The Practical Guide to Santorini: The Crown Jewel of the Cyclades – Yoga, Wine & Travel

The Practical Guide to Santorini: The Crown Jewel of the Cyclades

Santorini is quite possibly one of the most photographed places in the world, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why. It is arguably the most well-known out of the 220 islands that make up the Cyclades in the Aegean sea, and much like Cinque Terre in Italy, officials have decided to limit the number of tourists that are permitted to visit. When we planned our trip to Greece last year, we knew that in addition to Athens, Delphi, Meteora and Olympia, there was no way that we could possibly skip Santorini.

Santorini is the site of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in history; today, the large caldera left by multiple eruptions (watch this video to witness how Santorini was formed over thousands of years) is lined from head-to-toe with precariously perched houses and churches, and is famous for breathtaking sunsets that attract massive crowds. While it isn’t one of the most budget-friendly places in the world, to say that Santorini is a destination that you must visit an understatement. Here’s what you need to know to help plan a trip to Santorini!

Tips you should know before you go

How long should I stay? Santorini is not a massive island, but there are a number of different towns that are worth visiting. We opted to stay in 2 different towns over 5 nights so that we could get a feel for the different areas around Santorini. Also, there was no way we could afford 5 nights in Oia (pronouced “ee-a”!).  I would recommend staying in Santorini for 3-6 nights.

When should we visit? Santorini is not a tropical island so the warmest months are between May and October, though tourism is starting to pick up during the winter months as well. If you’re dead set on sunny beach days, look into visiting in the peak season from July to September, but be mentally prepared for big crowds.

Where should we stay? Most travelers to Santorini opt to stay in Kamari, Perissa, Fira, Imerovigli or Oia. The accommodation rates vary across the different towns but Imerovigli and Oia tend to be the most expensive. The airport is on the east coast of the island and most hotels are within a 15-30 minute drive away. One of the most important things to think about when booking your accommodation (apart from budget) is how many stairs you will need to walk down (and back up) to get to your hotel. Some hotels will offer a porter service, but it seriously sucks if you have to lug your suitcase down dozens and dozens of uneven steps.

Are there ATMs? Most places accept card or have a minimum spend, but there are ATMs around. Some hotels may ask for payment in cash so double check the booking terms before your trip.

Is it easy to use my phone to navigate? Cell signal is good and Google Maps was pretty accurate, though it can get slightly confusing when you navigate the narrow paths within towns.

Getting there and getting around

The best way to get to Santorini quickly is by plane! If you have some time and don’t mind sitting on a boat for hours on end, then look into the ferry schedule from Athens or the other islands. If you are traveling from Athens, the plane takes off, and pretty much prepares for landing right after. Flights aren’t too expensive and there are a number of flights each day.

Bus: There are buses that operate between the towns and tickets are between 2-3 Euros. The buses can get crowded and hot during peak season so you may want to look into renting your own vehicle.

Car, ATV or scooter: I would not recommend hiring a car as parking on the island isn’t always easy, but is handy as Santorini can be extremely windy and chilly, even during the summer months.

Another option is to hire a scooter: reserve your scooter ahead of time from Santorini Rent Me Love Me, and organize for them to drop off and pick up the scooter from your hotel for maximum convenience! We paid about 25 Euros a day and this option allows you to park pretty much anywhere you want and appreciate the extremely picturesque views along the coast.

Quad bikes/ATVs are another popular option among travelers, but they just look…weird on regular streets.

Best things to do in Santorini

Surprisingly, there are a ton of different things to do in Santorini! I had originally envisioned sitting back and sipping cocktails all day long, but in reality rolled up my sleeves and spent almost all day exploring what the island had to offer. Here are some of the top things to do when you’re in Santorini!

1. Enjoy the sunset

A no-brainer! The sunsets in Santorini are unlike any other I’ve ever witnessed. Have you ever seen a truly pink and gold sunset? Brace yourself. Head to either Oia or Fira to watch the sunset, and while you can expect an insane number of people doing the exact same thing, wander a few streets away from the main viewpoints and you’ll find yourself a quiet little spot to watch the colours change across the sky.

If you’re looking to grab a cocktail, head to PK Cocktail Bar in Fira or Kastro in OiaMake sure you book a table ahead of time! PK Cocktail bar in particular served up some of the most delicious concoctions I have ever had the pleasure of drinking, and the service was incredible to boot. Their credit card machine was on the fritz and we didn’t have enough cash on us, and they just told us to come back another day to settle the bill like it was no big deal. Didn’t ask where we were staying. Didn’t ask for a contact number. I couldn’t believe my ears. Needless to say, we quickly ran to the nearest ATM and withdrew some cash to pay the bill immediately!

