This iconic greek island will mesmerize you with all it has to offer. The island took shape from a volcanic eruption in the 16th century BC. White and blue houses through Fira and Oia make you feel as if you are in a dream land staring across the ocean into oblivion. Known for some of the world’s best sunsets and iconic locations, Santorini is a top destination for a romantic getaway.
Top 5 Things To Do
- Horseback riding: I’ve done horseback riding many places, but if you are going to find a place to do it that is perfect, it’s here. Take a horse down to the beach at sunset and it’s a ride that you will never forget.
- Drive an ATV around the island: The best way to get around this island is on ATV. I wish we would have thought of it sooner. You get the chance to see more views of the island this way and you will fall in love with the accessibility of this island on ATV.
- Wine tasting: Santorini has a lot of unique wines that they only make on the island. Book a wine tour or just stop by a couple of wineries and learn why wine making is so different on this Greek island.
- Sunset dinner in Oia: The must do for everyone visiting Santorini is to watch the sunset. Crowds of people from all walks of life come to see the sun go down on Oia. Book a reservation at a restaurant and enjoy a glass of wine as you watch the day come to an end.
- Red sand beach: Plan a day trip to visit this beautiful beach. The sand is remarkable to see and it’s a wonderful view to take in as something different on the island.
- Volcano View Hotel
- Pelican Kipos Restaurant
- Santo Winery
- Kastro Oia Restaurant
Flight: We decided on an early flight out of Athens for Santorini and we would probably advice against this to anyone. There are only busses and taxis at 3:30 in the morning and it’s about a half hour – 45 minute drive to the airport to catch a 7am flight. We went with Ryan air, which you pay extra for every detail of your trip. I’m surprised that they didn’t charge us per minute for the air we were breathing on the flight. For a 30 minute flight, it was a very quick up and down.
Volcano View Hotel: We got into Santorini around 9am and we were staying at the Volcano View Hotel. This hotel was way above our expectations with service and the view you get is unreal. First off the receptionists were exceptional and acted on everything we asked extremely quick and friendly. We were able to check into our room right when we got there and it was a terrific view of the ocean. There are so many hotels that are amazing on the island so it’s hard to go wrong with a hotel. This was a little bit outside Fira so we didn’t have to deal with some of the craziness of being inside the city.
The first thing we did was take off for breakfast using the hotel shuttle…the shuttles on the other hand can be very difficult to navigate. We spent too much time trying to find a shuttle on the way back that I would not recommend using a shuttle service.
Pelican Kipos Restaurant: As we got downtown Fira we went to a neat little restaurant that served some wonderful breakfast and it also had a wine cellar below. I ordered the traditional Greek breakfast, while my partner decided on the American breakfast. Both were delicious and the setting is fantastic. The seating is set within their garden area and it’s a quaint dining experience that seems to be very popular with the locals.
Fira: We walked through Fira and enjoyed the little shops along the way with the expected white and blue all around us. These shops were similar to Athens, just a bit shinier with a little pricier items being that it was on the island. We took many photos of the area and moved on to having a beer and smoothie at a local cafe while we waited for our shuttle. As we got to the shuttle spot, we quickly found that there were close to 20 buses around the area and many looked very similar to the shuttle we took. Sad to say that we did not find our shuttle. As we walked the streets in the heat, we then tried to get a taxi back to our hotel…again no luck…so we decided to hoof it. We walked the 2 miles back to the hotel and thankfully we had a wonderful view the whole walk. We decided for the rest of the visit we were going to re-think our means of transportation.
Santo Winery: They had some good wines for a fairly new place. We did a tasting and of course took some stereotypical pictures of us with the view and wine glasses in hand. The tasting was interesting, because it was different than a normal tasting. You choose the wines and they bring them to your table and give you a menu for explanation. I will be the first to say that I usually prefer the traditional approach to wine tasting with a pour, explanation of what you were drinking and the chit chat with the person doing the pour. We would still recommend the stop though as it did have some good wines and it’s interesting to see how these vines grow on the island.
*Oia: We took our shuttle to the town of Oia for the stunning views and sunset that is so widely known. As we walked through the city, there were so many picturesque views and I think everyone around us had become a professional photographer. People stopping every second to get that stunning shot of the city. This city is an instagram influencer haven. I’m sure many of you have seen the millions of photos of people in Oia, especially at sunset. It’s an iconic city and I would recommend spending a full day here. We had only a couple of days on the island so there wasn’t the time to fully explore this beautiful city.
Kastro Oia Restaurant: We ate at a restaurant that was known for their sunsets. The food was beautiful and we enjoyed the tuna tartare, octopus and several other dishes. The view of fantastic from here for the sunset. It feels like everyone in the city (or island for that matter!) gather to view the sun as it goes down for the day. So many people inching forward to get that best view and photo opportunity. It was interesting just to watch the people! Of course you have to do this while you’re at Santorini, but once is enough from this area as the crowds can be a bit much at this time.
- Akrotiri Archaeological Site
- Red Beach
- Kamara Beach
- Santorini Brewery
- Experience Horse Riding
- Volcano View Hotel
We woke up to a fantastic breakfast at our hotel with an amazing view of the volcano. We were geared up and ready to embrace the day! We decided today we would do it different, we went across the street and rented an ATV…and we were so glad we did! Interesting fact, since January, the law requires you to have a international drivers license to drive an ATV on the road…I was told that it’s different if I had experience with ATV’s and you were careful not to get stopped by the police! I’ve heard that this is a bit lenient depending on the company you choose. If you get turned down at one company, try another one. There will be a company to rent from and it’s much easier to travel on the island by ATV. Luckily I grew up driving ATV’s my entire life and of course I also told her I wouldn’t get stopped! After some brief instructions we took the four wheeler out to our first stop, the archeological site near the red beach.
