I have a thing for islands (having been raised on one – shoutout to Kent Island!). I also have a thing for history, And cliffs. And white and blue buildings. And The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants. Basically Santorini is my dream spot. I fell in love with the spirit of the place and the pure aesthetic GOLD that draws photographers and other artists from the corners of the world. Read on for breakdown of my recommendations and other musings:
HOW TO GET THERE
You have two options: plane or boat. Flights from Athens are relatively cheap – Ryanair tickets seem to range from $40-100 USD, depending on the season. And ferries are plentiful, ranging in price and speed. We paid about $45 USD per ticket on Blue Star ferries, which was around a 7 hour journey. The upside of taking the ferry is that there are several ferry options each day and you don’t necessarily need to book in advance! In the off season, there are few people and plenty of open seats. And in the busy season, there are many many people which means plenty of ferries. We booked our ticket one day in advance through a local travel agency. We probably paid a little bit extra by going through the agency, so try booking directly from the ferry company (Blue Star, Hellenic Seaways, etc.) for the best fare! You can check the ferry schedule here. We wanted to experience BOTH so we flew into Santorini from Athens via Ryanair and departed via a Blue Star ferry. I would say that the flight is the better value overall, but in order to get the good rates, you have to accommodate the rigid airline schedule. The cheaper flights are either very early in the morning or very late in the evening. If you have plenty of time, or are looking for a more relaxed experience, take the ferry! If you are busily rushing to the next destination and trying to save time, take a plane!
WALK TO OIA
We stayed for only four days but I could have been there for weeks exploring. I highly recommend the 10km walk from Fira to Oia (pronounced ee-ya). The hike takes you through several villages and up into a more rural mountainside. It is strenuous because of its length but you certainly don’t need to be an Olympic athlete to complete it. I made the trek solo and enjoyed the 360 degree AMAZING views. The island is crescent-shaped, so if you get to the higher elevations, you see water on all sides. The most beautiful blue water for mile and miles. When you get to Oia, there are lots of spots to shop and dine, but it is certainly the most touristy spot on the island, and therefore the priciest. My favorite village on the island was Firostefani – it felt authentic and yet had lots of accommodations for tourists. We stayed there at the Ira Hotel & Spa and I can’t recommend it enough. The view is unrivaled. Our “room” was actually a little white cave – ancient Greek islanders lived in caves for their durability and shelter from the hot sun!
Another must do in Santorini is a catamaran cruise. There are dozens of companies that provide the service but we chose Caldera Yachting because they had an affiliation with our particular hotel. My understanding is that all of the companies provide a very similar experience. Let me repeat: you MUST do this. It is 100% worth the money. We payed somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 euro per person. It felt like a lot when we paid, but we absolutely got our money’s worth. A Caldera employee picked us up from our hotel and delivered us to the marina, where we met our crew and our boat. The crew were all the friendliest local Greek people – they were truly fantastic. They took us around to the main sites (Red Beach, White Beach, Black Beach, etc.) and allowed us to jump in and swim around at each of the sites! We were there in April and the water was COLD! But who wants to be that person who didn’t swim in the Aegean because it was “cold” ? Not me! If you’re less brave, only jump in near the hot springs as they are more bearable :). Toward the end of the cruise, we anchored for lunch – an athentic Greek meal prepared right on the boat! The food was phenomenal. Oh and did I mention the unlimited wine? Yep! And Santorini wine is wonderful. Are you starting to see why I liked the cruise so much?? Hehe.
OTHER THINGS TO DO
We also visited the Akrotiri archaeological site and museum – it was certainly worth the price of the ticket but we didn’t splurge for a guided tour. But I think we would have gotten more out of the experience with a guide. I recommend renting a car when on the island – parking can be tough but having the car was definitely cheaper than paying for taxis or Ubers everyday. Plus driving around in a little Isuzu Amigo (tiny 2-door SUV with a removable soft top) felt so islandy! We affectionately named it Taco :). Having that car allowed us to spend time just exploring the island! We drove around to all the little villages, scoping out vineyards and hidden streets.
BOTTOM LINE: GO TO SANTORINI
This place has found a spot near the top of my “favorite places ever” list and I would absolutely go back! It is gorgeous and charming and I think any type of person could find things to do here – weather you like history, food (did I mention Greek food is astonishingly great?), hiking, beach going, boating…. Just go check it out and see what I mean ;). The only possible downside of the place is that it is SO well-known and SO touristy, but honestly, I loved the challenge of finding places off the beaten path! You just have to get out and explore.