Our last and final destination in our Greek island hopping adventure was Santorini. We wanted to save the creme de la creme of the islands for the very end which is why we planned to visit Santorini last. When Anush and I first started our trip at Mykonos, we were in love with the place and couldn’t possibly think of how any other place could top it off! Then came Paros, wow a totally different experience and still managed to take our hearts and breaths away. Santorini was also just as beautiful and was the perfect end to our dreamy vacay. Looking back on the adventure I am so glad we chose these three Cycladic islands; over 10 days we spent 3 days per island and got such diverse experiences in each of them.
How to get to Santorini ?
Check out my tips for island hopping in the Cyclades using ferries in my Mykonos travel guide here.
Santorini was the very reason that Greece was on my bucket list from forever ago! Infact I was telling Anush that probably the very first pin I pinned was of the blue domes in Oia and I always grew up wanting to visit this super magical place. When we were taking the ferry over from Paros to Santorini, the minute we started approaching the island of Santorini where we could recognize the minuscular whitewashed houses perched on top of the cliffs, I had goosebumps with all the excitement that we were actually there! Everything they say about Santorini is true , it is as magical and breathtaking as you would expect and more! Its a destination so unreal that you have to experience it atleast once in your lifetime to feel the pure magic.
Santorini is truly special, and is certainly one of the most beautiful places Anush and I have ever seen in our lives! We travel so often, but there are very few places that we both agree that we would visit back in an instant (given that the world is so diverse and we want to see it all haha!). From the very moment we dragged our suitcases onto the glistening marble roads when we were checking in both we both looked at each other in sheer disbelief of the beauty of this place and were certain that we would 1000% return to Santorini real soon. It was just SO. UNREAL.
Where to stay?
There are many options to stay in Santorini. Most people stay in one of the four major towns – Fira, Oia, Imerovigli, and Firostafani that are all located on the Santorini cliff. All these towns have amazing views of the caldera, volcano, and sunset. All towns also have tons of luxury hotels and airbnbs to choose from.
When we were planning our trip, I had my heart set on Oia, even though I had heard about the crazy crowds especially when there is a cruise ship around. Still though, it is undoubtedly the prettiest village in all of Santorini. If you have seen photos from Santorini, they are probably from the famous village of Oia – the blue domes, the Oia castle sunsets, etc everything is right in this dreamy little village. We lucked out with this supercute and affordable airbnb (cheaper in May as high season hadn’t started yet!) which was located right in the heart of Oia and had the most incredible view of the ocean and caldera.
The place itself was very tiny, but super romantic and dreamy! It didn’t have a pool, but that didnt seem to bother Anush and me as we were out and about exploring for the most part. All in all we just absolutely loved being right in the hustle and bustle of the village, while still having a quiet escape for ourselves to retreat to. Being right in Oia, we loved that we could explore the town whenever we wanted at our own leisure.
How to get around ?
Since we stayed in Oia and only wanted to explore this area over the 3 days we were here we didn’t rent a car or bike. Oia itself is a pedestrian only village so you will be all set with walking around everywhere. If you plan to go to Fira, Imerovigli etc there are lots of taxis, bikes to rent or local buses as options.
Just to note the airport and port are a good 20 and 45 minutes respectively away from the village of Oia. Most hotels and airbnbs do offer transfers so its a good thing to check with them. Especially when you get to Oia, your accommodation may be below a few flights/levels of stairs (since everything in the village cliffside is built in levels), so a porter service is definitely very useful in that case.
What to do in Oia?
Since we were only in Oia for our time in Santorini, I will only cover my recommendations on things to do in Oia only :
1 ) Visit the Oia Castle for sunset :
As much as you hear about how crowded this place is and how early you have to go to secure a good spot to view the sunset from here (atleast 1 hour in advance), take my word for it and just GO! I mean you are in one of the most gorgeous places in the world – no visit to Oia is complete without witnessing its magnificent sunset. Its so totally worth it. There’s a reason why Oia sunsets are known to be one of the most beautiful sunset in the world, its just simply stunning! The whole experience was so amazing; I have never witnessed a sunset that so many people have gathered for. Everyone was applauding and cheering as the sun went down. The energy was infectious and incredible with good vibes all around. See more about our Oia Sunset experience in this blog post here.
2 ) Walk the streets of Oia :
We probably walked up and down the streets of Oia over 10 times but still never seemed to get bored of it. The main marbled pathway called Nikolaou Nomikou is so charming with all its cafes, boutiques and little alleyways. Explore the alleys and you’ll be treated with views for days at every turn and corner.
