What better way to kick off our blog than to offer a mini guide to some of the highlights the island has to offer. Whether you are there for a holiday, a wedding trip or a honeymoon we have chosen a few things that are popular and also some that we love. Enjoy!
Located in the south Aegean Sea and part of the Cyclades islands, Santorini is without doubt a gem in the tourism crown of Greece. Officially known as Thira, the island is relatively small, measuring only 76km2 with a full-time population of around 15,000 residents.
· Eastern European Standard Time (GMT +1)
· Currency = €
· Plugs – Two pin round – Voltage 230V
From the UK, it is pretty easy with direct flights available in peak season from. Gatwick, Heathrow, London City, Newcastle, Manchester, Bristol and Birmingham all from TUI, British Airways, Easy Jet and Norwegian. Flights take approx. 4hrs and land at Santorini Airport (JTR) in the east of the island.
During off peak, you may have to travel via Athens with flights or ferries then going to Santorini itself. Ferry Hopper is a great site for booking and prices as well as timetables.
The fast ferry from Athens takes about 4.5hrs and if you fancy a more leisurely trip the slow ferry takes around 8hrs.
When To Visit
The island is a beautiful all year round and in recent years, some hotels and restaurants have remained open during the winter months.
Peak season for the island runs from June to late September with average temperatures being a glorious 27ºC. April and May, and late September and October are great months for those that aren’t a fan of crowds and slightly cooler temperatures. (Santorini View - weather info and other bits too)
Being such a small island the best thing to do is to hire a car for your stay. There are so many rental companies on the island with hire on average for a small car being around €35 per day (not including fuel). Quad bikes, or ATVs are a popular hire too – but aren’t ideal for a lot of exploration due to exposure to the sun and lack of air-con – we like our comforts! The islands bus service is run by KTEL and runs from the main bus terminal in Fira. Services run regularly to most of the main destinations you will need and fares cost between €1.80 - €2.50 for each single ticket.
Top Highlights & Must Dos
For such a small island there are too many ‘must dos’. We have selected a few to highlight here. Fira to Oía Hike (pronounced ‘eee-a’)
The hike between the two most famous towns on the island is popular for a reason. Starting in the island’s capital, the route winds its way through the beautiful villages of Firostafani, Imerovigli and Finikia, all offering gorgeous photo opportunities and instagrammable moments.
You will pass the imposing Skaros Rock, an old fortress destroyed by an earthquake in the 19th century and from many angles see the iconic sugar cube buildings of Fira balanced on the sheer cliffs of the Caldera.
End the hike in Oía. Watch the sunset from the castle and indulge in some incredible food from a plethora of eateries. Be warned though – the Castle in Oía is extremely opular and can get very crowded in peak season with those wanting to witness the famous sunset.
The hike is about 10Kms (or 6miles) long and can take between 2. to 5 hours depending on how many photo stops you make – trust us there will be many! Just make sure you take plenty of water, wear sunscreen and a good pair of shoes!
The Beaches Santorini is a volcanic island so the beaches here aren’t the usual golden sands! There’s a Red Beach, Black Beach and a White Beach. The popular stretches of beach tend to be Kamari, Perissa and Perivolos beaches. Kamari is a pebble beach with great bars and restaurants. On the other side of the Mesa Vouno is the longest stretch of beach on the island. Running at almost 4km on the south-east side of the island Perissa beach runs through Perivolos Beach and into Agios Georgios. Black volcanic sands with a variety of amazing beach bars, hotels and restaurants line the front catering to all tastes and budgets.
The Red and White Beaches are on the South west of the island offering truly dramatic backdrops – both are more isolated with access by boat and do get busy but so worth a visit!
Our favourite is Vlychada Beach – the moon-like volcanic cliffs look like they are off the set of Star Wars. The chilled vibes of Theros Wave Bar is nearby, offering excellent cocktails and food. Nearby, is a recent addition to the island, the cultural centre located at Santorini Tomato Museum. Don't let the name put you off - this is a great museum and arts space offering a mix of dance, music and theatre as well as art exhibitions.
Vineyards/Wineries For such a small island there are a LOT of vineyards and wineries. All worth a visit but we particularly love the two overlooking the Caldera by Megalchori - Venetsanos Winery and Santo Wines. Both have gorgeous views over the Caldera with amazing wines and great food too! You can have a guided tour to learn about the wines as well as tasting them – naturally. Top Tip – both these wineries offer a cracking, less crowded, sunset view – what a combo – wine, food and a dreamy sunset!
Some of Our Favourites
We have too many favourites to list in one post – so here’s a shortlist of some of them!
Kamari Open Air Cinema Nestled on the way to Kamari itself, this outdoor cinema is full of charm and joy. Brilliantly priced and with the added bonus of a great bar and snacks we totally enjoyed watching Mamma Mia! here. Musicals not your thing, don't worry, the cinematic offerings vary Also, it’s only a few minutes-drive from one of our favourite restaurants Metaxi Mas – but book in advance as it’s very popular!
Amoudi Bay There are a lot of steps down and back up but it’s worth it. At the bottom is a cluster of restaurants on the seafront below Oía. You can sit and enjoy the comings and goings of some fishing boats and catamarans and around the corner is Agios Nikólas – great for a swim, some sunbathing with many using the rock itself as a place to rock dive! A great way to spend a leisurely afternoon.
Sunset Catamaran Cruise We can’t recommend this enough! Our choice is a semi-private cruise from Vlychada to Oia. The trips normally cater for up to 15-20 people and has stops at a beach in the south and also at the hot springs of Nea Kameni as well as a buffet meal, drinks and a hotel pick up and drop off. Trust us, gliding across the sea on a net over the front of a catamaran with a drink and your loved one as you watch the sun setting in the Caldera is a moment you won’t forget or want to miss. Prices vary depending on the company but for a semi-private tour including pick up you should expect to pay in the region of €120-€170 per person for a 5-hour experience – worth every cent!
Pyrgos A traditional Santorinian village in the middle of the island, you can easily while away an afternoon winding your way through the narrow lanes exploring the views or sample some Ouzo and local mezze in the main square. Off the beaten track, the pace of life here is less hurried and more subdued – a village of charm and beauty away from the tourist hotspots.
There are simply too many things on the island to include in one mini-guide – so keep your eyes open for future posts on the island. If you can’t wait do check out the pages on Santorini Dave – an amazing source of info on Santorini and other amazing Greek destinations
Till next time....
Matt & Ellie xxx