With its white-washed architecture, the cascading backdrop of the Aegean Sea, and the world-famous sunsets, you really cannot escape the beauty of Santorini no matter what you do or where you stay. After exploring the most luxurious of Greek islands as a stop on my multi-destination honeymoon, I’ve created this essential Santorini guide which covers all the essentials: from the best time to visit, the best areas and hotels to stay in, how to get there and around, and the top things to do in Santorini Greece.
Best Area to Stay in Santorini
Oia: If a luxurious and quintessential Santorini experience is what you are looking for, stay on the main part of the Caldera (cliff) in Oia. Pick a cave hotel/cave house that suits your needs and budget. Many of the caves have their own private hot tub or pool, and serve breakfast daily on your private patio overlooking breath-taking cliff side views. We stayed here and highly recommend it. The only drawbacks about staying in Oia are that it is the absolutely most expensive place to stay on the island, and it is very crowded. Privacy is not always guaranteed, so expect lots of foot traffic at all hours of the day, but especially during Sunset where people flock to Oia’s old castle to get 360 degree views of sunset.
Imerovigli: If privacy and romance are what you are after, Imperovigli is perfectly nestled cliff side but away from tourist attracts. This village, known as “Santorini’s balcony” is just as beautiful as Oia without as high of a cost. I recommend staying here for the dreamiest infinity pool you’ll ever swim in, and the best restaurant in Santorini known both for their food and perfect setting to catch the sunset.
Fira: For the budget conscious, there is Fira. This area is most “city-like” in terms of having plenty of walkable places to shop and eat, yet it is also very close to the beach. Accommodations are much cheaper in Fira, and several hostels can also be found here. I’ve heard this cave hostel in the town of Karterados (15 minute walk from Fira) is a great place to stay for a budget-friendly Grecian experience is what you are after.
Best Time to Visit Santorini
High season in Santorini is from late June until early September. The summer months make for perfect weather, but with that comes lots of crowds and higher prices. I recommend visiting Santorini in September, when most of the high season crowds are gone and the weather is still hot, but before it gets too windy or rainy to be enjoyable. Off season is from late November to March, and many hotels and businesses have traditionally closed for these months. However, more and more hotels are beginning to stay open through the off season; so if you’re looking for a deal, the best months to travel to Santorini are March through May, and October through November.
How to Get to Santorini & How to Get Around
To reach Santorini, first you must fly into the Athens airport. From there you have 2 options. You can take a 45 minute from Athens to Santorini (prices vary but are generally not outrageous) or you can take a ferry.
The ferries in Athen depart from either the Port of Piraeus or the Port of Rafina. There are 3 options of ferries you can take:
- Cheapest and Slowest – the normal ferry which takes about 9-10 hours and costs around 24 euro.
- Faster option – Blue-Star ferries which take about 7 hours and cost about 28 euros.
- Fastest and most expensive – the High-Speed ferries take you to Santorini in about 5 hours and cost about 40 euros.
Once you arrive in Santorini, the absolute best way to get around the island is by renting a quad. Aside from rentals being pretty cheap (between $10-$30 a day), they are so fun to drive around on. If you don’t want to rent a quad, a rental car is a good option too. I also recommend booking an early morning or sunset sailing tour. On the tour you will get to see beaches that are only accessible by boat, and will get a chance to swim in the hot springs.
The Top 10 Things to do in Santorini Greece
Here are some of the top attractions to visit during your stay in Santorini.
- Spend a day hiking the trail from Fira to Oia (or the opposite). This 3 hour hike isn’t for the faint of heart but gives you incredible views of many parts of the island.
- Oia Caldera – Arrive an hour or two before Sunset, walk around check out the shops and this neat little bookstore on Oia’s Main Street, then head to the castle or reserve dinner at one of the many restaurants with patio views for sunset.
- Visit the blackrock/black sand beaches.
- Go cliff jumping at Amoudi Bay, then eat fresh seafood at Amoudi Bay Fish Tavern (during sunset!)
- Visit the red sand beach. Either with a boat tour of the volcano, or by hiking trail
- Go wine tasting – Santorini is known for their local dry whites and sweet reds.
- Go shopping in Fira where souvenirs tend to be cheapest, then head to Kamari beach.
- Visit the ancient archaeological sites
- Take a boat tour to the volcano and swim in the hot springs
- Swim, snorkel, and scuba in the crystal clear Mediterranean waters.
All the Greek islands are beautiful and have something unique to offer, with Santorini and Mykonos competing for most popular. Compared to the beautiful but party-laden Mykonos, I preferred staying in Santorini for its slower pace and more luxurious feel. The island itself is relatively small, so you will be able to see most if not all of it over a recommended minimum of 3 days.
Which Greek island is your favorite? If you think I’ve left anything out please comment below!
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