Santorini, also known as Thira, was formed by an enormous volcanic eruption that happened about 1,650 B.C. Today, you see homes, hotels and restaurants perched on the edges of the caldera. Houses are small and white, roads are narrow and paved, and you will encounter traditional transportation – mules. Mules were the only way of transport on Santorini until 1979.
Santorini is known for its volcanic qualities and the most romantic sunset in the world. I’m pretty sure you have seen photos of Santorini at some point and thought to yourself “wow this place looks unreal”. I’m here to tell you it isl! Santorini is probably one of the few places where you don’t even need to add one of those fancy filters to your photos. Santorini is the most beautiful place I have ever seen!
After being fortunate enough to see this beautiful island, I thought I should share my Santorini travel guide! I hope I inspire you to visit Santorini and provide some valuable information to plan your trip!
How to Get to Santorini
The two best ways to get to Santorini are by ferry or by plane. We flew straight into Thira Airport in Santorini from Rome, as we spent time in Italy prior to heading to Greece. If flying straight into Santorini isn’t an option for you, then you can fly into Athens and grab a short 35 minute flight to Santorini. Many people who are on a budget or want to see Greece at sea opt for the ferry. Travel time is longer, but can easily be spent catching up on sleep or enjoying some cocktails. Choosing between a ferry or flight really depends on where you’re coming from, but both options are affordable.
Where to Stay
The island of Santorini is rather small, but divided into many little towns making it appear large. I would say your first challenge will be deciding which area you would like to stay in. Now, the most popular areas to stay in Santorini are Fira, Imerovigli and Oía (pronounced ee-uh). The appeal of these towns is that they are located along the caldera cliff on the western side of the island. All of these towns have wonderful views of the volcano and caldera. They each have different pros and cons, but I recommend these three towns. In a nutshell, Fira is known for its night life. Oía is more romantic and has some of the greatest hotels. Imerovigli is more quiet as compared to some of the other towns and is known for its sunsets and restaurant scene.
When organizing our trip, we had a difficult time with this due to the fact that each town offered something we really were interested in experiencing. After much research, we decided to stay in Imerovigli at Rocabella Santorini, which is centrally located. Imerovigli is a 20 to 30 minute walk from Fira or a very short ride away. It is possible to walk from Imerovigli to Oía, however it takes several hours so I suggest taking a taxi, especially if your’re limited on time.
Our stay at Rocabella Santorini was amazing! Literally meaning ‘beautiful rock’, Rocabella is a slice of heaven. Our room was clean, bright and decorated simply. The hotel staff went above and beyond in every way! We went to a local winery one day and my husband’s white shorts got ruined when a gust of wind came by and blew red wine all over him. When we got back to our hotel room we trashed the shorts before heading to the pool. When we returned from the pool, house keeping had found the shorts in the trash and taken them. We had no idea until we heard a knock at our door. A lovely lady was standing at the door with my husbands white shorts in her hands and they looked brand new! She literally brought his shorts back to life! Haha! We couldn’t believe it! If that’s not top notch service I don’t know what is!
Rocabella Santorini has several pools including an infinity pool. We really enjoyed relaxing by the pool sipping on Cocktails, tanning and overlooking the caldera.
The views from the pools are outstanding. We even watched the sunset from the pool area one night! Rocabella offers the most gorgeous and unobstructed views. By far the most beautiful view we have ever experienced.
Rocabella Santorini also has it’s own restaurant on the hotel property, Axinos, which we had lunch along with a wine tasting upon arrival. We enjoyed local wine samplings along with an olive tapenade, Greek salad and sausage gnocchi. As we enjoyed our first Greek meal of the trip, we overlooked the caldera and lusted over the Aegean Sea.
What to Do
Sail the Aegean Sea on a Catamaran Cruise! This is one of the best ways to see the island and the caldera, which formed when the area collapsed from a volcanic eruption. This volcanic event is what gave Santorini its present-day unique semi-cirluar shape. The entire area is basically a collapsed ancient volcano! We booked a semi-private tour with Spiridakos Sailing Cruises. What I enjoyed most about doing this was just cruising on the catamaran, swimming in the sea and watching the sunset, with Greek wine in hand.
