Santorini is one of the most popular Greek islands and a real gem….I’d say a sapphire, wouldn’t you? Oia and Fira are the two main villages situated on the steep inclines of the crescent-shaped underwater volcano. Just to clear up any cynicism that might be lingering, Santorini is just as scenic and charming as it is in photos and movies (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants… anyone? Ok, ok…so I might have been too old to be watching that film when it came out).
Several airlines fly into Santorini (JTR) and you can also take a ferry from Athens or neighboring Greek islands. The airport was pretty crowded at our departure…and by “crowded” I mean it was hard to forge a path to the bathroom. Lines? Who needs lines? Why would anyone wait in a line when we can all just crowd at the entrance? Bottom line: If you need to check a bag, get there early.
To my surprise and delight, buses on Santorini were frequent and reliable. The main transfer station is in Fira and you can buy affordable tickets on the bus.
Where to stay
Finding a hotel in Oia for less than $250 is a challenge, so Airbnb is the way to go if that is not in your price range. I saw so many affordable and adorable listings, but they definitely go quick so make your plans as far in advance as you can. I tried to book about two months in advance and a lot of places were booked for late August. Also, the town of Fira offers a larger selection of less expensive hotels.
Where to Eat in Santorini
Of all the beachside bars on Perissa, chose Aquarius for its friendly service, affordable chair rentals and delicious food. Needless to say, I had several rounds of mojitos.
Situated right on a main walkway, Meteor Café is the cutest spot ideal for people watching. A cold café frappé is one of the best coffee drinks I’ve ever had and can be found all over the island.
Skala is a lively and casual restaurant that made the most delicious stuffed peppers.
Pelekanos has more of a romantic vibe for dinner. Get the watermelon halloumi starter. I’ve been trying to recreate this at home ever since.
There’s also a Mexican restaurant called Senor Zobas if you grow tired of feta. I was only there for two full days, so I was in no such danger.
This is less of a “Eats” tip and more of a side note: Whenever I visit a new city, one of my first stops in usually a market. I like to compare selection, brands and pricing… and what can I say?… I’m very snack oriented. I found it annoying that fage Greek yogurt was about 30 cents more expensive there than in a grocery store in California. I guess I can applaud international production for that… or maybe it was marked up for its potential as a perishable souvenir?
Visit Santos Winery for a nice selection of Greek wines.
Take a sunset catamaran ride.
Ride a donkey… Or maybe not.
I saw some people zooming around on a quad/ATV… and I was jealous.
Beach it for the day. Of course, there are several options in Santorini…. Being an island and all. The main ones with fun bars, restaurants and cabanas are all accessible via bus. We chose Perissa, also known as Black Sand Beach.
If you came all the way to Santorini, you know watching the sun drip down into the ocean is a must-see activity. Every little walkway will be packed like a can of sardines with people, so get a spot at a restaurant early or post up with some wine at one of the lookouts.
In Oia, I met a friendly man named Nickolas that worked at one of the jewelry stores. He was so genuine and helped my mom find just the right evil eye magnet she was looking for. I swear to you, Nickolas asked us our names and tried to think of their origin and meaning in Greek. I felt like I was meeting a character in My Big Fat Greek Wedding and I loved it. I can’t promise Nickolas will charm you with the etymology of your name, but you’ll unquestionably leave this sapphire of an island completely charmed.