Santorini has the reputation of being the Greece’s greatest travel destination and is among one of the greatest travel destinations in the world. Surrounded by sparkling turquoise waters, dazzling panoramic views and gorgeous sunsets, the Greek island will captivate your heart & leave you breathless.
White wash buildings sit atop multi-colored cliffs that stretch down to the sea drowned caldera. Volcanic sand beaches attract world class sun bathers who comfortably lounge under the Mediterranean sun, a welcomed reprieve after walking up and down the steep sloped steps and paths sprung all over the island.
Officially known as Thira, part of the cyclades island group, Santorini sits in the Aegean Sea at the midway point between Athens and Crete. The islands shape is similar to that of a croissant (yum!) was once circular but that all changed when a colossal volcanic eruption shifted the island and caused the center to sink. What was left behind was crater also known as “Caldera”, with cascading cliffs on the east side – which is now, the present day Santorini landscape.
The history is rich, the flavors are fresh, simply put, it’s magical – and it’s no wonder Santorini is bucketlist destination for many.
Like many tourist destinations, peak season falls during the summer months of July and August. This is also when you’ll pay the most for your stay. Shoulder season months, such as April, May, September and October are ideal times to visit. There are less crowds, the temperature is tolerable and price point is marginally different, in a good way! Knowing this, we traveled to the island in September. The weather was perfect, the crowds were less prominent, and the price point was right.
Stay on the caldera edge and take in the sweeping views of the Mediterranean by day and stunning sunsets by night. I would recommend staying in Fira, Imerovigili or Oia. Each location has a different vibe and ambiance but all have villas or hotels with white washed interiors and terraces (some with infinity pools!) with amenities that will leave you feeling like royalty.
Fira is Santorini’s main town layered with hotels, restaurants, bars and shops. Fira is lively and is a main stopping point for large cruise ships to offload their vacationers. Expect crowds and long waits for dining, that is, unless you are grabbing street meat or gelato from the countless vendors that line the narrowly packed streets. The ambiance in Fira changes dramatically from day to night. As crowds go back to their ships and hotel rooms to re-charge, the lively night life crowd takes to the streets, restaurants and bars. Music rings into the evening night and the soft glow of lights cascades down cliffside caldera, what a sight to behold and experience.
Imerovigili is a village centrally located between Fira and Oia. It is the highest point of the caldera edge and is scattered with saphire domes, narrow paths and you guessed it, incredible views! This is where we arrived and stayed the first couple of nights. It was tasteful, trendy and thankfully, not overly crowded. A perfect starting point to our Greece adventure!
Then there is the breathtaking village, Oia. Oh Oia! This place is something out of a dream. This was my favorite destination in all of our travels in Greece and so far, in all of the world! The sleepy gorgeous town is perched on the most northern tip of the island. It is famous for shopping, delicious dining and jaw dropping sunsets – a true recipe for romance! Oia has a reputation for being pricey, especially when it comes to accommodations. If you have the means to “ball” out then by all means, go for it, but if you’re on a travel budget there are lower priced accommodations in Oia which will afford you the trip of a lifetime without breaking the bank.
Ladies, flat shoes are a must. This is no joke! Don’t even think about packing anything with a heel because it would be a total waste of packing space. There are sooo many steps and the steps can be very steep and bumpy with loose soil and gravel scattered about so you’ll want flat and stable footing at all times! There is an upside, however, Greece is known for their custom leather sandals, so pick up lovely pair and wear them as you explore your way through the beautiful island!
You’ll also want to make sure you pack a bathing suit or two, sunnies, a hat, a great book, a light scarf for cooler evenings and of course… a camera! Those are just the items that you absolutely need to pack. Sundresses, light & airy tank tops and cover ups would also be a no fuss and pleasant way to stay comfortable but fabulous as you explore the magical island.
From Athens, you can take a plane to the Santorini Airport or you can opt for high speed catamarans and ferries. When on the island, bus services are so-so. You can always rent a car but if you’re really trying to top off your experience, rent a moped or ATV four-wheeler. That’ll be your best way to navigate the island.
Below are some quick links to:
Each of these places had a great selection on the menu and incredible views overlooking the surrounding caldera and Aegean Sea. Occasionally after taking in the sites we would stop into a restaurant for a beverage and along with our beverage we would receive olives, cheese, bread and tomatoes! A very pleasant surprise that we grew very fond of, if only we could get that kind of service in the states!
If you’re not sure what to order, you must try these at least one of these Greek delicacies!
Saganaki – fried cheese in filo pastry covered in honey
Greek Salad – cucumber, peppers, red onion, olives feta cheese, tomatoes & olive oil
Spanakopita – spinach and feta casserole encased in filo dough “Spinach Pie”
Souvlaki – meat and grilled vegetables all prepared on a skewer
Gyros- meat, onion, tomato and tzatziki sauce served with pita bread
Moussaka – an eggplant- or potato-based dish, often including ground meat
Mussles Saganaki – mussels, tomatoes, white wine, pepper, onion, celery, carrot, garlic, feta cheese, olive oil
Ktapodi Salata – octopus, cucumber, peppers, tomato, onion, various herbs, spices and vinegars
Hummus – chickpeas, tahini, lemon, seasonings
WALK OR HIKE
The most obvious activity is to walk and take in the sites! Walk to the caldera edge and admire the views. From Fira, walking north to Imerovigli on the caldera-edge pathway if you keep walking north and you’ll eventually reach Oia. This journey is no small undertaking and the trail beyond Imerovigli can be rocky and rough. It’s about 9km in all, and a good 3 to 4 hours journey in one direction. It sounds overwhelming but it’s completely feasible and if you have the proper footwear and the time, it’s worth the hike!
Watch mother nature do her thing and admire the Sunset from different vantage points on the island. The sunset is pretty spectacular from any east facing side of the island, but the biggest show where thousands of tourists flock to admire (and applaud – no joke) the sunset is in Oia.
VISIT VOLCANIC RUINS
Visit the Volcanic
ruins of Nea Kameni. You have to visit by boat and then take a small hike up to the crater. It can take up 30-40 minutes in a group. The views on the way up (and down) are magnificent. There are still gases emerging from the crater and you can smell the sulphur. It was also nice to hear history behind the volcano. The landscape is really cruel covered mainly with small volcanic rock so it creates it’s own atmosphere. There is also natural hot spring located next to the volcano, safe for swimming. Depending on the tour you take, some will stop for about 20 minutes and allow you to take a dip. I highly recommend!
When you’re not walking, watching sunsets, or climbing volcanic ruins you mine as well be at a wine-tasting! Santorini’s most praised wines are its crisp dry whites and the amber-coloured, unfortified dessert wine known as Vinsanto. Both are made from the indigenous grape variety, assyrtiko
. For a small charge there are a handful of vineyards that host tastings
with a scenery and local produce, combining to be a great affair!
Glimpse Into the Past
Over the last five-decade, archaeologists have found a place like the Akrotiri Archaeological Site
that shows us a glimpse into the past. Head here to learn more about the island’s dramatic (and pretty recent) past while also discovering some of the ancient settlements.
Lastly, immerse yourself in the culture. Take in the sites, talk to the locals and get to know your neighbors. If you do this I assure you it’ll be your best trip yet!
If you have decide make the trip please use this guide and tag on Insta @shellsG so we can follow your adventure!