The hardest island to plan of them all, Santorini.
There is a lot of information I will be going over on what to know about Santorini. This has become one of the top world destination wedding locations and I did a lot of research into this part.
I’lll be back for long periods of time in Greece due to weddings; this trip was extremely important- And I was quite honestly going to skip Santorini but, being the biggest hub of them all and on my moms bucket list; we went + I am glad we did!
Things to know about Santorini:
-Santorini is for everyone, to a certain extent.
The best person/group to take to Santorini is people who really WANT to do Santorini, there is a good vibe going into it with people excited- sounds funny but it was very true, especially being with my mom, she smiled the entire trip.
*If you are not great with walking/injured/older - this place is tough, it really is. It’s hot, the crowds, I saw a lot of older people frustrated and ready to just leave the island. Also a ton of hangry people lol, we are in Santorini- EAT!
PRIME honeymoon spot, it really is. There is a romantic vibe to Santorini, absolutely and the food, good company. You should know what exactly you want to do here; relax, maybe an excursion, do Thira and/or Oia.
It is prime since at 12-5pm I would even say is too hot to walk around and a great time to go back to hotel room in the lovely ac with a honey. (Sorry but its true and I think most people want to hear this)
-This is the number one location in the world that you need to book really in advance. Period. There is busiest times than other months and most of these hotels have under 15 rooms (they are boutique hotels mostly)- we will get into this in a ton of detail below!
-You should have *Euros cash on you.
For taxis and other random places they did not all accept card. ALL cabs in Greece are CASH ONLY!
-Do not rent a car here period. Bus or private driver.
-Book a driver from the hotel you are staying at, they will organize it for you.
Oia to port: around $40 **cash ONLY
-Get into Oia by 10am-10:30am max for pictures and you wont have crazy crowds.
Again, bit cruise port and once the tours start rolling through- it brings in hundreds/thousands.
-Do not, I repeat do not ship anything in internationally to Greece. I will get into further details but this is something you NEED to know.
-All of the islands I went to was clearly big on Jewelry/ boutiques however, I did find most boutiques of Santorini were better rates than Mykonos. *The smaller islands are a lot cheaper clearly but there was endless options in Santorini.
-Do not drink the water from the sink. On all the islands, do not. I brushed my teeth fine but don’t swallow the water!
-No toilet paper in the toilet, it is an island and all the islands in Greece are like this.
-I would honestly REALLY suggest flying vs a ferry (over 7+ hr ferry from Athens)
Before booking a ferry, first look up if a flight is worth it. I heard a ton on the trip that people really regretted, lost a lot of time/ at the end of ferry and cab money- I felt Santorini was easiest to fly into, especially not having to mess with the port.
If you are flying into Athens, just stay in the Athens airport and fly out from there to Santorini, the time it takes to leave the airport and taxi, then catching the ferry. It isn’t worth it *in my opinion. The ferry port in Athens is in a very different area than you would expect, look into it defiantly before booking anything and even specific dates wise.
**Read my recent post on Mykonos along with Milos for further Greece travel general information**
Starting at $600+ a night on Oia
Swimming pool/caves ... at least $800+ a night on Oia
*Be extremely mindful on placement where the hotel is on the coastline & if you wanted a pool, definitely be really mindful (as some big photo spot locations, you can see right in some pools/rooms even)
If you are going to pay for it, do your research ahead of time. There is some hotels that you can see the 2 blue domes below, some seriously epic views right outside your door.
The only note is coastline is bigger than what you think, I thought it was be maybe a half a mile max and it was a solid walk from beginning to the end. Feel free to call your hotel and ask further in questions even with the room detail, you would be very surprised the stories I heard on some of the rooms.
Hefty price tag and there is no really cheaper times either for Oia, on the amazing coast line. Check what is also included, most if not ALL nice hotels of Greece does include breakfast.
End of May-all August
Book 9+ months ahead.
Slower season mid September/October-
6-7+ months ahead.
***ALOT of hotels have under 10 rooms. Each made with extreme care.
They sell out very fast and will end up not happy with some choices/overpaying.
If you stay just outside of town like I did (during September) it was a touch under $400 a night for the cave room. 10-15 minute walk into Oia.
You also do need to book really ahead of time on excursions in Santorini *if you are planning on that, traveling during busy season. The excursion I went on MADE my Santorini trip and it is likely one of the best kept secrets here in Santorini.
How long do I suggest Santorini for?
This is the big question. I will do my best to explain this well, be very honest and go over “why” throughly.
