Last updated on October 31st, 2018 at 04:33 pm
After a trip to the party hub that is Mykonos, Rachel and I enjoyed a more laid back trip to another famous island in Greece. Santorini has a more romantic vibe, with its relaxing beaches, ancient structures and quaint villages. The views in the places to visit in Santorini are some of the best we’ve seen in Europe, especially the ones at sunset in Oia.
The wonderful cliffs filled with white houses and azure domes gave our drone plenty of beautiful photos to capture. The different colored beaches also make for Instagram-worthy shots. And what can we say about the sunset? Well, you’ll just have to read on and see for yourself.
During our travel Santorini, we were able to have the authentic Greek experience without spending too much. This full Santorini travel guide is here to help you plan a hassle-free and cost efficient trip of your own. Are you ready to fall in love with this Greek Island? Here’s the lowdown on where to stay in Santorini, food to try in Santorini, how to get around Santorini and all the best things to do in Santorini.
How to get to Santorini
You can travel on a plane to Santorini by choosing flights that land at Santorini (Thira) National Airport. There are regulars trips to Santorini from Athens that last 30 minutes while the 35-minute flights coming from Mykonos, Crete and Rhodes mostly operate only in the summer. The peak season also heralds the arrival of flights from Milan (2 ½ -3 hours), Amsterdam (3 ½ hours), Brussels (3 ½ hours), London (4 hours), Copenhagen (5 hours) and Oslo (5 ¾ hours). You can always check SkyScanner.com before you travel Santorini for the best airfare deals.
Upon arriving at the airport, you can then take buses to Fira, the capital, where you can transfer to different buses to reach other villages. You can also ride a cab to go anywhere in Santorini for around €10-14. Hotel transfers are also a common and practical way to leave the airport though these services are more expensive than a taxi ride. The island also has the Aegean Taxi app that you can download when you travel Santorini.
Santorini has a port in Athinios that receives ferries and catamarans from Piraeus and Crete while the old port at Fira (or Skala Pier) welcomes cruise ships that wish to hold position in the nearby caldera. Taking a cruise around the Cyclades and all over the Aegean Sea is a wonderful way to see Greece, after all.
High-speed catamarans from Piraeus reach Athinios in 4 hours and 30 minutes while coming from Crete can take 2 hours and 30 minutes. If you’re cruise ship is positioned near Skala Pier, local fishing boats can take you to Fira. From the old port, you can also buy tickets for a speedboat to Oia for €20.
We were coming Santorini from Mykonos, the trip was 5 hours in a slow ferry from Mykonos. It cost us €32 and the trip was so comfortable. You can charge your devices and even connect online during the trip.
Transportation around Santorini
While Santorini has a public bus service system, trips might not be as comfortable or reliable especially during the peak season. Still, the seasoned budget explorer will love the cheap bus ticket prices that go for as low as €1.80-2.40. There are hop-on-hop-off bus services by Santorini Transport as well for tourists who want to enjoy a somewhat private means of traveling.
Vehicle rentals are quite common in Santorini with cars going for around €40 a day. A great vehicle to use while traveling in Santorini is an ATV (all-terrain vehicle) which you’ll see everywhere in the island. It’s an inexpensive way to go around Santorini in your own time. Just make sure you have an international driver’s license (and a helmet for the ATV) when renting cars in Santorini.
Taxis are also available but are difficult to find during the high season. However, taxis in Santorini can actually be shared with others so your driver might pick up other passengers along the way. The Aegean Taxi app is a more convenient way to find a cab in Santorini. Riding a taxi from Athinios’ port to Fira costs around €10-15 while traveling from Fira to Oia can go for €15.
Best time to visit Santorini
Santorini is definitely a summer destination that requires loads of sunlight to be explored. December to March is the off season because of the poor weather and many establishments choose not to open during this time. May and September is the peak season in Santorini because of the hot and dry weather and you can expect to find many tourists visiting the island in these months.
However, we believe the best time to visit Santorini is actually from April to June or from September to October. Why? The weather is still pretty mild during the pre- and post-season but the prices for food and accommodation do not balloon as much as the high season and, best of all, less crowds!
ATMs & Currency in Santorini
Like Mykonos and other Greek islands, Santorini also uses the euro. As you know, the euro has a high value, making Greece and the whole of Europe a pretty expensive destination where €1 = $1.16 USD. Click here to see the exact exchange rate between the euro and your currency before you travel Santorini.
