How To Explore Santorini

How to Explore Santorini

We all have scrolled through Instagram and travel magazines, ogled at the stunning pictures of Santorini and dreamt of ourselves watching the sunset in Oia or walking the streets of Fira. It is all nice and dreamy until you decide it’s time to visit Greece only to realize how much planning is needed.

This post is to make your booking process a notch easier than mine. It will cover areas like when to visit, how to get there, what to do, where to stay and more.

How to Get There

There are a couple of options to get to Santorini based on you budget and preferred mode of travel. Flying would be the fastest but also the most expensive. Direct flights from Athens are possible on Olympic or Ryan Air. There are no direct flights from Mykonos though. The other option is getting to Santorini by ferry from Athens or other islands like Mykonos. Hellenic Seaways and Sea Jets are the most common ferries and can be booked a day in advance via a travel agent. We opted for Hellenic Seaway that departs Mykonos at 1350hrs and arrives in Santorini at 1630hrs (making stops in Paros and Ios along the way). Economy class costs €57. There’s really not much difference between economy, business or VIP. In my opinion, the ferry is the best way of getting into Santorini. It allows you some rather stunning views of the caldera as you get to the island. The ride is quite relaxing but could get a little bumpy at certain points. One can get refreshments – sandwiches and drinks on the ferry and enjoy some sun on the open lounge decks.  Upon arrival at the ferry port there will be a port bus into Fira for €2, and from Fira to Oia is another bus for €1.4. You could for a car rental at this point.

Transport around Santorini

There are a couple of ways of moving around in Santorini such as public buses, ATV quad bikes and car rentals. Buses are not very convenient and tend to be quite expensive as all buses must pass through Fira regardless of where you are going and a one-way ticket is about €3. If wanting to explore more off-the-beaten-track attractions, buses would make it very hard. ATV bikes can be rented at about €15 – €70 per day but with the hilly terrain of Santorini I would only recommend this to very sporty and experienced ATV riders. Renting a car is actually the most convenient and cheapest way to explore this gorgeous island.  The cost of renting a car is about €40 to €50 per day depending on the type of car and number of days. Most car rentals are manual transmission thus if you want an automatic car, I recommend booking in advance. We got a lovely Ibiza car that proved to be quite an adventure. Having a car allows you the flexibility to move around at your own ease and also to enable you to explore more places.

Where to stay

Santorini has different towns where one can stay but this four are the most common – Fira, Oia, Imerovigli, and Firostefani – all located on the Santorini cliff. The key to saving money on Santorini is to stay (and eat) at places back from the caldera edge. The best cheap hotels in Santorini are very nice but do not have volcano views.

Oia is Santorini’s most picturesque town and has some of the island’s best hotels. It’s located at the northern tip of the island and is famous for its fabulous sunset views. It is the place to stay if views and that postcard photo are your main agenda. It also is the most expensive part of Santorini so keep that in mind.

Fira is the island’s largest town and one of the most picturesque spots in all of Greece. Like Oia, Imerovigli, and Firostefani it’s perched on the caldera cliff and has marvelous views of the volcano. It has the most restaurants, shops, and hotels and is the center of Santorini’s nightlife. Fira has many hotels with wonderful caldera views but also a large number that are back from the cliff and have no view. This allows for much cheaper accommodation choices – here you will get accommodation for pretty much any budget.

Firostefani is Fira’s younger sister with it being only a 10 minute walk along the footpath from Fira. If you want to be close to the action of Fira but don’t want the crowds, Firostefani is great. Views are equally wonderful here. There are 10 to 12 restaurants in Firostefani, a bakery, and a couple markets but no bars or nightlife.

Imerovigli is Santorini’s quietest town along the caldera and has the island’s best sunset views. It has a mix of high end and mid range hotels. Imerovigli has very few restaurants, but the ones that are here are all very good to great – No bars or nightlife.

We opted to stay at Marcos Rooms in Oia as the stunning views and sunsets were my main reason for being in Santorini. The small bed & breakfast is quite basic but also not as expensive as the hotels in the vicinity. We found it ideal as it provided us great views of the Aegean Sea was only a walking distance to the main walking street, has the best view of the blue domes and the perfect famous picture taking spots of Santorini. The owner Argiro Marcos is an older lady who is so sweet and goes out of her way to ensure your stay is as you wish.