Lets start with, is this your first time? Is this one of your bucket list places? If you say yes to both then I would recommend 3 days solid. A full 3 days, that means if you arrive at a later pm then it would end up being 4 nights. If you are positive you wanted to relax and see both Thira & Oia then you could do 4 days.
You need to consider budget wise for Santorini because it IS the most expensive hotel/food island of all 7 I personally did this trip. You can do Oia in 1 day, Thira 1 day and do either again that last one, relax or do an excursion.
If you have been, then I likely don’t need to tell you, 2 days max is fine.
If you have been or want to know why I say it like that? The thoughts after (this was for a lot of people I talked too as well); there is a lot of crowds, however it is gorgeous and did live up to the hype." But, if I did differently, would be smarter on amount of nights as (average $400+ a night in Oia area) so if you arrive at a very late hour the first night, you won’t be happy paying that honestly- if not more.
You can also do technically both in 1 day if you started early and went into later PM, Oia is smarter in the AM if you want to beat the crowds, but that is the sunset spot. Thira is where the ferry takes you into so be mindful of using that time wisely too. Thira though, isn’t far but the main attraction to Santorini is Oia. With that said- the only other big “If I did this differently” feedback is staying on the Oia coastline, do 2 nights and splurge because you can vs what I did was 4 days and 4 nights so $400 WAS my personal budget.
You should go with a friend(s)/partner or even family members that WANT to see Santorini, its a special vibe when you travel here with people that are excited to see it. The Oia coastline is absolutely breathtaking to see and worth seeing in your lifetime!
The crowds are not easy here in Santorini.
There is a way to get around the big crowds though to really enjoy Santorni though, specially Oia. The reason for the crowds is due to cruise ships, large buses going in and out bringing hundreds of people.
We will go over the hardest news of this post yet- I really hate to break it to all on here but (friendly reminder I went end of August-September for 3 weeks)
I talked with a lot of local people of Greece, from the tour guides to hotel owners/all the amazing kind workers who really MADE my trip;
It is said that Oia was never made to hold this many people, the amount of hotels and the actual amount that this cliff holds a day is crazy. It is in discussion to actually limit the amount of people on Santorini, specifically in Oia.
I mean- it makes sense, once you go, and you see the big crowds, the cliff was never meant to hold this all.
What this means even further for Santorini:
More expensive hotels, great sunset views are sometimes crutual to people from their balcony but, you can get that anywhere.
To know about Sunset time:
Reserve your resultant spot in advance, depending on when you go- like REALLY in advance. You shouldn’t plan the day of. Try to eye out the restaurants you want to dine at and reserve when you arrive to Santorrini. I highly doubt they take reservations on the phone for a lot of these unless it is a higher end hotel.
People, run/jump and will do anything to get to that sunset. Have to plan to arrive early for sunset dinner, especially in prime locations because traffic.
I would really suggest going ONLY go in September to Santorini, half of October too. Only. And specifically 2nd-last weeks of September. Depends how long and what part you stay in as well.
Customs incident in Greece:
Before diving into the full 4 night hotel I stayed at, there was an incident with customs during my Greece bookings. This very unfortunately made me make the call on my Canavas Oia hotel stay to cancel; the bright news is I will be there plenty next year and for even bigger things.
But yes, there was 2 large items coming in from Hong Kong including gown and lingerie which is partly so important to the hotel room fact.
Greece, ..... works at its own pace. It is literally, I mean SERIOUSLY the most old school country of Europe. This customs issue took almost 2 full weeks, yes. 2, of calling every single day including my hotels (all 3-4 of them at this point were helping me call) and, could not get through- could not.
Do not have anything shipped from... Asia into Greece or just don’t ship really important things to another country. This goes for anything; from Bridal to collaborations.
Have goods shipped to you and travel with- specially when it comes to Greece. This did not ruin my trip, not even close but, it would defiantly ruin someone else’s if this process happened otherwise.
The absolutely amazing stay was at Elysian Oia, for everyone who has been asking!
This was the hardest island if not specific destination to book a hotel. My stay was truly fantastic and I would likely stay there again too but, lesson learned: you have to book very ahead on these big destinations.
It was about a 10-15 minute walk into Oia center, not a bad walk at all. You can hire a car for $15/$20 Euros to bring you as well. The price was worth it *myself & mom agreed too and that is hard for most people to say about their Santorini stay. You can’t really rent a car or even atv isn’t the best idea so location is KEY.
In general you could stay in Thira, Oia (most priciest) but if you go towards the side up to 10-15 minutes walking, there is a lot of amazing hotel options which again- I would stay back in this area in Santorini every time.
