Boy, I’ve been planning on writing about our trip to Santorini for ages now. I’m not gonna go into the whole issue why I didn’t do it sooner, might leave that for a different story 🙂 I will say this though, I’ve never truly felt able to convey our experience the way it deserves. Everything was just too darn perfect!
Where do I even begin? My goal is, of course, to share the sentimental aspect of it, and make you feel as though I’m taking you on the journey with me. That’s not enough though, is it?
So, I’ll also provide practical tips about the island – how to get there, what to see, what to avoid, and most importantly, where to eat. Cause, let me tell ya, Santorini is an absolute gem when it comes to GOOD food. You just have to know where to look since some of the best restaurants are hidden from the usual tourist spots.
Btw, this is rather an introductory post, and what it lacks for in feeling, it makes up for in useful info.
Worry not though, I’ll get to a more soul-stirring state with the following, separate posts which will cover each of the villages we’ve been to. And if you stick around ‘till the end of the series, I’ll have a little surprise for you that’ll come in handy next time you’re in Santorini 🙂
If you’re coming here from Instagram, then you probably know this was our honeymoon trip, but since we’re not the ‘stay at the beach, lounge in the sun’ kind of people, this guide works just as great for newlyweds as well as for regular travelers looking to discover the island.
Shall we get to it then?
What I suggest first and foremost before planning your trip is googling the best time of the year to visit Santorini, and go from there. If you don’t mind the crowds or the heat, it doesn’t really make much of a difference.
But if you’re like me, then your best bet is traveling during shoulder season (April through mid-June, and September through October), or off-season (November through March).
Santorini gets mind-bogglingly crowded during peak season not only because of the tourists staying on the island, but also due to the constant incoming cruise ships (most leave by night fall though).
Honestly, we couldn’t have chosen a better time to go. Weather in October was absolutely perfect – lots of sun during the day, and refreshing at night time (make sure you pack some light jackets). As far as crowds go, there were still quite a few tourists, particularly in Oia and Fira, but we’ve found other places with absolutely no people in sight other than the locals.
I got a ton of questions on how to get there, specifically from all my Romanian peeps. So, if you’re from the Northern/Eastern part of Romania, the easiest way to get to Santorini is first flying from Budapest to Athens. Also, if you’re driving to Budapest, know that you can leave your car safely in the Holidays Parking section for a very reasonable fee.
But, no matter where you’re traveling from, if for some reason, you find it hard to find a suitable direct flight to Santorini, flying to Athens and taking a ferry from there is another great option. Besides, most hotels in Athens offer free port transfers making it super easy to get to the port. We stayed at Phidias Piraeus Hotel, and I’d definitely recommend it, even for longer stays.
Bear in mind, there’s two types of ferries: fast and slow. The fast one takes about 4hrs, costs more, and you’re not allowed to step outside, so there’s no sightseeing.
The slow one costs less, does take a little bit longer (about 6hrs), but there are plenty restaurants and cafes on board, lots of chairs and tables outside so you can just chill and enjoy the stunning sights.
You also have the option to buy tickets for an assigned seat just in case all the public ones are taken. We did that, it’s not absolutely necessary, but it was nice to be able to leave our small bags there, and not have to carry them around.
Side note: your big luggage will be stored when you board the ferry, so you’re not gonna be carrying it around for the whole trip. I’d also advise you to mark your bags because, when disembarking, some people grab theirs without actually checking, and you could be left with someone’s very similar luggage.
The minute you step foot off the ferry, craziness awaits you. Unless you’ve got a transfer booked through your hotel, you’ll feel a bit dazed and confused (as we did). People are literally screaming at you, offering to rent cars or sell bus tickets.
We were so taken aback by all of it, you should have seen our confused faces – oh my gosh! Do not be alarmed though, you can safely buy tickets from any of the vendors, and they’ll drop you off in front of your hotel.
Santorini is quite tiny, so getting by is very very easy. You can literally walk/hike between some of the villages, take the bus, or rent a car when needed.
Renting a car isn’t a must, but it makes getting to and from various off-the beaten track places so much easier. Plus, some driving routes such as the one from Oia to Fira are breathtaking, and stopping your car to take in all the views is a major plus.
If you do decide to rent a car, always do it through your hotel; it’s not only easier, but also safer. My husband did some research, and found there had been way too many bad experiences with various rental shops which kind of threw us off, so always make sure you read reviews prior to renting.
I’m more of a last minute planner as in I’ll go over the main places we want to see before booking a trip, and put together the rest of the details when we get there. This time, I’ve failed to take into consideration just how small the island is [insert facepalm emoji].
So imagine this: me on the first night, pen and paper in place, all set to plan our itinerary for the upcoming days. But gradually going over Santorini’s map, it suddenly hit me: we’ll be there for two freakin’ weeks with (apparently) so little to do. Ah, little did I know!
