Greece has been a dream travel destination for me for so long. I finally got to realize that dream this year and to say it was amazing is an understatement. I visited Athens, Mykonos and Santorini and while I loved every place we went, I do have to say Santorini holds a special place in my heart. At the risk of sounding like a Hallmark card, this place is truly magical. I don’t know what it is. The views? The architecture? Something in the air? Who knows! Anyway, here is a little recap of my time in Santorini along with some tips and recommendations I picked up along the way. Hopefully you will find this helpful if Greece is on your travel list and you're looking for some things to do in Santorini!
How to get there
In order to get to Santorini you can fly out of Athens or take a ferry. The high speed ferry ride takes a few hours and the regular ferry can take about 7 hours. Naturally, there is a bit of a price differential for the high speed ferry. Depending on the time you go there can be delays due to water conditions. September seems to be a volatile month for the waters there so we decided to play it safe and fly out instead. The flight was 20 minutes tops. We barely got the announcement that we could bring out our electronics before they were telling us to put them back for landing. My kind of flight!
Where I Stayed
Cori Rigas Suites
I had 4 nights in Santorini and 3 of them were spent at the Cori Rigas Suites. Cori Rigas is located in Fira which is one of the main areas of Santorini. The hotel was in a great location and morning breakfast was served on a rooftop terrace with gorgeous views. The room was super cute and way bigger than I imagined. We could have probably fit 4-6 people comfortably in there. The vibe was a little more vintage and quaint versus a modern feel but we really loved it. When I say less modern I'm talking you can't flush toilet paper down the toilet and you have to turn on the broiler 15 minutes before you want to shower. That kinda deal. Breakfast here is made to order versus the usual buffet we had been used to other places. You fill out a little card with what you want and the time you plan on eating and they make it fresh when you arrive. There are only 12 rooms total here so it has a small intimate feel to it. It was easy to navigate to and from the hotel which was helpful. I would definitely stay here again.
I have to give a shout out to the porters here. There are a ton of steps to get up and down to and from the main area and they throw one suitcase on one shoulder and carry a second suitcase in the other hand and hustle up those stairs in the blazing sun. I was tired just hauling myself up those stairs man! So much respect!
The Belvedere Suites is your more modern sleek type of hotel. It is located in Firostefani which is the small area right after Fira. It has beautiful views of the sunset and caldera with a really nice pool area. At the pool there are plenty of sunbeds and you can order food and drinks. I spent my last day here lounging at the pool all day and it was the perfect way to relax and end the trip. It is definitely more of a posh luxury type of hotel. The room had it’s own little kitchen, a separate living room and dining room area and a cute little sitting area. We stayed in a junior suite. Breakfast buffet is included in the hotel price but since I stayed on my last night and my flight left so early the next day, I didn’t have a chance to enjoy it. However the staff was so sweet and brought us bananas and sandwiches knowing we would miss out in breakfast the next morning.
Where I Ate
This place is located right in the heart of the touristy Fira area which usually I try to avoid when traveling but several people recommended it and they were not wrong. Amazing food, decent prices and good service. I had slow cooked pancetta with mashed potatoes and a Greek salad. So good! There was zero wait for a table at 7 pm when we got there but there was a small line forming around 8:30 when we left. Unfortunately it was dark by the time my food came out so I didn't get a great picture of my entrée but I did snap a picture of our appetizer of fried calamari, which was pretty amazing. It was very lightly breaded so it didn't leave you with that usual fried food heaviness.
Nick’s The Grill
This is also located in Fira and is more of a cheap street food type of option. It's near where all the street vendors and little shops are and there are several quick food places to choose from in this area. This is a great choice is you are looking for something quick, cheap and delicious. Make sure you’re hungry when you go because the portions are HUGE. I ordered a pork Gyro plate and it was fab! Both plates here with 2 drinks were less than 20 euro total which was a nice change after spending about 30-40 euro for a meal in most other places.
This little gyro joint is located in Oia (the other main part of Santorini). The gyros were priced at 4 euros a piece and I tried both the chicken and pork. They were some of the best gyros we had while in Greece. I also ordered a Greek salad because I became addicted to them and needed one at each stop. Come to think of it, I don’t think I even had a meal in Greece without one. Gotta get those veggies in somehow! Also, I swear the feta is so much better in Greece.
We got gelato here 3 times in the 4 nights we were in Santorini. It was located in Fira right near our hotel. We tried several flavors (all delicious) but once we tried the chocopistachio, we didn't need to try anything else. The guy looked at us a little funny the last time we went and asked for 3 scoops of just that flavor. Yes sir, it's THAT good.
This was located right near the Belvedere hotel which was mainly why I chose it. We were hungry and looking for something close. It’s a small family owned restaurant and the service and atmosphere was very friendly. It was a little pricier than we were looking for but no complaints on the quality of the food. I had the pork tenderloin with rice and potatoes and….. you guessed it, a greek salad. I also tried tomato fritters here which I kept seeing on other menus and they were delicious!
One of the places we missed out on that was constantly recommended was Anogi. It is over in Imerovigli. The night we tried to go they were booked with reservations so if you want to try this place make sure to call and make a reservation a couple days beforehand.