2. Swim in the Aegean

There are a ton of spots to swim at around the island, and the water is crystal clear! Unless you’re staying at Kamari or Perissa, there aren’t many public transportation routes that take you straight to the beach so your best bet is to rent a scooter or ATV. Our favorite swimming spot is at Ammoudi Bay (walk past the restaurants and walk along the cliffside), and others worth visiting are the red beach at Akrotiri, Kambia beach, Kamari beach and Katharos beach. Many hotels also have their own cliffside pool but be prepared to pay top dollar!

Traveling to other destinations in Greece? See more Greece destination guides here!

3. Explore the archaelogical sites and museums

Yes, you read right! Santorini has a number of archaeological sites and museums that are worth visiting. Buy the combined ticket so that you can go museum-hopping for a grand total of 14 Euros and learn about life on the island through incredible exhibits and findings from the settlement before the volcanic eruptions.

4. Hike Skaros rock

We stumbled upon this incredible hike while exploring Imerovigli on foot. In other words, we were entirely unprepared for this hike. Skaros rock was once an important fortress protecting the island from pirates, but is now uninhabited. It stands proudly in front of the town of Imerovigli and the walk towards the peak looks daunting with hundreds of steps that form a thin pathway. The entire walk takes approximately 45 minutes and starts with a breezy walk down to the base of the rock, followed by a rocky path up to the top. There is no path to the top of the rock but some people opt to climb up. I chose to stay 1 level down and was still rewarded with amazing panoramic views of Oia from afar and the caldera.

5. Go wine tasting

Santorini has a long wine-making tradition and wine tours are incredibly popular, although you can also visit individual wineries. If you’re planning on drinking make sure you book yourself onto a wine tour or organize a private driver.

Where to eat in Santorini

Mylos: Located in Fira, Mylos serves up delicious gourmet fare with an amazing view of the Aegean (with prices to match). Try the beef and save space for dessert. Trust me.

Taverna Katina: If you love seafood then this is the place to be! Located by the seaside at Ammoudi Bay, Taverna Katina offers beautiful fresh seafood and amazing Greek hospitality.

Avocado: Avocado is a small modern bistro in Imerovigli. There’s no view to speak of but the portions are generous, service is fantastic and prices are reasonable.

CatchIf you’re celebrating a special occasion, this is the place to be. The decor is modern and slick, but they back it up with great food and yummy drinks. Prices are on the higher side but this is the place to treat yo’self.

Where ever you decide to go, make sure you call or e-mail ahead to book a table, as places do fill up fast.

Where to stay in Santorini

Corrado Caldera Apartments, FiraThis property could not be in a better location! The hotel owner, Corrado, is extremely friendly and even offers airport pick up and drop off. The apartment is located on a quiet side street right at the mouth of the caldera, and the apartment is clean and spacious. The view from the shared terrace is stunning, and best of all: the price is incredibly reasonable compared to other properties in the area. Click here to book accommodation at Corrado Caldera Apartments!

Thirea Studios, OiaStaying in Oia is expensive, but it doesn’t have to break the bank. We spent 2 wonderful nights at Thirea Studios and were a stones throw away from the heart of Oia. The surrounding area glistens under the sunlight and the rooms are tastefully decorated. The hotel restocks the mini fridge every morning so that you can brew a hot coffee and eat a simple continental breakfast while overlooking the Aegean! Click here to book accommodation at Thirea Studios!

Photo credit: Thirea Suites & Studios Facebook Page

Have you visited Santorini? What are your tips to travelers visiting the area?

Planning a trip to Greece? Check out my other destination guides!

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54 Comments

  1. Deepika says:

    Stunning pictures (It’s Santorini after all😉) and very descriptive blog! Loved the tips shared by you. We stayed in Athens for 2 days but were on strict timelines so could not visit this beauty, saving your post as I am planning to go there soon 👍🏻

    • Flo says:

      Hope you get to go back to Greece soon, Deepika! We want to go back and explore some of the other islands like Milos, Naxos, Paros and Crete!

  2. Sarah says:

    This is such a useful post! Would love to visit Santorini some day – it looks beautiful. That sunset! 😍

  3. Kaisa Lee says:

    Awesome post! I went in November and it was too cold to swim but your post makes me want to go back and do it. I wasn’t aware Greece wants to limit the # of tourists visiting!?

  4. Kyntra Strickland says:

    This sounds like such a beautiful and relaxing trip! I’ve never been to Santorini, but I would love to one day. Wine tasting is my favorite thing to do in a new city and the ferry, although time consuming sounds like a fun way to arrive. Thanks for sharing your lovely pictures and great information.

