Without any doubt, Santorini, Greece should be at the top of your travel bucket list! The incredibly beautiful sunsets, picturesque backdrop of the Aegan Sea, and charming people make this Greek island the idyllic getaway. While this was just one stop on a much longer trip, it was every bit as amazing as I’d imagined. My friends and I booked a great flight deal for $392 round trip to Athens, Greece from New Jersey. See deal here from Emirates Airlines. We stayed two nights and three days on the island, enjoying the food, soaking up the sun, and creating memories. Although, considered as one of the most romantic places in the world, there is no shortage of things to do for all types of travelers.
Santorini is a number one destination for tourism. It is also the more expensive Greek island, in an otherwise budget-friendly country. It’s about twice as expensive as Athens, but there are ways you can save. We traveled to Athens, Mykonos and Santorini and while I loved each place, Santorini is my favorite. If you’re planning a trip to Greece, I highly recommend you stop at all three destinations. Each stop has its own personality and charm.
If you want to avoid high prices and a crowded island, I advise you to travel during off-peak time. To save money, travel between April-May and September-October. During these times, the weather will be a bit milder, not as hot during the day and less crowded. We traveled during a perfect time at the end of May and I would recommend this time of year! The weather was warm and the nights were cool. The island was busy but not as many tourists as during the peak season. So be sure to book your hotel several months in advance to ensure a comfortable visit!
Traveling and Navigating Santorini
There are two main modes of transportation to get to Santorini, by sea or by land. Make sure to consider travel time going from one Greek island to another. If you compare traveling times from Athens, the plane will get you to Santorini in less than an hour, whereas the ferry will take five hours (this is the best case scenario, whereas the rest of the ferries can take up to nine hours.). We flew instead of catching a ferry from Athens to Santorini. Flying is the most convenient and efficient way to reach Santorini. Occasionally flights to the islands are far too expensive and taking a ferry to the Greek Island of your choice will be your next best bet. When traveling by ferry from Athens you will notice it actually leaves out of a port called Piraeus, so don’t be alarmed if you cannot find Athens as a departure port on the ferry website. Prone to seasickness? I suggest the longer ride as the short ferry rides are almost always bumpy.
Once you arrive, keep in mind transportation is limited. There is an international airport in Santorini. It is about 15 minutes away from Fira (the main town of Santorini). We arranged transportation from the airport through our hotel in advance. There are very few cabs, less than 40 on the island and no Uber. During our stay, ATVs (four wheelers) were our mode of transportation around the island. ATV rentals cost $35 USD per day and many companies include pickup and drop-off. Renting ATVs was a great way to see the island and not as time consuming as taking the bus. It gave us the freedom for more flexibility in our schedule because Santorini is spread out. We were able to explore more local places and venture out from the main tourist attractions. This is definitely the best way to get around the island.
Where to stay
The island is divided into three distinct communities. Fira, Oia and Imerovigli. Fira is the capital of Santorini and the place to stay if you plan on enjoying the nightlife. Oia has all the amazing views, and is known as Santorini’s most picturesque town, so it comes as no surprise that it is also the most expensive to stay in! I wouldn’t say that it’s the place to go if you like a bit of liveliness at night. Imerovigli offers all the amazing views, plus privacy and quiet spaces away from the crowd. And you can easily get to Fira and Oia within a 15-minute drive. If you are here to explore with friends or family or are in a relationship and are looking to have some lively fun, Fira is budget-friendly and a fantastic stay.
Decide which part of the island you want to stay before doing specific research on hotels. We stayed at Callie Retreat Suites in Fira. The reason we chose this location is due to it being outside of the craziness that Fira has to offer, but yet it is close enough to walk in town. If you are looking for a little luxury at a good cost, this is the spot for you. This friendly hotel is next to many restaurants, bars, and shops and is a good choice budget conscious travelers. The staff was great and made us feel at home from the second we arrived. We wanted a place that was relaxing since we would spend most of our time out in crowd touring the city. Callie Retreat Suites in Fira is a place to return.
What to do
- Rent a private boat or a catamaran for the day. Regardless of how you do it, it will be a wonderful experience. Our sailing trip around the island was the highlight of my stay. I was able to admire the island coasting along the Aegan Sea and viewing Santorini’s beautiful landscapes and beaches from the view of the Sea.
- Visit a winery. There are many beautiful wineries you can visit scattered around the island where you can learn about the wine production and taste the wine. Wine tours worth checking out Santo winery, Arygros, Sigalas, Giaa Wines.
- Walk through Oia and Imerovigl. Take pictures of all its beauty; the white architecture carved onto the cliffs, the blue dome churches and views of the evening sunsets. This was so unreal and surreal. Make sure to watch the sunset!
- Go shopping. There are no shortage of shops in Ois and Fira. Do some shopping at the local boutiques in Oia – there are a ton of really cool local jewelry shops
- Visit the island’s Black Beach in Perissa and the Red Beach. Enjoy a drink at the beach clubs and Beach Bars, JOJO, WetStories and Seaside By Notos,
- Explore the nightlife in Fira Town at, Two Brothers, Murphys ,Highlander and Tropical, Koo Club, MoMix and Casablanca
- Eat and drink with a view. Enjoy dining at Argo restaurant. This restaurant was well situated in Fira overlooking cliffs and the sea. Petros is another restaurant we visited on our last night located in Oia. Petros has great view of the ocean, but sadly, I wasn’t super impressed by the food! I highly recommend checking out the food options in Fira Town Square, Nicks the Grill and Bayiatiko both were quick and made tasty Gyros and fries. Greek dishes you should try also are Dolmas / Dolmades, Moussaka, Tzatziki.
In reminiscing, words falls short of the admiration I have for Santorini and so do photographs. The entire island is pretty much a living and breathing postcard. The Greek cuisine, breathtaking views and charming people were the perfect introductions to Greek island life. We had an AMAZING time and I am looking forward to returning one day! For such a small island, there is plenty to see and do and it is a great choice for those looking to add a destination to your Greece vacation.
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