Santorini is a destination that has been plastered over our Instagram feeds for years now, and yet for some reason, it took me right up until 2020 (of all years) to finally visit! Now, I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing I hate more than a destination that doesn’t live up to the hype it gets online. Luckily – Santorini actually exceeded the hype for me. Having come straight from Mykonos, which I felt had slightly less to do and much more of a ‘party’ vibe, Santorini was a very pleasant surprise.
Where to stay
When visiting a destination for the first time, choosing an area to stay can be a difficult decision (especially when you’ve got a whole island to choose from)! Luckily whilst each area has a lot to offer, it is extremely easy to get around the whole of Santorini – so regardless of where you stay, you can still visit each of the towns! Below is a brief overview of four of the main towns that most tourists consider for their accommodation.
Oia – This is the town you will recognise most from photos of Santorini. Perched on the edge of the cliffs overlooking the sea, are hundreds of white cave-style homes, restaurants and hotels. Many of the hotels here also have infinity pools and cave suites, which make for a very unique stay. Overall, Oia is the most pricey area of Santorini to stay in, and has a particularly romantic feel, so is perfect for couples holidays and honeymoons.
Fira – It’s the second most popular town to stay in and visit whilst in Santorini. Attracting a slightly younger, traveller crowd, there are many affordable hostel and hotel options here. We actually stayed in Fira as it seemed a perfect base, being located right in the middle of the island and not too far from the airport. There are plenty of restaurants, bars and viewpoints here too, and everything in Fira is within walking distance.
Imerovigli – Another stunning village in Santorini is Imerovigli, whose name comes from the word vigla which literally means “view spot”. As the name suggests, the views across the rest of Santorini’s coastline and out into the Aegean sea are unbeatable. This village is another pricier area of Santorini, and boasts plenty of boutique hotels, sleek bars and up-scale restaurants. If you’re looking for the best of the best for your trip, then Imerovigli will be the place for you.
Kamari – This is a great destination if you want to be beside the beach. The western side of Santorini, where Oia, Thira and Imerovigli are located, are on the cliffs and therefore there is not a walkable beach which you can visit. Kamari, however, is on the opposite side of the island, where most of the beaches are located. Here you can relax on the volcanic black sand beach, visit the open air cinema, and dine on delicious seafood.
Oia has a particularly romantic feel, so is perfect for couples holidays and honeymoons
How to get around Santorini
Despite being a fairly small island, there is so much to see and do in Santorini. Each of the towns are worth visiting, and for that reason, the easiest way to travel around is by renting a car, scooter or a quad bike. Rentals are reasonably cheap (much cheaper than relying on taxis), and there are plenty of parking options across the island. Personally, I would recommend hiring a quad bike, as this is a super fun way to quickly travel around the island!
Things to see and do in Santorini
Visit Pyrgos – Pyrgos is Santorini’s former ‘capital’ and the largest preserved town on the island. It’s a very short drive (or quad ride) from most of the towns due to its central location. Here you can spend an hour or so wandering the small medieval streets, where you will find trinket shops, restaurants and wine bars.
Wine tasting – There are many wineries and vineyards in Santorini, which means plenty of amazing wine tasting opportunities! During our stay we went to two very different wine tasting venues. The first we visited was Santo Wines, perched on the cliff just outside of Pyrgos. This winery is truly beautiful, and boasts sea views that are even more stunning. The wines are also delicious, and if you find one that you love, you can order some to get shipped straight to your home in the UK!
The second winery we visited was Domaine Sigalas near Oia. This was a more traditional vineyard, out on the terrace of a farmhouse surrounded by the grape fields. The value for money at this vineyard was incredible, as you can pay to get a selection of three different glasses of wine. We chose a rose, a red and a rose prosecco, all of which were delicious. The red wine in particular was my favourite! The staff are incredibly friendly here and the service was brilliant!
Boat trip and swimming in hot springs – When you’re in a warm and sunny destination, a boat trip is simply a must. There are quite a few boat trip companies who all offer similar trips for reasonable prices. You can choose to do a day time, or a sunset trip. We chose a sunset trip and so set off at about 4pm (this time may vary depending on which time of year you are visiting). Once you are on the boat, you will be taken along the coast of Santorini to see the Red Beach, the Black Mountain and will also have the opportunity to swim in the hot springs! You will then have dinner cooked and served on the boat, will have unlimited soft drinks and wine included throughout your trip. Lastly, of course, you’ll get plenty of photo opportunities as the sun sets into the horizon.
Open cinema – If you’re looking for something to do in the evening besides dinner or going out for drinks, then why not visit the Open air cinema in Kamari? Sit and relax, whilst watching a film in a gorgeous amphitheatre with a selection of drinks and snacks available from the on-site bar. The movies are screened in English with Greek subtitles, and they offer viewings of both new releases and classic family favourites. You can check their website to see which films they are currently screening.
Take iconic photos in Oia – Did you even go to Santorini if you didn’t take hundreds of photos to make your friends and family at home jealous? For iconic snaps of the island’s coastline, head to the famous town of Oia. Here you will find the grey and white stoned streets, white buildings and blue-domed churches – even on a cloudy day, it is beautiful! Once you’ve filled up your camera storage with stunning photos, there are so many amazing shops, bars and restaurants to enjoy, so why not stay for another hour or two?
Relax on a black sand beach – Although there are plenty of activities to keep you busy in Santorini, you are on holiday after all! So if relaxing on a beach is more your thing, then head to the eastern side of the island. Here you will find plenty of volcanic black sand beaches to relax on, with sunbeds to hire and a cool refreshing sea to swim in. Kamari and Perissa both have long stretches of beach for you to spend the day chilling on, and are surrounded by plenty of bars and restaurants if you get peckish throughout the day.
Hike to the viewpoint from Fira to Imerovigli – If you’re itching to get off the quad bike and stretch your legs a little more, fear not! From Fira, you can hike along the cliff path all the way to Skaros Rock. Skaros rock is simply a rock formation and collection of ruins from volcanic activity, but is now a popular viewpoint among tourists. This spot is located in Imerovigli, which is only about 3.5km from Thira, so it is not too difficult of a walk. You’ll also be treated to gorgeous views of the coast and caldera throughout the hike, so be sure to take a camera with you. If you’re looking for a longer hike, you can continue on the path all the way to Oia, which is 10km one way.
Sunset at the lighthouse – One unmissable thing to do in Santorini is to head down to Akrotiri Lighthouse to watch the sunset. This was my favourite thing that we did whilst in Santorini, and was arguably one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen in my life. Akrotiri Lighthouse is right at the southern tip of the island, and you can get there very easily by driving. I would recommend going by quad bike, as parking can get very difficult the closer to sunset that you arrive!
My name is Laura and I’m from London, in the UK. Coffee, hiking, sunshine, mountains and photography are just a few of my favourite things, but my number one love in life is travel. When I’m not exploring a new destination, I’m planning the next adventure (or five)! I write about my adventures over on my travel blog, In Travel.