Climate: Mediterranean, with mild rainy winters and warm sunny summers
Known for: Sunsets, blue domed roofs and white washed buildings
Santorini – quite possibly the most beautiful place I’ve ever traveled to. It’s at the top of many bucket lists and certainly a favorite destination for hopeless romantics and honeymooners. While I am neither of those things, Santorini, more specifically Oia, will always hold a special place in my heart. The crescent shaped island is home to some of the most breathtaking sunsets and stark white buildings. Views of the impossibly blue water are around every corner. This truly is paradise on earth.
A bit of history: The whole grouping of islands, which make up Santorini, is still an active volcano. Wait what? Yup… The islands were created over thousands of years of volcanic activity, we’re talking about 12 big eruptions, one every 20,000 years, give or take. All of those eruptions eventually created the large crater, also known as the Caldera. Their most recent volcanic activity? 1950. Fira is the island’s capitol and where we went for a bit of nightlife. But Oia is most likely what you think of what you hear of Santorini. This is where the white washed buildings cling to the edges of the cliffs, nestled into the island’s volcanic rock.
How to get here: You have two options: plane or boat. I’ve actually visited the island both ways and I definitely prefer to fly in. The Santorini airport is VERY small. There’s literally only one baggage carousel lol. But it’s a quick and cheap flight if you’re coming from Athens which is what my friend and I did. The other option is by ferry or cruise ship. I’ve come in on a cruise before and we only had 4 hours to spend on the island. Not nearly enough time, in my opinion, to get a feel for the incredible island. I have not taken a ferry, but in doing a little research it looks like there’s 4 ferries per day from Athens and the trip can take anywhere from 5-8 hours. If you’re looking to save money this is your best bet. But if time is limited, book a flight.
Getting Around: Your own two feet! For real. If you’re staying in Oia, which I highly recommend, then there’s zero need for a car or taxi. Everything is in walking distance. One note. There’s a shit ton of stairs. Like everywhere. As I mentioned the entire town is built along the cliffs, that’s what makes it so gorgeous. The trade off- lots of steps. But hey, I looked at is as my work out every day lol.
If you want to leave Oia and venture to the beaches, or to Fira, your best bet and most consistent mode of transportation will be the bus. It’s extremely cheap, a couple Euro and the busses run to and from the destinations every 15 minutes or so. We didn’t even look up a time table, we showed up, waited in the cue and hopped on. It takes around 20 minutes to get to Fira from Oia, a bit longer to get to the beaches.
Lingo: In my opinion it’s always a sign of respect to learn a few phrases in the language of the country your visiting. It shows you care about their culture and are making an effort. Most everyone speaks English but why not give Greek a try.
Hello: Γειά σου (YAH-soo)
Good morning: Καλημέρα (kah-lee-MER-ah)
Good afternoon/evening: Καλησπέρα (kah-lee-SPER-ah)
Thank you: Ευχαριστώ (eff-kha-ri-STOE)
Excuse me / Sorry: Συγνώμη (See-GHNO-mee)
Where is the bathroom?: Πού είναι η τουαλέτα (Poh-EE-nay ee tua-LEH-tah)?
Do you speak English? Μιλάτε αγγλικά (Mee-LAH-teh ag-li-KAH)?
Cheers!: Στην υγειά μας! (STIN-eh YAH-mas)
Oops!: Ωπα (OH-pa)
Stay: I stayed in both an AirBNB and a hotel during my trip. I can make a case for both options as each one was equally wonderful. If you’re looking to save a little money, AirBNB is the way to go. I can’t say enough about our little apartment. It was literally right in the heart of Oia, perched along the cliffs, with a breathtaking view of the Caldera. We were only here one night and it was perfect. Also shout out to our host and her employees for carrying our heavy ass bags up AND down the millions of stairs. I honestly don’t know how these men did it, but wow it was impressive and a huge help.
make sure to generously tip anyone who carries your luggage to and from wherever you’re staying. It’s a huge help and you’d be dripping in sweat if you did it yourself.
The second place we stayed was Esperas Hotel. And wow…cue the jaw drop. This hotel was everything you imagine when you think of Santorini. Beautiful views, pristine pool, friendly staff, comfortable beds, I can’t say enough. We stayed here two nights and it was bliss. While there’s many things I loved about this hotel there’s three things I want to touch on. First, it’s perfectly positioned to view the sunset, which is what Santorini is known for. Instead of fighting the throngs of tourists jockeying for the perfect spot, Esperas’ guests get their own personal terrace where you can sit at your leisure and enjoy the view with a glass of wine and live music in the background. The second thing I love is that the hotel connects to the 300 steps which lead down to Amoudi Bay. I’ll get into that journey later, but it’s super convenient. Lastly, I love how quiet and private the hotel is. It’s the perfect setting to relax and recharge.
