Visit Santorini Greece – Top 7 BEST Things You Should Know
Hey Jetsetters! Are you ready to explore Santorini, Greece with me?! When you first think of Greece, many people immediate picture these beautiful famous blue domes! If you are visiting Greece, it is an automatic MUST that you stop in Santorini! One of the most beautiful and romantic places on earth. Don’t get me wrong, it is romantic but if you are single or a family traveling with kids, don’t think that Santorini is not for you too! We have seen all types of travelers visiting. We got to visit Santorini for 3 nights and it seemed like it just was not enough! To learn about how to travel between Greek islands, you can check out my post here. In this post I will discuss, the TOP 7 things you should know about visiting Santorini, where we stayed, the famous spots, some amazing foods, and things to do in Santorini Greece!
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GETTING TO SANTORINI, GREECE
There are 2 different ways get to Santorini! The one thing you have to remember is that Athens will always be your home base. To get to some of the islands for other countries or other islands, you will see that there are usually stops in Athens before you hit your final destination. For more information on Greek Island hopping, check out my full post here. The main obvious to get to Greece is by plane. I love using Skyscanner to look for all my flights within Europe. It tends to pick up a lot more airlines than Priceline or Orbitz. With a lot of these airlines, you get a better deal if you pay for your luggage when you book your trip. For more tips on flying internationally and finding the best flights, check out my post here! Other ways to get to Greece is by ferry from another country such as Italy or by cruise ship. I would only come by ferry is I had a very long extended vacation and time was not an issue. Other than that flights are pretty cheap. Also we found that traveling in the late month of May and June is also cheaper with flights & hotels. You can save lot during these months vs late July & August and traveling when school is out and all the Europeans are vacationing as well.
SANTORINI GREECE HOTEL: AYOBA SANTORINI
The hotel we stayed at was at Ayoba Santorini in Imerovigli. For full review, check out my review here! Imerovigli is the calm beautiful center in between the two most famous and busy cities in Santorini, Fira & Oia. I will talk more about these two differences later and why I loved this city vs the others. This cute little boutique hotel has all that you want when you think of staying in a hotel in Santorini, but a fraction of the price. For those of you who have been following me for some time know I love discovering hidden gems. No matter how much money you have, you can have a beautiful experience in an exotic location without putting a hole in your wallet.
My dream was to stay in a cave like hotel in Santorini. When you research these hotels, they can be very price and sold out as early as January if you plan to travel in the summer months. We experienced both scenarios when we began to look for a hotel. Ayoba Santorini was a perfect choice to give us that exotic experience! It was all white, cave like in the inside and with a pool. It had more of a bed and breakfast type of feel which loved vs a chain hotel. This hotel does not have the cliff side view of sea that you may want. If you want that, you will have to pay for that view with another hotel. Here are some nice options of those but again the key is to book it early to get a room and good rate.
SANTORINI GREECE: IMEROVIGLI VS FIRA & OIA
So these 3 towns are the most famous towns that you may here about when researching your trip to Santorini. You should definitely rent a car when visiting Santorini which I have discussed rental cars and driving in Greece in this post. I did a lot of research and the benefits and downsides to all 3 towns, but it all depends on what is important to you for your “Santorini experience” and of course, how much money you have. So as I mentioned I loved Imerovigli. This is due to location, price and sunset. The location was perfect only about 15 minute drive from Santorini airport, 8 minutes from Fira and 20 minutes from Oia. I feel that Imerovigli has the best sunsets with the location of the mountains and islands. My best photos came from this area. Oia is beautiful, but it is so congested. It is very hard to get a shot without people in the photo. Also the angle where Oia is located is bit different with the island in the center so it has different feel but your photos will still be beautiful. Check out my Santorini Photography post on tips on taking photos in Santorini. Also Imerovigli prices for food, products and hotel were a lot cheaper. There were products and souvenirs that I saw in both Imerovigli and Oia and Oia was always a bit more expensive.
Now with Oia this is what most people think of when they say “Santorini” the famous street of shops, restaurants and clothing stores and of course the famous blue domes. Those domes is why Oia is more expensive. People fly from all over the world to capture that sunset and literally start staking out their spots at 3 & 4pm just to get the iconic postcard shot. Also in Oia, it’s not a calm area. There are sooo many more people visiting but the bus loads. Buses and buses and buses of tourists from all over the world are in Oia vs Imerovgli and Fira. Yes, if you stay in the confinements of your cliff side hotel then you will not notice it much. Fira we mainly passed through and did not stop. It is mainly for some shopping but not high end. It did not appeal to me as much, but then again we did not see much of it to give a true opinion. When researching hotels, Fira hotels were slightly cheaper than Oia, but still cost more than Imerovigli.
