Travel Guide: Santorini, Greece
Updated: Feb 2, 2022
Paradise on earth! Ben and I never thought our Almafi Coast trip could be beaten, but Santorini gives it a run for its money. We traveled the first week of August, which was a little toasty. We stayed ten nights, and it was the perfect trip length to explore the island from top to bottom. The last few days, we mostly relaxed at our resort since we had packed in a full schedule -- you know, a vacation from your vacation kind of thing!
We traveled in a "peak tourist" month (August) but during the COVID era. Even during the pandemic, the island became busy, specifically in Oia during sunset. Consider going late September if you want to dodge the crowds.
Rent a four-wheeler if you are comfortable sharing the roads with cars and buses. We picked up our four-wheeler the minute we landed at the airport—the BEST way to see the island and honestly one of our highlights during our trip.
Oia has the "famous sunset of Santorini." It was spectacular, but I preferred sunrise in Oia because we had it mostly to ourselves (besides a few other content creators out and about). Anywhere on the west coast truly has a breathtaking sunset view (continue reading for a few other spots high on our sunset list).
At the top of our list of fun experiences is the Petra Kouzina's cooking class. Ben and I both agree this was our favorite thing our whole trip, and that's saying A LOT!!
If you love wine, there are plenty of wineries to hop between; if you don't love wine, it's still a fun experience!
Want to stay in Oia but too expensive? Check out Foinikia! You don't get the famous picturesque white buildings rolling down the hillside, but it's the closest town to Oia, and it's within walking distance.
Get the salads every day! Look, Ben and I are generally not salad people, but the salads are OUT OF THIS WORLD amazing. We were no doubt...addicted. I never thought I would use "addicted" in the same sentence with "salad," but here we are.
Our favorite restaurant was Lefkes, which is in the little town mentioned above, Foinikia. Going back to the salads, get the lentil salad (pictured later). We went twice, and we usually try to go to different restaurants while we travel but sometimes they are just THAT good.
Don't miss out on Kamari! It's a small beach town with the cutest "boardwalk"—a stretch of fantastic restaurants.
We stayed at four different hotels, and our favorite was Costa Grand Resort & Spa. Great place to unwind!
The island is small, only 32 square miles! You can travel from one end to the other in 40 minutes. It will, however, take longer by four-wheeler and even longer if you have your luggage on the four-wheeler.
Santorini is filled with memorable beaches -- black, red, white, stone/pebbles.
Unlike some of our other trips, we did not find this an "affordable" vacation. There are always ways to save but keep that in mind! The wine, however, is affordable!
Santorini is an active volcano, don't skip out on learning the island's history (it's fascinating!)
There are a few popular and famous things Santorini is known for -- sunsets, blue-dome churches, and the volcano.
The Sunsets -- Spectacular, every single day we were there! Again Oia is the "famous" spot to catch a sunset in Santorini but be prepared to fight the crowds! I've include a photo below of the walking traffic. Keep in mind this is during the COVID era (2021), so I can't imagine what it's like when the tourist season is in full swing! Ben and I typically wake up for sunrise to create content. Most people don't wake up early, so it's much easier to get "the shot" without a bunch of people in the background or having to deal with harsh lighting. For those that care about photos, sunrise is a little hard to shoot in Oia because of the shadows on the buildings. A few other spots to catch the sunset:
Santo Wines - one of our favorite sunsets because you can see the volcano, the city of Thira, and Oia in the distance. It also has a beautiful view of the cliffs. Please book in advance, though, because this place fills up quickly with reservations (we're talking months in advance). We were thankfully able to snag a table by walk-in but had to give it up at 7 PM for others with reservations.
The south tip of the island -- There isn't much in this area, but there is a cliffside level enough to sit down and watch the sunset. I suggest bringing a towel with you because it's all dirt and rocks!
The blue dome churches -- The buildings are beautiful and picturesque! There are over 600 temples on the island of Santorini, but not all of them have blue domes. The "famous" blue domes are in Imerovigli with beautiful bougainvillea trees and Oia with a classic white town backdrop. However, there are others throughout the island that you can marvel at! Most are functional churches, so be aware of trespassing! Some are tucked into the cliffs and only accessible by foot.
Volcano -- We opted out of visiting the volcano, which is visible from the west coast. Santorini was once a circular island, but after an eruption long ago, the island was split into five islands, some habitable and some inhabitable. We opted out of seeing the volcano after watching a Youtube video of someone walking around. While it's adventurous on the one hand, it just didn't seem like "much" on the other. It doesn't have a large crater as you envision for most volcanos because it's underwater. It's mostly walking around black rocks. We would rather sip on wine at a winery overlooking the volcano, so that's what we did! There are also hot springs you can visit while touring the volcano, but again, the Youtube video steered us away because of the sulfur water (chalky orange).
I thought the Mediterranean food in America was great...until I tried Mediterranean food in the heart of the Mediterranean! I was blown away by the food quality in Santorini. My mouth waters thinking back to this trip. Our favorite food experiences were:
Petra Kouzina's cooking class -- This is #1 for our favorite activities but also #1 on the list of our favorite food. I'm not exaggerating when I say this was some of the best food of my life. I wish I could have this experience all over again...a hundred times. The couple that leads the class is so fun and adorable (we loved running into them later in Kamari)! The house they host you in is absolutely darling. It's a cave house that they restored. As soon as you walk in, they open the bottle of wine if you are interested, and keep it flowing. We made a Greek salad, which we've yet to replicate. Other dishes included: Tzatziki sauce, moussaka, shrimp saganaki, and more.
