travel | a guide to santorini6.22.2016
i've just returned from an a-mazing week in santorini and i could totally cry about it. it's one of the few places that really lived up to expectations- from the famous views to the beautiful caldera it's a truly unique experience thanks to it's volcanic history. i wanted to share a few tips and a guide to some of the places you should visit if you're planning a trip to this little island..
we went for 7 nights as we wanted a relaxing beach holiday with plenty of options for excursions, however santorini is incredibly popular for shorter trips. many people visit for only 2-3 days as the island is small enough to explore in a short period of time. i don't tend to visit places more than once but i would definitely consider splitting a holiday between mykonos and santorini another year!
before we went we hired a car for the week (about £100 or so but check around online or hire when you're there!) i absolutely recommend you hire a quad/ATV or car it's gives you so much more freedom to pick and choose your itinerary. we didn't have any trouble with parking as we tended to visit popular places in the mornings/evenings and always found car parks within a 5/10 minute walk. if you don't want to rent transport there are plenty of buses and taxi's but just be warned in the peak season public transport is crammed and HOT!
i'm planning to write up a post about my favourite things to do in santorini so today i'll give you an overview of the places.
denim pinafore | topshop
bardot top | stradivarius
reclaimed bag | asos
oia (pronounced ee-ah) is truly a gorgeous place, from the maze of winding streets to the famous sunsets you absolutely have to explore this gem. if you're hunting for a few knockout instagram snaps this is the place to come! the shopping is more varied and there are plenty of places to stop and eat whilst drinking up the incredible views.
many people stay in oia, there are oodles of hotels and apartments but bear in mind that oia gets incredibly busy in peak season (july-august) the alleys are quaint and small but around lunchtime you'll find yourself battling an influx of coach tours and tourists! we visited early morning which was a perfect time to enjoy the views and skip the traffic. i'd also recommend visiting in the evening to see the legendary sunset from the viewing platform (just be aware everyone else is planning to do the same) go early, grab a few drinks and enjoy the show.
imerovigli is a knockout, it's also very quiet compared to oia and fira. we visited in the evenings to watch the sunset and couldn't believe how few people we met- everyone was just chilling in their suites. imerovigli is a total honeymooner spot, an oasis of luxury hotels nestled into the cliff with endless infinity pools jutting into the horizon. if you're looking for a relaxing place to stay this is the one for you, the views are as beautiful (if not better) than oia and fira in my opinion. walk down the cliff between the hotels and you'll find the occasional bar or restaurant scattered around- we had some cracking cocktails overlooking the caldera views, a perfect evening spot to unwind.
stripe cami | topshop
denim skirt | topshop
embroidered bag | asos
flatform sandals | office
fira is the capital and also heart of santorini nightlife, the winding streets are full of tourist shops so it feels less 'authentic' in the daytime but it's still worth a visit! fira is an easy place to grab a coffee or lunch and the views are still pretty damn special! if you want to bust a few moves then head to fira in the evening to sample the bars and late night atmosphere..
as we were in santorini for a week we absolutely wanted 'down time' which basically means the beach! perissa is one of the main tourist beaches so i didn't expect much (but it was in fact my fave!) the atmosphere was really relaxed and we never struggled to find a lounger even when we rolled up late. we hung out at the imaginatively named 'beach bar' where loungers were totally free and we indulged in many a cocktail (about €10 each) in the sun.
the black volancic sandy beach was pretty cool, but it gets amazingly hot as it absorbs the heat (bring flip flops!) there are plenty of good places to eat and drink along this stretch and the blue flag water is lovely for swimming.
perivolos beach is basically an extension of perissa beach further along the coast but this stretch is a little quieter. like perissa there are plenty of loungers and it's a managed beach so you'll find restaurants and places to sit.
another popular beach that has quite a lively atmosphere at night, like fira this location has a lot of tourist shops so skip it if you want a quieter experience!
i was excited about kouloumbo beach as a lot of the locals swim there but i wasn't really bowled over. there's only one main bar (€15 for a smoothie- yes not even any booze involved!) and the loungers there were flimsy and not in great condition. the beach itself is quite nice and it's close enough to oia to make it an easy pitstop between sightseeing but the atmosphere was lacking for me.
also- around that cliff this beach gets a little nude so if you go for a walk be aware there's a few extra sights to take in (took a lot of willpower not to snapchat that discovery!)
the red beach is pretty wicked, it's not visible until you climb up a path and then you turn a corner and it's like you've walked onto mars! the amazing coloured cliffs are unlike any other on the island and well worth a visit. i found the short cliff walk manageable in flip flops (trainers would have been better as it's a little rocky at points) and theres a car park nearby if you drive there. you can also grab a boat to the red beach if you don't want to walk it.
as for the beach there wasn't many places with shade so if you're planning a full day there bring all the sun lotion and beach towels (loungers were practically non existent.) we went for a few hours before midday which was the perfect time to enjoy the beach and miss the main influx of visitors. amenities are limited to a few mobile snack vans so i was happy to swim for a few hours before moving on.
ps. next door to the red beach is the white beach- you can jump on a little boat to visit it whilst you're there too!
santorini really is a snazzy little island but on the whole quite a rustic place- it's not just the glamorous sea views you see on instagram. i think what surprised me most was the contrast between the tiny cliff villages and the rest of the island. the people are genuinely lovely so it's worth driving through the smaller villages to get a real feel for the place. i loved splitting my days between exploring and sunbathing- a perfect balance of culture and sun worshipping!
it's also possible to visit without spending a fortune, james and i don't tend to organise holidays in advance but santorini flights can be crazy expensive last minute! this time round we booked our flights for only £80 return about 5 months in advance with norwegian air saving hundreds. airbnb is a great place to find accommodation (with the option of cooking for yourself) we also found the majority of eateries had reasonable prices when we did dine out.
one thing i can't resist mentioning- the airport is bonkers, totally nuts! we arrived to find people queuing all the way outside, so prepare yourself for one last greek experience (amazingly they do seem to get everyone onto their flights on time so just sit back and enjoy the chaos..)