Santorini: what to see in the most romantic island of the Cyclades

If you have been following me for a while you know that I normally choose to go to places that are not too well known and touristic, and Santorini certainly does not fall into this category. In reality, my soul of an adventurer and backpacker traveler has dreamed of visiting this island for many years, perhaps staying in one of those dream hotels that you always see in the brochures of the Cyclades.

Ordunque, this year I decided to give myself a gift to make this dream come true and I booked my 4-day mini-vacation, alone, on themost famous and romantic island of the Cyclades.

When to go to Santorini

Compared to others islands of Greece, Santorini has a very long season which begins at Easter and ends in late November. Being very south, even in March / April and October / November the temperatures are absolutely pleasant and sunny days. Going there in May I hoped to find hardly anyone but I had to change my mind: the island is already full, especially with Americans, Japanese and French. In July and August it gets even more crowded and I think there are some traffic and parking problems (especially in Oia and Fira) because the roads on the island are quite narrow (not to mention the skyrocketing prices!). With these premises I can only advise you to come in April / May (in May it was already 28-30 degrees) or from September onwards.

Health insurance is recommended

Being in Europe, as Spanish citizens we have the right to health care, but there are specific conditions and ceilings. My advice is to still take a classic medical-luggage insurance that can cover you during the trip, even for Covid-19. I am very happy with many insurance companies, a site that compares the policies of different companies and proposes the most convenient policy for that particular trip. To do this you will have to enter the data relating to your trip and they will send you an email with the best proposal that you can then buy directly online (!!!). All travel insurances also cover medical assistance in the event of a coronavirus infection, including testing if necessary. There is also coverage for the extension of the stay in the hotel due to the quarantine. Likewise, the trip cancellation guarantee includes coverage for illness or death of the traveler or a family member due to COVID-19.

How to reach Santorini

Santorini can be reached with Easyjet direct flight  (2 and a half hours of flight, several times a week), or with a stopover in Athens. Tickets are not cheap and my advice is to buy them well in advance (I bought it in December for May and paid just under 100 euros).

If you have time, you can also reach it by ferry from the port of Piraeus near Athens or from the neighboring islands of the Cyclades (Naxos, etc.).

How to get around Santorini

Having chosen a fairly isolated accommodation, I had no choice but to rent a car, but I advise you to do it in any case, especially if you want to move even in the evening, because the island is hail (from one end of the island to the other it takes about 1 hour). For the rental I used the Rentalcars website and I saw that the rates on site, without booking it before, were much higher.

For 4 full days, with collection and delivery at the airport, I paid 80 euros, plus 60 euros for the KASCO. Alternatively many rent a quod or a moped (which can make sense, especially if you sleep in Oia, Fira or Imerovigi). Hotels are also able to provide you with a car and the cost (in May) was 50 euros per day.

If you don't want to drive, there are buses that serve all the main places on the island (but not the more isolated beaches such as the black beach, etc.).

Where to sleep in Santorini? The best areas

In hindsight, I couldn't have made a better choice !!

I was initially oriented on Oia (again for the brochures that show you these pools overlooking the sea) or Imerovigli (to see the sunset over the caldera), then luckily I discovered this structure a few kilometers above Pyrgos and I found my paradise.

The structure is called Enastron Suites and has only 3 super exclusive suites, perfect for relaxing. I had one junior suite consisting of a cute mini-apartment and a private terrace of almost 100 square meters with double jacuzzi, veranda, table and deck chairs. Then the view was spatial! This is the highest point on the island and, although you can't see the caldera, you can see a beautiful piece of the island and, above all, a fabulous sunset.

The property offers a bed & breakfast service and every morning I could choose what to eat for breakfast and at what time (as you can see from the photo below it was more of a lunch than a breakfast!). The staff of the Enastron Suites is also of absolute kindness; Nadia and George pampered me like never before and made my stay unforgettable (ask me why I hardly ever left here…).

Considering the prices in Santorini and the fact that it is a luxury property, the Enastron Suite does not cost much (the junior suite starts at 350/360 euros), but if you rightly want to spend less, I give you some advice.

Avoid Oia, Fira or Imerovigli (the area overlooking the caldera let's say !!). Prices are skyrocketing and you will always be surrounded by the casino; the famous pools that you see in the brochures are practically open-air bathtubs where you will be observed by thousands of tourists. In May Santorini was already full of tourists and Oia already didn't move: I don't even want to imagine what the privacy of those who come in July and August can be!

My advice is to sleep in or near Perissa (especially if you want to stay close to bars, restaurants, clubs .. and especially to equipped beaches) or in the villages in the interior such as Pyrgos (sooo cute and totally recommended), Akrotiki o Megalochloria.

Where to see the sunset in Santorini: the best spots

I Santorini sunsets they made it rightly famous all over the world and I must say that they keep all their promises.

