We are sure everybody already heard of the beautiful and romantic island of Santorini (officially Thira). This island is a remnant of a volcanic caldera and the site of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in history. All the towns are built on the hills, therefore you get those beautiful caldera views almost everywhere you go. We spent there 5 days / 4 nights but depending on what you like to do you could spend there either more or less days. Although we recommend at least 3 full days as minimum.
We booked a flight from Athens which took around 40 min. We rented a car through CoolCars rental as it was the only car rental company that we could find that offered a pick up at the airport and the drop off in the port (or the opposite) only for a fee of 10 euros. The price was 25 euros per day (in October, so it might be more expensive during the high season). They did not ask for a credit card (only debit card as an insurance) and no deposit. They kept only one of our documents (either ID or passport as a insurance, so it is good to bring both documents with you to have one available after they keep the other one). There is a bus running if you don’t want to book a car, however it runs only every 30 min-1h depending on the season and it goes only to Fira. This means that you always have to change there if you want to go somewhere else and also the other buses don’t run so often either. Another option is the taxi which can cost you anywhere from 25 euros to 55 euros depending on where you are staying and at this point it is already not worth it so I highly recommend to get a car/scooter/ATV.
TOWNS YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY VISIT
We obviously have to start with Oia as it is the most touristic one and lots of people sometimes stay only there during their stay in Santorini (which we think is a mistake). Most of the pictures you have seen from Santorini were taken in Oia. The town is very beautiful and picturesque. There are lots of churches, tower bells, view points, chapels and windmills, however what really disappointed us, is the fact that many of these beautiful places we wanted to visit were in the private area where you could not enter unless you were a resident, a host of the hotel that was located in this private area too or unless you wanted to break the rules and jump over the gate (which honestly, we have seen many people doing just to get those beautiful pictures). As we didn’t belong to any of these categories, it was really frustrating for me as I don’t like to violate the rules, but I really really wanted to go there. You definitely don’t need any map to visit Oia. It is impossible to miss anything there as there is only one main street where there is almost everything and then a few little narrow streets.
There are a lot of restaurants in Oia and prices vary. You can choose between many very expensive places but we also found very cheap restaurants and we were very satisfied with them (and no we did not eat only gyros pitas). For example Piatsa Souvlaki and Niko’s place were great comparing quality/price. Remember that you will always pay more if the bar/restaurant has a view or if it is on the main street and the same applies to the hotels. If you want that beautiful caldera view and maybe even the hot tub or a plunge pool, you gonna pay way more. Therefore if this is what you are looking for I suggest to stay in Fira or Imerovigli which is a bit cheaper and you get the same view. It is also way calmer and more private.
At the bottom of Oia you can find also a small beautiful port called Ammoudi bay where you can walk from Oia (exactly 300 steps down from Oia). You can find there a lot of good traditional tavernas, where you can eat fresh fish. There is also a tiny beach.
You definitely shouldn’t miss the sunset from the Byzantine castle of Oia as it is an amazing place to watch the sunset but more about it later…
Imerovigli was actually the first town we visited in Santorini, as the first night we booked an amazing airbnb villa with the caldera view (“Aether suites” Imerovigli). The town is very small and the main attraction site is the Anastasi Orthodox Church. There are a couple of smaller churches too, you just have to walk around. Another popular attraction is the Skaros rock hike. This was one of our favourite things we did in Santorini. The hike is super beautiful and you can watch the sunset from the top of the rock. Also another awesome thing is that there is actually a beautiful church at the end of the hike (church Theoskepasti). It is so strange because this church is built in the most inconvenient place ever. I don’t believe somebody is actually going there to pray (considering that 20 min hike) and yet the candles in the chapel were lit. We recommend to go for this hike either very early in the morning when it’s not so hot or even better, in the evening to catch also the sunset. We also suggest you to wear proper shoes.
We actually did not visit Fira as we visited all the other towns and the last day we decided to explore Santorini’s beaches. It is the capital town of Santorini. There you can also find a museum about the Bronze Era and the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral with fresco paintings from a local artist. Thanks to its position on the top of a cliff, it offers you a view of the nearby volcanic island of Sea Kameni.
