Travel Guide to Santorini, Greece
In June 2017, I took a 3 night/4 day trip to Santorini with one of my best friends from college who lives in London. Santorini was always on my list of "places I want to go but probably never will" until my friend texted me asking if I wanted to plan a somewhat spontaneous trip.
I landed in London at 10pm local time and went straight to bed. The next evening we headed to the airport to fly to Athens and then caught our connecting flight, on a teeny-tiny plane, to Santorini.
We landed in Santorini at 8am, took a taxi to our Airbnb, and after setting down our bags, we promptly got into our beds and took a much needed 2-3 hour nap (I'm exhausted just thinking about it!). There was already an 8 hour time difference for me from California to London, but there was another 2 hour time difference from London to Greece. Safe to say I was a bit jet-lagged.
While Santorini is tiny and most people only stay for a couple days, I could have easily spent another week here.
If you only have 2 or 3 days to spend here, then this guide is for you!
How to get there
Flying there was different for me than it may be for my fellow Americans because I flew out of London.
We booked all our flights over a month in advance and were able to use some airline miles to get a discount. This is the best way to save! Book as far in advance as possible and save up your airline miles! We flew from London to Athens, had a long, overnight layover at the Athens airport, then flew in a tiny plane/budget airline to Santorini (another way to save money – thank you Ryanair, the cheapest of cheap airlines). And luggage? We only brought carry-ons to avoid luggage fees.
You can also take a ferry from Athens to Santorini, which is a bit cheaper than flying, but takes much longer.
FLIGHTS: ~45 minutes | $160-280 (Prices can change drastically depending on which month you go)
FERRY: 5-9 hours | $80-140 round trip
Where to stay
I’ve written a post about our lovely Airbnb in Santorini – you can read it HERE.
You have two options when picking a place to stay – Airbnb or a hotel. But sometimes the places you find on Airbnb are also hotels (like ours was) which is ideal to me!
If you want to go full travel-blogger luxury:
Charisma Suites and Santorini Secret Suites & Spa are a couple I've seen often on Instagram.
They are both in Oía, which is where 99.9% of all "insta-worthy" photos you see come from. Some suites come with your own private pool overlooking the ocean. Next time I go, I definitely will save up to splurge on one of these places for a night or two.
If you want to go the less expensive route:
Look for Airbnbs or hotels that aren't in tourist central (Oía).
We stayed near Perissa and Perivolos beach in a hotel called Bluelife Studios. This area is in the southern part of the island while Oía is in the northern part. Our Airbnb experience was incredible and I highly recommend it! You can read about our say in my post "Where to Stay in Santorini". It is available during tourist season and only cost us a grand total of $230 for 3 nights. We split the cost and could have even had a 3rd person, as there were 3 beds! Keep in mind that most AirBnb places are only open during tourist season starting in June.
If you've never tried Airbnb before, you can use my link HERE to save $40 on your first trip!
Where to eat
The first thing you’re going to want to do – after a good nap – is find somewhere to eat. Your best option is finding something nearby to where you are staying, fuel up, and then explore around that area. It’s good to be familiar with the places to eat around you in case you get hangry and need to find somewhere fast. We walked about a mile down to the strip of restaurants by the beach, empty because we had come just a bit before the tourist season began.
As I stated earlier, we stayed in Perissa/Perivolos area and the restaurants we went to were by Perivolos Beach. We also visited Oia and ate at a few places there, so I will include them in this list, too!
• Sea View Restaurant
This was our first stop after we woke up from our naps and it did not disappoint. You can see it in the distance in the photo above looking down the strip!
Gorgeous design with bright white and all open-air. All the restaurants on this strip are on the beach and have gorgeous views.
I got a veggie sandwich and heaps of french fries! I was still very jet-lagged after all the traveling so I wasn’t very hungry, but the food was great. We actually ate here twice this day because it was so good the first time!
• Chilli Beach Bar
We came here the day before we left for some food and drinks. It was amazing and of course, had a breathtaking beach view. The interior was also well-decorated and service was incredible! Every one was so nice.
I had a margarita with salmon and my friend had a beautiful passionfruit drink (and a meal I did not get a photo of and cannot remember).
If you eat at the restaurants on this strip, you can also use their lounge chairs on the beach in front of the restaurant – which we took advantage here! They also have waiters walking around the chairs on the beach taking drink and food orders if you’d rather have it delivered to you, which feels pretty luxurious.
• Thalami Traditional Tavern
When we first arrived in Oía after a long bus ride (more on that later), we walked through the town looking for a good lunch spot because we were starving. This place was pretty empty even though there were a lot of people and had unreal views looking over the ocean!
I was slightly nervous about a restaurant with such a great view being empty, but the food was incredible! I had an eggplant dish and pita bread with tzatziki. No wait, fast and friendly service, and did I mention the view?!
• Meteor Cafe
This was my favorite stop. We came in because there was a stunning window and mini balcony overlooking the ocean and not a single person inside!
There are two sides of this place. One side is the restaurant and one side is the bar – we went to the bar side for the balcony & window.
We sat down and I ordered a beer while we admired the view (ALL about the views here). The interior was really cute as well with vintage decor.
The bartender was hilarious and kept us entertained with his dry humor and jokes. His accent was very strong and we only caught about 60% of everything he said, but we understood enough to enjoy it! He brought me a second beer and also poured my friend and I shots of a Greek alcohol (which I never caught the name of – again, the strong accent ) which didn’t have any after-burn and we didn’t need chasers for.