Those carrying a MasterCard, Visa, Cirrus or Maestro card can easily withdraw from the ATMs found in every large town and the touristic places to visit in Santorini. There are even automated foreign exchange machines in Santorini which take almost all European currencies along with the US dollar, Australian dollar and Japanese yen. Make sure to notify your bank of your travel plans so they won’t be surprised by any foreign activity reflected in your account.
Daily Budget to visit Santorini
As it is one of the most visited islands in Greece and the entire continent, you should really organize your trip to Santorini wisely. Your daily budget should be planned or you should at least have an idea of how much food, accommodation, transportation and entertainment cost in Santorini.
A simple meal at an inexpensive restaurant can go for €12-15 and even less for street food and meals at the local market. A taverna will charge around €20 for a tasty and filling meal while fine dining can be afforded at €60. A bottle of beer goes for €2-6 while a fancy cocktail can take around €12 off your budget.
As we mentioned, there are many transportation options around Santorini. You can go on the bus and travel the small island for less than €3 while car rentals go for less than €25. Taxi fares vary but rarely go over €20. Entertainment can go pretty cheap too, with most establishments costing less than €15 per person.
Finally, accommodations in Santorini come in all shapes and sizes. From budget hotels that charge as low as €20-45 and somewhat fancier hotels and apartments that go for anywhere between €50 and €140, you’re sure to find a place in Santorini that suits your budget. If you want to splurge on accommodations, there are high end villas, boutique hotels and luxurious suites at around €200.
There are also hundreds of chic and exclusive places that can cost as much as a thousand euros! Wow! That’s way too much luxury for me and Rachel, definitely. But we got a really great solution to get the peace and 5-star treatment that we deserve. AirBnB is available in Greece! There are plenty of private rooms in homes and apartments that go for around €32. Even better, you can click here to get €25 off your first booking with AirBnB!
Things to do in Santorini
1. Sunset at Oia
One of the most magic sunsets ever! If you are staying in Oia, you just need to look for the best view point around the castle. If you have to go to Oia buses from Fira are going there every 20 minutes. It´s so touristic and it will be crowded but totally worth it. The colors are insane and so beautiful. Walking around Oia you will find restaurants, souvenir shops and places that you would like to take pictures.
2. Gaze at the caldera
One of the most stunning features of Santorini is its wonderful caldera. Santorini is the result of a massive volcano eruption and its caldera is a natural masterpiece made over 3,500 years ago. Some of the best accommodations in Santorini offer the best views to the caldera while hiking around the island is also a great way to see the gorgeous view.
3. Hike from Fira to Oia
If you’re in for an adventure with spectacular rewards, you should go on a hike from Fira to Oia. By going on this trail, you can explore the beautiful landscape and the sister villages of Fira, Firostefani and Imerovigli, and the final stop Oia. This highly recommended hike can take around 3-5 hours but you’ll be rewarded with many unique views of the sea and Santorini’s caldera. Once you reach Oia, you can relax in one of the cafes or restaurants there, then descend to the beautiful Amoudi Bay. Make sure to start early and bring lots of water on this beautiful hike.
4. Explore Amoudi Bay
One of the best rewards for hiking to Oia and among the best places to visit in Santorini is Amoudi Bay. Here, you’ll get to go cliff jumping and swimming in crystal clear waters and sample the fresh seafood in the quaint tavernas in the area. Amoudi Bay is also a great place to watch the Santorini sunset.
5. Visit Red Beach
One of the most famous beaches in Santorini is Red Beach in Akrotiri. The beach can be found at the southernmost part of the island, 12 km away from Fira, close to the village and ancient site of Akrotiri. This magnificent beach got its name from the redness of the rocks in the area and has breathtaking views from the shore and its dark blue waters. All the colors of the rocks, water, pebbles and other natural elements make Red Beach a truly picturesque location.
More things to do in Santorini
6. Explore the archaeological site of Akrotiri
Probably one of the most important archaeological excavations in Greece was done in Akrotiri and uncovered a prehistoric settlement that dates back to 4000 B.C. This ancient Minoan civilization was buried in the epic volcanic eruption but has been explored and studied since 1967. Now, you can see the archaeological site’s amazing three-story buildings, pottery and many more.
