A little background, Santorini is one of the islands that belongs to Aegean Sea (elongated embayment of the Mediterranean Sea located between the mainland of Greece and Turkey-wiki). Santorini, classically Thera and now officially Thira, is essentially what remains after an enormous volcanic eruption that destroyed the earliest settlements on a formerly single island, and created the current geological caldera.
The beautiful island is less than an hour by plane from Athens, Greece. Other option to reach Santorini is by speedboat that would take 4-5 hours, or the cheapest alternative would be ferries that take longer. At first we were torn between going into a cruise ship from Athens that would take us to different Aegean islands like Santorini, Mykonos etc but due to time restriction exploring each island we decided to stay 6 days in Santorini. Besides, we endured a long 24 hours journey to get here and this is one of my “before ending 20-ish bucket list”. Surely, 6 days was not enough, how i wish we could have stayed longer to explore the other hidden treasures of the island and it’s people and culture.
For longer stay in Santorini, I recommend renting a car. Not just because it is convenient but it helps to maximize one’s schedule. Car rental can be scheduled before or during the arrival at Santorini. Most of the hotels have contact to different local car rental companies, or try to walk around Fira and there are plenty of local car rental shops with good prices. There are also few car rental companies at the arrival area of Santorini airport but most of the time are fully booked and the available cars are very expensive. Other rental options would be the ATV or bikes. No question for the holder of driving license usable within european territory, other than that international drivers license is a must. The driving rules in Santorini may seem lenient also parking spaces are most of the time free but a bit of a challenge; proof that most of the visitors are driving.
Before our arrival to Santorini we made a car reservation online with Sunbird Santorini who was suppose to meet us at the airport after we’ve arrived but ,apparently, blame miscommunication the car did not come. Instead, we rode a mini bus that takes passengers to Imerovigli. There is also taxi stand infront of the arrivals and few locals would approach tourist and offer cheap transpo alternatives.
Gone are the days when Santorini is considered only as a luxurious ambition. There are already hundreds of ways to get that Aegean Island taste based on one’s budget. Though flying-in from afar continents would be costly, there are already budget airlines that have great offers depending on the time of the year, I actually used SkyScanner to check available flights and planned ahead. I’ve seen a lot of hostels within the center and beautiful affordable accommodations but quite far from the center or those without caldera view are affordable. Bus rides are also very cheap. Affordable meals from local cafeterias to food stalls or restaurants without the panoramic Aegean island view are everywhere. So, there you go you don’t need to be millionaire to be here.
The center of Santorini is Fira, its packed with restaurants, shops, hotels and tourists. The upper most area of the island is, Oia (pronounced as “iya”) where the remains of the broken castle is located and sunset viewing is very popular. Kamari is the parallel opposite of the caldera, where the shore of Kamari beach is located. We spent our first 3 nights at Chromata located in Imerovigli which is the highest point of Santorini.
A summary of the things (personal favorites) that one should not miss when in Santorini.
- Do-it-yourself Island tour,
- Don’t skip you traditional greek breakfast
- Step on the sands of aegean sea shore at kamari beach for free,
- Check out Archeological sites at Akrotiri and pass by the red beach,
- Don’t miss sunset sailing,
- Night walk from Imerovigli to Fira or vice versa and take thousands of beautiful night photos,
- Trek down to Amoudi bay on your feet but never ride those poor donkeys,
- When staying in Oia, wake up very early and take advantage that everyone are still asleep and while the flock of tourist from the cruise ships (starts around 9 or 10 AM) aren’t yet around. During this time you’ll meet few couples taking prenuptial shots and take your own photos as well without thousands of photobombers,
- Be friends with the dogs around,
- Speak with the locals,
- Learn few greek words,
- and of course the sunset at Oia castle.
There are still other things to do in Santorini, lively nights at Fira would be perfect for party lovers. The boutiques that sell greek style jewelries, sandals and cute stuffs are worth visiting. Volcano tour would be perfect for climbers or hikers and sunset spot hunting. Join the crowd of families, group of friends, solo travelers and lovers witnessing the most prolific and magical sunset. Day or Night, this paradise never failed to amaze me.
And true enough, Santorini carries the best and most beautiful sunset that awaits for you to see it.