Going to Santorini has been a life-long dream of mine, and this past summer we finally got to tick it off our bucket list. This magical island truly lived up to its hype and surpassed all my expectations; from the white-washed houses and breathtaking Caldera views, to the black sand beaches and bougainvillea adorning the streets, it’s a photographer's dream!
We spent 5 days here and explored every beautiful corner, eating tasty Greek dishes as we made our way through the picturesque villages of Santorini. In my guide you can find out how to get there and how to get around, where to eat and stay, and what you absolutely MUST do. Also find some useful tips at the bottom of this page, and a map to all the attractions included in my post.
How To Get There
By boat - Another affordable option is to take a ferry from Athens, but be prepared to arrive around 5 hours later. Blue Star Ferries is one of Greece’s most popular and affordable ferries and can be booked online here. I highly recommend Fast Ferries and SeaJets as well; both exceeded our expectations.
Bus - This is by far the most affordable option to get around in Santorini, however, during peak season buses fill up quickly and you’ll have to wait for the next bus. They leave around every 30 minutes so waiting around will waste some precious time of yours. Have a look at the schedule here.
Where To Stay
Deciding on where to stay in Santorini will depend greatly on your traveling needs; are you a beach bum, a foodie, a party goer or a romantic? We ended up choosing the capital, Fira, as it was centrally located, lively, filled with restaurants, shops and bars, and just a short ride away from the picturesque village that is Oia. Here are the villages I recommend staying at.
Oia - Oia is the picturesque village you see on all the postcards, filled with white cave houses and hotels overlooking the Caldera. A few (more expensive) restaurants and cafes adorns the narrow streets, and also pricey boutiques and souvenir shops. It’s not as lively as Fira and the ideal honeymoon location.
Perissa - Perissa is a coastal village that is known for its famous Black Sand Beach. It’s also located near another beach town, Kamari, and also Red Beach, so if you’re a beach bum, this village is for you! Just remember that it’s at the opposite side of the island, so not ideal if you’d like to spend more time exploring Fira and Oia.
When planning your vacation to Greece, take note that hotel prices go up 3 TIMES the normal rate in summer. During low season (in Fall and Winter) you can snatch one of those caldera view hotels for a fraction of the price. But if you’re going in summer and not quite prepared to splash out (at least) $700 per night, there are tons of other beautiful hotels to choose from. Here are the hotels I recommend in Fira and Oia.
Where To Eat
Kastro - This picturesque, pink restaurant in Oia is well-known for their amazing view of Santorini’s famous sunset (they have the best view in town!) and also their mouth-watering seafood dishes. To secure a table, book online at least a month in advance and when you’re there, don’t forget to try the the octopus (Thank me later!).
Chillbox - At Chillbox you can customize your tub of frozen yoghurt with different flavors, toppings and sauces, and have as much (or as little) as you want. Located in Fira, it's the perfect cool-me-down after a day of exploring.
Taverna Syrtaki - The Old Port of Fira is lined with Greek Tavernas overlooking the clear blue waters, and after spotting the calamari on the grill it wasn’t hard to choose which one to go to. Taverna Syrtaki offers a variety of Greek dishes and seafood, DE-licious Greek wine, affordable prices AND stunning views.
Fanari Restaurant - This is the BEST spot in Fira to watch the sunset and is located right on the Caldera, with magnificent, panoramic views of the blue seas. Order the Mix Appetizers platter to share; a combination of traditional Greek Meze (YUM!)
Luku Mum - This sweet spot in Fira is dedicated entirely to the Greek style dougnuts, Loukoumades, and a wide range of toppings are available to choose from, from traditional honey, nuts and cinnamon, to more chocolaty versions such as nutella and banana.
Lolita’s Gelato - This adorable gelato shop in Oia is what Instagrammers' dreams are made of. The pink wall is the perfect backdrop for an ice cream selfie, and with flavors such as mango and rose, I can't see a reason NOT to go.
Dimitri’s Amoudi - One of the best meals we had in Greece was at Dimitri’s, a traditional Greek Taverna in Amoudi Bay serving lunch right by the sea, with Greek music playing in the background along with the sound of waves. It’s not to be missed!