An even smaller town is the town of Pyrgos. There is honestly not much to do but if your time schedule permits we suggest you to do a quick stop there. It is actually the former capital of Santorini and the largest preserved medieval settlement on the island. Don’t expect luxury restaurants, bars and hotels with infinity pools. This town remained very traditional and untouched and that’s what we loved about it, especially in a place like Santorini that nowadays is mainly just built up for rich/high class people and it kind of lost the traditional greek authenticity. You can visit the Pyrgos castle, “Santorini of the past” museum or walk up to the beautiful viewpoint.
Another small picturesque and traditional village, very similar to Pyrgos. The main attractions are the Bell tower of Megalochori and the Orthodox Church of Agios Nikolaos. We also really liked some local shops with handmade/homemade products.
Unfortunately we did not visit this town but we heard from locals that it’s very beautiful, also very traditional like Pyrgos and Megalochori. Search it on the internet for more informations.
BEACHES IN SANTORINI
We did not plan to spend all day long on the beaches as Santorini is not the best beach destination. Forget those tropical white sand beaches with palm trees, however we really wanted to explore some very special beaches that are not so common and you cannot find them everywhere (in fact only in few places).
BLACK SAND BEACH – PERISSA BEACH
We totally loved this beach. The black sand makes the beach look so special. Also one of the main reasons why we loved it is that we were there off season and we were there completely alone! And that’s the dream! The water was super clear, there were also a few restaurants and shops along the beach and also some private parts with umbrellas and sunbeds. We highly recommend this beach, however we don’t know how is the vibe there during the high season.
UNUSUAL SAND ROCK FORMATION BEACH – VLICHADA BEACH
We came here only to see those sand rock formations and it was worth it. We had never seen such a thing before. The water was also very clear. The beach is sandy but it is not the softest sand and in the sea there are little rocks so I preferred keeping my flip-flops on. The scenery around the beach was not so beautiful as nearby there was some kind of an industrial factory with cranes, however it is totally worth it just to stop by to check the rock formation or for a quick dip during hot days.
RED SAND BEACH
We did not manage to visit this beach and we were very sad about it because let’s be honest…How many times have you been to a beach that has red sand? It was our last day and we decided to go there but we did’t know how the road was. We ended up turning back as there was only a dirt road going down to the beach and we did not want to risk it with our rental car so we recommend to get an ATV for that. The other option was to walk there and it takes around 30 min from the point where the asphalt road finishes, which is not bad but we did not have enough time to do it as we were leaving with the ferry in a few hours. But when we come back to Santorini we will make sure we will visit this beach. We just have to plan it better next time.
BEST PLACES TO WATCH THE SUNSET
You should definitely watch the sunset from the Byzantine castle. It is the most famous place to watch the sunset (most of the time I prefer to find my own private place), however there is a very good reason for it to be the most famous: it simply is the best sunset place in Oia. But there is a con: it is very small and gets crowded fast so I suggest you to come a bit earlier before the sunset.
We love lighthouses and we love sunsets, so the combination of both made us incredibly happy.
PRIVATE VILLA WITH THE CALDERA VIEW
Another great spot to watch the sunset was from our private villa with the caldera view. We did not have to fight with anybody to get the best spot. We were just enjoying this moment as a couple, eating dinner and drinking Prosecco in our private plunge pool.
ON TOP OF THE SKAROS ROCK OR THEOSKEPASTI CHURCH
We heard that the sunset you can watch from the top of the Skaros rock or from the top of the Theoskepasti church is very magical, however we visited these places during the day so we cannot say it from our own experience but we could definitely imagine the beautifulness of the sunset here.
Greek sunsets stole our hearts so we believe anywhere you decide to go, you will have an amazing time to watch the sunset.
If you are planning to do island hopping, make sure you check out our Paros travel guide: http://borntotraveldiaries.com/paros-guide/
We hope this blog post was helpful to you and you are gonna have a lovely time when visiting Santorini. For more pictures and videos check our instagram feed from October/November 2020 and our story highlight (Santorini). If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to comment bellow or contact us via email or even better via Instagram @borntotraveldiaries Thank you for your time and stay tuned for our next diary page 🙂 .