Ancient Akrotiri can be explored from 8 AM-8PM between April and October and until 3 PM the rest of the year. There is an admission fee of €12 and an informative guided tour costs €10.
7. Visit a winery
A trip to Santorini will not be complete without sampling some Greek wine. And what better way to drink than in a winery? There are numerous wineries in Santorini, with SantoWines Winery being the most famous one. You can easily go to these wineries on your own or go on an organized wine tour. This is one of the best things to do in Santorini, especially in Pyrgos and Emporeio. Don’t miss out on Santorini’s artisanal wines Assyrtiko (white) and Mavrotragano (red).
8. Walk around Pyrgos Village
Want to see a traditional Greek village with all its charm, quaintness and beauty? Visit Pyrgos Village south of Fira for a more laid back exploration of Santorini. Here, you’ll find lovely streets to walk around on, gorgeous flowers along the road, traditional white houses, street musicians and all the things that can make you fall in love with Greece. With its relaxing and authentic vibe, visiting Pyrgos is like going inside a Santorini postcard.
9. Visit the Prophet Elias Monastery
Built on the highest point of Santorini is Prophet Elias Monastery, just between the villages of Pygros and Kamari. The area is actually a nice place to trek and offers wonderful scenery and vineyards here and there. Also known as the Monastery of Profitis Ilias, the structure is actually built like a fortress and from here, you can see the entire island of Santorini. There’s also a small shop where you can score some excellent olive oil, honey, wine, chamomile tea and the best sun dried tomatoes in the island. The Prophet Elias Monastery is open to the public from Monday to Saturday at 9 AM until 7 PM.
10. Watch the sunset from Profitis Ilias’ hill top
As many of you may know by now, Rachel and I just love sunsets! We feel lucky enough to have seen dusk fall in many places around the world, but we both agree that the one at Profitis Ilias’ hill top was truly breathtaking. The trip to this monastery was definitely worth it!
11. See Ancient Thira
Another amazing site in the island is Ancient Thira, one of the best places to visit in Santorini. Here, you’ll see some incredible ruins of Byzantine, Hellenistic and Roman origins that are sure to pique your interest. The temples, mosaic-filled houses, theatre, gymnasium and agora (or market) along with the splendid views make the hour-long hike from Perissa truly worth it.
You can visit Ancient Thira between Tuesday and Sunday from 8 AM-3 PM with an admission fee of €4.
12. Go Sailing in Santorini
There are many ways to sail the waters in Santorini. You can hire a catamaran or yacht to explore Santorini on a semi-private or private tour and experience a unique way of seeing the island. There are many world-renowned companies that offer these tours that come with snorkeling equipment, some food, beer and wine. Though sailing comes at a price, style and comfort is what this experience in Santorini offers.
13. Discover the amazing castles and fortresses of Santorini
Some of the best attractions in the island are visited for their historical and architectural value. The castles and fortresses of Santorini are among the best places to see the ocean views and catch the sunset.
The Kasteli of Pyrgos can be found in an Instagram-worthy location and as the former capital of Santorini, the castle in this village is no less than spectacular. Kasteli of Agios Nikolaos is one of the most popular places to visit in Greece because of its breathtaking sunset views that are unlike any other in the country.
The Tower of Nimborio is a Venetian structure that sits on a hill in the western side of a lovely village called Emporio. Finally, Skaros Rock is a famous fortress in Santorini and was built in the 1200’s to protect the island from pirate invasions. The views in Skaros Rock in Imerovigli are amazing and it is a fantastic hiking and trekking spot.
Beaches in Santorini
Sunbathing in Vilchada Beach
It´s located 4 kilometers far from Perissa Beach, we went walking and also trying hitchhiking to get there. Once you are in Vilchada Beach the sand is black and the beach is long and so beautiful. It´s perfect for spending the day. The are buses going from Fira during the day and there are also a few restaurants for lunch close to the yatch club.
Sunbathe at Kamari Beach
A lovely area covered in black sand is Kamari Beach, an extremely attractive destination in Santorini. Aside from its beautiful sand, Kamari also has Mesa Vuono, a majestic rock that rises from the sea. There are modern amenities everywhere, making Kamari Beach a popular tourist spot in the summer months. There are water sports to try and plenty of sunbeds that are free to lounge on when you visit Kamari Beach.
