One of my biggest questions when researching a new destination is what the heck is there to do there?! I still get questions about my trip to Greece amongst my friends so I feel it's finally time to create my first EVER travel guide!!
I want to start out by saying a big thanks to my cousin Sarah, for bringing this trip together. Without her inviting me along on the ultimate spring break, I don't know when I would have ever seen the dreamy Greek islands. This was my first time in Europe and it couldn't have been more magical. Spending almost two weeks on an island might make some people go a little crazy, but I felt like I was living in a dream world. We went at the end of March, which is right before tourist season kicks off. There are a lot of perks to going in the low and mid seasons, but also a few downsides to think about as you plan your own trip.
March 25 - April 4, 2016
Aside from sleeping in the Athens airport pre-Santorini, we called Anatoli Hotel home, for the duration of our trip. I believe we paid a total of $335 USD, which we reserved and paid for nearly two months in advance. The hotel offered complimentary home cooked traditional Greek breakfast, which we would enjoy every morning on our beautiful balcony. It was a great way to save money on an extra meal, and an easy way to immerse ourselves in the culture.
We took a taxi from the airport to our hotel, which I remember being roughly $20 USD total, however I do not recommend taking cabs everywhere as it is pricey no matter where you go on the island, and sadly no Ubers/Lyfts. We took the bus to the beach, which wasn't my favorite because even in mid season it was extremely crowded and I ended up getting pretty sick on the ride back. In the end we hired an ATV from a place that was around the corner from our hotel. We used them to explore Pyragos and Oia, which was perfect for getting around on the narrow roads. I will say having a second ATV was excessive, and we were probably better off sharing one or hiring a two seater, something to keep in mind if you are traveling with someone else. I believe we paid roughly $60 USD each for two days + fuel. Fun fact we tried to rent scooters first and learned that we needed a motorcycle license to do that. To conclude, my advice is don't take taxis if you want the full Santorini experience, hire an ATV, mob everywhere, and wear your helmet!! I'm serious about that last one as the streets are not well lit at night, and they can be on the slippery side.
The best part of this guide. Why you're probably reading. In no particular order:
10 Things You Should Do In Santorini
1. Ironically we spent our first day at the kissing fish spa and our last. We went to Kangal Fish Spa in Thira, which was walking distance from our hotel; we spent about $30 USD each on one of their packages that included the kissing fish of course and a massage. Go big or go home and ask for the largest fish, as you can see in this photo they're not scary big. It tickles a lot, and I honestly couldn't stop laughing the entire time. It's the perfect activity for the solo traveler, the honeymooners, and the family, really everyone could have a blast here.
More reviews here.
2. Yes we tried to stray away from activities that were obviously touristy as much as we could, but we did come across one that everyone pretty much has to do because there is no way to access it on your own. We found a volcano tour just by walking around town; I believe we paid $20 USD each for three hours. It took us to Nea Kameni by ship where we hiked to the top of the famous active volcano. You should have no problem booking a tour like this once you've arrived since there are a variety of companies that run tours all day every day so don't worry about buying this excursion in advance. Another thing to note is that each package includes different things, especially depending on the season. A major tip for the hike is to dress for a hike. Many people wearing dresses and sandals thought this would be leisurely, however it is an actual hike.
3. Following the volcano hike, the ship took us to the "hot springs." I am warning you now, it isn't hot, it's actually quite cold and the warmest part is lukewarm. Sarah and I couldn't decide if we wanted to swim before we left so we didn't bring extra clothes or a swimmy. From experience, I recommend everyone bring something to swim in and change into even if you're convinced you don't want to swim. The feeling of seeing everyone jump off a ship into the Aegean Sea is incredible and quite frankly irresistible. Yes we hopped in wearing clothes but it was totally worth it and I would do it again even though the water was frigid.
4. Amoudi Bay was so special, and was an adventure in and of itself. It's known as a hidden gem, and requires a long walk down steps. But once you make it and have this swimming hole to yourself (season permitting), it was actually one of the highlights of our trip. And if you dare, this is prime location for cliff jumping.
5. We took a donkey from the bottom of the old Fira port after the volcano tour, so I was actually soaking wet from the Aegean Sea in these photos. It was 5 EUR to get to the top and it was easily the funniest experience, aside from the kissing fish, that I had on this trip. I also highly recommend taking a ride while you're there for the sake of culture because they are part of the native charm and a symbol of Santorini.
