No doubt you’ve seen the postcard perfect views of Santorini in travel magazines and websites, the whitewashed buildings with blue domes sparking in the Mediterranean sun.
Well I’m here to help you plan this dream getaway and with a few clever tips and tricks it can be cheaper than you think.
Santorini is of course a tourist island, the terrain is actually quite barren and the island shuts down during the winter months. There are a lot of accommodation options from hostels through to the full 5 star experience.
We stayed in a villa in Imerovigli, which is between Fira and Oia. We loved the seclusion, you’re away from everyone else in town yet it’s very accessible to everything on the island. Note that Greek disability standards are most likely not on par with those from your country of origin, if you have mobility issues make sure you thoroughly research your accommodation. Our villa was stunning but the bedroom was up a tiny, rickety ladder which was ok for us in our mid 20’s but there is no way we would recommend our parents stay in a place like that.
We got a great deal on a villa in Imerovigli with balcony and ocean views by going during the shoulder season around October. This meant the weather was still great and we avoided all the masses of tourists that flock to this beautiful island in summer. We saved more by making our own breakfast except for one day where we treated ourselves, also this particular place didn’t have a pool but it’s sister property did (not a big deal in October anyway). Eat at local places if you can and avoid overpriced souvenirs. Instead spend that money on experiences like a donkey ride and boat trip out to Tholos Naftilos to see the volcanic remains or splurge on a fancy restaurant to really make the most of your time here.
If you haven’t been to Athens (read our review here) then spend 2 days there and then fly out to Santorini. There are ferries but flights are cheaper and more convenient. Also, during quieter times they are your only option. From Athens you’re in the air for just under an hour, Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines are always flying in and out as well as other carriers during the busy months.
Once you have landed it’s wise to get a hotel shuttle to your accommodation so check ahead and see if that is an option, otherwise there are taxis waiting at the airport, expect to pay around €20 to reach your destination. Once you’re settled there is the option of hiring motorbikes or a car but unless you’re experienced with tight corners and dodgy roads I would avoid this and instead use the local bus to get around town – Note that it does run on Greek time, aka when the driver feels like it. The bus is only a couple of euros and stops at Fira, Imerovigli and Oia.
When you have the transport system figured out you will no doubt realise that you can walk the entire island if you want to. From our villa in Imerovigli it was a a 30min walk downhill to Fira town. We also absolutely loved the very casual 2.5hr ‘hike’ around to Oia to catch an amazing sunset with a 20min bus ride to get home. There’s nothing to worry about but bring walking shoes and a bottle of water as the terrain is uneven and steep at times. Oh, and don’t forget your camera because there are some beautiful photo opportunities along the way.
Like all of Greece, finding good grub can sometimes be tricky. Santorini being a tourist island has every need catered for, from cheap eats at local and relatively ‘traditional’ tavernas through to Michelin Star restaurants looking out over the ocean. One place that we could not recommend highly enough is Anogi. A no frills restaurant with views that consist of a carpark, exquisite food and the Greek hospitality of a bygone era. One of the few places ever that we chose to dine at two nights in a row. Make sure you visit during the day to book a dinner reservation in advance.
We looooovvvveee food, with the key criteria of any outing being two simple things… is the food traditional? and would a local eat here? If you find yourself saying yes to both these questions then chances are you will have an enjoyable dining experience. There are plenty of traditional Santorini specialities that are unique to or have been developed on the island so don’t leave without trying…
- Santorini tomatoes – Adapted to the dry conditions of the island, these tomatoes have a thick skin and are incredible tasty fresh or in a salad.
- Santorini salad – A take on the ‘Greek Salad’ that includes capers and Dakos rusks, can also include fresh cod pieces.
- Santorini Fava – A specialty of the island, yellow fava that is pureed with seasonings and served with olive oil as a dip.
Also, remember that being a tourist island, a restaurant with sweeping ocean views and immaculate decor can often indicate a more expensive meal usually at the sacrifice of quality.
What to do
Santorini is whatever you want it to be, whether it’s partying and hanging out in hostels and bars in Fira, shopping up a storm in Oia, exploring the stunning beaches and volcanic craters or retreating to your private villa in Imerovigli with cocktail in hand, there really is something for every traveller and with a little effort put into planning, Santorini is a destination that can be surprisingly affordable. There is no shortage of things to do but some absolute essentials are:
- Hike from Fira to Imerovigli to Oia to witness a truely stunning sunset.
- Take a boat tour to Tholos Naftilos to see the volcanic remains of what is now the island of Santorini. At the end of the day make sure you get a donkey ride back up to Fira from the Old Port.
- Eat the local dishes at the local places.
- Shop at the boutiques in Fira and Oia and feel good knowing you’re supporting a local business.
Most importantly, use these tips to save where necessary but be sure to splurge and enjoy something decadent at least once as there really is nowhere else in the world like Santorini!