There’s way more to the island than beautiful sunsets, blue water and white facades. You can choose from a wide variety of activities ranging from thrilling adventures to gastronomic experiences. There’s something for each kind of traveler:
- For the cocktail-sipping, lounging in the sun kind:
- plenty of beaches to choose from:
- The Red beach – the most captivating beach made of red and black lava rocks and red pumice; great for swimming and snorkeling
- Perivolos – the longest and most popular black sand beach filled with cosmopolitan beach bars and restaurants
- Vlychada – one of the most dramatic coastlines of Santorini boasting a striking white background made of pumice resembling a lunar landscape; great for relaxation. A little tip: make sure you check out To Psaraki, a restaurant which only serves fish of the day and food made solely out of locally sourced ingredients.
- most hotels come with a public pool, or even better, private ones (always book these way in advance though cause they go out quickly)
- plenty of beaches to choose from:
- For the history aficionado and the explorer:
In my humble opinion, these two go hand in hand. The island overflows with history, but if you wanna go further back in time, you’ll have to stray off the beaten track.
- For the adventurer:
Apart from walking in between villages and climbing an insane amount of steps, we did none of what’s considered to be exhilarating.
But, thought you might want to know you can sail, dive, go horseback riding, do some climbing, cycling, or hiking.
The most famous hiking path is the one from Fira to Oia, and it takes you along the caldera cliff and through the villages of Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli, and Oia. The hike takes between 2 and 5 hours depending on how fast you walk and how often you stop.
We only did the Imerovigli – Fira walk, which doesn’t really classify as a hardcore hiking trail, but more as a walkaway in between the two towns. You’ll find plenty of restaurants and cafes along the way, beautiful churches and never-ending mesmerizing views of the sea and the caldera.
A little tip: You’ll probably hear this more than once when in Santorini, but ALWAYS make sure you have bottled water with you because their tap water is not drinkable.
- For the foodie and wine lover:
Now this, this we did plenty of. Wasn’t really aware of this before, but Santorini abounds with wineries and GOOD restaurants. I don’t recall us having a bad dining experience, but then again we were lucky enough to have been given a great list of restaurants.
I should also note that all hotels we’ve stayed at offered great breakfast. Not sure if that’s a general rule, but food was fresh, tasty, not too bad for the eyes either, and all ingredients seemed to be locally sourced.
I’ll go more into this in the following posts, but I will say some of the ‘must try’ foods while you’re in Santorini are:
- Fava – one of my absolute favorite dish to eat while there (had it at EVERY single restaurant we’ve been to)
- Cheese Saganaki – oy! This is a heavenly appetizer made out of salty cheese covered with a flaky pastry, deep fried and drizzled with honey. The thought of it is simply mouthwatering!
- Honey – holeh moleh! I am 100% certain nowhere in the world does honey taste better than in Greece.
- Olives – cause, duh!
- Yogurt – same goes for this. If I had to pick my last meal, I’d go for a bowl of authentic Greek yogurt topped with honey, nuts, and some fresh strawberries – H.E.A.V.E.N.L.Y!
- Gyros – if you think you’ve had good gyros before, think again. So very different from what I tasted before.
- Vinsanto – there’s quite a lot of interesting info we’ve found out about this wine, so I’ll resume my recount when the time is right. Just know that it’s a ‘no miss’ when in Santorini.
- Orange soda – very similar to Italian soda, but not as sweet. My husband was hesitant at first, but got him hooked after the first sip. We’d usually have at least 4 per meal.
- Iced cappuccinos – I still can’t get over how luscious and creamy freddo cappucinos are. Tried recreating them at home, but failed miserably 🙁
We stayed at 5 different hotels which sounds pretty crazy in theory, but hear me out, okay?
Most people plan out their honeymoon months in advance. We changed our mind about our destination last minute, and booked everything about a month before leaving. That made it impossible to find places we really liked able to accommodate us for two whole weeks.
So we’ve decided to book hotels on the more affordable side for when we’d be out exploring, and prettier ones with private pools and such for the days spent mostly lounging around.
Honestly, if we were to do it all again, we would not be moving around so much because it was a complete waste of time that could have been spent way better. But we’d also be planning a bit more in advance 😉
Like I’ve said, distances on the island are fairly small, so if you don’t want to invest a lot of money in your hotel, I’d suggest booking an apartment at Eucalyptus Houses in Mesariá (located 10 km away from Oía and 2,9 km from Fira). This was the first place we’ve stayed at, and we were impressed by the beautiful interior, the kind staff, and the oh so delicious breakfast. Plus, the bus station, the rental car place and the supermarket are both located right across the street.
Whew, I guess that’s pretty much it! I hope I didn’t forget anything, and please feel free to let me know if there’s any other info you might need.
Catch you later!