This summer, I spent two weeks travelling around the Cyclades in Greece. All of the islands were equally beautiful, but Santorini was one of the highlights of my trip, with its winding cobbled streets, whitewashed houses and stunning views over the Aegean Sea. As with my other travel guides (read about Paris here and Hoi An here), I’ve suggested where to stay and eat on the island, along with some activities.
When I visited Santorini, we opted to stay near the beach in Perissa, as the accommodation tends to be cheaper there. However, the main tourist destinations are the towns of Fira and Oia, which both overlook the sea and are the ideal place to watch those breathtaking Santorini sunsets. It doesn’t actually matter which side of the island you choose to stay at, as both the towns and beaches are easily accessible by car or bus.
For anyone who is travelling on a budget, Anny Studios in Perissa is a great option. It’s very basic accommodation, but is located a few steps from the island’s largest black sand beach and is reasonably priced, with a double room, including a kitchenette, costing around €45 per night during peak season.
Another option in the Perissa area is the Petra Nera Hotel, suitable for anyone on a mid-range budget at €85 per night for a double room. Alternatively, San Giorgio Villas offer double rooms for €75 per night, located within the town of Fira.
If you are willing to splash out for luxury accommodation, it doesn’t get much better than Kirini Suites and Spa. Located along the caldera in Oia, all of the suites include a private veranda, so you can enjoy a breathtaking sea view from sunrise to sunset, at a cost of around €765 per night (for a junior suite) during peak season.
Both Fira and Oia are full of delicious restaurants and tavernas serving local Greek food, but the restaurants in Oia tend to be slightly more expensive and very busy. As we were travelling on a budget, we mainly ate at the reasonably priced Greek tavernas in Fira, such as Nikolas Taverna.
On the occasion that we ventured to Oia for dinner, we ate in Skala, overlooking the Aegean Sea. Another highly recommended restaurant is 1800, but be sure to book ahead, as the crowds that flock to Oia for sunset make it nearly impossible to get a table at any of the good restaurants for dinner. If you visit during the day, Lolita’s Gelato is the perfect place to cool down with an ice-cream.
Although I loved all of the restaurants we ate at in Santorini, by far my favourite place was the Palia Kameni cocktail bar. Rated as one of the top things to do in Fira on Tripadvisor, we were lucky enough to get a large table at the front of one of the bar’s three terraces – the ideal location from which to enjoy Santorini’s famous sunset, accompanied by a delicious cocktail.
If you’re looking for somewhere to relax in the sun, then head to Perissa, Santorini’s famous black sand beach. You can rent a sun lounger for around €8 per day (the further down the beach you go, the cheaper it is) or else eat in one of the seaside restaurant and get a free sun lounger for the day. There really is no way to avoid this cost, as the black sand is far too hot to lie on.
For those of you who prefer to do something more active than sunbathing on the beach, there are lots of great private boat tours to choose from, such as Santorini Sailing, which take you around the island by private catamaran to various bays for swimming and snorkelling. Another great way to spend an afternoon is tasting the local wines on a wine tour of the island with Santorini Wine and Adventure Tour.
Oia is the ideal spot to enjoy the spectacular Santorini sunset, although be prepared for crowds in the summer. Alternatively, book a restaurant or bar with a sunset view for a much more relaxed experience. Once the sun has gone down, both Fira and Oia come to life and all the shops stay open late, so late evening is the perfect time to explore the cobbled streets, lined with galleries, bookstores and boutique shops.
I hope this travel guide is helpful for anyone planning on making a trip to Santorini – it really is one of the most beautiful islands I’ve ever been to.