More Recommendations: Katharos Lounge Vegan Meze Bar, Pelekanos, Yogi Gyro, Falafeland, 5 Senses Fresh
What To Do
The capital of Santorini, Fira, has TONS to do and see; from shopping at local boutiques and souvenir shops, to nibbling on cheap eats such as Souvlaki or Gyros, eating seaside at a local taverna, using cable cars (or donkeys) as transport, and watching the magical sunset at one of it’s Caldera restaurants.
Make your way down 588 stairs to the Old Port, and have lunch at one of the Greek Tavernas next to the waves (I recommend Taverna Syrtaki) To get back to Fira you can either walk back up (However, it’s HOT and you might get run over by a donkey...Just sayin'!), take the cable car, or go by donkey.
Oia is one of the most picturesque places I’ve been in my entire life, and it truly feels like you’ve stepped into a postcard. Some of our most memorable experiences were here and below I’m sharing my top picks of what to see and do.
Buy a souvenir at one of Oia’s beautiful boutiques, and stop by Atlantis Books, a charming little bookstore to browse their unique collection of books and maybe add one or two to your book collection (It’s a great souvenir to have!)
Amoudi Bay lies at the foot of Oia at the bottom of the hills, and is lined with Greek Tavernas sitting next to the waves. Have lunch at the local’s favorite, Dimitri’s Taverna, and enjoy traditional dishes such as greek salad, mussels and roasted zucchini. To the left (a short “hike” away) you’ll find a secluded swimming spot and rocks where you can lounge in the sun. It’s pretty crowded in the afternoons, and quite an adventurous hike, so rather skip if you’re wearing sandals and prefer to be on the safe side.
Watching the sunset in Oia is a MUST when in Santorini (It should be on your bucket list!), and the restaurant with the best view is Kastro, a gorgeous and pink Greek-style restaurant serving traditional Greek dishes and also mouthwatering cocktails. They’re quite popular and reservations need to be made at least a month in advance. Sunset is around 20:30pm in summer, so be there at 7 so you can watch the skies do its magic.
One can’t go to Santorini without spending at LEAST one day at the beach, and if you have to choose just one, I recommend going to Perissa. The black sand beach is lined with restaurants and bars, and rows of beach chairs cover the sand.
I recommend grabbing a beach chair at the all-white Demilmar restaurant, at the left side of the beach at the foot of Mesa Vouno Mountain. The backdrop of the mountain, the white beach chairs covered in tiki umbrellas, and the clear blue seas had me easily convinced. We paid 10 euros for 2 chairs including an umbrella, and wine is served right on the beach.
Kamari is located on the east coast of Santorini and is known for their volcanic landscapes, black sand beach and promenade lined with cafes, and the MUST-visit, open-air cinema.
Kamari Open-Air Cinema is open daily and movies start screening at around 9pm in summer. Tickets aren’t available online and you have to line up from around 7pm to get your hands on them, but trust me, it’s well worth the wait. It was one of our most unforgettable experiences watching Mamma Mia in Santorini; just me, my love, a bottle of Greek wine, and fireflies hovering above our heads. Pure magic.
A Sailing Cruise
Last but not least, book yourself a catamaran cruise around the island of Santorini for a once in a lifetime experience you will never forget. After doing lots of research and reading TONS of reviews, I chose Spiridakos Sailing Cruises, who offers a 5 hour cruise around the island, including a Greek buffet and wine, and stops at the White Beach, Red Beach, hot springs, and other secluded spots for snorkeling in the turquoise blue seas.
Good To Know
Go ahead and book your vacation in peak season, it’s really NOT that busy. People just love to exaggerate online, don’t they?
It’s not necessary to book scooters (or ATV’s) online in advance, there are plenty available throughout the island (Even during peak season)
To secure a sunset dinner in Oia, reservations need to be made at least a month in advance.
Greece’s wine is sulfate free, so drink up! No need to worry about a throbbing headache (or hangover!) the next day.
Buses are the most affordable option to get a round in Santorini, but renting a scooter will save you TONS of time and you’ll get to see a lot more.
ATV’s might sound cool and look nice on pictures, but trust me, they’re unstable on the roads, especially around turns, and it’s just not worth risking your life for.
Get a sim card at Athens’ airport right outside the arrivals hall at Vodafone, and don’t fall for the “15 euros for installation” tourist trap. It’s pretty easy to insert a sim card, isn’t it?
For all ferry and boat trips around the island, I recommend using FerryHopper.
Hotel rates are up to 3 times more expensive in summer (It’s a fact). Restaurant prices stay the same.
A Guide to Santorini l MAP