We visited Santorini to celebrate our one-year anniversary. It was technically low season according to the airline, so I was able to snag two round-trip tickets from Atlanta to Athens on American for only 80,000 miles. We bought RyanAir tickets to get from Athens to Santorini.
WHEN TO GO: We visited April 20-26 which is technically the end of low season. It was great visiting at this time because you get low season prices and crowds, and don’t have to deal with blistering hot weather. I visited Greece in June a few years ago and it was INCREDIBLY hot and super crowded. Santorini has a TON of stairs, so I imagine the sweltering heat is miserable in the midst of summer.The cruise ships let out a few days we were there, and then it was a little bit crowded, but honestly if you can deal with the chill at night, I say go around this time. It was around 70-75 degrees during the day, but seeing as there’s not much shade, it felt a lot hotter. At night it got down to the low 60’s (approximately), which felt colder because of the wind. I’m not sure how it is in the summer, but it was SOOOO windy while we were there. I brought all these cute hats and didn’t get to wear any of them because of the wind! Plan accordingly.
WHERE TO STAY: We stayed at the White Pearl Villas, which was very enjoyable. I’d definitely recommend staying at the hotel and will write a full review later. The main places to stay are Oia (most expensive), Imerovigli, and Fira (capital of Santorini). We stayed in Oia, which I think was perfect. It’s more expensive than Imerovigli, but not by much, and there is so much to do. It seemed more easily walkable, whereas the area of Imerovigli seemed to have more stairs. We couldn’t find a main path in Imerovigli, so it was kind of difficult to navigate but we went there on-the-fly with no real plans or preparation. The buses are incredibly cheap and easy and the island is TINY so it’s quite easy to get from place to place no matter where you choose to stay. Our hotel didn’t have a pool, which was fine because it wasn’t hot enough to swim, but in the summer I’d say DEFINITELY book a hotel with a pool. A friend of mine, Andrea, also suggests visiting the pool behind the windmill (far side of Oia, closest to the sunset area), which you can use if you buy food/drinks. Other nice hotels in Oia (a little pricier) are Canaves Oia, Santorini Secret, and Katikies Hotel. Other hotels that we considered in the same price range were Aisling Micro Hotel, Chromata Upstyle Hotel (Imerovigli), and the Belvedere Hotel (Fira).
THE VIBE: Overall, Santorini is a very relaxed and romantic place. It was absolutely stunning. It seemed that the large majority of the people visiting were couples, especially honeymooners. Santorini is very famous for its sunsets but personally, I found the sunrises just as beautiful. People get crazy over sunset pictures so if you want to get a picture or video at sunset, head over to the viewpoint early. We mainly ate, drank, and saw the sights while there. It was a little more of a relaxed trip than we’re used to. We typically schedule lots of activities to do but this time, we just relaxed and did things a little more spontaneously, which was nice.
THE COST: Santorini hotels can get pretty pricey. The nicest ones start at $400-$500 a night. There are lots of AirBNBs so that could be a good option. Meals aren’t too expensive - you can get entrees for under $15 at most places - but activities are. Thankfully, the views are free! We considered a boat tour of the caldera but it was a little chilly in Santorini and the tours were pretty pricey (over 100 euro per person) so we didn’t think it was necessary. Wine tours are over 95-150 euro per person. Tipping (mainly at restaurants) is acceptable - we tipped around 10-15% which is customary. When withdrawing money from the ATM, make sure you get withdraw in Euro and not the converted rate, or else you will lose money. It’s good to be aware of foreign transaction fees as well. Some places won’t accept cards that don’t have a chip in it (the case throughout Europe) so make sure you’re prepared in that sense if you’re planning to swipe a lot.
Here are a couple other things you MUST KNOW if you’re planning to go to Santorini:
- As I said earlier, there are a tons of stairs. If you have physical limitations, make sure to get a villa that’s closer to the main path of Oia so it’s less difficult to get to and from your room. I’m not sure what options are available in Imerovigli. I would also look into elevators - I didn’t see any there. Most of the stairs are cobblestone, so BRING COMFORTABLE SHOES. Forget heels. Maybe wedges, but you will break an ankle in heels. I almost did! Also, if you have a lot of stairs to your place, don’t drink too much wine at dinner! That could be a disaster.
- Upon our arrival our taxi driver told us that Santorini is very windy and sometimes planes can’t land at the airport because of the wind, so they have to turn around and go back to Athens (flight is only 30 minutes so it’s not that bad). We experienced that on our way out. The airport is very tiny, and only fit a few planes (if more than one). The morning we were leaving, not a single flight could land, so there were no planes at the airport and therefore no flights were able to leave Santorini. Our flight was delayed 7 hours, and we ended up having to reschedule our connection. There’s no wifi at that airport, but thankfully Aegean, who we were flying from Athens to Paris on, had a ticket counter there, so I was able to rebook at the airport for a fee. We went down to Kamari beach (10 min away) and relaxed there and had breakfast. That being said, make sure you give yourself PLENTY of time in Athens if you have another destination. I gave us 4 hours and we still had to rebook our connection.
- Tap water is not drinkable. Make sure to buy plenty of bottled water (if your hotel doesn’t supply it) and brush your teeth with bottled water as well. Also, you can’t flush toilet paper down the toilet (it goes in a trash bin next to the toilet) so mentally prepare for that.
- Most people speak English pretty well, so you don’t have to worry about language barriers.
- A lot of food has cheese/dairy, so bring lots of Lactaid if you’re lactose intolerant!
- If you want to dine with a sunset view (soooooo romantic!!) then make a reservation early in the day or ask your hotel’s concierge to do so. Otherwise you’ll end up with an obstructed (but still beautiful!) view.