  5. Yolanda says:

    Santorini is on my list for sure! I can’t wait to go there. Thank you for such a complete list, I have bookmarked it for the day I go! I love your photos too!

  6. Awesome guide – so looking forward to visiting Santorini one day and will definitely be checking out your restaurant recommendations 🙂

    • Flo says:

      Let me know when you make it over, Sarah! We had some of the best food in Greece on Santorini island – you’re going to love it!

  7. Bethan says:

    Such a great post Flo! Really making me want hot head to santorini (like I didn’t already 🙈)
    The pictures are so beautiful too a really informative piece!

    Bethan xx

  8. Thank you for the tips. I have been dreaming of going to this blue and white paradise for a long time. Hopefully, some day!

  9. Julianna says:

    Another brilliant post Flo – so in love with your blog. Santorini was already high on my travel list but this post has put it right at the top. Didn’t know that there were wineries on Santorini. What was the wine like?

    • Flo says:

      Thank you so much, Julianna! The wine has a pretty unique taste because of the volcanic deposits – you really need to go to Santorini, even if it’s just once in your life 🙂

  10. Ketki says:

    Santorini has been on my bucketlist for a really long time and i cannot wait to visit it. Lovely pictures and tips. I am pinning them 🙂

  11. Caroline says:

    Ah, such gorgeous photographs. I’ve been meaning to go to Santorini for years, but it’s got so popular and overdone that I keep putting it off thinking it’ll just be too busy/touristy for me – but this has made me really want to go, especially when you mentioned it does wine! What time of year did you visit?

    • Flo says:

      We were there in early July, during peak season! It’s possible to get away from the crowds, you just have to go off the beaten path a little – you should definitely go!

  12. Erin says:

    This is so helpful and omg gorgeous! Definitely on my list!

  13. I love swimming at Ammoudi Bay too. The island is a gem and I hope it stays that way with all the visitors!

  14. Love this post Flo! I still remember that holiday we kind of (almost) did together. We went to the same places in different times in a span of a week. Lol.

  15. Such a great and beautiful post about Santorini. I m a die hard fan of this place. Believe me i have never read a post about Santorini better than this. awesome…Really thanks.

  16. Very nice! I had a friend vacation in Santorini and all she could do was rave about it, but with your post, I now fully understand why. I’ll have to let my husband know of this place. Even though I know he’ll look at me with a blank expression and I’ll reply, “just pack your bags”. Haha!

  17. Ada says:

    Ah this is great. I literally just got back from Santorini few hours ago! The island is wonderful ! I was there for 6 days and I had an amazing time! I would love to go back there already! I am gonna post some post about it so you can read about my experience later 🙂

  18. Ivy says:

    Man reading this post on a Friday gives me feels in all the right spots <3 We didn't get around on a scooter but will definitely give that a shot next time. Or an ATV! Can you do a yoga retreat here so we can all go back 🙂

  19. You had me at sunsets and wine tours. I must admit I’ve never made it to Greece or the Greek islands but I met a Greek couple in Peru who gave me a list of their favourite islands and this was in their top 5. Gorgeous post.

  20. Ling says:

    Wow, your photos are absolutely stunning! You’ve really captured everything amazing in Santorini, from sunsets, to evenings, landscapes, history, etc.! Love the comprehensive list and detail of the things to do, see, dine and stay, which will help plan my future trip there!

  21. Santorini is so gorgeous and I hope I will get to visit it one day. The entire post is filled with so many useful tips and it is a great help for people planning to visit Greece soon. Sunsets look magical.

  22. Winnie says:

    What I wouldn’t give to be in Santorini right now?! The photos are stunning and the place (just like I’ve always imagined) looks spectacular! Don’t get me started on the sunsets, LOVE!

  23. Nisha says:

    Flo, I really liked this detailed post on Santorini. Everything you need is in one place. We have still to explore that part of the world. I will save this link for sure.

  24. Chrislee says:

    Santorini is very popular, how about staying 3 nights? Will that be enough? I am a very budget contious traveler. I think everyones list santorini is always included

  25. Henry says:

    Wow, out of all the blogs that have written a guide to Santorini, this is by far the best. Number one is my favorite…would you recommend I face east or west if I want the best view?

  26. Ahh Flo!!! I’m dying to visit Santorini, it’s just so far away! Loved your post and all the great tips you’ve shared. I’ve book marked this one for when I do finally make it to this gorgeous island 🙂

  27. Andele says:

    This post is amazing! Thanks for taking the time to be so detailed!! Can’t wait!

  28. JaMeka says:

    Oh my gosh, Flo! This post is very helpful! I think I’ll skip taking a cruise after all and stay a few days around Greece. Thank you 🙂

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