A trip to Santorini is always a good idea. From the blue and white architecture, to the fresh seafood, to the beautiful pedestrian way and one of the greatest sunsets you'll ever see--this place has it all. We were so lucky to get the chance to travel to Santorini this Spring and it was better than we could have ever dreamed.
In this blog post I'm going to share with you some of our favorite things to do while in the area.
WHEN TO GO:
Even though all of the photos to Santorini look bright and sunny, you must know that Santorini shuts down in the winter time (between November to April). Unlike many tropical islands, Santorini gets relatively cold during these months and there is almost no tourism on the island. On the bright side, prices may be a little cheaper, but at the same time everything will be closed. We chose to go about 1 week before tourist season officially began. This allowed us to still get very good weather, but the walkways weren't crowded with people yet. Some shops and restaurants were actually just starting to open back up for the season when we got there. In fact, we were the first customers this season at the Sunset Tavern (more on that later)!
WHERE TO STAY:
We made the decisions to stay in Oia instead of Thira (the capitol). Even though Thira might appear to have better hotel deals, it isn't the typical Santorini we see in all of the photos. It is a little more grungy than the picturesque Oia.
We spent all of our time in a cave hotel called White Pearl Villas. They have many different accommodation options to choose from and every single villa will come complete with a fantastic view. Ours had a jacuzzi inside that overlooked the Agean sea and it even had a hot tub on the roof. Every night we sat out there and watched the moon glisten over the sea.
One thing to know is that Santorini is NOT wheelchair friendly. There are many many steps and very few ramps or elevators on the entire island. This also means that you will be carrying your luggage from your taxi, down (potentially) many steps, to your hotel room. White Pearl was so nice to provide a burly gentleman to help us carry all of our luggage down all of the steps.
WHAT TO DO:
Sailing around Santorini was one of our greatest experiences. We took the Blue Lagoon tour with Santorini Sailing on a semi-private trip around the island. We got to tour around the famous caldera, which was created by a massive volcano (one of the largest in recent history!) which formed Santorini into the formation we know today. On the boat cruise, it is also included a "picnic". But don't let the name fool you... this is no picnic. This is a massive meal--one of the largest and best we had while in Santorini. They cooked fresh prawns and calamari on the grill, made a delicious Greek salad, roasted vegetables, wine from Santos winery on the island, and much much more!
A wine tour in Santorini is a great way to see much of the island if you haven't rented a car. And how can you turn down meeting new friends and sipping on some of the greatest wine in the world? Santorini is known primarily for its white wine and their unique way of growing the wine. It's not anything like you will find in France or California with grapes being grown on large vines in a row. Instead, the wind requires that the wine be grown in a circular fasion closer to the ground in a technique called koulara. I wish I could explain it to you, but you'll just have to see it for yourself.
If Santorini was known for only one thing, it would definitely be their sunsets. There are plenty of places all over the island to watch the sunset from, but it's most famous for a point on the tip of Santorini in Oia. There is an abanded stone structure that tourists flock to at sunset to watch from. It's a beautiful spot, but it was overflowing with people trying to watch from there when we were there. A little trick is that you can get just as good a view by walking down some of the paths on the side of the hill, away from the crowds. Or, your hotel/villa may very well have a private deck to watch from, which is even better.
Oia is such a small village and there is one primary walkway (called the "pedestrian way") that most of the shops are on. This pedestrian way will lead to almost all of the restaurants in the area and will basically end at the sunset point. Make sure that you take some of the sides streets to catch lots of the smaller stores off the beaten path.
We ended up renting 4-wheelers on a whim! We walked by a rental shop and decided to give it a try. Best decision ever! It was one of the greatest freeing feelings we have ever felt. We literally got the 4-wheeler and just started driving without any destination in mind.
If you like books, you'll love the quaint Atlantis Books! It's literally a hidden treasure! It's located right off of the pedestrian way down some steps. Be on the look out for it, or you might miss it. When you walk inside, you feel immersed in literature. You'll find books in English, Russian, Chinese, Greek, and many more.
WHERE TO EAT:
If you're looking to watch the Sunset while eating dinner, Sunset Ammoudi Taverna IS THE PLACE! It is the absolutely perfect view. All of the fish is fresh, literally caught that same day! We got the lobster pasta and I can't remember ever having better lobster in my life.
The Mezzo Cafe is a great place to stop for breakfast. Their breakfast platter comes with delicious fresh made bread along with Greek coffee and Greek yogurt with fruit. Make sure you get a spot closer to the ocean. The view is great!
If you're looking to satisfy that sweet tooth, Lolita's is the place! There is no better gelato in the world! These guys at Lolita's really know how to perfect it! It is the perfect snack for a stroll along the pedestrian way.
A lot of times, people think that dinner has to overlook the sea. Well, if you only choose dinner overlooking the sea, you might be overlooking some great dinner spots also! Candouni is located in a back alley behind the pedestrian way (If I could give you an address, I would. But Santorini does not have exact addresses. Ask any local for directions). When you're there, you feel like you've found a hidden gem. But keep an eye out, cause you might see some donkeys walking by in the alleyway.
Well, that about covers it! In short, if you ever get the chance to go to Santorini, DO IT. It was one of the most memorable trips I have ever been on!
If you have any specific questions about traveling to Santorini, feel free to leave them in a comment below! Never stop exploring!