How many times have you found out to your dismay that tourist promotional photos are a big fat lie? The sky and ocean are not as blue, the flora not as lush and the city-scapes not as jazzy as they seemed in photos, all done up with Photoshop experts. If you are already grumbling inside of your own worse experiences, let Santorini silence you. Here’ the complete guide to Santorini Greece that will take your breath away.
Let it stun you, once for real, by its pristine bridal white nestled amidst the endless azure expanse of the South-east Aegean sea. S-A-N-T-O-R-I-N-I. If it lilts your heart, you will find yourself absolutely, helplessly in love with the tiny island group (total 5) with the main island named Thira, which you can say, the land of many superlatives…the MOST photographed, the MOST romantic, the BEST sunset and so on.
Colors of Santorini
“Bioclimatic” reasons have led the people of these Cycladic islands to paint their houses white. Alternative folklore says, it goes back to the time of the Ottoman occupation. Greeks were forbidden to fly their (blue and white) flag, so as an act of defiance they painted their houses blue and white.
Pink Bougainvillea bushes make a sharp and striking contrast with the white and blue backdrop and makes the bridal bouquet complete. The sun turns red twice a day, and paints the white countryside a rose-gold, white Catamaran cruises dot the calm blue sea and leave endless frothy trails. The narrow winding alleyways in the village of Oia houses some of the best exotic restaurants where one can sip a Greek frappe and just moon away. The churches with blue domes against the breathtaking background makes you extremely interested in photography. Quaint little stores selling handicraft trinkets and memoirs, you can easily see, Santorini people are peace-loving extremely warm and surprisingly English seemed not at all a problem in communication.
Santorini: Five absolute budget hacks
Getting down to business of trip-planning, Santorini is a 2-3 day detour from Athens if you are planning a Greek holiday. Once you are settled in the beautiful natural beauty your mind again will become restless for something more, especially if you are a city person like me. Santorini has one main town Fira and two small adjoining villages: Oia and Imerovigli all in a length of 18Km and breadth of 12 Km. It has a single airport located in Thira about 5Km from Fira, the main town.
Fly from Athens by Aegean airlines or Ryan Air round-trip will come as cheap as €70.
Stay in Fira. It is 7 minutes from airport. There is regular bus service at 1.8 Euro from the airport to Fira bus stop. There are many good BnBs available in AirBnB or equivalent sites. Santorini Rooms/Camping grounds for example has Double rooms (Max 2 guests) with everything you need at just €40 per night.
If you want to taste ultimate luxury even for a day, then spend one night at Canaves Oia Suites. Though the pocket pinch here for me was a bit high, but the experience made up for it!
Rent a bike. Tourists with international car/two-wheeler driving license can rent a bike, maximum €40 for 2 days. The bike rides can get extremely enjoyable, with absolute freedom to go anywhere within the island. I and my husband explored the entire island, end-to-end stopping at each picturesque corner for a snap and never had to wait for transport! Take a bus in absence of driving license. Bus service is pretty regular and cheap and comfortable as well.
Indulge in local food and groceries. There are Carrefour and other departmental chains from where one can get fresh fruits, juices, milk (Never miss the “Milko” chocolate milk cans, life savers), cereals for breakfast. MacD and other standard price stores are value for money everywhere. In Fira town center there are some local deli (try, Lucky Souvlaki and Poldo eateries) which sell great pizzas, souvlaki (Meat sticks), gyros (meat-wraps), Greek salad, falafel on average price of € 6-7, one square meal. Buy water in 6-packs for €2 at the grocery stores. Explore the local bakeries for sumptuous and cheap dessert options.
Travel light. Take one back-pack per person, or one cabin-size trolley to avoid extra luggage charges o the inter-city cheap flights all across Europe.
Santorini climate all round the year
With almost 300 sunshiny days a year, Santorini weather is extremely tourist friendly. I visited Santorini around the mid of September this year and the azure-sky, slightly salty breeze of the beaches and the amazing sunrise and sunsets made my day.
Anyways, best time for the beaches is from mid May until the end of September, with average 26- 30 degrees. March/April/May are the best months however when the island is at its greenest best and weather is perfect for long hikes and island exploration. In January there are typically 3 weeks of halcyon summer with temperatures of 16, sometimes even 20 C. The winter can be windy and rainy.
Things to do
Oia is a quaint boutique hamlet, probably the prettiest place I have ever seen in my life. Churches with blue domes, whitewashed cave houses, small cafes, restaurants and shops, and stunning views of the caldera and the sunset.
Caldera by boat. The boat trip is the best way to discover the 5 Santorini islands. Swim at the hot springs at Palea Kameni, stopover at Volcano and tourist-untouched Thirassia island are usually part of the program. 20 -30 euro/person depending on the duration.
Prehistoric museum is the best way to discover the ancient past. Price: 3 Euro; Open daily (except Mondays)
Ancient Thira is a former capital of the island situated on the hill overlooking Kamari and Perissa. Open daily until 2.30pm (except Mondays). Price: 3 Euro.
Donkey ride from Fira down to the old port is a must, especially if you came just for a day with a cruise ship. 5 euro is the cost for the ride and it takes 588 steps downhill.
Pyrgos village is a small neighborhood locale with local products and men riding on donkeys peacefully without any care, with people enjoying Greek coffee in local cheap cafes. The laid back and relaxing feel of the place will soothe your mind and reflect the authentic rural Greek life. Faros is the lighthouse at the southern end of the island with great views of the Aegean sea.
Local art. Starting from Oia to many of the small villages you will find local potteries and handicrafts, all inspired by the heavenly landscape and suffused with love from nature.
Black and red sand beaches all over the island are great for summer escapades. Visit Kartherados or Pori along the north-east coast. Nice beaches on the south-east coast are Messapigadia or Capitan Markos. Watch out for the famous beach parties in Perissa if you happen to visit in August. The beach life is absolutely gorgeous, with the sun giving you that blush tan and recliners for the whole day at 7 euros only! Order drink from beach cafes and enjoy leisurely mid-days reading and enjoying the priceless view.
Cassablanca is the local night life destination with world famous DJs playing live. Both locals and foreigners enjoy together with drinks starting from 8 euros!
Santorini Quick Facts
Island group and the capital: Cyclades; Fira town
Islands: Thira, Volcano, Thirassia, Nea Kameni and Palia Kameni
Country Code: 30 (Greece), Santorini: 22860
Time Zone: GMT + 2
Central Post Offices: ELTA, main post offices in Fira (tel.: 2286022238), Oia and Kamari,
Health Center (Fira) tel.: 2286360300-4
Santorini has always been in many travelers’ dream. And Sreerupa’s comprehensive guide has just made us closer to our dreams. As I was reading her beautiful descriptions, I can totally imagine myself standing on top of the island, overlooking the vast ocean and the clear blue sky. Have you been to Santorini before and have beautiful moments to share? Tell us by commenting below!
If you want to find out more about Sreerupa and her amazing stories, check out her biography here. She never fails to amaze you.