We can thank a volcanic eruption way back in the 16th century BC for creating the magical land we now know as Santorini. Barely bigger than the island of Manhattan, this whitewashed paradise is the queen of the Cyclades Islands. If you’ve been drooling over pics of the Greek Islands on your Instagram, chances are you’ve seen Oia. Offering that iconic view of the turquoise seas of the Aegean, this famous village is one of the crown jewels of Santorini. From the sweeping cliffs to the calderas under the sea, this is your treasure map to Santorini.
What to Expect in Santorini
Language: Greek, the oldest of any European language — a definite perk for language nerds! For everyday interactions, you’ll also find most people speak a good level of English.
Currency: Like much of Europe, Greek uses the euro (€).
Credit Cards and Banks: The majority of hotels, restaurants, and stores take credit cards. Occasionally you’ll find little hole-in-the-wall spots that only take cash. Always come prepared by taking out small amounts of cash at the ATMs you’ll find all over the island.
Climate: Santorini starts to get warm in April and holds onto that beachy weather until into October. Summers are hot and dry with temps often breaking the 100° F (38°C) mark. Winters are mild but humid with afternoons reaching up to 65° F (18°C).
Best Time to Visit: Greece is in its prime during the shoulder seasons, from April to May then again in September and August. If you can swing it, September is the absolute prime time. The summer tourists are gone and the dreamy (but not scorching) weather remains.
Safety: Greece is a very safe and welcoming country. Just be careful on the roads and stay aware of your belongings in tourist hotspots.
Getting Around Santorini
Oia: This is the place you see in all of the postcards and it’s where we called home during our Greek getaway. Oia is an absolute dream destination but it comes at a pretty penny.
Imerovigli, Firostefani, and Fira: With all of the hustle and bustle you’d expect from a capital city, Fira is an easy option. You can take the beautiful walking path between Imerovigli, Firostefani, and Fira in less than 40 minutes. It’s more affordable to stay in Fira than in Oia, and there are great restaurants and shops too!
Megalochori: This charming village is rich with history and will give you a glimpse into how Greek life used to be. And, fun fact, this was the first place on the island to produce wine.
Perissa: On the opposite side of the island from Oia, you’ll find the sleepy village of Perissa. While you won’t find quite as much to do here, you will find great deals on accommodation.
Where to Stay on Santorini
If it’s your first time visiting Santorini, I highly recommend staying in either Oia, Imerovigli, or Fira. Oia is the picture-perfect destination, but it’s also the most expensive area to say on the island. Imerovigli and Fira are also great areas to stay in, with great shops and restaurants, and easy access to Oia—they’re also more central to exploring the rest of the island!
Here are some of the best hotels to stay at on Santorini!
I had an unforgettable stay in this 5-star hotel in Oía. Even after the countless hotels I’ve stayed at around the world, the customer service here is truly the best I’ve ever experienced. For VIP treatment, this friendly spot is second to none.
Perched on the cliffside, this boutique hotel is a welcome blend of value and comfort. Grab a room with a private balcony overlooking the volcano and you’ll never want to leave.
With a sweeping view of the Caldera volcano, this four-star hotel is in the heart of Fira. Top-notch eateries, cool cafes, and nightlife hotspots are right at your doorstep here.
A new addition to the Andronis Collection in Oía, we stayed at the Arcadia and soaked in the lively Mykonos vibe here. If you’re looking for a place with a fun atmosphere, this is it.
Part of the Calm Collection Santorini, this tranquil villa offers a spacious home away from home. Tucked away in a quiet area of Fira, it’s a perfect pick when you want a chill escape.
Where to Eat on Santorini
There are some amazing, authentic Greek and Mediterranean restaurants across Santorini! You’ll definitely want to try authentic Greek dishes along your trip, as well as the local cheeses, olive oils, wines, and seafood when you have the chance. Santorini has its own wine varietals and a few wineries that I highly recommend checking out.
I’ve compiled a full list of the best restaurants to eat at while on Santorini!
While fine dining in highly touristic locations like Santorini doesn’t always present you with a ton of “local culture,” Lauda is different! It was actually the first restaurant on Santorini—back when only about 300 people inhabited the island. Can you imagine that?
Lauda was built in 1971 and was Oia’s first restaurant. It’s where all of the locals gathered to talk and drink (and use the village’s only phone!). One of my favorite things about this place is to honor their history and the tradition of the island, they use local, fully-organic ingredients to serve up an insanely delicious tasting menu.
I tried the Discovery Menu, aka the 9-course dinner, and was truly blown away.
Some of my favorites included the sea urchin and the yellowtail with seaweed. I substituted the lamb for fish (which they so gracefully allowed) and it hit the spot. I would definitely recommend eating here even if you aren’t staying at Andronis Boutique Hotel. It is quite the experience!