Read about it here: Why You Must Take a Catamaran Tour in Santorini
Spend the Day in Oía
Oía is magical – straight up. It’s peaceful, especially with it’s white washed buildings and brightly colored roofs. I highly recommend spending the day in Oía, grabbing lunch and dinner at a restaurant with a caldera view.
Don’t leave your hotel without your camera. Oía is the perfect place to walk the narrow streets and snap away! You will be able to capture some of the most beautiful photographs.
Also, the sunsets in Oía are some of the most famous in the world, especially when the sun goes down against the Oía architecture.
We watched the sunset from Kastro Cafe, it offers a spectacular view. Not only was watching the sunset romantic, but another way to fall in love with this beautiful island all over again. We ordered dinner and cocktails as the sun came down over the beautiful blue tops of the buildings. We loved the food at Kastro Cafe. I’m pretty sure we ate a Greek salad everywhere we went. Ha! They were so fresh and delicious, we just couldn’t resist. The Feta cheese in Greece is – TO DIE FOR!
TIP: I highly recommend you make reservations in advance as Kastro Cafe books quickly for the sunset dinners.
Visit a Local Winery
My husband and I LOVE wine! We knew when we visited Santorini we would visit at least one winery. Our first choice was Santo Winery, however they were booked during our visit. We ended up visiting Domaine Sigalas in Oía. The tasting area was very pretty. The staff was very knowledgeable about the wines we would be tasting. We chose a flight of all twelve wines. We also had a pairing of meat and cheeses. Charming winery and great experience. All in all, a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours. If you are into wine I highly suggest booking a wine tour while visiting Santorini.
Watch the Sunset from Imerovigli
I’m pretty sure by this point you realize that Santorini and sunsets go together like feta cheese and pita bread! It’s truly a must do! Since our hotel was in Imerovigli, we were lucky enough to experience the sunset here. Whether you stay in Imerovigli or you are exploring for the day, I would plan to see the sunset. Since there is a hiking path along the caldera behind all the hotels, this is a wonderful spot to watch the sunset. On our last night in Santorini, we opened a bottle of Assyrtiko wine that we purchased from the winery and posted up on the rocks and watched the sunset over the Aegean Sea. There are some experiences in life you never forget and this will be one of them!
Eat Greek Cuisine
You can’t go to Greece and not try a gyro. We stopped and enjoyed a gyro while exploring Oia at Pitogyros. The gyros at Pitogyros are made with a soft and crispy pita bread, filled with chicken, pork or lamb and stuffed with fries, lettuce, tomato and onions. Its cheap and delicious! Don’t forget to wash it down with a Greek beer!
One of our favorite dining experiences in Santorini was at Avocado in Imerovigli. I highly recommend Avocado to any foodie who wants to experience traditional Greek dishes with a modern touch. The food was amazing, great atmosphere and superb service. If you have any dietary restrictions, Avocado caters to those who are gluten free, vegetarian or lactose intolerant.
Lounge by the Pool
Santorini is perfect for lounging all day and just enjoying life. This is why I highly recommend you splurge a little bit more on your hotel while in Santorini and get a hotel that faces the caldera, has a pool and bar, and provides an area with sea and sunset views. We went all out for our hotel in Santorini because this was a dream destination and we wanted to experience it with a little luxury. It was so nice to lay back and relax while drinks were delivered to us poolside. Our daily plans consists of just laying around the pool, swimming, drinking, grabbing lunch then taking in the sunset from the private area in front of our room.
- Rent an ATV! This is the best way to get around the island. We made the mistake and did not rent an ATV, but quickly realized this was the preferred form of transportation. We ended up taking taxis, which adds up quickly and is quite expensive. There aren’t set rates and the taxi drivers just charge whatever they want it seems.
- Bring light weight and airy clothes as the temperature in Santorini is typically very hot. Bring a light weight jacket to wear once the sun does down.
- Try Ouzo at least once!
Santorini is by far the most beautiful place I have ever been and not many places can compare to it’s beauty. Traveling to Santorini can be accomplished both fabulously and affordably. With some research, you can discover how to make your dream vacation fit your budget.
Have I inspired you to visit Santorini? If so, then get to booking!
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