6. We went to both the red and the black beaches, and ended up settling into Perissa one of the stunning black sand beaches. We went to Red Beach first and although there were plenty of people swimming, we found it to be very lava rocky so we hopped back on the bus for Perissa. This beach is just lovely; they have complimentary sun beds and Wi-Fi, which we had no problem snagging two of, although this could be very different during the high season. We were able to order drinks and food from our beds, so of course we decided to treat ourselves with pinna coladas, this was our most relaxing day overall. We did visit Kamari on another day, which is another black sand beach but found that everything was closed for the season.
7. We were brave enough to attempt the famous Fira trail hike, which goes all the way to Oia in just about three hours depending on your pace. It was interesting because we couldn't locate a trail head right away, but once we did we found that it was truly scenic and well worth doing regardless of the hot weather. We thought we could hike it back but after eating we decided the bus was a better idea. Bring hiking shoes, my athletic shoes did not have the best tread and I was slipping down the mountain like crazy.
8. Our last full day was spent hiking Skaros Rock, which was a treat because we didn't think we would have time to get to it. It was between this and the lighthouse that many people talk about in other blogs/vlogs and after reading reviews and looking at pictures we decided Skaros would be DOPE. Which it clearly was because it reminded me of Jurassic Park, and there was no one else there. It's a short hike, lots of stairs, but they're paved so it makes going up and down a breeze.
9. We spent one of our days exploring Pyragos, which is one of the oldest and most traditional villages on the island, although pretty much everything was closed while we were there. It is the highest point of the island so the viewpoints along the way are definitely worth stopping for. It was also a fun excuse to take the ATV out and about for the day.
10. The famous Oia sunset was definitely worth the trek from Fira, as well as the wait. For me it wasn't so much about the sunset itself but the experience of watching the sun go down on a mountainside surrounded by people that are just as curious as you are. I do recommend arriving early for a spot especially if you are traveling in the high season.
You really can't go wrong with food in Santorini, Sarah and I tried whatever looked cool or sounded good and all around no complaints. The pasta is good, the crepes are good, the feta is good. But here's a look at where we went multiple times and would go again if we returned one day.
Hands down best gyros in Santorini go to Lucky's!! He treats everyone like family, his prices are fair, overall good times taking shots with Lucky before our flights home. Being vegetarian on the road can be challenging at times especially when I leave LA, so I was a little concerned I wasn't going to get to try an authentic gyro in Greece but Lucky saved the day with a menu of great variety including the falafel gyro which I highly recommend vegetarian or not.
More reviews here.
This was our favorite Greek food, and complimentary Nkyteri was the cherry on top, I learned this is the most famous white wine in Santorini. The views are incredible, one of the perks to going mid season is being able to snag a table at sunset. Order our favorite dish of all time, the tzatziki to start, it's unreal and everything in America will never compare again.
More reviews here.
If you're planning on going in low or mid seasons be aware that not everything is open yet; our hotel pool, water sports for hire at the different beaches, and certain restaurants that we had hoped to check out such as Tropical Bar and Volcano Blue. I would have loved to island hop, we looked into heading over to Mykonos for the day, but again because of the mid-season we couldn't find a boat that came back the same day and since we had already paid for accommodations in Santorini we decided to just stay. From what I learned in high season you can take a two-hour ferry there and back in the same day. The upside of staying is that we were able to do pretty much everything there is to do on this island and that's pretty cool to say.
I would 100% without a second thought have booked an Airbnb on the last two nights that reflected what everyone imagines Santorini to be, like that honeymoon suite style 5000. However I will say I was definitely trying to travel on a budget, and I ended up splurging elsewhere, which I will talk more about in Biz Class to Paris!
Last but not least, I put together an itinerary of my flights + hotels, and emailed it to my mum and my roommate, along with a copy of my passport, and then printed copies for myself. Then I put together a list of everything I wanted to do in Santorini, which looking back really kept us on track and it's cool to reflect on those memories now. I also took out all of my cash the day I left, 300 EUR total and I didn't even end up spending it all. Don't forget to call your credit card company and let them know that you are traveling! I hope you enjoyed my take on Santorini as much as I loved writing about it, until next time!