Santorini is picturesque to say the very least. So much so, it feels that you’ve stepped into a fairy tale or some far away land that doesn’t exist. Definitely pinch me moments, like all day every day. So it was an apparent no brainer for us that we chose Santorini as one of the stops on our honeymoon. Since Santorini is such a magical place, we wanted to make sure we did it right. After spending a week in paradise, I wanted to share my Santorini travel guide on where to stay on the island and what to do to fully enjoy your stay in Santorini.
Santorini Travel Guide
The best way to get to Santorini?
The two best ways to get to the island is either by ferry or by plane. Aegean Air is a great affordable regional airline with fantastic customer service that gets you around the islands super quick, I’m talking 20 minutes from Athens to Mykonos. You can also fly into the island from locations other than Greece by flying EasyJet. We were in Mykonos before and chose to take Blue Star Ferries as our transfer to Santorini and it was extremely easy, comfortable and convenient. Taking the ferry is also a great way to do Santorini on a budget! Travel time was only a couple hours and can easily be spent catching up on sleep or grabbing a beer or snack from the snack bar. Choosing between a ferry or flight really depends on where you’re coming from and both options are easy, affordable and painless.
Now, where to stay in Santorini…
The island of Santorini is actually pretty big, and to narrow it down, I highly recommend staying on the side facing the caldera, so you can catch the famous sunsets from your hotel. Now, the best places to stay in Santorini are Fira, Imerovigli and Oia (pronounced ee-uh).
The capital of the island if you will, is the main city center and hub. It’s a lively and fun part of the island, full of shopping, nightlife, and cliffside bars. Fira is also home to some of the best places to eat in Santorini. The street food here in the Fira main square, especially Nick The Grill, is incredible and extremely affordable (3 euros), which helps keep Santorini on a budget! This area is perfect for young travelers looking to party at the many backpacker bars offering what seems to be all day happy hour or for any traveler who would like to be in the thick of it.
This part of the island is much more relaxed and resort-like. I felt this area was perfect for our honeymoon since we could be lazy at our hotel, Tholos Resort, and lounge at our hotel pool, sipping on cocktails, and enjoy the views of the sunsets from our private balcony. It is quite dreamy and fabulous. It is also a great location because it is within walking distance to Fira, which is great if you want a mix of both relaxation and a spontaneous, wild night whilst on the island. I highly recommend a hotel an Imerovigli for couples looking for romance and the hotels are just as luxurious as Oia, but with a much cheaper price tag. If you do stay in Imerovigli, I highly recommend grabbing lunch or dinner at Avocado, it is hands down one of the best restaurants in Santorini.
Oia (pronounced ee-uh)
Oia looks like you’ve stepped into a screensaver, it is that beautiful. Your inner photographer will definitely come out and you can spend the day taking pictures of the beautiful Oia backdrop, that consists of white-washed buildings and colorful dome roofs. It is also the spot to watch the famous Santorini sunset, so take it in from either the castle or from one of the many amazing restaurants in Oia. We had initially wanted to stay in Oia, however, the resort prices are crazy expensive. So if money is no issue, I highly recommend staying in this part of the island.
Now for the fun stuff on the Santorini Travel Guide
Santorini Travel Guide on Things to do
Do a Boat Cruise & Volcano Tour of Santorini
These are really touristy, but they are undeniably really fun. You can book one in Fira Town at around 25 euros /$28 usd for a few hours on the water. It’s a great time because not only do you get to dip in the Aegean Sea and sip on white wine, but you swim to the hot springs and tour the volcano. What I enjoyed most about doing this was just crusing on the boat, swimming in the sea and watching the sunset, wine in hand.
Spend the day in Oia
Oia is magical – point blank. It’s idyllic, especially with it’s white washed buildings and brightly colored roofs. I highly recommend spending the day in Oia, grabbing lunch in nearby Amoudi Bay and dinner at a restaurant with a caldera view. Be sure to bring your camera because it is photo opportunity heaven! Also, the sunsets in Santorini are some of the most famous in the world, especially when the sun goes down against the Oia architecture. I highly suggest watching it from the Oia Castle, since it offers some of the best and unobstructed views. Get there early, bring a little picnic (great way to do Santorini on a budget!), and fall in love all over again. Like hearts for eyes emoji kind of love.
Go to Amoudi Bay for Fresh Seafood
A trip to Santorini should include a lunch or dinner at the hidden gem, Amoudi Bay. Tons of fresh seafood, ranging from sea bass to octopus, you can find something here for everyone. The restaurants in Amoudi Bay are among some of the best restaurants in Santorini, so I highly recommend having your hotel make a suggestion and call in a reservation for you..
Paint the town red in Fira Town
Great shopping. Awesome gyros for super cheap. Fish pedicures. Nightclubs. Happy Hours. This part of the island does cater towards tourism, however, it is just such a great time. Perfect for doing Santorini on a budget, the food here is both delicious and super cheap (gyros for 3 euros). Not to mention, we started our night by grabing BOGO drinks at backpacker bars for next to nothing. If partying isn’t your thing, Fira has hands down the best shopping on the island!
Just lounge poolside
This is why I highly recommend investing a little bit more in your hotel while on Santorini and get a hotel that faces the caldera, has a pool & bar (it gets hot!), and provides a balcony with sea and sunset views. We stayed at Tholos Resort in Imerovigli and spent mid $200’s in high season. It provided complete privacy on our balcony, a pool, drinks and an awesome location (it’s right next door the the Grace Santorini, which is highly, highly expensive). The best part was that on scorching hot days, our plans consisted of just laying around the pool, swimming, having a cocktail or two, napping, grabbing lunch then taking in the sunset from our private balcony. So in conclusion, Santorini is perfect for lounging all day, moving at a snails pace, and just enjoying life.
Explore the Island
The best way to explore the island is to rent a mode of transportation to explore on your own. When we were in Santorini, we rented a Smart Car and drove around the island and explored Oia, Amoudi Bay, and the beaches. And even though we nearly died driving our Smart Car, it was such a great way to explore and see things we wouldn’t have otherwise if using the bus or taxi. The towns are spaced out relatively far from each other (Oia is about 5 miles away from Imerovigli), so the best and quickest way to get around is by renting a car, scooter or moped.
Take Away Tips from the Santorini Travel Guide…
- It can get really hot in Santorini and the beaches are far from the hilltop villages. Invest a little bit more in your hotel by choosing accommodations with a pool. You’ll thank me later…
- Wine tasting is an incredibly popular activity on the island. Since we had our fairshare of yummy white wine at the pool and dinner, we opted out but have heard amazing things about the wine tours in Santorini.
- Do Santorini on a budget by eating street food. The gyros are so delicious and honestly, fat kid heaven! They even put fries in them! Also, if you do eat out, order a Greek salad at every meal. The feta there is unreal!
Santorini is hands down the most beautiful place I have ever been and there is nothing quite like it. Being able to travel here can be done both fabulously and affordably. With a little research, you may realize that it is not as expensive as everynoe else makes it out to be. Look out later this week on how to do Santorini that fabulous way without breaking the bank!
As always, thanks for stopping by and if you’re still not convinced that you should go to Greece, check out my Greece photo diary.I apologize if the beauty is too much.