Ma what are the best spots to see (and photograph) the sunset? Here are my tips:

  • The Akrotiri lighthouse: this lighthouse is located on the opposite end of the island from Oia and already along the road to reach it you can have a beautiful view of the caldera and the islets that lie in front of it.
  • Oia: 90% of the photos of the island's sunsets are taken here, by fortress of Oia, from the terrace of some bar / restaurant (which is booked and stormed several hours before) or simply from the alleys under the mill (which become impassable during the hour before sunset). Nothing to say, the sunset from here is incredibly beautiful, but sharing it with so many people in my opinion takes away a bit of poetry.
  • Imerovigli: this is the other classic spot in Santorini to see the sunset and take beautiful photos with the white houses overlooking the caldera. Even here, for a few hours before, there is not even a hole to sit down. If you can book in advance a table with a view in a bar or restaurant along the caldera.
  • Saint Wines: this huge winery / club / restaurant has beautiful terraces overlooking the caldera and the islet of Nea Kameni. Being a winery then, you can combine business with pleasure by tasting excellent local wines.
  • Ristorante Rosemary (Pyrgos): this restaurant (very good indeed!) has a nice terrace from which you can see almost the whole island. The sun sets just behind the islet of Nea Kameni and the view from here is truly magnificent.
  • Along the road between Pyrgos and Fira: along this road, which for a stretch runs alongside the caldera, there are several points where you can stop to enjoy a beautiful sunset in solitude (or almost).

Where to eat in Santorini

For the same reasons that affect the choice of where to sleep, I do not recommend going to eat in Oia, Fira or Imerovigli. The restaurants are super touristy and you risk getting an imperial bald. I blindly followed the advice of the locals and found myself very well:

  • Frantzeskos Fish Tavern (Perissa). This restaurant was recommended to me by all the locals and it is the place where they also go to eat fresh fish. I ate there very well (they show you and choose the fish you want first) and I spent around € 40 (wine included).
  • Rosemary (Pyrgos). Besides having a nice terrace overlooking the perched village of Pyrgos, this restaurant is famous for its grilled meat and local stew. Very good and not particularly expensive (I spent 34 € for an appetizer, main course and wine).
  • Canton (Pyrgos). This little restaurant is located in the main square of Pyrgos and has a nice pergola with about thirty tables. The staff is very nice and you eat meat very well (but not only). I went back like 3 times to eat their tomato pancakes: space !! They spend around 25 euros with an appetizer, main course and glass of wine (they always offer a sweet and a liqueur).
  • Marmita (Megalochloria)The village of Megalochlori is microscopic, a super authentic gem, and the Marmita is one of the 3 restaurants that are located in the main square next to the bell tower. You eat well (meat) and spend around 30 euros. They told me that some evenings they play live music and the situation comes alive.
  • Santo Wines (Pyrgos). See the paragraph on sunset.You can have a wine tasting or order a la carte for both an aperitif and dinner. Prices more than fair considering the location.
  • Metaxy Mas (Exo Gonia). This restaurant was recommended to me but I couldn't go there. It is very famous and also popular with groups but they say you eat very well.

Most beautiful beaches of Santorini

The premise is that, Unlike other Cycladic islands like Paros, Naxos or Mykonos, you don't come to Santorini for the beaches. Being an island of volcanic origin (in fact Santorini is located on the mouth of a submerged volcano) lhe sand is black and the sea is consequently dark. Some beaches themselves aren't bad either, but don't expect the classic colors of Greek beaches. That said, here are my tips on where to go (or not go) to the beach in Santorini:

  • Black beach (Black Beach or Messa Pigadi Beach): this beach can be reached by a dirt road (but beaten) a few kilometers after Akrotiri. The beach is beautiful and uncrowded (they tell me it is the same in August). On the beach there is a nice typical trattoria called Pigadia Mess and a cooler lounge bar called Acro, as well as a place to rent kayaks.
  • White beach and red beach (White and Red Beach): they are located near the black beach. To get to the red one you have to hike, but it's not worth it. The white beach, on the other hand, can only be reached by sea.
  • Perissa, Perivolos e Vlyhada: along this stretch of coast there are many establishments, lounge bars and restaurants, and it is the area most frequented by young people and independent travelers. If you are looking for comfort and a little life these are the beaches for you.

Instead, the beaches from Monolithos upwards and those near Oia, on the opposite side of the caldera, should be avoided.

You may also be interested in these other articles on Greece:

  • Mykonos (Greece): what to see and where to sleep
  • What to see in Amorgos, the gem of the Cyclades
  • What to see in Hydra, the car-free island of the Peloponnese
  • A weekend in Athens: all the places not to be missed
  • The 8 least touristy and most beautiful Greek islands

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