I first visited Santorini back in 2006 and this is my first time coming back again. I’m so shocked at how much has changed. Some for the better and unfortunately a lot for the worse. Tourism here has exploded and to me, Santorini has just lost that special little something that it once had to me. Don’t get me wrong it’s still an amazing place to visit, but I found myself longing for the island I fell in love with all those years ago where roads weren’t blocked by gigantic coach buses, before the influx of Chinese restaurants and the litter so obviously coming from tourists. If I can just tell anyone about visiting Santorini is to please leave it better than you found it.
Where to Stay
Along with the influx of tourism, there has come an inevitable skyrocketing of hotel prices. Thankfully, there still are some great places to stay.
Caveland This is one of the best hostels out there. Period. Located outside of the main tourist drag in Karteradhos, this quiet hostel in a quiet neighbourhood is perfect if you’re looking for a place to relax. There are no sea views, but has a larger pool than most of the expensive hotels. The accommodations themselves are unique as each room is a former cave cellar. There are also Yoga classes on the hotel rooftop.Not to mention the sweetest hostel dogs! Dorms start at €17 with private rooms also available.
Villa Ilias Caldera Hotel This is one of the best value hotels on the Caldera. Starting at €180 (in peak season) you get all of the views and amenities as any of the other hotels in the caldera. Rooms are clean (but a bit dated), beds are comfortable, breakfast is included, wifi is free and fast, there’s a pool facing the caldera and of course the incredible views. This price and value simply cannot be beat in Santorini.
What to Do
Hike from Thera (or Fira) to Oia
This is one of the great hikes in Greece. It is not particularly difficult but it will take about 4-5 hours to complete. Longer if you start your hike from Thera. There are markers all around the hiking path so theres little chance of getting lost. If you’re staying in Oia for the sunset be sure to leave enough time to wander all the little streets and alley ways winding up and down the Caldera.
Watch the Sunset from Oia
Head to the very tip of Oia for the most spectacular vantage point overlooking the Caldera. This is the view people come here to see so this will not be an intimate sunset experience but it is a trek worth making once.
Visit the Archaeological Museum
While the museum itself is quite small, it packs in a lot of history of the island, especially that of the earthquake that dessimated it and the Minoan civilization of Crete
Visit the Red and Black Sand Beaches
While Santorini isn’t really known for its beaches, the volcanic sand, remnants from the eruption that shaped the island, are definitely worth the visit. The Red Beach is simply stunning. While narrow and often crowded, the red cliffs and turquoise waters are definitely worth a visit. Perissa Beach or the black sand beach on the other hand is large and known for being a party beach. The water isn’t as turquoise as the Red Beach but there is a lot more room.
Visit to Ammoudi Bay
While this is not a beach, it is still a great place to have a swim. You’ll see locals and tourists alike jumping off the cliffs here. The water here is warm and turquoise and the surroundings are incredible. After your swim head back onto land and grab a bite at one of the seafood restaurants here. The food is as fresh as it gets and the prices are some of the most reasonable on the island
Take a Sunset Cruise
One of the hilights of coming to Santorini is undoubtedly taking a cruise around the island. These cruises range from budget to luxury. I opted for a mid range cruise with Sunset Oia Sailing for the length of the tour and the stops made. They also offer day cruises if you prefer. The sunset cruise is what makes the trip so special, so while the price is a bit higher, it is well worth it. I opted for the red catamaran tour. The tour included stops at the Red Beach, and White Beach for swimming (as well as a picturesque bbq dinner stop), as well as a stop at the sulfur hot springs before pulling into the Oia to watch the sunset. Prices for the sunset tour start at €105.
Do a Winery and Brewery Tour
The wines of Santorini are wonderful and now there is also an emerging brewery scene. There are two ways to enjoy a day of “booze hopping”. The first is to take an organized tour. The most popular of which is Santorini Wine Tour. This tour offers semi private and private tours of Santorini wineries. The winery tour starts at €120, however if you want an even more special experience, for just €30 more you can tack on a mediterranean cooking lesson.
My personal favourite way to do this is a self tour. Santorini really isn’t a very large island and is very easily explored by bike. Simply rent a bike from Santorini Adventures, grab a map and head off on your own tour. The best wineries for visiting are
Santo Winery (Pyrgos) The most popular of all the wineries in Santorini. It offers amazing views of the cliffs and Caldera
Gavalas (Megalochori) Smaller winery but in my opinion the best tasting wines. They also offer light bites with your tasting
Sigalas (Oia) A beautiful winery with a very intimate feel
Santorini Brewing Company (Mesa gonia) While I don’t consider myself a connoisseur of beer, I will say that their Red Donkey beer is my favourite I’ve had anywhere! If you can get your hands on it give it a try! The line also offers a Yellow Donkey Lager and the harder to find White Donkey Weissbeer. You will need to book with them in advance of your visit but the tour is free
Where to Eat
Galini Cafe This was my favourite place for a mid day lunch or light bite with a view. Considering it’s location on the cliffs of Firostefani. There’s nothing more refreshing than coming here to cool off with an ice cold frappe, and a pretty giant baklava. Theres also fresh squeezed juice and a selection of ice cream
Melitini One of the best ways to eat on a budget in Greece (or anywhere in the mediterranean) is to base your meal around meze, or Greek tapas. This restaurant does it better than most. Things to try here are the various vegetable fritters as well as the perfectly grilled Octopus
PitoGyros This is Greece and no city guide would be complete without a Gyro stop. PitaGyros is the place for a grab and go pita. It’s location near the bus stop means there will undoubtedly be a lineup. It moves very quickly though.
Erotokritos This is my little hidden gem. If you’re staying at Caveland hostel, you’ll know this bakery well. Better known for supplying most of the fancy hotels in Santorini with all of their delicious baked goods, it is less known that their production kitchen is located in the quiet neighbourhood of Karteradhos. Come here for your morning coffee and fresh out of the oven pastries. I highly highly recommend some fresh squeezed orange juice and stuffed bagel.
Metaxy Mas A lovely Greek taverna serving traditional Greek and Island Mediterranean food overlooking the Santorini countryside. The food here is fresh and light. Try the seafood or seafood pastas.
Happy Travels! Don’t forget to comment on some of your favourites or things I’ve missed. Love hearing your travel tips!
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