Santorini, Greece. What is the first thing you envision when you hear those words? The bright blue domes, the crisp white buildings, the red cliffs, the stunning sunsets, or the crystal clear turquoise waters? It is hands down the most beautiful place I have ever traveled in the world and it should be on EVERYONE’S bucketlist, in my opinion. It was our 2nd destination out of 4 on our Europe trip last August. We fell so in love with Santorini, we literally did not want to leave and were sad even through we had a whole week in Italy following! It was that amazing. Basically everything you see in the photos is exactly how it is in real life, EXCEPT BETTER! Yes, I am telling the truth. It was literally like nowhere else I have ever been, in the best way. A MUST-SEE!
Where to Stay
So Santorini is an island (in case you didn’t know HA!) It is a little over 11 miles long from the north tip (Oia) to the south end (Akrotiri). So most of the photos you see online of Santorini with the classic blue domes are of Oia. But Oia is actually just one part of the whole island! So when looking for a hotel you may wonder where on the island you should stay. My recommendation is to stay either in Oia on the north tip, or in Fira, which is the main “city center” in the middle of the Island. Oia is much more expensive as it is THE tourist destination of the island and the most picturesque part.
Pros of staying in Oia is that you are already in walking distance of the best part of the island, with tons of restaurants and shopping, and Oia is where everyone goes to watch the famous sunset, so if you’re already staying there, it’s that much easier to stake out your spot to watch. Pros of staying in Fira is that you are more centrally located on the island, which if you rent a 4 wheeler, scooter, or car, you can easily get all around the island from a central spot. Fira is the biggest town on the island and has also plenty of restaurants and shopping. It is known for its nightclubs and nightlife as well. Fira also has more affordable hotel options. So depending on what vibe you’re going for, you can’t go wrong staying in either spot! We knew we wanted to stay in Oia, and actually found THE perfect hotel that won’t break the budget but is still within a 5-10 minute walk of everything Oia has to offer! Anemomilos Hotel was the perfect place to stay.
All we did to find our hotel was use Booking.com so that we could search within our budget and the location we wanted. Anemomilos had good reviews and was a great price, so we booked it! Y’all, we could not have had a better experience. From the moment we checked, in, we were greeted by the most friendly staff who immediately showed us around, showed us maps of the island and info on transportation etc and then helped us take our bags to our room. We had a room with a balcony that overlooked the pool and and it was amazing! (fyi those villas with private pools that overlook the ocean are literally like $1000 a night) so for what we were paying, I was THRILLED with the setup!! Plus we were a less than 10 minute stroll from the heart of Oia. It was perfection and I could not recommend this hotel enough!
What to See + Do
Stroll Through Oia: Okay this one is obvious, but seriously. It is endless cute little alleys and picturesque everything, and glimpses of the ocean between buildings. Take your time to walk through all the windy ways of Oia and get a little lost. Oia is unique, because past a certain point, cars are not allowed…the car road ends and it becomes pedestrian only. SO the entire little village is all pedestrians. It’s really like nowhere I’ve ever been. There is a main strip if you just follow it into town, it has most of the shops and restaurants on it. ps – fun fact, it is pronounced “EE-ya” not “Oh-EE-ya”.
Never Stop Taking Pictures: I literally stopped every 2 seconds to take a picture. You cannot take a bad photo in Santorini. EVERYWHERE is just so darn BEAUTIFUL. Seriously. Take as many photos as you can because you will never want to stop looking back through them. It’s such a stunning and unique place.
Spend an afternoon at Liyoerma Pool Bar: Our hotel did have a great pool, but not much of a view of the ocean. This pool bar is an AMAZING option for those whose hotels either didn’t have a pool or it didn’t have the best view. It’s in Oia at the tip of the island (also a great place to watch the sunset, we watched it here our first night!). All you have to do to be able to swim is buy food or drinks. Our final afternoon there, we spent a few heavenly hours laying in lounge chairs by the pool, overlooking the ocean, and sipping on delicious frozen drinks. I think I literally was in actual heaven! We never wanted that afternoon to end.
