This header says is all: Santorini has spectacular panorama views!! Santorini is unique and on many peoples bucket lists, like mine and 1,5 million tourist per year as well…. Lonely Planet calls Santorini “The supermodel of the Greek islands”. Indeed amazingly beautiful with the cliffs in many colors and shapes, due to the caldera/crater that is drowned in the sea. On top and ‘glued to’ the cliffs the white buildings almost hurt your eyes. This setting gives you the picture perfect shots with the volcano in the back, no wonder this is the most photographed island in Greece. Instagram is full of great shots of sunsets and the cute streets with blue churches of Imerovigli and Oia.
I arrived in two hours with the fast Seajet ferry from Milos to Thira/Fira (Capital city of Santorini) for 59 EUR. I found these ferries very professional, on time and comfortable. The Paros Jet brought me from Santorini to Ios under the hour for 32,80 EUR.
Tip: Be prepared and take travel pills in advance, when the sea is rough you can expect seasickness.
Santorini has an international airport, that is why you find many tourists here. The sea is deep enough for cruise ships, that are bringing many more tourist to this hotspot. At one moment I saw four cruise ships down in the water, smaller boats bring the tourist to the small harbor and then with the cable-car on top of the caldera to the capital Thira/Fira.
On Santorini you can easily rent a vehicle; car, quad motorbike, scooter. I found it too busy here and skipped the rented transport on Santorini and went by public transport. Busses run over the island frequently from Fira to all the main spots on the island; Port, Oia, Airport, Kamari, Perissa (Black beach) and Akrotiri (Red beach). The bus is a cheap (max 2,40 EUR one way) alternative transport on Santorini, I used the bus up and down Red Beach and Port. Check here for bus timetable and prices.
What to do on Santorini
I already had a lot of beach time on Milos, Santorini was more about the panorama view, steep maze streets, relax and enjoying the sunsets. See below my suggestions for Santorini activities:
1. Walk between Fira, Imerovigli and Oia
To enjoy the panoramic views, the best thing to do is walk between Fira and Oia or the other way around. Be prepared it is a long and intense walk. I walked only a part of this route and started in Fira and walked to Imerovigli the highest town on the Caldera. I did the caldera edge walk in the afternoon, which was not the best timing but the plan was to see the famous sunset in Oia. After a steep walk (45 min) in the hot sun I decided to take the bus further up to Oia, which was a great decision afterwards.
Tip: Be prepared, the total walk is 9 km and can take up to 4 hours and will get rough after Imerovigli.
Oia is a really nice town on the rocks, Instagram is going wild about this place and you see everybody acting like it too. That turned me off a little bit, double feeling about this place to be honest. It was so busy with tourists, all dressed up to get the right selfie and Insta picture. Busloads of Chinese tourist with selfie sticks, I was a bit shocked to be honest. I found myself a nice spot where I could sit and waited to see the sun go down and a lot of tourist around me doing the same. Focus on the view and not the people!
Tip: Behind the church in town you have a great view on the Oia town and sunset in the back.
2. Visit Red Beach
The second day I went to Red Beach, the bus in Fira goes every half hour to Akrotiri (2,30 EUR one way) and stopped at Red Beach and the Prehistoric Town of Akrotiri. From the bus stop it’s a 10-15 min walk to the Red Beach; just follow the people and route besides the water. Cars and motorbikes can park here and some restaurants are located here where you can get a water or your morning freddo coffee. I was a bit disappointed when I arrived at the place, of course it’s beautiful, but again the crowd hold me off to enter the beach.
Tip: Boats run between the Red Beach, White Beach and the last Black Beach on a frequent basis.
3. Gazing the Santorini Vulcanic View
Enjoy the Santorini view is in my option the most recommendable thing to do. You can book tours, hire a car to see the island, do a wine tour but in my opinion enjoy the view is the best tour you can book. I booked a hotel in Fira for one night at the White Ark; with private pool with that spectacular Santorini view. That was my tour and accommodation all in once; didn’t leave my room for the whole day and morning to make the best out of it.
Tip: When booking the hotel, keep in mind that you see this accommodation as a tour as well, combined costs!
Best thing is that you escape the crowd and enjoy the unbelievable sunset by yourself. For me this was the best thing I could do and worth every EUR I have spent on the room with private pool. You can find many of these hotels in Fira, Imerovigli and Oia.
Tip: Save money on food and drinks and you will make up for the hotel costs if you need to.
4. Shop for Souvenirs
In Santorini you can really spent your money; there are many souvenirs shops but also very luxury jewelry shops at every corner in Thira, Imerovigli and Oia. You see a lot of tourists walking with bags with Santorini painted on it or shops where they sell Greek evil blue eye souvenirs. Wearing the evil eye amulet, is believed to provide protection against evil forces and is a symbol used all around the world in different religions. Greece is known for the olive oil, olives, honey and wine; all perfect souvenirs to bring to your loved ones back home.
5. Other Activities
There are several other activities you can do on Santorini. Book a boat tour to the hot springs around the island and volcano. Another activity is a wine tour in one of the many vineyards on the island. Or visit the other beaches like Perissa or Kamari to escape the crowds. Plenty of options!
Tip: Don’t miss out the Ifestia Festival at the end of September, here a representation of the eruption of Santorini’s volcano is made with fire and fireworks on Nea Kammeni island.
Where to Eat and Sleep in Thira/Fira
In the main towns there are many restaurants to choose from, some with the stunning volcanic Santorini view some a bit cheaper without the view. I even went for a Gyros that is filling, traditional and cheap (2,5-3,5 EUR) alternative. Gyros is a flat bread, with tzatziki, tomatoes and lettuce, meat (of your choice) and fries on top, wrapped in paper.
I went twice to the Volkan on the Rocks by Ergon Foods in Thira, the atmosphere was nice and romantic (unfortunately I was by myself..), location is perfect, service good and the food is delicious. The concept is mezze style; all kind of Greek tapas and smaller portions. Perfect to taste more of the menu and to drink the local Santorini Wine or Freddo cappuccino (both 6 EUR)!! One note, it is not cheap, like everything on Santorini you pay for the view too……….
Like described above I stayed one night at the White Ark, perfect hotel to enjoy the panoramic Santorini views! The other two nights I booked at hotel called Sweet Pop, behind the main street of Fira. I will recommend the Sweet Pop; quiet, neat and has comfortable rooms. Location is perfect, in walkable distance to the bus station of Fira and behind the busy part of Fira town and cable-car.
Plenty of things to do here on Santorini, but for me I preferred Milos and Ios more. Two night is enough on Santorini to amaze the panoramic view, but I found it too crowded and busy, even in the low season September!