If you’ve ever planned a wedding – be it yours or anyone else’s then you know that the struggle is real. Wedding planning can go from exciting to stressful real quick. This is exactly what happened to me during the wedding planning. Imagine all the usual wedding drama and COVID-19 stress as a cherry on top – it was a lot.
Initially, Nigel and I had been excitedly planning the wedding, the honeymoon and our future apartment together. But as the pandemic raged on, we constantly had to change dates and plans. Before I knew it, I was so overwhelmed with decision fatigue. All my childhood dreams of a perfect wedding were getting spoilt and I was grappling to come to terms with reality. The honeymoon was the last thing on my mind so I signed off that assignment to Nigel. I gave him one instruction – surprise me. And surprise me he did. Four days before we got married he told me we were going to Santorini (officially known as Thira pronounced Fira,)!!
Here is my round off of the top places you have to visit and what activities you can to do in Santorini.
Firstly – when should you go to Santorini?
The peak travel time to Santorini is usually June to August. The shoulder season months of April, May, September and October are better times to visit. Things are marginally quieter at the caldera edge, and considerably quieter on the east coast (where accommodation bargains are plentiful).
The best thing to do
The first order of the day once you arrive in Santorini is to head to the beach. It is the highlight. We spent the first day on the beach either in the water or on the sunbed drying up with a cocktail in hand. It’s such a great and lazy way to spend time, I never knew I would find joy in it. If you don’t want to get bored, you might want to carry along a book and a Bluetooth speaker. Don’t forget your sunglasses, hat and sunscreen too.
One thing to keep in mind though is you might need to go early or book your sunbeds in advance. Those things run out fast especially the front row where you get the good views. Kamari and Perissa have the most action, especially since the bars and restaurants are right on the water, we found the prices of the food to be the cheapest.
Where to stay in Santorini
A lot of travel guides out there will probably advise you to stay on the caldera edge to experience the full “wow” factor. Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli and Oia have hotels and villas with whitewashed interiors, terraces and infinity pools that have inspired marriage proposals, high-fashion photo shoots and many Instagram posts. Sadly, there’s not a lot in these view-blessed locales for budget-conscious travellers: caldera-view accommodations come at a premium, and they are in hot demand. For a more authentic experience though, I would recommend booking in the non-touristy parts of the island. Besides, it would be cheaper and much peaceful too.
Do I need a car in Santorini?
A car can be helpful to have in Santorini, but it is not necessary. It’s apparently easy to get around Santorini using their public bus service, which is cheap, comfortable, but reliable. We made the rookie mistake of using taxis, each ride was on average 25 to 30 euro – chai!
How to get to Santorini
If you live anywhere outside of Europe you have to fly to Athens first (the capital of Greece) and then take either a 40mins flight from Athens to Santorini or a 5 to 8 hours ferry (there is a slow/cheap ferry and a faster/more expensive ferry from Athens to Santorini).
If you live in Europe, there are direct flights from some European cities to Santorini. Most of these direct flights to Santorini run seasonally between May-October as this is the hot season for Santorini.
The next best thing to do
After a long day at the beach, you want to walk the caldera edge and admire the views.
Fira is great for a dinner and buying souvenirs. But the place is pricey and crowded, it’s pretty difficult to get a good restaurant if you don’t book well in advance. Nigel and I tried to book around 1400 for a dinner at 1900 and we didn’t manage. We had a tough time finding a spot but we eventually made it! I wouldn’t personally recommend you to go back to Fira often, it doesn’t have much to offer.
Instead of spending a lot of time in Fira, I recommend you head to Imerovigli. Situated at the highest point on the cliffside of Santorini Island. This tranquil and picturesque village is far less visited but just as impressive as Oia (pronounced Oya), particularly as it also has white chalked houses, churches, and blue domes. What’s more, it has endless views of the shimmering sea and looks directly onto the imposing rock of Skaros and volcano. To top it off, you’ll find many delicious restaurants with an unforgettable sunset view.
Other things to do
Megalochori is a must-see!
Get lost in the alleyways of Megalochori, famous for its beautiful architecture, mansions, and caves houses, as well as the iconic churches with blue domes! Well, maybe don’t get lost – you might be gone forever lol. Within the village’s main square, you will find many traditional taverns and cafes.
Visit Red Beach
Santorini’s Red Beach is one of the unique beaches Greece has to offer. The red colour comes from the red volcanic cliffs that slowly break down. The beach is not necessarily great for sunbathing, but it’s worth the trip to the south part of the island.
If you’re all about getting those picture-perfect memories, then you definitely want to hire a photographer to do a photoshoot with. You can do this alone, as a couple or family. I recommend Santorini Photoshoot from Instagram.
Santorini Volcano and Hot Springs
A huge volcanic explosion happened a long time ago on Santorini Island. As a result, the island’s centre sank and, ultimately, reshaped the island into a crescent. This is the reason why the island has these extreme cliffs.
There is still a volcano near Santorini that you can visit on a day trip. It’s a short 10-minute boat trip, followed by a walk to the active craters.
Because of the volcano, there are natural hot springs to be found nearby. Here, you can swim in the sea and experience the unusual feeling of the warm hot spring water mixing with the normal sea temperature.
If possible, do one boat tour, one wine tour, hike the Fira to Oia footpath, explore the villages of Pyrgos and Emporio, and visit the historical sites of Akrotiri and Ancient Therai.
So this is a round-up of all the things you definitely have to do if you go to Santorini. Let me know if you would more information and I’d be sure to get back to you!