Santorini seems to be on every Instagrammer’s hotlist. The typical well-maintained white houses, cute traditional windmills, pink flowers, the deep blue Aegean Sea, red, white and black beaches, beautiful sunsets with orange/pink skies that causes people to clap spontaneously… This I needed to see for myself. Even if it would only be for a day.
One day visit
I visited Santorini as a day trip from Crete. In my other blog post about ‘Santorini in a day’ I share my practical tips for a day trip from Chania/Crete, including answers to questions like:
- Which ferry can you take? How long does it take?
- How/where to purchase a ticket? Costs?
- Is it difficult to drive from Chania to Heraklion port?
- How is the parking at Heraklion port?
- How to get around on Santorini?
- What stuff to bring to Santorini for a day trip?
Santorini: what to see?
Pfff… my list of things to see on Santorini was waaaaay too long! It’s madhouse. On a day trip you will need to be realistic and have to make choices. I don’t like that either but I really had to. Make it a fun day, not a marathon…
Reality check: lots of the things you see of Santorini on Instagram are not accessible, unless you spend at least a night at a luxurious hotel, which not rarely costs more than a thousand euro per night. Quiet famous is for example the Alali Restaurant in Akrotiri. It is located on the other side of the island (compared to Oia) and for sure the 9-course menu will come with a price (the menu does not say). The view will be great though. Alali means speechless in Greek…
A day trip is short yet exciting and I would not have wanted to miss it for the world! If you have limited time, I’d say: focus on Oia (pronounce: “ey-ya”) and Fira. Oia and Fira are the most popular spots on the island for a reason. Go and see for yourself why.
For your orientation: please find a mobile friendly map at the bottom of this blog post. Promise yourself to stick to a few spots only and just enjoy the ride! To be honest we did not really even have time left to see a lot of Fira in the afternoon. Time flies when you are having fun!
No matter how long you are in Fira, at least eat something at Naoussa. They serve a fantastic eggplant spread with tzaziki and tomato balls (domatokeftedes) and delicious moussaka, saganaki, chicken etc.
This is the village that you will see on most photos of Santorini. The typical white painted houses, cave pools, luxury hotels cascaded against the cliffs… It’s very picturesque, stylish and well-maintained, a pleasure to the eye really.
Oia has a cobblestone pedestrian path that walks all around the village: the Armeni path. It is not really comfortable to walk on, don’t wear heels! Walking the whole path will take at least an hour or so, up to half a day, depending on how busy it is and how many pictures you will take along the way… Half-way you will encounter the old castle, which really is not much more than a ruin. However it offers an awesome view.
More to explore
Got time left after Oia and Fira, or interested in something else? Decided to stay longer than just one day? Check out places like Pyrgos, Akrotiri, Firostefani, Imerovigli. Or less touristy, smaller villages such as Megalochori, Finikia, Vourloulos and Mesaria.
Santorini has multiple nice beaches, often black due to its volcanic background. Try one of these beaches: Akrotiri Caldera, Gialos, Kokkini Paralia (red beach), Aspri Paralia (white beach), Eros beach, Perivolos, or Perissa (both black beaches), Vlichada beach, Kambia or Mesa Pigadia.
Are you also a wine lover? Then I am sure you will enjoy one of the wineries of Santorini, such as: Santo Wines, Venetsanos, Boutari, Gavalas (especially at sunset), Canava Argyros Avantis Wines, Gaia, Domaine Sigalas, Vassaltis, Volcan Koutsoyannopoulos (also wine museum, EUR 10 entrance fee). Cheers!
Traveling alone and want to join a small group? Check out these wine tasting group tours.
In the mood for something else than wine? Go to PK cocktail bar.
Santorini is famous for stunning sunsets. As mentioned earlier, people actually spontaneously start to clap their hands when the sun sets. Orange/pink sky in combination with the white houses is a spectacular sight. Oia is a good spot for sunsets.
On a day trip by ferry from Crete in the summer you can only witness sunset on Santorini when you take the last ferry back with Golden Star Ferries, which ride will take you two hours longer to go back to Heraklion. Dilemma… See also my other, more practical Santorini blog post.
How cool would it be to see Santorini’s caldera and Nea Kameni volcano like a bird? It’s possible with this exciting helicopter ride!