Putz around: Truly, the best thing you can do is just wander through the streets and all of the shops. It’s such a breath of fresh air to have no plans or agenda and see where the day takes you. The shopping in Oia is AMAZING. There’s this one store called Kisira and I will be mad at you if you don’t go in there just to look around. One night I had too much wine and went in there and bought a $400 purse. Whoops. Best drunk purchase I’ve made while traveling.
Take a trip to Perivolos: While we stayed in Oia, we wanted to explore the other parts of the island. So I highly recommend hoppin’ on the bus and taking a trip to Perivolos beach. A shop owner told us about this bar called Wet Stories where they had good drinks and cute boys. So, we were sold. It was the perfect spot to lounge on the beach (you can rent lounge chairs) and hydrate with some spicy margaritas.
Walk down to Amoudi Bay: The thought of walking down 300 stairs might be daunting but I assure you it’s totally worth it. We walked down around lunch time because we wanted to eat at one of the amazing seafood spots along the bay but you can also just walk down to go for a swim. I recommend doing both. Fair warning. The stairs are where the donkeys walk up and down, so that means lots of donkey poops. It’s not the most pleasant smell, but in order to get to heaven you’ve gotta go through hell. I think that’s a saying… who knows lol. Once you’ve made it down the steps there’s going to be tons of seafood restaurants to choose from. I assure you, you can’t go wrong but I recommend Sunset because that’s where we ate. We had the lobster pasta, baked feta and tzatziki dip and I was in food heaven. After that we ventured around the cliff to go for a little swim. If you like to jump off cliffs, this is your spot.
Terpsi en Oia: This is the cutest breakfast or lunch spot. We got to Oia wayyyy early before anything was open but this café was and let me tell you it did not disappoint. The views were WOW and their Greek yogurt parfait was to die for. Definitely worth a stop, if only to get the perfect insta flatlay.
Meteor Café: This place is THE CUTEST! And also the tiniest café. But that’s what made it so charming. Right in the heart of Oia we stumbled upon this little spot. It was the perfect place to take a break from shopping and enjoy some wine and cheese. This might seem obvious but get their Greek salad.
Lotza Restaurant: This was by far my favorite place we ate at during our time in Santorini. This is pretty close to Meteor Café and is right along the main drag. The owner doesn’t take reservations and won’t write your name down. He just remembers who’s up next and I admire the hell out of that. I honestly can’t remember what I had but it was this lamb dish with rice and this amazing cream sauce. It was major food porn. What I can remember was the Baklava. We had our fair share of the traditional treat but nothing compared to this one.
Pitogyros: You can’t go to Greece without having a proper Gyro. This is your spot. But don’t expect any white table cloths. This place is as authentic as it gets. It’s a hole in the wall spot with barely enough room for you to walk inside and place your order. The cooks are funny and are cranking out Gyro left and right. There’s a tiny bar built along the outside of the shop for you to sit or you can just find a bench or sit on the curb. Yup, this ain’t fancy. But it’s sooooo damn good.
Lolita’s Gelato: Once you’re done with your Gyro walk a few blocks over to Lolita’s for the best after dinner sweet treat. No lie, we stopped for ice cream here every day. Not only is their gelato delicious, the flavor names are hilarious. My favorite: Greek Viagra. I also love how they subtly tell anyone who asks for the Wi-Fi code to F-off. Their sign says if you can solve this impossibly hard math equation you can have the password. Genius lol.
Vitrin Café Creperie: This was a quaint breakfast joint right next to Esperas. They’re known for their Crepes and my advice, get them. My friend and I split a savory and sweet one so we had the best of both worlds.
Lycabettus Restaurant: This was our last dinner of the trip and we wanted to splurge. It was such an epic setting. The restaurant is perched on the edge of the cliff (notice a theme here) and out on the very tip are these two huge pink chairs. It’s definitely experiential dining where the portions are small and things aren’t prepared in the traditional fashion. Our Greek salad came out in the shape of a tree. Pretty cool. Just be prepared for that type of dining experience. If you can, snag a reservation just before sunset so you can watch the sun go down as you eat.
Photo Opps: My best bit of advice. GET UP EARLY. Seriously, Oia is overrun by cruise ships in the middle of the day. And if you don’t want some lady in khaki pants and a wide brim hat ruining your photos, get up early and get your pictures out of the way. While I didn’t do this (because I’m a dumby and didn’t plan ahead) Book a photoshoot with Flytographer. They have local photographers who will do a 30 min or 1-hour shoot with you so you have some epic shots.