Things to do
Fira and Oia are the main 2 towns in Santorini. These are more touristy areas but during the time we went (end of September) it wasn’t too bad. There are tons of shops and restaurants and fun little streets to walk around and get lost in. We spent most of our nights just strolling around. Keep in mind you'll want to have comfy shoes because Santorini is full of long wide stairs and cobblestone streets. I wore my flip-flops one day and definitely regretted it after all the walking we did.
I found Oia to be much more crowded than Fira. In Oia you will see more of the iconic Grecian scenery of all the white buildings and blue domed churches surrounded by the caldera and Aegean sea.
People also gather in Oia to watch the sunset but we skipped the sunset and crowd in Oia (at the recommendation of a local) to watch from Skaros rock. More on that below. You can take the bus from Fira to Oia and it costs about 1.80 euro each way. The bus from Fira to Oia made stops in Firostefani and Imerovigli as well so if you want to do more exploring in those places you can hop off there. Firostefani and Imerovigli are in-between Fira and Oia and are slightly smaller and less touristy. We found it pretty easy to get on the bus at the Fira terminal but the one in Oia was usually pretty packed. People don’t necessarily respect the lines and when it’s hot and the bus gets there, everyone wants in ASAP. We ended up giving up one day and grabbing a taxi instead. Word to the wise, if you want a taxi try calling ahead of time since there are only about 30 for the entire island. We waited about 10 minutes and shared a taxi with 2 nice ladies from Denver which was much more economical. The trip from Oia to Fira by taxi runs 25 euro.
Skaros rock is located in between Oia and Fira in an area called Imerovigli. Our tour guide had mentioned this was one of the best places to see the sunset and he did not steer us wrong (thanks Panos!). The cool thing is that this place was totally secluded. There were maybe 10 people there. From the rock there are so many vantage points to see the sunset. You can climb all the way to the tippy top (if you are more fearless and have some good shoes) or watch from the lower west facing side of the rock. I did not go prepared with my footwear and I really wish I had. I was wearing open toed flat sandals so I was able to get to the middle of the rock but with all the loose gravel and rocks, I didn’t want to chance a trek back down after sunset. Be advised though, there are a lot of steps involved so regardless you’ll probably want some good shoes.
Amoudi Bay is a little area in Oia where there is a small port and once you get down to the port if you keep walking to your left you will find a little area where people are swimming in the bay. The water is gorgeous and there’s plenty of room to sunbathe on the rocks and swim in the water. I walked down the 200+ steps from Oia to Amoudi Bay and then when we were done, we hiked it all the way back up. You can call a taxi from the bottom or there are also donkey rides back up the stairs but I couldn’t bring myself to take a donkey ride to the top. Besides it was a super amazing workout which was needed after all the feta. 🙂 My lower half was on fire. And that actually brings me to my next activity.
Hike from Fira to Oia
I had planned to stay active during this trip so this hike was high on my to-do list. This was one of my favorite things we did while in Santorini. It is a little over 6 miles and it starts pretty easy through the town of Fira and then once you’re about halfway through, the difficulty does pick up and you’re trekking up some major hills. Most of the path is well maintained or paved when you’re walking through the towns but there are some parts that are more rough. I kept seeing this hike on different websites and it never really explained where to start or exactly which path to take. People would say things like start in Fira and head toward Oia. I was like what?! But what road? Where?! How? I’m a planner and this lack of structure wasn’t working for me. So I did some googling and came across this website that detailed the entire hike with pictures and it came in so handy whenever we reached forks in the road. Thanks Santorini Dave! You will need some comfortable shoes and make sure to bring water. I slammed through a 32 ounce bottle about halfway through and then had to finish the rest of the way parched. The hike takes about 3 hours and you'll want to go early because toward the end, the sun was blazing hot. There aren't really many bathrooms or shops along the way so plan accordingly. Being able to complete this hike followed by the stairs up and down to Amoudi Bay was a huge non scale victory for me. Especially as someone who was the furthest thing from a fitness enthusiast in the past!
Perissa Black Sand Beach
Santorini isn’t necessarily known for it’s beaches the way Mykonos is but this beach is one where you can rent a sunbed, lay out and order some drinks. There are also several little beach bars and restaurants and it’s just a cute place overall and a great way to spend a lazy afternoon. We stopped here on one of our tours and I wish we had time to go back another day and stay for a few hours. Mykonos beaches were pretty crowded when we went and this beach was pretty secluded since we went as the tourist season was winding down.
We did two tours while in Santorini. Both through Santorini Wine Tours. One was Santorini Hidden Treats and the other was Greek food and wine tasting. The Greek Food and wine tasting was my favorite. We had tastings at 2 wineries followed by dinner at Anemoloos which was our favorite meal of the trip.
I don’t know how we got so lucky but my husband and I were literally the only 2 people on the tours both times. So we got a private tour each day and that was so awesome. We went to several small places in Santorini and got to sample things along the way.
Even better is that we loved our tour guide the first day and we got the exact same guide the second day. I’d like to think we were his favorite couple but I'm sure he says that to all the tourists. ; ) If you book with Santorini Wine Tours ask for Panos! He was super knowledgeable, super fun and had great taste in music. You were amazing Panos! Thanks for introducing us to Brockhampton!
Well, that’s my Santorini trip in a nutshell. It’s a place I would definitely love to return to one day. I guarantee there is so much more to see and do here but these are the things I accomplished in 4 short days. Hopefully this posts helps provide some suggestions if Santorini is on your travel list!