Everybody and their mother is talking about Santorini Island Greece! Either they have been there, planning to go or are dreaming about organizing a trip on the lovely picture perfect Greek island.
And I have to admit I was a victim of the trend myself and decided to spend my Summer of 2017 vacation on the lovely Santorini Island in Greece.
Before choosing this destination, there are a few things you might need to know, which I did not know before getting there but I think would be useful for other tourists planning their holidays here.
First of all, the Santorini island is relatively small, shaped like a croissant ( yum!), mainly split into two sides: the Western side with houses nestled un hills, narrow steep streets and of course the most famous caldera view; and the Eastern part where you will find all the beaches and access to the sea.
This being said, where should you choose to stay in Santorini?
My personal experience, and what I would also do if I would ever get back on the Greek island (and read that “when” not “if”), is that the Western side is perfect for visiting on a day trip, booking a table for dinner over sunset and maybe just booking a room with a view for 1 or 2 nights, but I would definitely choose the Eastern side for staying over a longer period of time.
If you want access to the sea and to the beach, many sea front restaurants with a large variety of delicious food at a fair price, bars with live music and sparkling cocktails, I suggest you choose Kamari. That’s what we did and we are not regretting it at all, actually, we are planning to return here in Spring for a long weekend since we liked it so much.
Just make sure not to miss the incredible sunsets Oia or Fira have up their sleeve.
What should you know about the sunset in Santorini Island Greece?
- If you’re planning to go to Oia (or Ia as the Greeks call the city), make sure to book a table at one of the restaurants with the best view. We didn’t and still got a beautiful view but it would have been nicer with a nice glass of wine in hand, sitting at a table.
- If you don’t want to book a table and spend the money on a dinner, bear in mind that the best spot for sunset in Oia is the very top of the island and more precisely the Byzantine Castle Ruins. Make sure to come here early because the place tends to get very crowded the closer you get to the sunset and people will try to win the best spot there is. Thus, grab a bottle of wine and head to the area as early as 5:30 PM.
- Sunsets are as lovely also in the island’s capital, Fira (or Thira) where you will find it easier to get a table, also without a reservation. Personally, I preferred being sure and booked a table for the last night on the island at the lovely Volcano Blue Restaurant. It has been a choice based on the reviews the restaurant had on TripAdvisor and I have to admit the experience was wonderful and everything from the service, to the food, to the view, was just perfect. (No, I did not get any incentive for the review). Just note that if you are planning to book a table here for sunset and you are traveling with kids, you most probably will need to find another spot, since they don’t accept children and infants during sunset hours.
What to do on Santorini Island Greece?
Even though Santorini island is rather small, you will have things to do in order to fill up your schedule when you are not relaxing on the beach, and here is my list of things to try while there:
- Take the boat and go to the volcano – you cannot miss this even though I have to warn you, the climb up won’t be exactly easy and it will be windy as hell. But it is all worth it for the incredible view and for seeing the black lava ground and the thing that made the island what it is today. Make sure to bring sport’s shoes and water.
- If you get to the volcano, the trip will most certainly include a dive at the hot springs. Honestly, I wasn’t impressed b this particular activity because first of all the hot springs are not exactly hot, and secondly, I felt like swimming in a large pond of rust.
- Visit Therasia (or Thirasia) – as part of the one day trip to the volcano, we got included also a 3 hours stop on the smaller island of Therasia, which was actually part of Santorini many years ago and got separated after the volcano eruption. The experience was particularly funny because we ended up for lunch at this small, very traditional, water facing Taverna, owned and run by a family. The place was not the cleanest or well organized I’ve ever seen, but it was sure authentic and the food was tasty and cheap. On this little island, there are only 319 inhabitants and2 small villages – one in the port and one up the hill. We chose to stay only in the small one in the port, but I’m sure that if you have the time and spirit to climb the stairs, the view from above will not disappoint either.
- Get lost on the streets of Oia – but try not to arrive at the port and climb the oh so many stairs up the hill as we did, on a hot August day, in the middle of sun shine. Of course, you can “rent” a donkey to bring you to the top, but I did not see it as a reliable means of transportation, especially on the narrow streets, with the abyss on my left. You will need to know as well that, if you choose to go on foot, the road will be filled with ..oh well, donkey poop.. and you just need to imagine how it smells on a hot Summer day. But once you’ll be in the city, you’ll fall in love!
- Take a panoramic view trip of Santorini Island Greece – you can do that either by renting a car or an ATV or by taking an organized trip provided by a local travel agency. We chose the latter and had a great overview of Santorini Island Greece in one day, this being doable since the island is rather small.
We started out by going to the highest spot on the island, from where you can have a 360 degrees view and, if you have time, visit the Prophet Elias’s Monastery.
Moving on, we got to visit a small old Greek city, the city of Megalochori, which I particularly loved because it was so small, the streets so narrow, the houses so white with such a lovely contrast with the blue doors and windows. Everything was so quiet and peaceful, perfect for a Zen location. You won’t need more than 30 min to visit the city from one end to the other, but you will sure love it!
Another stop was at the Akrotiri settlement, where you definitely need to go if you are passionate about history since this is where people lived back in the 5th century BC. The city is thought to have been the inspiration of Plato’s Atlantis and has been destroyed and covered by lava when the volcano erupted in 1627 BC. Just by looking at the rocks and walls you probably will not feel much, but I encourage you to look at the bigger picture and imagine how life was in this so very old settlement, how advanced people were for that time and the guide will most certainly help you with a lot of interesting information.
After a short picture stop at the Red Beach of Santorini, we got also 2 hours stop on the beach, at Perissa beach, also known as the black beach where we enjoyed a wonderful lunch, on the beach, at this beautiful restaurant with sun beds directly overlooking the sea. If you’re asking yourself whether the Red beach is a place to consider for sun bathing, I wouldn’t recommend it, since it is really rocky and as far as we’ve been told, officially it is not allowed to bath here ( even though people were there at the beach when we’ve been).
Our last stop and one of the greatest parts of the trip was at SantoWines winery, the Union of Santorini Cooperatives founded in 1947, where you will find an amazing mix between delicious wines and incredible views over the caldera. We tasted 3 types of wine, finishing with the best of them all, Vinsanto – the red, sweet, dessert wine. If you plan a trip here, make sure to book a table and one of the wine tasting packages. Note also that they organize weddings on location, so if you are looking for something special and memorable, this is just the place for you.
- Don’t miss out on Fira, the capital of Santorini Island Greece – sure Oia is beautiful, but Fira is as beautiful and will not disappoint, trust me. You can take the city on foot or choose to take the funicular down to the port and back up again. Don’t miss out on the best Belvedere view point from where you will come back home with a lot of beautiful pictures.
So what do you say, would you give Santorini Island Greece a chance?