Santorini is one of my favorite places in the world! Not a destination to be missed in this life time! Its beauty is unrivaled and uniqueness won’t be forgotten.
Santorini is a unique beach experience as … well…beaches are actually few and far between. The town of Santorini is built into the cliffs of the island high above the water which creates stunning views of the Aegean sea. However, there are a few beautiful, unique beaches (more on this to come)!
We actually stayed in Oia but Fira is only about a 10 minute drive (or beautiful hike, more on this later!) so I would recommend checking out both for your perfect location. Oia has a pedestrian walkway lined with boutiques. It’s nice to get lost among them in the side alleys that lead to some amazing views or a quaint church.
We stayed at the Andronis Luxury Hotel as it was off-season and a splurge for our engagement and my 30th birthday. To our surprise we were upgraded to a suite (score!) and it made for an AMAZING stay. The service was impeccable!
Do check with your hotel to see if they have a complimentary airport transfer. They also may organize your car/motorbike rental if you choose to go that route. We did not since we only had 3 days but our friends who spent a week rented a smartcar and thought it was worth it to be able to drive all around the island.
We didn’t spend a lot of time in Fira but we did do a hike from Fira to Oia. It’s about 12kms but rather flat with a few occasional hills and in one small section there’s some loose rocks so I would recommend wearing tennis shoes (though I did see some women attempting it in flip flops but they looked miserable). The hike had some amazing views and the online blogs I read recommended going from Fira to Oia but I think views from either direction would be spectacular. Then you can catch a cab or the local bus back to your starting point.
For meals, we really liked Restaurant Ambrosia in Oia. We thought the food and views were amazing but the views do not face the sunset. You still can see the colorful sky though from this vantage point and we thought it was still very nice. If you go, request the table on the top level in the corner for the views. That’s where we sat and we didn’t have people in any of our pictures.
If you want to have dinner and see the sunset on the most western point of the Santorini, then you can try Ochre Bistro. There, you can see the sun dipping into the ocean but I’d give the food an 8 out of 10…good but not spectacular. It might have suffered by comparison a little as we ate at Ochre Bistro the night after Ambrosia where the food was amazing. I found it helpful to ask them for the best seat for the view when making the reservation because some seats did seem to be better than others.
For some traditional Greek foods, check out my blog post on Athens.
“The castle,” which is at the end of the pedestrian road in Oia is a famous spot for watching the sunset. It gets packed! I would go early (as in several hours earlier than sunset)! Take a bottle of wine and make late dinner reservations if this is of interest to you.
Our best experience with the sunset was actually taking a half day catamaran tour of the island. They offer a morning cruise or an evening cruise which ends on the Oia point watching the sunset and includes a “home” cooked Greek meal which was really nice. The tour is operated by a couple who recently got into the business. The wife cooks and the husband is the captain of the boat. The price included food (we were impressed) and drinks and was about 5 hours long. They also pick you up at your hotel (or close to the hotel) and drop you back off so you don’t have to worry about transportation.
One thing we learned from the catamaran cruise was that White Rock beach can’t be reached by car, only boat and it was nice to see from the water. Red Rock beach was beautiful and can be reached by car but there are not any umbrellas for shelter from the sun or restaurants, not to mention restrooms. It’s pretty remote. As I’m no sun goddess, I would have fried at Red Rock and am glad we opted to see it from the catamaran instead of going to the beach. The tour also includes a stop for a swim in the hot springs of a volcano.
We had planned to go to the open air cinema at cine Kamari but never actually made it. It’s an option but it’s on the opposite side of the island from Oia.
In Fira, you can take a donkey down to the water or there is a cable car as well. I had mixed feelings about the donkey experience and will let everyone decide for themselves if it’s for you. I’m not certain the donkey’s are very well taken care of.
Additional Recommendations made to us:
“The Red Bicycle in Oia. It was good – lovely setting/views, but wouldn’t consider it a must eat. If you do go for lunch and/or dinner, the Santorini Salad was really tasty!”
We had heard from more than a few people that we should have checked out the local wineries in Santorini. The vineyards are very unique to Europe. Look into Megalochori village.
Santorini was the perfect mix of adventure, luxury and relaxation which has certainly left a lasting impression on us. I hope everyone who goes enjoys it as much as we did!