Santorini is the most visited Greek Island after Crete, but it is significantly smaller and therefore feels extra crowded. But it is popular for a good reason: Santorini is one of the most breathtaking islands we have ever visited! From the incredible views over the caldera to the picturesque towns of Oia, Fira and Megalochori and the unique beaches: it’s an island that you just shouldn’t miss. And even though there are thousands of other people visiting, there are still places where you can enjoy the views in peace.
We visited the island late September to avoid peak season and to still have enjoyable weather. We are not a fan of big crowds and tourist traps but we soon realized that this place was totally worth visiting! We will tell you everything you need to know about Santorini and how to make your visit the most enjoyable.
needed to see it all
Things to Know
Greece is part of the Schengen Agreement. Citizens or residents from other Schengen countries, EU or EEA don’t need any visa to enter. As a non-EU/non-Schengen resident, you will have to check this website to see if you are on the visa exemption list. In that case, you don’t need a visa and you can stay for a visit up to 90 days. You can also find the countries that do need a Schengen visa.
Santorini has warm summers and mild winters. During the warm season, there is often a strong wind from the north which gives a cooler feeling to the weather. Summers are really dry, and rain in July and August is really rare. During the autumn and winter, there are more rainy days. The temperature varies from 14ºC (57ºF) in winter to 27ºC (81ºF) in summer.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit Santorini weather-wise is from May to September/mid-October. July and August are peak season and with the popularity of the island we would advise avoiding this time unless you don’t mind the crowds. So essentially, the best months to visit are May-June and September-October.
The currency in Greece is the Euro.
At the time of writing (November 2019) 1 USD is approximately 0.91 Euro.
The price for a hotel room starts from about €50 but expect to pay at least double that during high season. Dinner for two starts around €20 for a budget meal.
You can count on a budget of about €100-200 per day on a reasonable budget.
The official language of Greece, and so in Santorini, is Greek. It’s a pretty hard language, especially to read, because of the different letters they use, but most of the Greeks in Santorini speak English very well so it’s really easy to make yourself understandable.
Most accommodation options and restaurants offer free wifi. There is also good phone coverage. Roaming with an EU sim card is at the standard costs of your abonnement.
The culture on the Greek islands is quite western with laidback vibes. 98% of the Greeks are Orthodox Christian and you can find many white churches with blue domes all over the island. It’s an important part of Greek culture.
Getting to Santorini
The best way to get to Santorini is on a ferry. There are daily ferries going from Athens and all the other islands in the Cyclades. The best thing to do is to check ferry schedules and fees before booking accommodations because sometimes different days can have a big difference in price. Blue Star Ferries is going to Santorini daily all year round. From April till October Sea Jets and Golden Star Ferries have high-speed ferry services too. You can easily find and book ferries via Ferry Hopper.
Another option is to get to Santorini by plane. There are direct flights from several European cities as well as flights with a stopover in Athens. It is the quickest way to get to Santorini but also a more expensive one compared to the ferry.
Santorini is 18km long from north to south. The best way to get around is by scooter or quad. There are many rental companies all over the island. You can only rent a scooter if you have a driver’s license for it. With a European driver license A (motorbike) you can rent any scooter, but with the license AM (moped) you can rent a 50cc scooter only. A quad is easy to rent with a normal driver’s license. Because of limited parking options, we would not recommend hiring a car.
Another way to get around is by bus. All buses on the island go via the main town Fira. Tickets for the bus between towns are €1,80 or €2,40 per person.
Must Sees in Santorini
Oia is the most popular town in Santorini. This typical Greek town with beautiful white houses and blue-domed churches is built on a cliffside which gives spectacular views. Some of the best spots to visit are:
- The Three Blue Domes, a church with 2 big and a smaller blue dome.
- Oia Bell Tower, a famous spot with views over the town
- Oia Castle, build on top of a cliff this old castle has spectacular views.
These spots are very popular and get really crowded. We would advise going early. Another tip to avoid the crowds during the day is to walk up and down the steep stairs and check out the small alleys of the town, these are often less visited.
This beautiful bay is located underneath Oia. From the castle, you can take the old donkey stairway down (250+ steps). But please, save the donkeys and don’t ride them back to the top! In Ammoudi Bay is a rocky beach, a small harbor with many good seafood restaurants and the opportunity to do some cliff jumping in the crystal clear waters!
Santorini’s Capital Fira
Fira is the capital of the island. It’s a big Greek town, also filled with many white houses. The location is, just like Oia, on cliffs around the Caldera (old volcano crater, now filled with water). Wander around the many nice streets and you should not miss the Three Bells of Fira. There are beautiful sunset views from this spot. It’s popular too, but not quite as crowded as any place in Oia. FYI: Fira is the name of the town and Thira is another name for the island.
This cute town is located between Oia and Fira. Again, you can find incredible views over a typical Greek village. It’s also the location of Skaros Rock, a huge rock you can see from all the places around the Caldera. Some must-sees in this town are the St. Georgios Chapel and the Anastasi Church which are located very close to each other.
