Is there anywhere more magical in the world than Santorini? The whitewashed buildings with their bright blue roofs just scream to be photographed, and there’s a sense of relaxation that flows in with the soft caldera breeze. Just glance out over the rugged landscaped cliffs, and it feels like you can see the curvature of the earth. With its quaint towns, unforgettable sunsets, and black and red pebble beaches, this Aegean gem is a must for any Greece itinerary.
Santorini Planning Guide
- Where to stay: Hotel Mylos
- Flight details: Fly into Athens Eleftherios Venizelos (AIA), then take a plane or ferry to Santorini
- Time of year visited: Summer
- Time in Santorini: 3 days
- Greece itinerary:3 days in Santorini; 3 days in Athens; 3 days in Mykonos (1 week off of work!)
Save this map to use on your Santorini trip:
- Click the star to the right of the map title
- Open the Google Maps app on your smartphone
- Click on the three lines in the upper left corner and select “Your Places”
- Select “Maps” and the map will be saved there for you to use on your trip. Have fun!
The Towns in Santorini
The entire island of Santorini is dotted with quaint little towns, each boasting winding streets full of restaurants, shops, and local/tourist life. My favorite two towns and the ones you must see are Fira and Oia. There’s some friendly competition between the two for “best views”—the perfect excuse to spend time in both—let’s play along.
Located in the middle of the crescent of the island, the heart of Fira is vibrant and bustling, a definite contrast from the lazy lanes that lie outside the town. You’ll feel the beat and flow of energy through the maze of storefronts, as you catch knockout sea views between the buildings. When you’re ready for happy hour and some serious sea/sky-candy, duck into Cafe Classico and sit on the terrace for some truly spectacular views.
Oia, on the northern tip of the island, is another favorite for visitors, and boasts the same windy streets as Fira, but on a smaller scale. With a reputation as having the best sunsets in the world, you can imagine the crowds that come this way to catch a glimpse of the sun dipping into the ocean. I must say, it definitely lives up to the hype!
Honorable mention for Firostefani, which is where you should stay for its location between Fira and Oia. The best dinner I had in Santorini by far was at Vanilia Restaurant in Firastefani’s little town. You’ll barely be able to focus on the yummy dishes because your eyes will be glued to the view.
The best way to get from Fira to Oia is by renting a scooter or quad, which is very popular in all of the Greek isles. If you’re a first-timer, definitely get the quad, do you don’t have to worry about balance, and you’ll have a little room on the back for a bag or beach towels. There are tons of places on the outskirts of Fira that rent them, and you can always ask your hotel where they recommend. Note that most hotels will not have parking, but there are local lots just outside all of the towns.
The drive from Fira to Oia is pretty straight forward if you go the short way along Epar.Od. Firon-Ias. If you’re a little more adventurous and want to take the scenic route (that’s me!), drive one way along the east side of the island (Google Maps literally calls this “unnamed road”). The street isn’t very well lit at night, which means I saw the most amazing stars on the way back to Firostefani after watching the sunset in Oia. You will be able to see galaxies far, far away.
One beach, two beach, red beach, black beach—Santorini’s beaches have so many different colors of sand! It’s another bit of friendly competition between these two for which reigns supreme, so you’ll once again just have to see it all so you can weigh in.
A visit to both of these is absolutely necessary. You can easily spend the day or just a few hours at both, and if you’re really feeling saucy, you could hit up one in the morning and on in the afternoon. They are fairly close together, but, of course, there’s no direct route. However you choose to split your time, do not miss a lunch stop at Taverna Glaros, a little local spot with authentic Greek food, on your way to or from the red beach.
That quad you rented will come in handy since you’ll need to drive to both of these beaches from most hotels. Parking at both is pretty simple; just line your quad or scooter up with the others. Make sure you study the color and stickers on yours—they can all look pretty similar after a few hours in the sun.
The only way to get to the red beach is a short hike down a cliff, which looks much harder than it is. It’s definitely worth it, so don’t be intimidated!
Santorini is still an active volcano with the crater mostly buried under the sea. In the middle of the caldera is Nea Kameni, an island made of volcanic rock thats especially attractive for its therapeutic hot springs. Don’t miss the opportunity to get out on the water for a new perspective of Santorini, plus a hike on Nea Kameni and a dip in the hot springs. Many of these tours set sail from the Old Port via a pirate-like ship and include snacks, plus a sunset cruise if you go in the afternoon.
You can get down to the port via donkey (yes, donkey!) or via the cable cars. If you decide to take the donkeys, be kind to the donkey handler, or he’ll give you a stubborn ass! (This is actually true; I read many reviews stating that you will get a grumpy donkey if you aren’t nice to the donkey handler.)