Santorini is one of the most visited islands in Greece, and quite possibly one of the most visited islands in the world. I know I want to go back. Solo travelers, fear not! I went to Santorini solo because I feared if I waited for someone to go with me to enjoy the romantic sunsets, I might never go. This Greek island is so beautiful, you shouldn’t wait for the right moment to go. You should create the right moment. Santorini is truly one my favorite destinations. Here are my tips for making the most of your trip to this stunning island.
Greek is the official language but English is widely spoken.
Greece is a European country and currently uses the euro.
◊ Banks and ATMs:
Banks and ATMs are readily available in Thira, Oia, Karimi, and all dispense euros and accept multiple varieties of bank cards. Debit and credit cards are widely accepted, but you’ll need small change for the buses and cash is preferred at smaller mom & pop restaurants and shops.
◊ When to go:
Peak season, including cruise ship day tourists, is July and August when it is quite hot. To avoid the crowds and cruise ships, go from mid-May to June or Sept – Oct. I went mid-May and while the water was still a bit cold, there were no crowds, no lines, and few day trippers.
Where you stay in Santorini depends on what you want to do. If you’re like me and you want to spend mornings at the beach, you might want to stay in Kamari or Perissa on the east side where you have beautiful pebble beaches and wonderful morning and mid-day sun. If you prefer to stay in Thira, you’ll have easy access to all the restaurants and shops, as you would in Oia also. Oia is the smaller village at the northern tip of Santorini and gets fewer day trippers than Thira, but is possibly even more beautiful.
To get around you have a few options. The main bus terminal is in the center of Thira and buses cover every corner of the island and all routes cost the same, about 2 euros. Scooters are also a good option, but be careful as the locals sometimes drive as if they don’t suspect a scooter. Car rentals are also widely available, although with the convenience of a bus, you’ll save a lot by not renting one.
◊ Arriving by air?
The airport is about 5km southeast of Thira. A bus can get you to Thira for about 2euros, a taxi for about 15euros. An increasing number of international airlines are flying into Santorini, but be advised, flights can be delayed from Athens because of windy conditions in Santorini.
◊ Arriving by ferry?
If you arrive by ferry, there is a cable car runs from June to August from the port, Athinios, that will carry you to the top of the caldera to Thira, or you can take one of the many buses (yes, buses traverse up the side of the caldera) and taxis to take you to the top. You can also walk, although I don’t recommend it with luggage.
Don’t be fooled by images of resorts where the rich and famous stay. There is a wide variety of excellent accommodation on Santorini for every budget. When you decide what your budget is per night/per stay you can use the following links to help you find something that works for you. These are some of the best websites I’ve used to find great accommodation all over the world.
◊ My highest recommendation is: airbnb Santorini You can find an apartment or even a private home and feel like you live in Santorini, not just like you’re visiting. I love airbnb for nearly all of my destinations.
◊ Also reliable: Tripadvisor
◊ Truly on a budget? Hostelworld
◊ Want some seriously luxurious diggs or gorgeous boutique hotels? Mr and Mrs Smith Accommodations
See, Do, Experience
Santorini is a photographer’s dream and a romantic’s paradise. I stayed there for a week and never got bored. Here are my suggestions for truly enjoying your time on Santorini.
◊ Sunsets on the caldera
Thira and Oia sit on the caldera, the huge cliff created by the volcano that formed Santorini. Find a spot or a restaurant with a terrace, have a glass of wine or dinner, and enjoy the sunset. If having dinner, best to make a reservation at certain restaurants with the best views, but this was not a concern when I was there in May.
◊ Enjoy the beaches
The beaches are on the east side of Santorini, which is a great place to watch the sunrise, btw. The beaches are mostly pebble beaches, so you may need your water shoes for sensitive feet. Kamari and Perissa are the two most popular for hotels, but Red Beach is stunning. Pack a picnic as there are no services on Red Beach. Agios Georgios is very tourist friendly. Beach chairs usually belong to the restaurant/cafe they are in front of and you can pay a small fee for the use of your chair and it is totally worth it.
◊ Akrotiri ruins
It wouldn’t be Greece without some ruins, right? The structure used to house and protect these ruins is almost as impressive as the ruins themselves. It’s a curvy, hilly 30 min bus ride from Thira.
◊ Stroll from Thira to Oia (ee-uh)
Get your camera ready. Santorini with its many blue domes is a photographer’s paradise. From the center of Thira, just head north and keep walking along the caldera and before long you’ll be in the village of Oia, also famous for its blue domes. You can see Oia from Thira. Take some detours and wander the streets for more great photo opportunities.
There is no shortage of great restaurants on Santorini. As you wander and explore during the day, look for a great place to have dinner. Try boujourdi as a starter, and octopus as a main course, two of my favorite things to eat in Greece. And don’t forget the Greek iced coffee as a great afternoon pick-me-up.