Stake Out a Spot in Oia for Sunset: You can’t go to Santorini and miss seeing one of the most stunning sunsets in the whole world. You’ll want to be in Oia for the sunset to get the best view. It gets CROWDED and I am not exaggerating, so you’ll want to stake out a spot at least an hour before sunset. (Use the weather app to see what time sunset will be that day.) Bring a bottle of wine and some snacks or if you’re lucky, get a reservation at one of the restaurants that overlooks the water on that side. It’s kind of fun that it’s a big crowd because it’s like a community activity. More selfie sticks than Disney World lol but it’s definitely a time you won’t want to miss taking photos! Everyone applauded when the last of the red sun finally sank down below the horizon. It was breathtaking!
Hike Down to Ammoudi Bay: Ammoudi Bay is a little fishing area below the cliffs of Oia. There is a steep stone pathway that leads down to it, but watch out for the donkey poo! You can walk down or ride one of the donkeys. We just walked. Be sure to turn back and look up at Oia as you descend down for stunning views of the buildings sitting on the red cliffs. The views in Ammoudi are beautiful! There are little cafes you can eat at literally right at the water’s edge and tons of cute colorful fishing boats that are perfect for taking some snapshots.
Cliff Jumping at Ammoudi Bay: Once you are at Ammoudi Bay, walk to the left (it’s ok to walk through the restaurant patios) and keep going to follow the path around the large rock. Be careful, there is some tricky maneuvering at some points. This is not for the faint of heart. But it’s SO worth it. Keep following the path until you get to a tiny little stone “beach” that’s really just made up of concrete and large rocks. There were plenty of people laying out and swimming when we arrived here. You will see the large cliff jumping rock out in the water in front of you. The only way to get to it, is to swim out to it. The water is deep, but it’s clear and there are some huge rocks halfway across that you can see through the water, and they are a great little stopping point to stand on if you need a break during your swim across. It’s really not a bad swim though. Other than when boats go by, the water is calm. Carefully climb up the rocks to get up to the jumping ledge. Take in the view of the island before gathering up your courage + jumping in! I watched a few others go before I did it. It was one of the best experiences ever! The water did smack me a bit upon landing, so I only jumped once, but it was definitely an adrenaline rush like no other!
Hike from Oia to Fira: If you enjoy hiking, and can muster up the energy to trek 6 miles, I can promise you, it will be the most beautiful 6 miles of your life. This is my #1 MUST DO if you go to Santorini. The views are UNREAL. They took my breath away multiple times. Moments where you stop and think there is no way this moment is real. The start of the path was actually just across the street from our hotel! There are signs that say “Hiking Path to Fira” with arrows. The side of the path that is closer to Oia is much more of an actual “hike” with a dirt path and hills etc. And the best views in the world!! The side of the path closer to Fira goes through resorts and is a stone/marble path. It also has amazing views, it’s just a different kind of setting than the first part of the hike. We were there in August and it was h-o-t so we started the hike at about 8am and go to Fira at around noon. I was just wearing a bikini with jean shorts most of the hike because it was so hot! So I recommend starting in the morning so it’s a little bit cooler for the beginning. Definitely pack water bottles and snacks for the hike. There a little market right at the beginning of the hike, we just bought 2 huge bottled waters there before we began. Fun Fact – the cutest dog followed us for part of our hike! Santorini is full of stray dogs, they are everywhere!
Explore Fira town: Now that you’ve hiked all the way there, check out all the Fira has to offer! The streets of shops here were much more crowded and colorful. (Oia is a little more upscale) I loved the fun vibe of Fira. We stopped in a shoe shop and got Ryan some water shoes for the beach, and then stopped for some delicious street food and got classic gyros! They’re super cheap and to die for! Definitely check out the shops for tons of local and neat handmade items and goods!
Check Out The Beaches: There a few different beaches around the island, with the most famous ones being Kamari Beach (the black sand beach) and Akrotiri Red Beach. I would’ve loved to see them all, but we were only in Santorini for 3 days and considering all I’ve already told you about, you can see we really did squeeze a lot in! But we only had time to go to 1 beach, so we chose Kamari. It’s called the black sand beach, but none of the beaches in Santorini are actually sand. The beaches are made up of volcanic rock and pebbles. Note – the beach chairs and umbrellas have to be rented out, but you can lay your towel on the beach!
