In summary:

Do: Rent an ATV

Do: Bring lots of sunscreen!

Do: Book a day-cruise with Spiridakos

Do: Prepare for a packed ferry to, and chaos at, the terminal

Do: Book your shuttle from Fira to your hotel in advance

Do: Make sure your hotel has air-conditioning in the rooms

Do: Dine with a view and try the Moussaka

Do: Visit Imerovigli

Don’t: Stay in the center of Oia

Do: Walk around!

Do: Visit the ruins of Akrotiri

Don’t: Try to catch the sunset from the main streets of Oia

Beautiful Santorini

Santorini without the crowds

And if we still haven’t convinced you, here are a few more pictures of Santorini to give you some serious wanderlust (and help you plan that dreamcation on a budget!)

Inspired? Pin us!

Make the best of your getaway to Santorini

Ready to book your i-deal vacation to Santorini? Click here!

Been to Santorini? Planning a trip there? We’d love to hear about your experiences! Share your stories with us below!

As always, be a conscious traveler: Take nothing, and leave nothing behind. Be conscious, be welcome! Read more about Conscious Travel here.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. luciana says:

    lindo

    Like

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