It was the perfect little place to stop in for a drink after walking around for a while.
Highly recommend this place!
• King Neptune (www.neptune-restaurant.gr)
We made a reservation here since it had an upper level and we wanted to make sure we secured a spot for sunset. The sunset ended up being on the opposite side (oops, we forgot to check East vs West), so the restaurant didn’t end up being as crowded as expected. It was still a gorgeous sunset from our side!
The food was not great, so that was disappointing. The appetizer and drinks were good, though.
If you do come here, drinks, appetizers, and the view would be a great time!
Things to do
• Perivolos Beach
Since we stayed just walking distance from here, we spent a lot of time walking down the road, eating at the restaurants, and hanging out in the luxurious lounge chairs on the black sand beach.
It was a quiet area and practically empty which was slightly weird but also really nice. We enjoyed not having to wait to be seated at restaurants and having lots of the beach to ourselves.
• Red Sand Beach – Akrotiri
This was not walking distance from where we stayed and we did not rent an ATV (more on transportation later!), so we had one of the restaurants at Perivolos Beach call a cab for us.
We had been told by our Airbnb host that Red Sand Beach in Akrotiri was a nice place to go see, but to stay off the beach because the cliff side was very unstable and unsafe. There were lots of people down at the beach, but we didn’t want to risk our safety and the views from above were better anyway.
There was also some small shops on the pathway to the beach overlook along with some of that classic Santorini architecture.
• Walk around Oía
This is my #1 suggestion. Just walking around without strict plans was the best and we saw so much that we might not have seen otherwise. Neither of us had ever been before, we didn’t look up things to do or places to go, and we just enjoyed the views and friendly cats.
No specific suggestions here – but you can click through the slideshow below to see all the pictures!
• Kissingfish in OíA
Something I had always wanted to do but never did was the foot treatments where fish eat your dead skin. As we wandered around Oía, we found this place called Kissingfish. We went inside to ask about pricing and how it works and it was very reasonably priced. I can not remember the exact cost, but I did it for just 30 minutes because 1 hour was too much for me.
If you go, you cannot be wearing any lotion or sunscreen on your legs or feet to protect the fish. They have you wash your feet and legs in a washing area and then check to make sure they are clean enough.
Once you’re all clean, you are seated at what looks like a pedicure chair, but the foot wash is actually a tank of fish. They have you slowly lower your feet into it and as soon as my toes touched the water the fish swarmed! It tickled SO much (see photo below), but it was also a crazy, weird feeling – I loved it and would do it every day if I could! haha
The fish eventually get full (… of your dead feet skin… gross) and slow down. I don’t think an hour would have been worth it because they wouldn’t have kept eating.
Kind of a once in a lifetime experience to have fish eat your dead feet skin in Santorini, so DO THIS IF YOU CAN!
How to get around
There are a few ways to get around the island, but these are the 3 main ways (besides walking). It was a fun adventure figuring out the public transport and talking with taxi drivers who know the island well.
This is the cheapest, arguably best way to travel around. A bus trip is about the equivalent to $2-3, which is a great deal for long trips. They come about once every hour during the busy season, but can be pretty unreliable if you don’t come at peak tourist season. We waited a couple hours for a bus the first time we took it, which was more than twice as long as we expected.
We took the bus from our Airbnb in Perivolos to the main bus center in Fira. The main bus center is where all the transfers happen. We got off the first bus and waited a bit for the next one to come that would take us up to Oía.
Unfortunately, our bus to Oía broke down part way there and we had to wait in the bus (while it was off without any air conditioning) for another one to come pick us up. This was just our not-so-great experience and it seems that people usually have better luck with the bus than we did!
Can’t beat the price and it’s nice to be driven! You may also get a better chance to meet fellow travelers this way.
We chose this option quite a few times despite the large price difference compared to the bus. Taxi’s/private cars were much more reliable than the bus (in our experience), but much more expensive. Rides cost about 10-20€ ($12-23) depending on how far you’re going. The prices are all set for the car companies and are non-negotiable, so you don’t need to worry about getting scammed.
There are lines of cars at the airport ready to pick you up – they were so helpful and even called our Airbnb to find the address since we didn’t have the exact one.
Taxis are usually driving around and pull over waiting for passengers. We were down at Perivolos Beach by the restaurants where we didn’t see any taxis, so we asked a restaurant to call one for us. They ended up calling a friend who drove a huge luxury Mercedes bus (he was a professional driver) and he picked us up to take us to Red Sand Beach in Akrotiri – without an extra charge! It was so nice.
Okay, we really did NOT like everyone on their ATV’s because they were eardrum-bursting loud. It really ruined the experience and felt incredibly touristy. That being said, we did not have any experience driving them ourselves.
It seems nice to be able to have your own transportation to get around the island and not have to reply on public transport. BUT the roads are pretty narrow in some places and it can be a bit daunting to drive in another country – especially if you aren’t very ATV savvy.
Research online will tell you DO NOT rent an ATV in Santorini because:
1. They are loud and don’t have AC (obviously).
2. They are pretty unstable and can tip easily (tourists have died).
3. Santorini roads can be dusty and some places have sharp drop-offs. Just unsafe for ATVs/quads/scooters.
4. If you don’t have experience with one, it’s not safe.