My tips for exploring the streets of Oia is “the early bird catches the worm”! As beautiful as this lil village is , the crazy tourist crowds make it easy to miss some of its charming details. Anush and I loved exploring the place in the wee hours of the morning (we started exploring at the break of dawn!) when we literally had all the streets to ourselves ! The only other company we had were all the cute stray cats and dogs in town haha. Everything was so much more quaint and enjoyable with no crowds around. Early morning also makes for the best photo opps ;).
3 ) Blue domes of Oia :
The blue domes of Oia are a must visit ! When I think of Santorini, it is literally the sight that comes to my mind. The postcard worthy trio blue domes of Oia have become world famous and so synonymous with Santorini.
I was worried we won’t find these as they are behind an alley to get a good view of it. But you’ll definitely know while exploring where they are as everyone wants a shot here so just follow the crowds ;). But in any case, here are the GPS coordinates to the place : Lat 36.461245, Long 25.375832. (From the other side : 36.461465 Longitude: 25.375176).
4 ) Hike down to Ammoudi Bay :
We absolutely loved walking down to Ammoudi Bay. This picturesque bay is located 300 steps below Oia and has incredible views of the caldera in front , majestic red cliffs and the whitewashed village of Oia on top. It also has a couple of fish tavernas by the water that all serve the most fresh and delish seafood on the island.
One word of advice – please please don’t ride the sweet donkeys up or down the steps, unless you are handicapped/physically cant climb the stairs. They are so so adorable and it broke my heart to see that looked so overworked 🙁 ! I loved petting them and spending a few minutes with them, but would never have opted to ride on them.
The hike down offers amazing views and the hike up offers a great workout to work off all that seafood you just ate haha ;)! If you love cliff diving, don’t miss the spot famous for cliff diving a short walk from the main bay in Ammoudi (follow the pathway on the left of the bay if you are facing the bay).
5 ) Oia to Fira Hike :
If you have the time, try the cliffside hike for Oia to Fira. It takes a good 3-4 hours but I have heard its relatively flat + easy and the views are all around breathtaking.
6 ) Sunset or Day Sailing Across the Caldera :
We didn’t have the time to do this and next time we certainly wont miss out on this. Being out on the water during the day or at sunset gives you a whole other perspective to beautiful Santorini. Most tours start from Ammoudi Bay and visit the volcano(caldera), the hot springs, the lighthouse, the Indian Rock, the beaches and much more. The sunset cruises with dinner are also a great romantic option for the evening.
Fave eats in Oia :
Since Oia is such a tourist hub, it is filled with tons of cafes and restaurants. And unfortunately there are also tons of sub-par restaurants that cater to mass tourists claiming to serve authentic Greek food. So for a place like this it definitely helps to do some research before, so that you don’t have a sour taste in your mouth (literally!). Also most mid range to fancy places do need dinner reservations in advance, especially if you plan to go after watching the sunset. Literally the whole island is in Oia for sunset , so you can imagine how many hungry souls will be trying to cram into every single restaurant that is open post sunset. We did the smart thing of having early dinners on most days (pre sunset) so that we could head straight back to our room after sunset, after some gelato of course!
1 ) Melitini Greek Tapas – Listing this out first as it was handsdown our fave meal in Santorini and probably from our entire trip to Greece! The food is all meze style so you get to try out different things. Everything we ordered was lip smacking delicious – so so yummy.
2 ) Lotza cafe – Known for the best baklava on the island. Super yumm – worth every calorie!
3 ) Ambrosia – One of the best fine dining places in Oia; perfect for a special date night. Reservations highly recommended.
4 ) Bakery Passaris – We came here for breakfast everyday, as it was right above our airbnb. The kitchen itself was right outside our airbnb entrance so the aromas of the baked goods from the kitchen was the best wake up call ! Totally unassuming place, but absolutely amazing for Greek coffee and Greek baked goods (like spanakopitas, greek cakes, etc).
5 ) Sunset ammoudi taverna – There are 4 tavernas at Ammoudi Bay, you really cant go wrong with either of them. All the seafood is super fresh and finger licking good. Oh and the views are beyond gorgeous.
6) Thalami – Grabbed dinner here on one of the nights and we loved the pasta here.
7 ) Pito Gyros – Fave cheap eat and the best gyros we have ever had! Theres a reason this place has such incredible reviews and it totally lived up to the hype.
8 ) Hungry Donkey – Love the coffee and smoothies here.
9 ) Lolitas gelato – Staying true to the tradition of gelato everyday of the trip! This place is a local and tourist fave in Oia.