Heart of Santorini in Megalochori
Megalochori is located a bit more south on the island of Santorini. There is a beautiful viewpoint here named the Heart of Santorini. The name comes from a hole in a rock and from the right angle, it has a heart shape. It looks out over the amazing blue sea. You can enjoy the view from the top of this place, or walk down the path. The path continues downstairs all the way to a stunning small church. Not many people know about this place, so it’s an incredible spot to watch the sunset, and usually not crowded at all!
What a lot of people don’t know is that there are actually many beautiful beaches around Santorini! The best beaches are found in the southern half of the island:
- Kamari Beach: there is a very nice boulevard full of restaurants and bars in this lively town on the east coast.
- Perissa Black Sand Beach: a beautiful, wide beach also on the east coast in a town south of Kamari.
- Red Beach: named after the red lava rocks. It’s located in a stunning small bay.
- Mesa Pigadia / Black Beach: a beautiful black sand beach tucked away between large cliffs.
Must Do’s in Santorini
Watch the Sunset in Oia
Oia’s location is perfect to watch the sunset. Oia Castle is the most popular spot to do so, but it fills up really quickly. The streets around the bay are perfect to watch it as well, but these will also be flooded with people. If you want to have a bit more quiet spot in the town itself you can walk down the donkey path to watch the sunset from a lower level.
Watch Sunset From a Quieter Spot
As mentioned above, during sunset Oia town is completely filled with crowds and it is hard to walk the streets. If you don’t like the big crowds you better go out of town. You can find less crowded places to watch the sunset along the walk to Fira (you don’t have to go all the way). The sunset views at Santorini are beautiful all the way around the Caldera, so you can also watch it from Fira, Imerovigli, or Megalochori.
Hike From Fira to Oia
This walk from Fira to Oia is a stunning walk along the Caldera. The views on this walk are truly incredible. The cobblestone and dirt path is about 10,5km long and it takes, depending on your pace and how many stops you make, 2,5 to 5 hours. Some parts of the walk are gradient and because of the hot weather in summer, it’s advised to bring enough water and start early in the morning.
Take a Sunset Boat Trip
Another great way to enjoy the sunset is to go on a sunset cruise. The boat goes around along the coast of Santorini within the Caldera. When the sun is setting the boat goes towards Oia where you can enjoy the views from the water.
Relax (at your own infinity pool)
There is so much to see in Santorini, but you should not forget to relax as well! Relax on the beach, or from a swimming pool at your hotel. If you look at the views of the towns in Santorini you see many nice pools with sea views. Enjoying these views from your own pool is a great way to come to peace on this island.
During our visit to Santorini, we stayed for our first nights at Afroditi Venus Beach Hotel in Kamari Beach. This part of the island is much more unknown than Oia and is, therefore, a perfect place to relax. It is located on a nice boulevard with many restaurants and bars. The hotel itself has multiple bars and restaurants inside and on the boulevard/beach. If you want to chill you can do so on the beach beds or at one of the pools.
We also spent a couple of nights at Rock Villas in Emporio. Emporio is a beautiful quiet town which makes you forget about the crowds buzzing over the rest of the island. It’s a great location to explore the southern half of the island. The Rock Villas are a great place to stay during your time here. There are 2 villas above each other. The lower one is built in cave style and has it’s own private jacuzzi. The upper one has a bigger garden with sunbeds and a small pool. The friendly lady told us all we needed to know about the island and also pointed out the most beautiful spot to watch the sunset without many crowds there.
Where to Stay
Santorini offers many accommodation options all over the island. We divided our recommendations over 3 places:
- Oia: the most popular place on the island, but also the most crowded one.
- Fira & Imerovigli: these two towns are located more central on the island, but still along the cliff sides.
- The southern part: this is where it is less crowded but still very beautiful.
Prices start from €75 but usually are a bit more expensive than that. We would recommend booking 6 months in advance for the best options.
Hotels in Oia:
Aplada Suites is located on the edge of Oia’s city center. It’s one of the most affordable places this close to the center.
Double room from €165 per night
This hotel is located right in the center and had great views over the caldera. Some of the rooms come with a private hot tub.
Apartment with hot tub from €500 per night
Hotels in Fira / Imerovigli:
This hotel is located in the city center of Imerovigli, with great views over the caldera and close to the Skaros Rock.
Studio with caldera view from €325
Located in the heart of Fira this hotel has great views over the caldera and your own jacuzzi.
Suite for 2 persons from €270
Hotels in the South of the Island:
A great place to escape the crowds in the beautiful town Emporio. The villas have their own jacuzzi/pool.
Villa for 4 persons from €230 per night (min. 3 nights)
Beautiful hotel with multiple pools and beach with sunbeds. It’s located at a vibrant boulevard on the east side.
Double room from €120
Where to Eat
- Pito Gyros: Affordable food and a really popular spot.
- Nikos Place: One of the most affordable places to eat in Oia with great Greek food.
- Let’s Eat: Affordable food in Imerovigli.
- Taverna Geromanolis: Lovely family-owned taverna with great food in Megalochori.
- Elias Grill: Great food for a nice price in Kamari.
What to Bring
- Sunscreen & after sun lotion
- Blue and white clothing – because it fits so well with the houses!
- Camera to capture all these amazing views
Read all our other blogs about Greece here!
We hope this information helps you with planning your trip to Santorini and have an amazing stay! We fell in love with the island and would love to go back someday. Feel free to leave a comment below.
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