Akrotiri Archaeological Site: When we first got to the parking lot, you couldn’t really distinguish where the site was as the lot is across from the gate. As you walk up the pathway to this somewhat lost ancient civilization, you find that this is actually a current site that they are still excavating. The site is underneath a building, I’m assuming to keep it from the elements….I’m sure it would not be a good feeling to come back after uncovering something to find that it was covered again! I would recommend taking a tour around the site, we didn’t and the signing around the site doesn’t help your imagination much. The level of plumbing, art, food preservation and more is just unreal to think about with such early civilizations.
*Red Beach: Next stop was the red beach, we stopped at the food truck right before heading out onto the path to get a couple of beers and an extremely large water! A massive water will only run you around $1 euro here which is nice. It can look a little touristy at the start of the walk. Locals playing music, selling fruit and trying to sell you memorabilia as you walk by. What a view from the beginning though! Briefly into your walk you see the horizon with the red beach beautifully placed into the middle. The rocks can be a little steep as you walk along so be careful. We saw a couple try to walk off another way and it almost didn’t end well for the guy! When you get to the beach you see a door actually built into the cliff. These doors are actually storage centers for fisherman. They will store nets and even small boats within. It’s pretty neat to see doors set within this beautiful cliff side. We sat on the beach and enjoyed the sunny day as people strolled back and forth. The red sand isn’t really red sand at all, it’s small red pebbles so it’s best to have a beach towel under you. I jumped into the ocean here…very cold at first, but it quickly becomes welcoming to your body. Not sure if everyone gets past this initial stage though…not a lot of people swimming! This is a beautiful beach and it’s literally less than a mile down the road from the archeological site so I would highly recommend stopping.
As we left the beach, we headed down the road to our next stop, Kamara beach (which was across the island). We stopped and got gas, which is convenient to have someone there to fill up your ATV for you. It actually made me question why we don’t do this anymore in the US…are we that busy that we can’t supply this small service?? We drove up and down some very windy turns on the way to the beach. I kept looking off at the beautiful view and my partner was always quick to remind me to keep my eyes on the road.
Kamara Beach: When we made it down to this beach, we parked along a street that we were unsure of parking on so we were a bit nervous to stay too long at the beach. I will say that this beach is very different than the red beach. Lots of people, cabanas everywhere with people sunbathing and well…black sand instead of red. It was nice but it made us happy that we spent more time at the red sand beach.
As we walked back to our ATV we found a local Gyro place and realized that we actually hadn’t had a gyro the whole trip. You rarely see gyros on sit down restaurant menus, it’s basically a street food in Greece. Now we both loved the taste, but it’s interesting that in America this is one of the largest Greek items to eat. We worked our way back and decided that we had to stop at the one brewery on the island for a flight of beers.
Santorini Brewery: We stopped into the Santorini brewery and you really get a small town brewery feel from the place. It’s interesting to find out that they could give small samples, but weren’t able to sell you alcohol to consume in the bar. You would actually have to purchase the beer and then drink it outside as it’s ok to drink alcohol in public. Their beer was decent for a company that had not been brewing long. Hopefully they continue to experiment and make some solid beers in the near future.
Experience Horse Riding: We look the ATV’s back to the hotel and got ready for our next excursion which was horseback riding to the beach. The journey started with everyone grouping together at a small area in front of the pasture for the horses. We were lucky enough to get a Russian woman that had moved her years back and she was quick with a joke but firm with her views on how things should be run. We got started when everyone got to the stable and we learned a few basic moves to work with our horses. Once most of us felt comfortable, we were off on the trail. Some of the horses were quick to try and grab shrubbery whenever they had the opportunity. Some of the people in our group were challenged in riding a horse which could become comical at times, but our Russian guide was fantastic and always made sure that people were as safe as they could be.
We finalized our first leg of the trip with pictures on the beach. When we got to the beach, the first thing we noticed was that a couple quickly found out that this was not the nude beach they were looking for! As our group scurried to the beach, the couple scurried to cover themselves up! As the sun went down, we took pictures on our horses with the sunset in the background and we made our way back to the stable. On the way back there were other pictures at a couple of places but the sun was going down and our excursion was coming to a close. At the stable, we had a quick celebration of the ride with everyone taking shots of ouzo. Our guide came and we said our goodbyes and thanked our Russian guide for the great time.
Volcano View Hotel: The wind really picked up outside and a chill set in around the hotel. When we arrived we came upon Greek night at the hotel. We decided to pay the admission and enjoy the traditional Greek festivities. The night started with some beautiful music from a local band. It got windier and we needed to warm up a bit with some more wine! The food was good, nothing that blew us away but enjoyable. There were dances throughout the night and it culminated with breaking plates. Come to think of it, I don’t honestly remember if they told us on why plates were broken but this did not stop us from taking several plates and smashing them on the ground with others. There are a lot of explanations as to why the Greeks break plates. Anything from commorating the dead to saying that they have an abundance of plates, so why not break them? As they cleaned the plates from the ground, we decided it was a great final night in Santorini, but we both agreed that we should have spent a week here!
Airport: The next day we made our way to the airport with ease. The hotel was wonderful and not only did they get us to the airport for a very early flight, the front desk was nice enough to make us a meal to take with us as we would not make breakfast that day at the hotel. The airport was extremely congested with people trying to push their way to the front of the line to get to their flights. We had checked in previously and did not have to deal with the craziness. As we got a drink from the cafe and ate our hotel sack lunches, we found a perfect spot outside facing the sun rising to finish our Santorini stay. We would definitely recommend Santorini and even though the island isn’t large, I would say to stay at least a week on this beautiful paradise…and rent a ATV from the beginning!
*Top people watching spot