Santorini Top Travel Guide

Santorini seems to be on everyone’s bucket list and after touring the island for two days I can see why. The architecture is unlike anywhere else in the world and sunsets will leave you speechless. The unique city is built into towering cliffs. Houses are carved into caves, painted white and adorned with the historic Greek trademark of blue domes.

Aside from the architecture and otherworldly sunset views, you can enjoy dozens of vineyards, fresh produce from local farms, wild caught seafood, and chatting with the locals. You’ll hear the word Caldera to describe Santorini. The caldera is the shape of Santorini, formed by a major eruption leading to the collapse of the mouth of a volcano.

What I found most surprising about Santorini is the incredible hospitality. Most hosts and servers come to Santorini from the mainland of Greece during the high months for work. Nearly every hotel or airbnb host provides a full concierge that will book you shuttles from the airport to your hotel, dinner reservations, boat tours, and more. There are a few things that are fully booked well in advance so keep reading for the full download.

Exploring the caldera

How to get there

First, check out the most recent COVID info here. When we went, you needed to fill out a PLF, or passenger locator form, with verification that you either took a Covid test 72-hours before the flight or are fully vaccinated. To get home we had to take a Covid test within 72-hours before our flight. 

There are direct flights to Santorini, but if you are transferring from Athens the quickest way is a hopper flight. Sea ferries are a popular mode of transportation but you’ll spend more time traveling from Athens to Santorini. 

If you fly Volotea, Ryan Air, or Wizz be sure to check in for your flight online 24-hours before your flight takes off. If you forget to check-in online 3-hours before your flight they will charge you to check-in at the airport. A hopper flight from Athens is simple and only 45-minutes long. If you choose to take a ferry you also need to check in via the app online in advance.

While on the island, all taxi rides are 30€-50€. Even if you are going 5 minutes away taxis will charge around 30€ and there are less than 40 taxis on the island so they are also hard to come by! I recommend booking an ATV in advance for 60€ a day (or less) when you want to visit wineries, beaches, or cliff side towns. In the end, you’ll save money and parking is easy and free throughout Santorini.

Renting an ATV is the best way to get around Santorini

Where to stay

Oia (pronounced ee-ya) is the most picturesque part of the island with plenty of restaurants, shops, and bars. Stay on the west side of Oia for perfect sunset views. Our trip was very last minute, but if we had booked in advance I would’ve stayed in a windmill in West Oia.

We stayed at an airbnb in Amouldi, the small port below Oia. We loved having a quiet, serene place to retreat to with perfect sunsets. You’ll need to rent an ATV to get around or take the 250 steps to Oia above. If you’re looking for a peaceful spot away from the crowds, this is your location! 

If being in the center of the action sounds attractive then Fira (Thira) will be paradise! Surprisingly, the island is huge and staying in Fira will save you time when visiting the beaches and nearby towns. If you are looking for a more central location but want to escape the crowds, stay in Imbrovigli which is frequented by honeymooners and those looking for a more peaceful environment.

Amouldi, the small port below Oia
West Oia during sunrise

What to do 

Santorini runs on major European time. Restaurants and shops open around noon and stay open until late into the night or early morning (as late as 3am!). Most shops and restaurants are only open during the high season of June to September. If you come during off season be prepared for less accommodations, activities, dining and shopping options.

Visiting Oia during sunrise was breathtaking. The streets are mostly empty and you won’t find yourself shoulder-to-shoulder with tourists. Hotels and airbnbs provide breakfast as most restaurants are closed at this time so after enjoying your meal stroll through the peaceful, uninterrupted streets of Oia. There are also the famous steps from West Oia to Amouldi Bay that lead you to sea food restaurants and a fun place for cliff jumping into the water.

The catamaran tours are incredible and most people choose the sunset tour ending in Amouldi Bay. If you chose the sunset tour it’s good to know that there is typically an hour worth of traffic to get back to town after the tour. We opted for the day tour and enjoyed zero traffic after disembarking! 

Pro tips for the catamaran tour: wear a black or dark colored bathing suit because the sulfur from the volcanic hot springs will stain light colored suits. You typically won’t be able to access the beaches from the catamaran tours, but hop in for a swim in the crystal blue waters, snorkel, and see the beautiful cliffs and beaches from afar. 

Beaches on Santorini are known for their unique colors, crystal waters, and rocky shorelines. Watershoes are highly recommended throughout Greece as the sand and rocks can get extremely hot. We didn’t take it, but there is a ferry for 10 euros that picks up from the black and red sand beaches and will take you to the white sand beach. Bring your own food and water to these remote locations! You can pay for this ferry with cash upon arrival so there’s no need to book in advance.

If you prefer a full day on the beach then head to Kamiri. The locals also told us if you have a few extra days on the island to stay at Kamiri all day. Enjoy dinner in the beach town and walk the black rocky shore under the moonlight. 

Winery hopping was the highlight of our time in Santorini. We rented an ATV for the day and soaked in the cliffside views from Santo Wines and did a full wine tour of the countryside vineyard, Argyros. There are dozens of other wineries to stop at along the way! 

Catamaran tour of Santorini’s volcano hot springs, white and red sand beaches
Wine tasting with Santos Winery

Tips and Tricks

If possible, book your restaurants and ATV rentals a month or two in advance. Restaurants with pristine sunset views will book months in advance. During peak summer months I recommend arriving an hour before sunset to grab a front row seat. Most people will show up thirty minutes before sunset so arrive early to grab your spot. My favorite sunset spot aside from our airbnb was Remvi for dinner. Sunset in Fira or Imbrogovli are for picturesque sunset views because most of Oia faces East.

ATVs will also sell out in peak season (July-August) so book in advance. If you rent an ATV you don’t need an international drivers license. If you want to rent a car, make sure to get your international drivers license from AAA for $20 and print it out before living for Santorini. 

2-3 days is the perfect amount of time in Santorini. Any more time than this would’ve overwhelmed me with the large amount of tourists and we would’ve run out of activities. That being said, I’m a very active traveler that likes to do something new every day! From Santorini, we traveled to Paros. Stay tuned for that blog and never hesitate to reach out to me on Instagram if you have any travel questions. Στην υγειά σας!

Sunset dinner at Remvi
Sunset views and our favorite wine from Argyros at Remvi
Exploring Oia and the famous blue domes
Touring Argyros Estate winery with a countryside feel
Sunrise is the best time to explore without crowds
Signing off with this sweet doortrait

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