With epic sunset views, the calm waters of the Aegean sea and white washed cliff side houses it is no wonder that Santorini is on most people’s travel bucket list. This post covers my 5 must know travel tips for Santorini. These tips will help you make the most out of you trip and have an enjoyable experience.
Santorini is the site of one of the largest recorded volcanic eruption dating all the way back of the 16th century BC. Today, it’s popular for its breathtaking sunsets, volcanic beaches, vineyards, ancient archaeological sites and the tranquil views of the Aegean sea. The island is home to a few beautiful villages perched along its cliff edges. Oia (pronounced eeyaaa), Fira, Imerovigli and Firostefani are the main villages popular among tourists.
5 Must Know Travel Tips for Santorini
1. Flying Vs. Ferry
If you are planning on visiting Santorini from Athens and want to make the most of your time on the Island, I highly recommend taking a flight out of Athens. With over 20 flights per day and flying time of just 45 minutes, it is the easiest and fastest way to get in and out. The ferry on the other hand takes 5-8 hours (depending on the type of ferry). There is a myth that a ferry is the more scenic route. However, other than seeing the shores of Mykonos we did not see anything that scenic. Having taken both options to and from Santorini, I can say that flying was the better of the two.
Perhaps the only exception to this is if you are island hopping to some of the other islands. Then a ferry might make more sense as the cost might be cheaper than flying from one place to another.
2. Stay in Fira
As with all popular destinations, Santorini too is not immune from the crowds of tourists who flock to this beautiful island to experience all it has to offer. It is also a very popular cruise port which adds to the hoards of crowds. Oia is the most popular village but that also means that it is the most crowded. I recently saw a picture of Oia at night and was shocked by the amount of people on the streets. My recommendation is to stay in Fira which is not as crowded.
Fira is the capital of Santorini and is closer to both the airport and port than Oia is. It is also the central bus terminal and acts as the central exchange hub for all buses. With taxis and renting cars a little on the expensive side, buses are an easy and extremely affordable way to get around Santorini.
You can always bus it to Oia easily from Fira or even hike along Santorini’s whitewashed cliffs.
3. See the Sunset from Other Places
If you are staying in Santorini for only one evening, then you should definitely see the sunset from Oia. After all this epic shot of the sunset from the castle ruins of Oia is probably what made you want to come to Santorini in the first place. Expect however, for every nook, corner, balcony, wall and basically square inch of Oia to be filled with tourist lined up for hours waiting for this epic sunset.
If you have more than one evening, then I highly recommend traveling away from Oia and to another village on the West coast to see the sunset. Unless of course you have a private balcony in your hotel room in Oia with no tourists in sight and with an undisturbed view. Even if this is the case, I still think you should see the sunset from somewhere else for an entirely different experience.
We opted to see the sunset from Fira, after getting our fill of the sunset from Oia. It was a much more peaceful and enjoyable experience than the madness that was Oia.
If you do decide to see the sunset from Oia, the Castle Ruins is the best place to see the sunset. However, you will have to go a good two hours before and if in the height of summer, stand in the hot sun until the “show” begins.
4. Go to a Restaurant Early
Another good option to see the sunset is to go to a restaurant. You will have to either call ahead and reserve a table or go hours ahead and eat very slowly. Kastro is a good restaurant in Oia to watch the sunset. It is high enough and basically offers more or less than same view of the sunset from the Castle Ruins. We ordered a few appetizers and a couple of seafood dishes and they are really amazing!
5. Book a Boat Tour
This is one of my favourite travel tips for Santorini and another absolutely fantastic way of seeing most of the island and avoiding the crowds. You have the option of taking a day cruise or a sunset cruise. We opted for the day cruise because we wanted to see the rest of the island when it was light outside. Our tour took us to the red beach, a black sand beach, along the volcano and to the hot springs at Nea Kameni on a catamaran. Not only did we get to jump into the blue green waters of the Aegean sea, we also saw Santorini and it’s rugged terrain from many different angles and viewpoints. We had delicious freshly cooked food and great wine (which was overflowing!) and it was a truly memorable experience.
We used Vista Yachting and they were honestly amazing and made sure we had a fantastic time. The price includes food, alcohol, hotel pick-up and drop off. What I especially liked was the size of the catamaran which held just 8 of us plus 3 of the staff.
Bonus Tip – When to Visit
A great way to avoid all these crowds and to have a peaceful relaxing experience is to visit during shoulder seasons (away from the busy months of June, July and August). May and September are still great times to visit and costs (especially accommodation cost) are significantly cheaper. These months are also not as warm as the height of summer. This being said, Santorini is not a great place to visit in the winter months. Although significantly less crowded, you will find that most places are closed and may also have very limited accomodation options.
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Have you checked out my post of travel tips for all destinations? Check it out HERE.