Planning the perfect Santorini trip
I have been to some very pretty islands but honestly, Santorini beats them all. I immediately fell for this cute island with its whitewashed houses, little churches, volcanic beaches and some awesome hiking trails. However, going there was a last minute decision and it wasn’t easy to decide where to stay. Therefore, I will make your life a little bit easier and tell you everything you need to know for planning the perfect Santorini trip
Where to stay?
If you can’t afford crazy expensive resorts outside the towns you should stay in Fira or Oia. Oia is the town you know from the Santorini pictures (if you have never seen pictures before, almost every picture on this page is in Oia). In my opinion Oia is the best place to stay when you visit the island. The town is located 30 minutes from the airport and the view is stunning. Fira is nice too, especially if you want to go out at night – it’s a little bit dead in Oia after sunset. Also, Fira is more centrally located in the middle of the island and next to the airport and old port.
The downside of Oia, however, is that it’s a little bit more expensive (ok not a little bit, it’s about double the price compared to accommodation in Fira or the other towns). Nevertheless, if you are flexible time-wise, I would recommend to book your trip in the shoulder season (best months are April, May, Sept and Oct). The weather is still lovely and the prices are so much lower! Also, it is less crowded (win-win!).
I decided to stay in Oia and it was the best decision of my trip. When I was in doubt between Fira and Oia and had been comparing hotels for about four hours, my boyfriend asked me why would go to Santorini to stay in a hotel that could have been anywhere else in the world? (With this he meant every hotel outside of Oia). Hence, I booked a really nice cave suite through VIP Suites Santorini. It was 70 euros per night for two persons (in the last week of March) and if you book on it straight on their website you even get a free airport pickup (usually 30 euros). I was very happy with my decision and staying there was worth every penny!
How to get around?
You can easily rent a car and explore the island. Car hire can be done at the airport or in one of the towns. In Fira there is one main street (25is Martiou) where you can rent cars. Just walk into every shop and take the one with the lowest price (can be a big difference, lowest you will get is 30 euros a day). Good to know is that you can also drop off the car at the airport – saves you an expensive taxi ride (about 20 euros from Fira to the airport).
The local bus is also a good option. The busses drive frequently between the airport and Fira and between Fira and Oia (so when travelling to Oia keep in mind that you need to change busses). I took the bus to get from Oia to Fira and it a very comfi bus for only 1,80 euros per person (did arrive 20 minutes too late but hey, it’s Greece). It is very easy and to if you really want to plan your Santorini trip perfectly, already check the timetable.
My recommendation: use the transfer of your hotel when you arrive or take the local busses if you’re on a tight budget/got loads of time. Hang around Oia for a day or two and then rent a car for 24 hours (it is the same price as renting it for 1 hour) to explore the rest of the island and its stunning beaches.
What to do?
— Watch the sunset in Oia! This will be one of the best sunsets you’ll ever see! (If you see better ones, you’re a very lucky person ;). However, do not just watch the sunset from one place as most people do. Instead, walk around to the fort, windmills, little churches and check out the sunset from every angle of the town!
— Take a boat trip to the hot springs! You can do a boat tour to a little island with hot springs. The tour leaves every day at 11am and 14pm from Fira (in low season there are only morning tours). I was not that well prepared and showed up at 14pm to be find out there are only morning tours in March so yeah, guess you’re planning your Santorini trip a little bit better.
— Visit Santorini’s beaches! Make sure you at least visit Red Beach, which is the island’s most famous one. The beach lies next to some steep cliffs with red rocks that are just amazing! Also, when you are there you can visit to the ancient Greek ruins of Akrotiri (open from 11am -15pm, entrance fee 5 euros). Other beautiful beaches to visit are the black volcanic beaches such as Perissa, Kamari and Perivolos.
— Go to the the top of Santorini and visit the Monastery of Profitis Ilias. It is not about the monastery really (since it’s very little) but more about the stunning view over the island. From the top you get a 360 degrees view! Only go there if you rented a car though, I wouldn’t say it’s worthwhile the effort to go by taxi or on a tour.
— MUST DO: Rent a car and drive around very early in the morning (very early is before 09am). It’s the best when the island is a bit misty and you drive above the clouds. One of the most magical things I’ve ever seen!
Other things you should know:
➜ When you go to Santorini by ferry you arrive at the bottom of the cliff. To go up to Fira you can take the cable car (5 euros) or walk up the 586 steps. Another option is to go up on a donkey (5 euros). It is advised to take the cable car, which is obviously the most convenient option. Nevertheless, it can get very busy in the summer months and if it’s windy the cable car will be closed!
➜ Don’t assume your hotel has a pool as most hotels do not have one (even if they do show you shit on the pictures). Why? No idea, Greek logic.
➜ The west side of the islands are mainly cliffs and all the beaches are located at the eastern part of Santorini.
➜ Don’t forget that Santorini is a very popular holiday destination and that if I write that is can get crowded, imagine it to be insanely crowded. Especially July and August are crazy. So think twice about the time you go there.