LUNCH WITH A VIEW: SUNSET TAVERNA AMMOUDI BAY
Greeks know how to throw down when it comes to food. If you want to have a great meal with an amazing view, I recommend driving down to Ammoudi Bay(also spelled Amoudi) in Oia and eat at Sunset Taverna. This is a great spot to have a nice sunny lunch! The water hear gets incredible. It was partially cloudy day so the sun came and went but when it was sunny the water is super clear. You can see the fish. I discovered this place by stumbling on a photo on Instagram. I had to eat here while in Santorini. I love fresh seafood and this was definitely the place to be. When we came it was not super crowded. I imagine towards the evening or weekends it would be but then again we were not in high season. Amoudi Bay is also the area where a lot of set sunset cruises depart.
The one thing that I wanted to in Greece is to hold a live octopus and also eat it too. lol I always wanted to hold a real octopus. I told the waiter about my request and he laughed and told me to come here. He showed me where they had the fresh octopus that they caught that day. Though dead and no head attached, we took a photo together! So for an appetizer, we ordered the grilled octopus that was cut in small pieces. They were really good and fresh. I do recommend when in Greece to try the octopus because it is a delicacy of Greece. Then for the main course we shared 1 KILO of lobster! Yes that is right a lot of the dishes are done by the kilos and so we got the lobster pasta which 1 kilo definitely fed 2 people!
The service on how they served the past was superb. The “clean” the lobster for us by breaking the shell and pulling the meat out. LOVED THIS! I love hard-shell seafoods like crab and lobster but it can be work getting the meat out. But they did it for us and served us the first portion. The pasta was very good and a bit different from what you would eat in Italy. Typically you who not find oranges in a seafood dish giving it a hint of sweetness but it was actually very good and we enjoyed. For dessert, they offered us the famous Vin Santo or Vino Santo and sweet Italian like wine of Santorini and Panna cotta! So very yummy and I highly recommend you ordering this when eating here!
SANTORINI GREECE – COCKTAILS AT SUNSET
When it comes to Santorini, the number one thing that people want to do and should do is to find the best spot to enjoy cocktails while viewing the amazing sunset. My preferred place to see sunsets is in the town of Imerovigli. The Imerovigli is part of the famous Caldera where you see the white washed buildings but it has the beautiful rock formation in front Nea Kameni and lots of cruise lines pass in front of it which makes pictures so beautiful. We experience the sunset from a few different places in Santorini. Here are a few spots you should check out. Mylos Bar & Restaurant in Firostefani was amazing! There was live jazz music near by and was not very crowded compared to the restaurants and bars that you find in Oia. We were able to get a table without reservations.
SANTORINI BAR TIP: Most places will require you to eat or order food to get the best table with a view. if you are just ordering drinks they may not get you a table with the best view.
Another café that we checked out was Spiliotica on the Cliff. This is also a hotel with a cool bar that has great views of the caldera and sunset. While walking the streets of Imerovigli we came across this place. I knew about this bar ahead of time due to researching it. It has great reviews. I spoke to the owner who was very nice and he stated there were tables available for the sunset. Unfortunately we did not get to make it back to this spot but definitely want to stay here on our next visit.
One of our favorite bars was Buddha Bar Beach Santorini which is part of the La Maltese Estate Hotel. This spot is featured in my video below. The décor and music is what attracted us to this place. It was around the corner from our hotel and the drinks and food were amazing! Though our evening was cloudy and did not have the best sunset, on a non cloudy day I can only imagine what the sunset looks like at Buddha Bar Beach with the sultry music playing in the background. When it became dark, the view was just as beautiful to see the lit up pools and white buildings. We had cocktails, sushi and dessert. I highly recommend coming here.
As far as bars in Oia, there are plenty to choose from. There is Skiza Café which is a pizzeria and pastry spot on the main road in Oia. Though we did not get to eat here at sunset, we ate here at lunch and this is a great spot to watch the sunset. They have tall windows on the main level that faces out and it was nice view to see the boats go by and enjoy the scenery. They also have a rooftop with shade with a beautiful view as well.
Our last evening in Santorini, we checked out the sunset at Strogili Restaurant. This restaurant is two levels but obviously you want rooftop view. It was quite sunny with not any shade but the sunset was nice. The tables along the side are for those who are eating dinner and had reservation. Very beautiful views of the caldera. We had drinks and appetizers. Service was a bit slow for us during our stay, but it was not so bad that we would never come again. I think if you are looking for a spot in Oia that you should definitely check out this place too!
