Santorini, Greece: Travel Guide

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Santorini’s gorgeous 360 degree ocean views, stunning blue water, and steep volcanic cliffs are enough to make you want to say goodbye to your old life at home and move right into one of their blue-doored cottages stacked on the bluffs. My sister was seriously considering this life decision when we were here, it was that magical!! Every time I would look at the view from my hotel each morning I was shocked EVERY time, even on my 5th day of being there. My words don’t really need to do the persuading though, I’m sure you’ve already heard the hype and seen all the pictures, but you can’t truly understand just how unforgettable this place is until you actually see it for yourself. It should, without any doubts, be at the top of your travel bucket list!

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Culture/History: The most prominent piece of history that sticks out on the island is its volcanic birth and formations. The islands of Santorini were formed by several volcanic eruptions in the past, which you can see in it’s round caldera shape and its red and black volcanic beaches. The tour guide I had one day said that earthquakes commonly rumble the island from time to time due to its placement on the moving oceanic plates beneath. As for Santorini’s culture, you will see the famous donkey’s that line it’s cliffs as well as the wineries they are known for, being the best place in Greece to grow grapes. Other than these few cultural remnants though, the island appears to be overrun by tourists, especially during high seasons. This was the only disappointing aspect of our visit- the innumerable amounts of tourists that would flood the island. Unfortunately, this “tourist trap” mentality can also be seen in a majority of the restaurants and shops on the island, lacking a lot of the Greek authenticity you are looking for. Don’t let this discourage you though because the sights 100% make up for it!

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Economy: The same “tourist trap” feel that I just mentioned is also present when it comes to Santorini’s economy. All the prices on the island seemed to be overinflated due to all the vacation-goers. Don’t expect expensive prices to mean “high quality,” so do your research beforehand (and use my travel guide for tips!).

Transportation: Transportation is super limited on the island since you’re located on top of windy cliffs. There are very few cabs, and these tend to only be accessible through your hotel, unless you’re lucky enough to spot a free one on the island! That being said, we went everywhere in a private car that we rented for the day, which ended up being the perfect way to see the whole island (and trust me, only one day is needed for this because the island is so small!). Other than that, as long as you’re in Oia, which is the iconic Santorini town with the white churches and houses the with blue doors and domes, all you need is your feet! Walk the whole town when there, and make sure not to miss the steps at the end of the town. They take you to the best view of Santorini’s stacked buildings, windmills, and beautiful blue views.

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Hotel: Before I start describing the hotel I stayed at, The Mystique boutique hotel, please note that I was on a family trip and would never be able to afford the price on my own!! So those of you looking for a budget stay in Santorini, just skip this section. Anyways, if you do have the means to book this place, you MUST! It was hands-down one of the most incredible hotels I’ve ever stayed at. Everything from it’s decor, amazing daily free breakfast, infinity pools overlooking the ocean and cliffs, private tanning decks, free in-room gifts of local wines and desserts, and the attentive service was unbeatable and truly made my vacation in Santorini so memorable. I still dream of those mornings where I got to drink Greek coffee and eat feta, tomato & egg-white omelets overlooking the Santorini ledges and navy blue water. These meals were by-far the most memorable moments of my trip! I could go on and on about this place, but I’ll let the pictures do the talking for me.

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Food: Unfortunately, authentic Greek food was more difficult to find on Santorini compared to the other islands I’ve visited in Greece. Even when asking a local where to eat an authentic Greek meal in Oia, he said “In Oia? Nowhere!” and started laughing. Haha! But you can escape the touristy, overpriced restaurants if you do your research. I only spent 3 full days in Santorini (the other 2 were cut short by traveling) with one of those days spent on a boat, so my restaurant recommendation list is not as extensive as I’d hope, but still have some winners to share with you:

  • The Mystique hotel restaurants- You MUST come to one of these 3 restaurants, solely based on their views and service. The breakfast has so many authentic Greek options and they are all delicious- your eyes and stomach will be so satisfied after a meal here. Beware though that you’ll be paying for the ambience and views along with your meal $$$
  • Asea Lounge at the Mystique hotel- I did this as a separate bullet because it’s a sushi restaurant and very different from the other hotel restaurants. The view is still insane like the others, but the vibe is much more lounge-y (like the name suggests) and Japanese-style. The sushi wasn’t the best I’ve ever had in my life, but it tasted great to stray from the every-day mediterranean feasts we had been eating everyday. Plu,s it was so romantic! My boyfriend and I ate dinner here our first night in Santorini, eating sushi rolls with a bottle of wine overlooking the cliffs, and we were in heaven!
  • Mario No 1– The best seafood restaurant located right on the beach! This place was a very authentic, family-owned fish tavern that had every type of Greek food you could imagine- the menu is huge! The waiter let us view the freshly-caught fish from that day and choose which we wanted to be grilled! It was a great experience and such an amazing Greek feast for great prices. Probably the best meal of our entire stay in Santorini.
  • Melitini– This was a very cute and authentic little restaurant in Oia. My only issue with it was that the menu was comprised mostly of meat dishes and I only eat fish. That being said, if meat is your thing then definitely give this place a try. We had heard from friends we met at our hotel that it was the best meal they had in Santorini and I think I would of agreed with them if I ate meat. One vegetarian dish I strongly recommend is their baked feta. I still think about this dish from time to time, it was so amazing.

Asea Lounge sushi

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View from Asea Lounge

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Catch of the Day at Mario No 1

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Baked Feta at Melitini

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Activities:

  • Rent a car and driver for a day! This will allow you to:
    • Go wine tasting at one of Santorini’s famous wineries. I recommend going to Santo or Sigalas winery. We went to Gaia Winery on the beach, and although the view was pretty, the pours were only a sip and our driver said the quality at the other wineries were much better.
    • Visit the highest point on the island- This place had an incredible 360 degree view of the island. When we got to the top, there were hundreds of ladybugs flying around in the air and on the flowers. It was almost fairytale-like!
    • See the Akrotiri Ruins– these indoor Greek ruins are so well-preserved, it’s known as the “Pompeii of the Aegean”!
    • 5 minute hike to Red Beach– even if you just go to take a picture like I did, you must see this beach for it’s huge crimson volcanic rock cliffs and turquoise waters.
    • Go shopping in Fira– The shops here are much less expensive than Oia, but the views here of the ocean are equally as gorgeous! We came here for a quick gelato and window-shopping because the shops really cater to tourists- don’t come here expecting to find true Greek souvenirs.
  • Rent a catamaran for the day- I don’t remember the name of the service we used but I’m sure there are an abundance of great companies to go through! On our sailing trip around the island, we got to see beautiful Santorini from a whole new, breathtaking view, had an incredible homemade lunch of mussels, prawns, and greek salads, as well as got the opportunity to snorkel and swim in Santorini’s unbelievably blue waters. My boyfriend even went cave-diving through various underwater tunnels!
  • Walk and weave through Oia, take pictures of all its beautiful architecture, and make sure to watch the sun set on its famous stacked churches and cottages!

Gaia Winery

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View from the Highest Point of the Island

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Ladybugs at the top of the island

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Akrotiri Ruins

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Gelato in Fira

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View from the Catamaran

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 Tips:

  • If you’re looking to save money, travel during spring and fall. The weather is still warm and there are way less tourists!
  • Oia is known as Santorini’s most famous, picturesque town, so it comes as no surprise that it is also the most expensive to stay in! If you still want to be surrounded with the quintessential stacked houses, cliffs, and views, stay in Fira for a much lower price.
  • Think twice before riding the donkeys. I know this may be disappointing to hear, but I’ve heard from many, both tourists and locals, that they are overworked due to overwhelming tourist demand and commonly mistreated by their owners, given very little water and forced to carry extreme weight in high heat.
  • Prepare for wind! Even though Santorini can reach high temperatures during the day, the wind still comes around at night. Pack some light sweaters and pants to stay warm.
  • Plumbing and irrigation are not as strong and up-to-date in Santorini compared to most European cities, due to its location on steep cliffs. Make sure to only drink bottled water and don’t flush anything down the toilet besides toilet paper.

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