Santorini’s hot springs are on the tiny, uninhabited islet of Palea Kameni. Continuous volcanic activity underground maintains the springs’ temperature 30-35 degrees Celsius. The sulfuric, orange-tinged spring waters that bubble up into a shallow cove off the islet’s coast are said to be curative for the skin and joints. How great is that?!
A Catamaran day trip is absolutely one of the best possible ways to see not only the hot springs, but also Caldera, the red and white beaches and even snorkel the crystal blue sea of Santorini. These 5-hour tours can only be done when you stay on the island for at least one night due to starting time, which is either in the morning (usually around 09:30) or in the afternoon (usually around 15:00, with sunset and on-board BBQ). So impossible to combine with a day trip with ferry from/to Crete.
When to go
Normally to be honest I would not even consider to visit Greece in the middle of August. My boyfriend’s job and my friend from Sydney were my excuse this time haha Heat, crowds, dry landscape… not ideal. But hey, sometimes that’s the way it is and you will just have to enjoy it the way it comes to your plate! And I did, I keep surprising myself you know!
I would actually prefer to go in October or mid-April. Better prices of accommodation too (should you wish to stay longer than just one day…). Take into account that lots of things will be closed before April.
With regards to ‘when to go’ on the day itself, the timing of sightseeing, depends on your situation. If you come for a day by ferry from Crete, you do not have much choice; basically you have between 11:00 and 17:00 to see the island. If you spend the night on Santorini, especially during high season, try to visit the highlights early on the day (best before 09:30h).
Tours are a perfect, easy way to get around the island and make the most out of your (short) stay on Santorini. Let a local guide show you the hidden gems without getting too much sweat on your forehead to ruin that picture perfect 😉 and tell you interesting stories and facts of the island.
Staying on the island
If you do decide to stay on the island, do it well. Otherwise you’ll only end up drooling over the luxurious hotels when walking around in Oia for example. Get something good, you deserve it! You only live once, right? My recommendation would be to stay at one of the following beautiful hotels.
Tip: book accommodation on Santorini 6-24 months in advance, especially particular hotels. Also, please take into account that in Oia there might be lack of privacy while lying or sitting on the terrace of your hotel due to tourists looking down on it from the pedestrian path above.
Andronis Boutique Hotel
A fan of boutique hotels? Then Andronis Boutique Hotel in Oia is a must-do. Room prices start at EUR 389 for a petit suite with Caldera view and breakfast. Such wonderful place!
Iconic Cave Hotel
The name is reality. The Iconic Santorini, a Boutique Cave Hotel in Imerovíglion is iconic. Expect prices to start around EUR 595 for a deluxe double room and breakfast. So pretty!
A romantic world class hotel, that’s what you may expect from Astarte Suites in Akrotiri. This hotel is linked to the earlier mentioned Alali Restaurant. The Executive Suite with hot tub and Caldera view, starting at EUR 434 per night including breakfast, is still available for some dates in Oct/Nov next year…
I was discussing this with my friend and we totally agreed: Santorini is definitely a romantic place. We will have to come back here with our lovers one day! If you are a boyfriend/fiancée/husband, and you secretly plan a trip to Santorini for your girlfriend/boyfriend/fiancée/wife/husband, you will definitely impress, that is for sure!
This mobile friendly map includes most things mentioned in this article and is smartphone friendly. You can use it easily via Google Maps. Click on the top left icon to open the menu. You can (un)select categories/areas to customize the map to your needs. Via Google Drive you can copy it to your folder of My Google Maps.
Busy, busier, busiest
Let’s be realistic: I was not alone visiting this pretty island. Santorini is actually the most overwhelmed Greek destination. Last year, two million tourists were drawn to the island. More than 5.5 million (!!) overnight stays were recorded last year. Mayor Zorzos recently forced cruise ships to limit the number of passengers disembarking to 8,000 people per day. A huge impact for a tiny island that’s only 76km2 in size.
Hotel and house prices are sky rocking. Companies cannot accommodate new employees they need to support their businesses. The island is struggling with the energy, water and infrastructure needed for this many visitors. But the tourists keep coming, particularly now from Asia. You cannot really blame them. I did the same. But I do wonder how long this growth can continue?
Combine Santorini and Crete
Staying and/or landing on Crete and wonder how to get to Santorini? Check out my blog post Visit picturesque Santorini as a day trip from Chania, Crete – practical info & tips.
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