Argo RestaurantGreek, Mediterranean
This beautiful, understated Fira restaurant serves up some of the best Mediterranean dishes, wine, and cocktails—it’s amazing! I highly recommend ANY of the pasta dishes. Try to make a reservation in advance!
Il Forno Pizza & PastaItalian
This family-owned spot would give any Italian hotspot a run for its money. For a hearty hit of carbs to fuel your exploration, this is the spot. Oh, and they do have salads too if you want to go for a lighter fare
Finding healthy dishes and vegetarian options on the go can be a challenge but restaurants like this make it easy. They’ve got an amazing range of falafels, salads, and other easy light options.
PitogyrosGyros, Street Food
Looking for a quick, easy, and cheap bite to eat? We loved Pitogyros! This famous gyro shop is right in the heart of everything and next to a bus stop. If you’ve never had a gyro, it’s basically pita filled with various things: a protein like beef, lamb, or halloumi, veggies, French fries, tzatziki, tomato, and cucumber.
If you want to get a real taste of authentic local dishes, this is the place to be. Try traditional Cretan and Santorinian cuisine then wash it down with a raki (a popular type of brandy).
Santa Irini BakeryBakery
During our ATV excursion, we fast-tracked to this famous bakery. With incredible fresh baklava, sesame breadsticks, and other local treats, this place is a must.
A gorgeous little spot overlooking the sea that serves ultra-fresh seafood and the best local wines… What more could you ask for?
I love the vibe in this charming little dining spot overlooking the old captains’ houses. With top-notch wine and ultra-fresh options, including a wide range of veg options, this hospitable restaurant has it all.
Another perfect pick serving up incredible traditional Greek food. As a bonus, they’ve got a regular schedule of live traditional music.
What to Do on Santorini
Pretty much all of the activities on Santorini involve a stunning ocean view! Jump on a catamaran, explore archeological sites, hit the spa, chill at one of the many beaches, and hike from Fira to Oia—there’s something for every type of traveler. You can rent an ATV for a self-guided adventure, hit The Best Photo Locations on Santorini, and explore the clifftop town of Oia.
Here are the top activities to do on Santorini!
There is a reason you see Greek restaurants everywhere from Argentina to Australia. The cuisine here is second to none and Santorini has some unique offers that you won’t find anywhere else.
See where the locals eat on a walking food tour and learn about the culture that surrounds each meal. Learning the history behind each bite will take your appreciation to a new level.
Some of my best souvenirs have been recipes! Bring home a taste of Greece and you’ll be transported back to the magical isle every time you roll up a grape leaf. Check out the Petra Kouzina Cooking Experience for secrets on making five special dishes.
Grab yourself a set of wheels in Santorini! ATVs are actually a really practical way to get around. We only rented our ATV for one day but it gave us the chance to see all of the key spots we wanted to check out on the island. We made far better time than we would have on foot or biking but got to see places inaccessible to a car.
This black lava sand beach was one of the highlights of our day on the ATVs. It’s a gorgeous spot to snap pics. But, be warned, it gets seriously hot on the jet black sand!
Greece holds its own amongst the great Mediterranean wine-producing nations. Everywhere you go in Santorini, you’ll find eateries and vineyards alike boasting about the latest and great local vintages. Santo Wines is an especially popular pick, and you’ll be spoilt for choice to keep trying until you find your fave.
The Oia Castle is a popular spot to watch the sunset. Unfortunately, the much-loved vantage point can get a bit too crowded. Arrive early, or get a little off the beaten path and find a spot beside the three blue domes of Oia.
Want to catch up on your reading at the beach? Pick up a bit of Greek and grab an English (or French or German or Mandarin) classic at Oia’s best store, Atlantis Bookshop.
The trek from Oia to Fira is a relatively easy one that will take you around four hours. Like so many destinations in Greece, it’s just as much about the journey as it is the destination. Make an afternoon of it and plenty of time for pit stops.
You can explore the diverse beaches, swim in the crystal clear waters, and check out all of the top sites of Santorini from a catamaran. And, what says living the dolce vita more than setting sail in the Greek isles?
Set atop the towering Mesa Vouno mountain, you can follow the winding road from Kamari until you reach the ruins of Ancient Thera. Wander amongst the rubble of the former village that colonists from Sparta used to call home.
There are 450 churches dotting the Santorini landscape. While the famous blue domed church tends to steal the show, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Santorini Catholic Cathedral; Panagia Mesiani Church; St John the Theologian Church; Anastasi Church; and my personal fave, Three Bells of Fira, will all knock your flip flops off with the beautiful architecture.
Easily one of the most well-known and stunning beaches in Greece, Red Beach is a must-visit. We spent a couple of hours walking and swimming amongst the dramatic red rocks in this Instagram-friendly spot.
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