Where To Eat
Lotza – This is where we ate our first dinner. It’s along the main street in Oia. The patio has stunning views of the caldera and the food was incredible! I got chicken souvlaki which is basically a seasoned chicken skewer with rice and fresh veggies. Ryan got a greek burger and he still says that meal was his favorite of our entire Europe trip!! Then we split a piece of traditional baklava served with vanilla ice cream for dessert. YUM! The food at Lotza was delicious and fresh, highly recommend it!
The Summer Habit – We got breakfast here in Oia. They have yummy fresh smoothies! They have pancakes and other breakfast menu items too, but we just got smoothies. It was so hot we wanted something light. I had a fresh pineapple smoothie, it was so tropical and refreshing!
Petros – Another fantastic dinner in Oia. A gorgeous view of the ocean and fresh amazing seafood. I had some local rose there as well! Santorini is know for its wineries and delicious wines! Definitely check this place out for a meal if you get a chance.
Lolita’s Gelato – You have to go here if you go to Santorini. We ate here 2 nights in a row it was so good!! Some of the best gelato we had on our trip (even after trying all that gelato in Italy!) A cute little modern spot with tons of flavors. It’s so cute and totally instagram-worthy as well 😉
Apsithia – We had dinner here our final night and it was so good! I really don’t think you can go wrong eating anywhere in Santorini ha! It’s all good! I got white fish and Ryan got lamb. Soo good and another gorgeous view!
- Taxis are not the most reliable form of transportation. We didn’t rent a scooter, 4 wheeler or car (which we should have) and instead took a taxi from Fira to Kamari beach. Getting there was fine, there were plenty of taxis in Fira. However, once we were ready to leave Kamari, which is just a tiny beach town, there were literally NO taxis. We were stranded for at least a hour waiting for once to come. Not fun. Definitely recommend renting your own transportation even just for a day.
- You can barter at the shops. When Ryan bought his rubber beach shoes at the shop in Fira, he was able to get the salesman to give him a good deal! If you see something you love, but the listed price is a bit much, definitely try offering cash and bartering with them!
- Be willing to try new foods. One of the best things about traveling is trying the local cuisine and Santorini has incredible food. You’re on an island surrounded by the ocean so definitely try to fresh seafood, and you have to have at least one gyro while you’re there!
- Carry a backpack. We were pretty much out and about all through the day and didn’t go back to our hotel until the evening, so having our backpack packed for the day was a huge help. Ryan carried it most of the time. We always had our camera and GoPro accessories, towels, extra clothes/swimsuits, sunscreen, and water bottles with us at all times.
- Take time to relax and soak in paradise. Even though we were busy busy trying to see as much as we could, the vibe of the island is very laid back and all about enjoying life and the beauty of the surroundings, so we made sure we took time to just chill at the pool bar and soak in the amazingness of Santorini.
- The airport is teeny teeny tiny. Like literally only one plane can land at a time kinda thing. You will likely have to wait in line to get a taxi from the airport if you don’t already have a pickup scheduled. Just a heads up. Also, if you are already somewhere else in Europe, you can find direct flights to Santorini, without having to stop in Athens (unless you want to stop in Athens!) We did not have enough time, so we booked a direct flight from Paris to Santorini.
- Everyone goes to dinner after the sunset, so every night we’d eat dinner before the sunset (as everyone was already staking out their spots) and basically have the restaurants to ourselves! So that’s a major tip, if you want to get into the restaurants without a wait or large crowds, go before the sunset! After sunset, from 8-9 the restaurants are all packed and it’s dark then so you can;t even enjoy the views the restaurants have to offer!
Overall, I cannot say enough good things about Santorini. I’m dying to go back. It is incredible and everyone needs to go there if they are able to. You will not regret it, and it’s absolutely possible to travel there on a budget. Everything we did once there (besides eating) was a free activity. So put it on your bucketlist, and I hope this guide is helpful for planning your trip! If you have ANY questions, please comment or email me!