I often wonder what it is that captures the imagination of people when they look at photos of Santorini. Undeniably this place is on the top of many people’s bucket lists. Romantic, beautiful Santorini Greece holidays are often something we only dream of, but actually, it is within your reach. Well, you decide.
Having visited Santorini, I give you my candid opinion of the iconic island. Keep reading to the end so you don’t miss my many travel tips.
Being part of the Cyclades islands in Greece the whitewashed houses on the edge of cliffs makes beautiful pictures. As the West side of the island is the best for photo opportunities, this is where we will focus.
The two biggest towns are Oia (pronounced “EEA”) and Fira, or as you will see on the road signs, Thira.
In my opinion, Oia is a must-see. All those spectacular and iconic photos of Santorini are taken in Oia.
Obviously, I don’t have to tell you to bring good walking shoes. As the town is on a cliff, the narrow paths lead up and down and you need to explore to experience the island. The little shops are beautiful, and you will not be the only one taking photos of them. Don’t expect a calm peaceful white town where you wander on your own through the cobblestone streets. On the contrary, it could get very busy with tourists. The views are beautiful and everywhere you look is a “wow-moment”. It should be noted that you could get lost in the narrow up-and-down paths, but that is all part of the fun and sightseeing. Enjoy it and don’t stress about it. You will find your way.
Thira, the capital of Santorini, is where all the official documentation for the residents of the island is compiled and kept, as opposed to having to go to Athens. It is a lot cheaper than Oia. Therefore, if you’re on a tight travel budget buy ice cream and stop for coffee, but lunch or dine in Thira instead.
Thira is also known for its shopping, and again much cheaper shopping than in Oia. As a whole Santorini is much more expensive than say, Crete. For example, a similar shoulder bag, in a lightweight material, in Oia fetched 100 Euros while I bought it at only 12 Euros in Crete!
Keeping in mind that Fira is the more central village of the two, you might want to book accommodation here. Although Oia is closer to the best sunset photo spots. Fira is the main terminal for travelers on the island, so if you’re using public transport, Fira would be the place to stay. The local bus services are a good option for transportation, but during tourist months it could get very busy, so you’ll have to allow for “extra travel time”. (Rather arrive early and wait a bit taking in the scenery.)
Naturally, a self-catering option might be a cheaper option if you’re looking to save money, but you will have to decide if this is for you. The hotels are beautiful and they do spoil their guests. On the other hand, if you stay at a self-catering option, you will be able to save on the price of food, which can help to keep costs down. There are beautiful options at really good prices just outside of the big towns, that can help keep costs down if you are traveling on a budget.
Firostefani is walking distance from Fira, but a little bit less crowded.
June to August are the warm summer months and the months with the most tourists visiting Santorini.
Therefore, I recommend visiting during the shoulder months, namely May and from mid-September to mid-October. You’ll still have warm weather, but the crowds are slightly less. For example, the German and Greek schools start on September 10, while the Hungarian schools start on September 1 – thus fewer family holidays. Visiting during the months between November and April, you will find the island almost deserted with most places closed. Not a good time to visit because this is the time when the Santorinians go on their annual holiday or travel elsewhere to earn a second income during the winter.
Travel Tip: In order to ensure you get a table at your favorite restaurant, book your table the day before. It could get very busy, so this will give you peace of mind and secure your spot.
Lithos in Fira is an awesome place to have dinner and take sunset photos, but you will not get a table by just arriving and hoping for the best. As they have breathtakingly beautiful views over the Caldera, everyone wants a spot here, so book in advance.
Melitini in Oia is one of the top-rated restaurants and also, as you’d expect, have stunning views. Again you will not be able to get a table without a prior reservation. They do serve fantastic and authentic tapas.
In my opinion, there are quite a few very pretty must-see restaurants of which Petra is our favorite. If you are looking for a romantic candlelight dinner by a pool overlooking picturesque views of the sunset, this is the place to visit.
Imerovigli has amazing hotels and is a bit “out of the way of tourists”. Alternatively, if you are not a hotel lover, there are many other options that would be just as romantic all over beautiful Santorini Greece.
Don’t get caught in the advertising spotlight of the words “honeymoon in Santorini”. The best you can do is to book your own holiday. Make your own hotel reservation online and save a lot of money.
I have been told that “Honeymoon packages” are expensive, so by making your own hotel booking, you will not get charged unnecessary extra costs. You can decide where to spend money.
Travel Tip: Book your activities online. That way you can plan and enjoy the stuff you love most. After all, this is the time to make memories.
One thing we all know only too well is the cost of living where we live. However, what we don’t know is how it compares to our dream holiday destination. Compare city to city on typical holiday expenses. Like the cost of dinner out, or the cost of groceries (self-catering holidays), or transport such as taxis, buses, and trains.
Here are a few of the bestsellers we can recommend:
Perissa, and Kamari Beach
If you are not into crowds, I recommend a cruise to Nea Kameni. It is situated on the island of Nea Kameni, also known as the Santorini volcano. (A volcanic island at the center of the caldera.) Most cruises will stop a few meters from where the water is heated (around 30 to 35°C) by the volcano, thus warmer temperatures than the sea. A word of caution though… if you suffer from a heart condition or asthma it’s best to be the photographer instead of swimming in the sulfurous waters.
The sulfur in the Santorini Hot Springs may change the color of your bathing suit. Therefore, it is recommended to leave your best bathing suit for a visit to one of the prestigious Santorini beaches. That way, you won’t get upset if it gets ruined by your hot springs’ dives. You could also bring a second bathing suit to slip into once you get back on board your cruiser, yacht, or catamaran.
If you decide to walk up the famous Santorini volcano hosted by Nea Kameni, be careful while walking as the volcano is not idle or inactive (although the last volcanic eruption occurred more than 60 years ago).
Time to submerge in the ultimate pampering Santorini knows how to provide, and a visit to the Hot Springs is, indeed, a sensational experience and novelty activity for all ages to savor.
Above: As we cruised away from Nea Kameni we got to see how part of the island was brutally torn apart by previous volcanic activities. The abrupt submarine volcanic cliffs are up to 250 m high.
Remember to bring a hat and sunglasses. Dress light as it gets really hot climbing those stairs up and down.
Don’t just rush your holiday, make time to experience beautiful Santorini Greece.
Should you be buying holiday souvenirs, you must read our article: What to do with your travel souvenirs.
This is the big question. Being so much more expensive than the other islands, is it worth it? This is my takeaway, in a nutshell.
You don’t go to Santorini:
You go to Santorini: