A Travel Guide to Santorini – How To Plan the Perfect Trip
When you imagine the ideal Greek Island getaway, it’s likely that Santorini will come to mind. This stunning landscape is renowned as one of the most romantic islands in Greece – and for excellent reason.
This comprehensive guide will give you all the details you require to plan a stunning holiday on this picturesque island. So stop what you’re doing and read this article to the end to plan a memorable trip to Santorini.
Santorini, Greece – a guide for first-timers
When we first decided to take a trip to Greece, Santorini was on our minds, but the numerous negative reviews about overcrowding and its status as an overpopulated tourist hotspot forced us to reconsider our plans.
However, after much deliberation, we determined that the only way to find out if it lived up to these expectations was by going ourselves – and boy were we glad that we did.
With its breathtaking scenery, mesmerizing sunsets, and delectable cuisine, the magnificent island of Santorini made for an ideal destination.
Santorini, official name Thira, lies on the midpoint between Athens and Crete. It is one of many islands located in the Aegean Sea.
Santorini is renowned for the iconic crescent-shaped crater (caldera) on its western side and two smaller islands that rest within it. That said, what makes Santorini truly special are the breathtaking sunsets viewed from its lofty cliff edges opposite Thirassia Island. Read more in our article “Where is Santorini?”
How to get to Santorini
Perched atop the dreamy Cyclades archipelago, Santorini can easily be accessed by air or sea.
Flights to Santorini
If you’re traveling from the UK, flights to Santorini are most frequent between May and October. Easyjet is a great website for checking flight availability during this peak season.
However, if your travels originate from elsewhere in Europe, a much quicker route would be connecting directly through Athens on Aegean Airlines – even though it may cost more than taking the ferry.
During summer, when tourism is at its highest, these airlines offer multiple daily flights between the islands and Athens. Plan months in advance to secure a great deal on your air ticket, as these routes are highly sought-after.
Take the ferry to Santorini
Are you dreaming of an unforgettable Greek island-hopping experience? Plan a ferry trip from Athens to Santorini, with Mykonos serving as a pit stop.
With multiple ferry operators offering frequent daily departures throughout the summer season and limited services during off-peak periods, reaching neighboring isles such as Ios, Naxos, or Paros is a breeze.
Looking to make your next journey by ferry?
AFerry, Ferryhopper, and Letsferry are the perfect websites for you! Apart from giving you the best details possible, these websites let you compare the fares of multiple ferry providers.
How to get from Santorini Airport to your hotel and back?
Make your journey stress-free and book a private transfer for an economical price. The airport does not have taxi ranks, and the island only has 25 taxis, which drives up costs. A private transfer is thus recommended if you want to travel within your budget.
When leaving Santorini, you must reach the airport multiple hours before the flight is scheduled to take off. Believe me when I say chaos reigns supreme here – even though we arrived over an hour before our flight, my family and I were quite certain that we wouldn’t make it.
It was only after waiting for multiple hours that we boarded our flight. Thus, if you plan to leave on the booked flight, reach the airport early.
How to Get From the Ferry Terminal to Santorini Airport
Don’t let Athinios – Santorini’s ferry terminal, also known as the ‘new port’ or ‘Thira port’, 9 km south of Fira – be confused with Skala (the old port), which is almost exclusively utilized by cruise ships.
Here are three options to get to Santorini airport from the island:
Step 1: If you’re planning a trip to Santorini airport, be prepared for two bus rides. First, take the Fira bus from wherever your journey starts and pay €2.30 per person. The ride should take about 20 minutes in total. Keep in mind that there is usually high demand at port stops, so don’t worry if all available spots are filled on the first or second try,
Step 2: Upon arriving at Fira, purchase one more ticket (€1.80 pp) for the airport shuttle, which departs approximately every hour and takes 10 minutes of travel time overall. To stay up-to-date on current routes and departure times, consult an online timetable like Santorini Bus Timetable before setting off.
There’s only a slim chance that you’ll be able to find one of the limited 25 taxis outside the ferry terminal. As such, it is recommended to pre-book a transfer. Remember that cash payment in euros will be compulsory should you decide not to book ahead.
Why you should pre-book a private transfer?
Booking a private transfer ensures not only peace of mind but also removes the burden of carrying cash for your driver. Late arrivals won’t be an issue either since your driver will track and monitor them so you can sit back and relax without worry.
During the months of November through March, Santorini’s appeal drastically wanes with its dwindling tourist numbers. Plus, most bars, restaurants, and accommodations don’t open until April or May – another disincentive for traveling at this time.
From May to early October, when the charter flights run, this island is abounding with excitement. During July and August specifically, it can be swarmed with vacationers due to the peak of the summer season.
Therefore, consider visiting from mid-May to mid-June or from mid-September to October if you want your stay here on this idyllic island to feel as serene and peaceful as possible while avoiding intense crowds of tourists.
If a picturesque sunset view is your priority, the towns of Fira, Oia, Imerovigli, and Firostefani are worth considering. Perched atop the caldera cliff on Santorini’s western coast with unparalleled views of the volcano and crater, they provide an unforgettable experience.
When it comes to choosing lodging, each individual has their own distinct preferences and financial constraints. To assist you in picking the ideal accommodations for your Santorini escapade, this guide contains helpful advice that will simplify the decision.
Pro Tip: When looking for accommodation in Santorini, always confirm which side of the island your room faces out onto. Even if the listing says “sea view,” it may not necessarily provide an unobstructed vista of the caldera.
Here are a few places you may like to stay in Santorini:
Fira – for the buzz
Situated on an awe-inspiring cliff, Fira (Thira), the capital of Santorini and its largest city, is a vibrant destination filled with restaurants, bars, and boutique shops. Tourists will find this place especially attractive due to the occasional docking of cruise ships at the old port underneath.
Oia – for the sunsets
Oia is Santorini’s most iconic sunset destination, but it also comes with its downsides. Tourists flock to the town every night in droves, making it quite crowded and a bit oversold for some visitors’ tastes.
However, Oia does have some of the best high-end restaurants and shops around-not to mention plush accommodations like boutique cave hotels that come complete with private plunge pools overlooking Santorini Caldera.
Imerovgli – to chill
We chose to stay in Imerovigli, and it was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made! We were able to access all of Fira’s top attractions with a simple 20-minute walk. Plus, as a bonus, we got incredible views from this quaint town over Santorini caldera.
No matter your budget, Imerovigli offers beautiful views and excellent customer service for all its hotel guests. Some of the most popular hotels in Imerovigli include Above Blue Suites, Remezzo Villas, and Dreams Luxury Suites.
How to get around in Santorini?
Exploring Imerovigli and Fira on foot is possible. Still, if you plan to journey further afield – to Oia town, the beaches at Kamari, or even back to the ferry dock or airport – it’s wise to invest in transportation. However, since no Uber/Lyft-style services are available in Santorini, taxis will be your only means of transport.
By KTEL bus
Hop on a KTEL public bus if you’re looking for an affordable way to get around Santorini. Whether it’s Fira to Perissa (Black Beach), Kamari Beach, Akrotiri (Red Beach), Oia, Athenios port, or the airport, the public bus will take you anywhere you want to go.
Pro Tip: During peak season, buses often fill up quickly and can have long delays- we waited over an hour at Imerovigli in early June just trying to get from there to Oia, where they were supposed to run every 30 mins.
On an ATV
Exploring the picturesque island of Santorini is even more enjoyable with an ATV, as they make navigating the narrow roads and securing a parking spot simple.
Santorini is a gem of an island, and a guide would only be complete by mentioning its magnificent highlights. We were lucky enough to spend three nights there, but it was still not enough time to experience all the beauty this place had to offer.
What follows are some of my favorite things you should check out when visiting Santorini.
Hike from Fira to Oia
Are you a nature lover who enjoys spending time outdoors, particularly on hikes? Then the picturesque hike from Fira to Oia should be at the top of your list. This 11 km long journey can take between two to five hours, depending on your experience level, pace while hiking, and any stops for capturing memories.
Pro Tip: During the peak summer months, don’t forget to bring an insulated water flask for chilled hydration, reef-safe sunscreen, a hat, and other essentials. We highly recommend setting off early in the morning so you can reach Oia just before lunch at Ammoudi Bay. Doing that will allow you to miss some of the hottest parts of the day while also giving you enough time to enjoy a meal there.
Take a sunset cruise
If there’s one thing that I will always remember about Santorini, it’s the gorgeous sunsets you can witness as you gaze out over the Aegean Sea. So, why not make those days even more special by planning a delightful sunset cruise? It’s simply perfect for ending your vacation on a special note.
Eat fresh seafood at Ammoudi Bay
Have you completed the Fira to Oia hike and are craving some seafood? Look no further than Ammoudi Bay, Santorini’s premier spot for an ocean-fresh meal. After making your way down 280 steps from Oia, indulge in a well-deserved feast with what is sure to be one of the most satisfying meals you have ever experienced.
Take a Santorini food tour
Experience the delicious flavors of Santorini firsthand with a guided food tour from a local. From tantalizing seafood, cheeses, olives, and baklava to delicious traditional Greek dishes paired with wine, you’ll surely leave full and satisfied.
Enjoy a winery tour
Santorini’s signature wines include the refreshing white varieties and delicious Vinsanto. Red wines, meanwhile, make up a mere 20% of the island’s wine production.
While vacationing in Santorini, why not visit some renowned wineries like Domaine Sigalas, Venetsanos Winery, or Santo Wines? Or better yet – book your exclusive guided tour to sample all of the best this picturesque place offers.
Watch a movie under the stars at Kamari open-air cinema
One of our best experiences while visiting Santorini was watching a movie under the stars in the charming Open-Air Cinema Kamari. Set in a lush garden with a massive projector screen beaming English language films, this was a highlight.
Cinema Kamari usually launches its programs starting in May and advertises the movies directly on its website. Doors open at 20:30, with the film starting at around 21:30.
Explore Santorini’s beaches
Although the beaches in Santorini aren’t your traditional white sandy shores seen on other Greek Islands, they are still worth visiting.
From Perissa’s extraordinary rock formations and crystal-clear waters to Kamari’s black volcanic pebbles, these breathtaking beaches will certainly take your breath away. We opted for a day lounger by the shore of Perissa and were mesmerized by its sheer beauty and tranquility.
Pro Tip: These black volcanic pebbles become incredibly hot as the day progresses. To avoid burning your feet, take along a pair of flip-flops, and don’t forget to bring some water and reef-safe sunscreen too!
See the sunset over the Santorini Caldera
Visiting Santorini without witnessing the captivating sight of the sun setting in Oia would be inexcusable. Get there early to secure your desired spot and simply relish this spectacular experience.
Summing up Santorini
Santorini is the enchanting paradise you’ve always dreamed of. From captivating views of quaint, white-washed villages with signature blue domes to delectable seafood and local wine, Santorini has it all!
And if that wasn’t enough—you get the luxurious feeling from being surrounded by Greek hospitality, making this delightful island a must for novice or experienced travelers alike.
Experience the best of Santorini during its peak season, from late March to early June and again from early September to late October. Soak up the warm island sun while going on exciting expeditions such as scuba diving, mountain hikes, and ocean swims!
Maximize Your Savings: Book a hotel during the low season (November to March) or shoulder season (April, May, and October), as prices are much more affordable during these months. Fortunately for travelers, transportation costs, food prices, and tour rates typically remain steady all year round.
Although exploring Santorini without a car is doable, the costs can quickly add up. With only 25 taxis that charge for set fares on the island, a more economical way of sightseeing around would be taking buses and getting in touch with the culture of this amazing place.