Spend the day in Perissa Beach
Known for its black sand, crystal clear waters and convenient facilities, Perissa Beach is one of the best beaches in Santorini. The beach is 7 km long and also has views of Mesa Vuono that makes the place even more attractive. It is a great place to visit as Perissa Beach has everything you need, from sunbeds and budget hotels to cafes and bars to restaurants and tavernas.
Enjoy Perivolos Beach
Located only 3 km away from Perissa is Perivolos Beach, a tranquil spot that also has stunning blue waters. Perivolos also prides itself in the tavernas by the water that serve delicious delicacies and fresh fish. Aside from that, you can try many different water sports here like jet skiing, scuba diving and windsurfing.
Snorkel in White Beach
White Beach is the pride of the southwest coast and like the Red Beach, it got its name from the white rocks and pebbles that rule the color palette of this destination. White Beach can also be found in Akrotiri and is surrounded by towering white cliffs. The water is also spectacular, with caves and crevices to be explored. Because of the lack of amenities (apart from some sunbeds, umbrellas and a small canteen), it has become one of the less crowded and more peaceful beaches in Santorini. White Beach is 11 km away from Fira and is 9 km from Perissa Beach.
Where to stay in Santorini
We decided to stay in Meltemi Village Hotel in Santorini. It´s located in the South part of the island in Perissa Beach. It´s perfect palce for relaxing if you want to stay quiet. There are buses going to Fira every 20 minutes during the day from the hotel. We had so much fun in the hotel, there are two pools, and we also had our private jacuzzi in our room. Super friendly staff that recommended us the best places to visit in Santorini.
Check out these pictures:
Food to try in Santorini
While many may confuse the dish called fava for fava beans, fava is actually a puree made from split pea and is perhaps the most popular dish in Santorini. This creamy delight is best served warm, with a drizzle of olive oil and lemon, served with chopped onions and/or capers on top. Fava is very flexible as it can be a main or side dish. This is the ultimate Greek comfort food.
Another Santorini special is ntomatokeftedes, which is basically tomato fritters. The dish features the famous Santorini tomatoes known for their small size, sweetness and redness. This appetizer is fried in olive oil (no less) with a batter made of delicious herbs like mint, plus peppers and onions. Y-U-M-M-Y!
If you’re visiting Santorini in the summer (particularly in Easter) you should definitely try to eat melitinia. It is a sweet cheese pie made with mastiha powder, mizithra cheese and some sugar. Sounds very local, doesn’t it? This is something you’ll find in a Greek grandma’s kitchen and in all traditional bakeries in the island.
If you’ve ever been to a Greek restaurant and was unsure what to order, they probably recommended the kofta. This native dish is basically meatballs made from ground meat (can be chicken, pork, beef or lamb) mixed with different spices. To create authentic Greek kofta, pork, beef and lamb or a combination of the three are made into a ball and fried, then served with Greek yogurt or tzatziki (a kind of yogurt & cucumber dip).
Those who have read or studied Greek mythology know of the wonders of the pomegranate, a juicy and incredibly delicious fruit used by Hades to lure Persephone, the goddess of agriculture. Myths aside, pomegranates in Greece are the tastiest you can find so you shouldn’t miss out on trying one.
Festivals in Santorini
The idea to hold a Festival of the Volcano, or Ifestia Festival, in Santorini was ignited with a simple yet unforgettable fireworks show at a concert in 1991. Since then, more and more people attended the commemoration of the volcanic eruption done through fireworks, musical events and other creative performances. Ifestia Festival is held every September in Santorini.
Gyzi Megaron Festival
Since 2007, Santorini has been celebrating the Gyzi Megaron Festival, an event that honors the local art and culture of the island. Much like any festival, there are concerts, exhibits and other cultural events during this time. The event is held at the Gyzi Megaron Cultural Centre, located in a 17th century mansion, in Fira during the first three weeks of August.
Ahh, Santorini! This is definitely a memorable trip for both me and Rachel. We’re very blessed to have experienced all the wonderful things the island has to offer. If we could do it all again and more, we definitely would. Did we miss anything you love about this Greek island? Let us know in the comments!
You can also check out the other places we’ve visited during this amazing Euro trip! We have been to Gozo, Malta, Nice, Algarve and Madrid. But the adventure doesn’t stop here! We’ve got more adventures to come and more travel guides to share so stay tuned.