One really easy treat we learned is buying tomato paste (the fresher, the better) and adding olive oil, salt, pepper, and oregano.
Lefkes -- which I mentioned earlier as our favorite restaurant. We enjoyed lunch twice because it was close to our cave house. My absolute favorite was the lentil salad, and then Ben loved the watermelon salad. We didn't switch it up during our second visit because we loved both of our dishes so much. I also enjoyed their rose!
Anemoloos -- We asked our cooking class instructors for recommendations since they KNEW food. They recommended Metaxi Mas, which is also on our favorite's list, but they were booked out when we went, so we stumbled upon Anemoloos by accident, and we are SO glad we did. The view is very similar to Metaxi Mas. Ben is not typically one for "small plates," but this completely changed his mind. We had the Cretan "dakos" salad (WOW), Pork pancetta caramelized with thyme honey and balsamic vinegar, Kavourmas, petalo sausage, and then a complimentary yogurt to finish!
Metaxi Mas -- Great views of the east coast and Moni Profitou (highest point of Santorini). We enjoyed lunch here, and while the food was terrific, we preferred Anemoloos. If you have the time, enjoy both of them! We went with the Shrimps saganaki and a few salads (the Santorini salad and greek)
Costa Grand Resort -- This was our favorite resort/hotel that we stayed at, and we highly recommend their restaurants if you are in Kamari. All meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner were delicious!
Kupiws -- This is one of the restaurants we tried in Kamari Beach! So many fantastic restaurants. Really fun vibes and great food! My phone was dead, so I don't have photos from the restaurant, but if you check out my Instagram Reel Kamari Beach, you can see all of the amazing restaurants on this boardwalk. I ordered the lentil salad, and it did not disappoint!
This is not the restaurant but one we passed walking the boardwalk**
You can have your pick of different beaches, but keep in mind they are not ''white sandy beaches" like those that line the Caribbean. If you have sensitive feet, you may want to consider water shoes because many of the beaches are made up of pebbles. The most unique beach we visited was Red Beach. Red Beach is located in Akrotiri village (south end). The beach was officially closed in 2013 because of falling rocks and landslides but people (like myself and Ben) ignore the warning signs. A small walking path leads to the beach, and walking a cliffside will require caution!
Conveniently, Red Beach is located right beside White Beach. The beach is not named after the color of the sand but the beautiful cliffside. The Red and White cliffs present a stark contrast. Unlike Red Beach, White Beach has a few limited amenities (chairs and umbrellas for rent; snack shack).
We enjoyed several Black Beaches around the island, which are named after their unique black sand. Here are some recommendations:
We first visited Caldera Beach (right beneath an adorable beachside restaurant called Remezzo). Other than Remezzo, there is not much around this beach. We enjoyed jumping off the cliff here (Ben is featured in one of my reels doing this).
My favorite Black Beach was Kamari, due to the plethora of cute chairs/umbrellas (read: Instagramable) and drinks/food options.
Agios Georgios also has chairs, food, and a mountainous view.
You will almost certainly see Perissa, albeit from the air. It is popular and can get crowed, but with good reasons. Perissa has great views of Mesa Vouno (the mountain that looks like your plane might hit on the way in!)
I wish we would have visited this one, but I stumbled upon it after our trip-- Vlychada. Definitely look this one up; the photos are breathtaking! It also looks like there is a cool bar on the beach -- Theros Wave Bar.
I can't recommend renting a four-wheeler enough! This was one of our highlights every day. However, there were a few scary moments. I mentioned earlier that we switched hotels four times which meant we would need to pack up the four-wheeler with our luggage. Thankfully, Ben and I have learned to travel light, and we only had carry-on bags, but still scary climbing the hills. We rented from Rent Me Love Me [true story - this is the actual name]. Rent Me Love Me will deliver your four-wheeler to the airport if you coordinate in advance, so we stepped off the plane and had our ride within 15 minutes. The rental cost was $450 for 11 days and we filled up with gas twice (roughly another $30 dollars). The alternatives are bus transit or taxi/Uber. Again, you need to be comfortable driving a four-wheeler, but this was an excellent choice for us.
When we travel, Ben and I typically switch hotels at least once to experience the city in multiple ways. In Santorini, however, our hotel switching was a little excessive. This was our first international trip during the pandemic, so we wanted to be sure we tested negative before booking our stay. Consequently, we had to book four separate hotels for ten nights! Even though we were vaccinated, we still needed to show proof of a negative test. We were able to luck out with some availability left, but there was not much inventory. Plan your Santorini vacation in advance!!
Costa Grand Resort & Spa was our favorite stay, and we stayed here last to unwind from our vacation. Remember a vacation from our vaction! It's a beautiful resort right on Kamari Beach. They have lots of day beds and several pools throughout the resort. The breakfast, lunch, and dinner were all amazing! Also, if you stay I highly recommend a massage!
Our second favorite was a cute little cave house in Foinikia -- Fava Eco Suites. This place was really affordable compared to other hotels nearby and within walking distance to Oia. It was also a VERY short walk to our favorite lunch mentioned above. Just look at the decor below and tell me it isn't adorable!
Drop a note in the comments and let everyone know when you are planning your Santorini trip. "Bucket list" might be somewhat overused, but in this case...cross it off your list ASAP!