Oia gets extremely crowded and the hefty price tag, I mean for a very special occasion/celebration it is worth it but even for this hotelier- I also didn’t love all the room designs and found the rates weren’t worth some.
I found the area I stayed at was so much quieter too, can see the sunset great and the breakfast included with Elysian Hotel is phenomenal; delivered right to your room every morning.
Note: If you or the person you are traveling with is really sensitive to chlorine... well, the cave idea might not be such a great one. Quite honestly, my mom was extremely sensitive to it so bad that we had to change rooms. The room we changed into was a lot more spacious, cooled down better (with the heated cave pools, it warmed up the room) and outdoor pool vs only indoor one before.
Lucky 8: Speed small yacht excursion
What makes this so unique? Well, all- I mean seriously ALL boat excursions are on catamarans or giant sailboats, all also hold way over 30+ people a boat. So, I personally defiantly did not want to do that, even price wise I was willing to pay more for a more unique tour.
I came across this ONLY because our hotel had the pamphlet and went directly with them.
There is also a place in town (they do charge an extra $50 fee it seemed) to book through them, it was where the beginning of Oia was, couple of churches/ bus stop and there is a luxury boat excursion storefront. This boat is not their company but you can ask for it directly with them. Or again, contact Lucky 8 in Santorini.
The tour was $200-$250 USD for 5-6 hours. Absolutely worth every penny. Only 8 of us total.
*Leave up to 2 hours early to the port, it can be up to an over traffic getting down into the port.
Prepare for traffic getting into the ports, Santorini being the worst one defiantly. Leave early enough and plan for traffic- if you do not make your ferry; you re-purchase another ticket & another ferry (if there even is one) which, absolutely sucks.
Absolutely ask (someone who knows, not random as they also likely don’t know *not kidding with this either, it happens a lot.) where your port is as soon as you arrive. There is not really signs or even labels on what exact port/boat you are leaving out of.
Luggage wise, as soon as the ferry is in- game face. They want you on fast to keep on their schedule *also likely a bit behind. Have your rolling luggage ready to drop first, there is carts where you put the luggage.
I would just suggest not leaving very important things in them as IF something happened.. Keep the important stuff like all technology/jewelry and passport on you.
A bus is your only other option to use if you didn’t want to walk or private driver. Which again- would suggest not renting atv/car on Santorini*
The good news is the bus isn’t bad, it is clear where the bus stops are for Oia *there was about 4 stops or the 15 minute walk across to center Oia. All which bus stops have big lines because it is Oia, lol. However, you do need to know where the stops are as you arrive to a new place/getting on the right one. This sounds hilarious but you would be surprised, I personally messed up 2x on this trip with the buses.
The bus tickets are cheap, get round trip- its easiest, your already there kind of thing. It is under 2-3 Euros one way Thira to Oia. The only side note is the bus can get very hot- VERY hot, bring a fan. Again, you laugh now but these buses didn’t have consistent AC and it felt like over a 100 degrees outside.
Last but not least, the food…
OH the FOOD in Greece, it is true what they all say- it’s incredible! There was a couple gems I was eyeing before my arrival to Santorini and checked them out before dining, did not disappoint. Also, the pricing was not bad at ALL, considering on the Oia coastline.
218 Degrees Cafe Restaurant: As pictured above, and the view is spectacular, menu is traditional greek food and most importantly actually really affordable. Worth going to, the view.. I think WAS the best or 2nd best restaurant view of my trip in Santorini.
Elysian Hotel: Alright, they are likely the cutest breakfast included hotel I have ever stayed at. Every single morning was something different! Apple Waffles for one, Nutella banana pancakes another, mexican inspired eggs & chorizo it was always superb in the morning. & yes, I would likely stay back at Elysian or on Oia coast!
Canavas Hotels & specially Canavas Sunset rooftop: This brand of Small Luxury Hotels is nothing short of amazing with the rooms/hotel within itself. But the food, the views, this is worth seeing. This is your sunset spot, you can have only drink or drinks and go into the back part (that is even higher leveled) to finish the sunset and order dinner. The menu is on the smaller side for dinner, also pricer but the best sunset spot, of Santorini- PROMISE.
Lefkees: Okay, we dined here 3/4 days we had. Also ordered a different item for every meal. The plating, the price, the actual restaurant itself, worth coming here for. Utterly amazing/outstanding experience every night with this restaurant. If you are going for sunset, you do need to reserve in advance, the rooftop is super beautiful. (www.lefkes.ge & firstname.lastname@example.org)