SANTORINI GREECE: GREEK STYLE STEAK DINNER
One place I highly recommend eating at is Kokkalo Restaurant located in Firostefani which is about a 15 minute walking distance from our hotel in Imerovigli. Firostefani is a small town in between Fira & Imerovigli. The restaurant is located on the opposite site of the road so it is not on the famous cliff side of Santorini. You get a view the sea of the other coast with their glass walls. We had dinner here and the service and the food was exactly. Kokkalo is known for their meats which their name actually means “bone” and they do not disappoint. Their menu has a variety of foods that will satisfy anyone – salads, seafood, fish, meats, sweets you name it! If you visit them, let them know that Foreign Fresh & Fierce Blog recommended them to you! 🙂
THINGS TO DO IN SANTORINI, GREECE
So there are different things to do in Santorini. If you click on this link, you can find some excellent tours and activities to do in Santorini whether you want to do a day trip or looking to boat tours or even the famous sunset cruises. You will find discounted rates at that link. However, the #1 thing that you need to remember is that Santorini is not about beaches! Santorini is about “THE VIEW” and the experience. Everything about Santorini is centered on the view and catching the sunset. So most people tend to lounge at their hotel pools, balconies, walking the streets or eating at a restaurant or bar for the best view. If you want to go to Santorini for beach life, then you will be highly disappointed. The beaches are not terrible, but it is not the Caribbean or Mykonos. Santorini has a volcanic history so most beaches were formed from that and are not pretty white sand. If you want to experience a pretty Greek beach then go to Zakynthos or Kefalonia which I have travel guides on both.
The best way to describe the beaches in Santorini is that they are different. We visited two beaches in Santorini and the one that we enjoyed and stayed the longest was Kamari Beach. This beach is more upscale, touristy beach with black sand that has a lot of places to eat and shop. It reminded me of the Ocean Drive of Santorini. We stayed on a cabana that you see in the photo. I believe we did have to pay or just buy a drink. I could not remember but it was nice a relaxing. My husband swam and said the water was ok but not as clear as other beaches we been to. Keep in mind it was a very windy day so I am sure a lot of sand and things will moving underwater. Some other beaches that are worth visiting is Red Beach and Perissa Beach. We did not get a chance to visit these places, but next time we would love to go back. Red Beach has some pretty water but obviously the sand is red and not white.
If you really want to a beautiful swimming experience and with pretty blue clear water, then I suggest to swim in Amoudi Bay. This is the same area where we had the lobster lunch. The water on a bright sunny day is incredible. It is not a beach but a swimming spot that people like to cliff jump into. Apart from beach life, you could do wine tasting since Santorini is famous for their wines. They have wineries there. You must try the Vin Santo wine it’s a sweet dessert wine of Santorini. We bought a small bottle home because it is actually pretty pricey but a must try wine. Shopping in Santorini is pricey but you will see some nice things. You have the most upscale boutiques in Oia vs Fira where they have cheaper price options when it comes to souvenirs and clothing. Oia is the Costa Smeralda of Santorini. You can get custom made Greek sandals which I wanted but did not have time. I highly recommend getting Greek beauty products in Santorini too. I bought a few and it really did wonders on my skin especially getting products with Donkey Milk. Read my Greek Beauty Must Haves post here where I discuss all about Greek beauty products and what stores to visit in Santorini and Athens to get them.
Yes there are the donkey rides but I opted not to do those. I just read too many stories of people getting rashes and things from the donkeys. Also I am paranoid with the customs forms you fill out on the plane that asks have you been in contact with any livestock or animals during your trip. Soooo we decided not to risk it. Also the ATV 4 wheelers is very popular and I looked into them but so glad we just rented a car. I heard of people getting into accidents on those and with the weather not cooperating with us as much on the trip we would have been soaked.
The famous postcard spots definitely should be on your bucket list of things to do in Santorini. The famous Blue Domes is a must see. You will see a lot of blue domes like in Imerovigli but those are not “the domes”. the famous domes are in Oia. It can be hard to find the spot to get the famous shot like in my opening photo. But if you are walking from the parking area towards the inner part of Oia, look for this Bvlgari Alexandros jewelry store shown in the photo below. That little street to left will take to the blue domes.
We first went around lunch time (yellow top) and then we a couple of hours before sunset (floral dress). There were people there at lunch time, but not a whole lot which I recommend going at that time since most people are eating. From my experience, everyone was very nice and respectable. Everyone wants this beautiful shot without other people in the shot, so we all patiently waited giving one enough time to take their photo. As long as you don’t take super long, no one will get mad. It gets really complicated near sunset because there will be hundreds of people trying to get down there to take their shot. I was still able to get my shot in the evening though there were more people there.
Well I hoped you enjoyed this Travel Guide of things to do in Santorini! We absolutely loved it and feel that it should be island to visit when making your Greece travel plans. Check out all my Greece posts by clicking on this link. If you have any questions on Santorini, feel free to leave me a comment below. Or would like to collaborate with me for your tourism board, hotel or restaurant, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to feature you on my blog!