Things To Do

Explore the Paths, Alleys, and Stairwells of Oia & Fira

While in Santorini the one place not to miss is Oia. It’s absolutely gorgeous views, remarkable sloping hillsides and spectacular sunsets are worth all the hype it’s given. Oia has many hidden pathways to explore compared to Fira for example. Be sure to get off the main path and explore the magical views you’ll stumble upon. A good place to start is to find the restaurant Lotza then take the path down the cliff directly to the right of the restaurant.

Watch the Sunset in Oia

This is a crazy affair in Oia that brings thousands to Oia as sunset approaches. Bring a bottle of wine and hang out on the cliffs of Oia watching the sun set. It is busy so be prepared for crowds. I recommend getting to Oia quite early and waiting it out to get a good spot and also waiting for the magical hour post sunset. If staying in Oia check to see if you get a good view from your hotel and then no need to crowd up with all the other tourists.

Ride a Donkey or Take a cable Car

If staying in Fira you can opt to take a donkey ride all the way up to Oia. There are also a number of donkeys within Oia that transport guest luggage to the very steeply located hotels. You can also opt for scenic cable car ride. You could opt to walk down the stairs to the Old Port then take the cable car back up. The cable car is open more or less from 0630hr to 2200hrs and costs are €4 for adults and €2 for children.

Enjoy a meal with a Killer View

Though the restaurants that have such views tend to be much pricier, you should at least have one lunch and/or dinner with killer view.

Red Beach

Red Beach is the most spectacular and picturesque of any Santorini beach. The red pebbly sand and the red rock formations backdrop make it stunning to look at but not the most convenient for a swim due to its size and amount of pebbles. It has however some great aquatic life so carry your snorkeling gear. Red Beach is a 40 minute drive from Oia and is South of Fira. The walk down to the beach can be steep for some. Perrisa beach the black beach can be accessed from here by an hourly boat for a small fee. There is a boat that comes hourly that  ferries people between the red and black beach

Black Beach – Perrisa

Part of the beach has course black sand and part of the beach has no sand, but rather black pebbles and stones. The water is clear and beautiful and there are some waves for body surfing. On this trip I was with my power girls Friederike and Tess. Friederike is sucker for a swim or dip at any time possible. We actually opted to have our Santorini welcome by a dip in the sea before proceeding to Oia. This helped us cool off on this summery day and get to enjoy some beach time before proceeding into Oia.

Atlantis Books in Oia

This is a classic little bookstore. Often named as one of the top 10 bookshops in the world, it’s simply wonderful. Be sure to support the store and buy something. They also sell a self-made map of Santorini (worth 5€) with the staff’s favorite things to do around the island.

Explore the Santorini Countryside

Here is why you need to rent a car– you can get away from the main towns and explore the beautiful Santorini countryside. The island is small thus regardless of where you are you, get peeks of the sea. There are lots of farmland and vine yards making it a rather pleasant drive.

 

How Long to Stay

I would recommend staying a minimum of 2 nights but if you can 3-4 nights is much better. Rushing through Santorini is not recommended. You will need time to just do nothing and enjoy the views of Santorini and then some time to actually drive around and explore the rest of the island and beaches.

Where to Eat

Santorini is a haven of food and allows you to explore Greek delights. I like to try new foods without killing the budget and that was a tough cookie. If not careful you can run into very high bills. In Santorini all the restaurants with stunning views will run you an average of Euro 30 per meal. If you are looking for quick inexpensive meal then head out of the main street into the smaller less touristic places and you will find a quick gyro, Greek salad or souvlaki for a decent price.

For quick meals our go to place was Pito Gryos , it gets quite busy but the food was always tasty and quite inexpensive. Melenio has by far the best traditional desserts in Santorini and even better views of the caldera. Tess and Friederike made sure at least each day we went there for a sugar fix. They have no Wi-Fi but have a sign saying, “No, we don’t have Wi-Fi. Talk to each other”.   With such a view I am ok with no WiFi

Things to Consider While travelling in Santorini

– Plan your Oia sunset trip at 2-3 pm and wait it out to avoid traffic (if not staying in Oia).

– Parking slots in Oia are far and wide so being prepared to spend hours looking for parking spaces.

– The best time to visit Santorini is either September or October where the weather would still be warm (20-35 degrees C) and the crowds would be less than the summer months of July or August.

– There are Wine and Photography tours which are pretty good.

– Co-ordinates for the IT picture of Santorini – 36.461245, 25.375832, thank me later 🙂

– Remember to put your phone and camera down and enjoy being there

Love & Light,

Lèa

For more adventures with me

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