Helpful travel tips for Santorini
Santorini – the volcanic gem of the Aegean Sea. Famous for its endless amounts of white houses and beautiful blue domed churches is the small but stunning island of Santorini, Greece. Santorini forms the southernmost point of the famous Cyclades island group. While the picture-perfect skyline of Oía is probably what the island is known for around the world, it has so much more to offer. Keep on reading this Santorini travel guide to find out how to make the most of your next travel to Santorini and how to have an authentic and meaningful experience far away from touristic crowds. Learn my favorite travel tips for Santorini for your amazing journey!
Table of Contents
- An overview of Santorini’s explosive history
- How to have a more meaningful experience in Santorini
- My favorite things to do in Santorini
- Where to stay in Santorini
- Is Santorini a safe place for tourists?
- Is Santorini an expensive place?
- How to get around the island?
An overview of Santorini’s explosive history
Only very few people know that the island how we know it today looked much different back in the day. The island’s unique beauty is a result of several volcanic eruptions that have taken place over the years. Nowadays you can find the craters of the volcano on two small separate islands, Palea Kameni and Nea Kameni (the volcano).
The islands can be visited by boat trip and are famous for their hot springs. Small side note: do not wear a white swimsuit when visiting the hot springs. It will take on a slightly yellowish color.
The volcano is still considered active and is being monitored closely by authorities to determine whether it poses any danger to Santorini’s population. The last eruption happened in 1950, but the volcanic history can still be felt all over the island.
From the color of the beaches (red and black volcanic pebble beaches) to the salty taste of the wine and the tomatoes, history can still be experienced everywhere. Nowadays the water around the volcano is known for its therapeutic effects.
The locals of Santorini live scattered all across the island. Nestled between hundreds and hundreds of hotels you can usually find them in small traditional cave houses. While most modern buildings on the island are not dug into the stone, a lot of locals use the massive stone cliffs to dig their houses into, to avoid damage from the frequent earthquakes.
The cave houses are not only amazing at protecting the people from the earthquakes. Also they protect from the heat and the wind on the island. Sadly the local population suffers from paying a lot of their income from tourism to the Greek government while not getting as much back in return. The island is therefore slightly less good developed than other parts of Greece.
How to have a more meaningful experience in Santorini
Despite the masses of tourists that are roaming the island peaceful times can be spent on this Aegean gem. The village of Oía and the capital city Thira are by far the most crowded places on the island. They should be avoided during peak hours (basically all afternoon and during sunset).
A nice stroll around is still possible, especially very early in the morning. If you want to see the beautiful sunset over the white houses I can strongly recommend going to Imerovigli or Firostefani instead. They are much quieter, but the view is just as stunning.
Slow travelers might find themselves happier exploring the villages of Pyrgos and Megalochori. Pyrgos is a cute town surrounding Mount Profitis Illias from where you have a great view of the whole island and the sunset without the masses of people.
If you follow my guides including all travel tips for Santorini, you will have no problem making the most of your journey without being run over by tourists.
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My favorite things to do in Santorini
1. Watch the sunset over a glass of Santorini wine. To find the perfect sunset spots in Santorini, check out this post.
2. Take a boat trip around the island and visit the inside of the Volcano
3. Try the famous Santorini wine at one of the fantastic wineries of the island!
4. Go for a swim on one of the volcanic beaches of the island
5. Take a guided walking tour with a local through one of the authentic villages
6. Have dinner in an authentic Greek tavern with live music
7. Drive up Mount Profit Ilias to see the island from above
Where to eat in Santorini off the beaten path
Enjoy the best tzatziki on the island at Penelope’s or have a romantic dinner at Pyrgos Restaurant. Equally cute and quiet is the village of Megalochori. Make sure to check out the sweet restaurants nestled around the town square (if you can call it that). These restaurants are definitely a secret tip for Santorini travelers, since they are not very touristic yet.
The restaurant Olio in Megalochori serves a special Pasta dish with a wine sauce. It is made with local wines that are to die for. To learn more about my favorite restaurants in Santorini also check out this post.
Where to stay in Santorini
The most famous AirBnBs and hotels with a stunning view are most likely to be found in Oia. However, I do not recommend booking one of these places. Firstly, you are overpaying tenfold just because the accommodation is closer to the famous Instagram spots.
Secondly, most of these places are hardly private. Having wandered through the streets of Oia multiple times I could not help but notice that most of the “private” balconies and terraces are actually right next to the footpath. You will sit in your infinity pool right above or below hundreds of tourists.
Truly secluded places in Oia are very hard to come by. And are only being offered for a very steep price. On our recent stays in Santorini, we have looked around for other options to stay in. Here are my travel tips for Santorini hotel booking:
Our favorite villages to book accommodation in are Pyrgos, Megalochori, and Kamari. Each of the villages have a special charm and are much quieter and also cheaper than the famous towns on the cliff. In Pyrgos and Megalochori chances are high, that your accommodation will have an amazing sunset view over the caldera as well.
Kamari is a bit more vibrant and located on the other side of the island. Therefore you will most likely not have an amazing sunset view. However, Kamari is nestled right alongside a beautiful beach, which totally makes up for the lack in a sunset view.
For finding the perfect place to stay in Santorini check out this post!
Is Santorini a safe place for tourists?
In my experience, Santorini is a very safe place for tourists. Having wandered the streets at night, I have never really felt uncomfortable. Most places are crawling with lots of people, therefore you will never really be alone.
To our surprise, the locals were very lovely and always very friendly and helpful. We had assumed that they would be fed up to some degree with all the tourists. But on the contrary, they were lovely and chatty people excited to share insider information about the special island they call home.
Is Santorini an expensive place?
I would rate Santorini as one of the more expensive European destinations. You can surely find some great cheaper options for food and accommodation off the beaten track. But most places are still way above the Greek average when it comes to price range. Special travel tip for Santorini: stay outside the famous villages and you will be fine money-wise!
Especially day trips and guided tours come with a big price tag. But in my experience, the hosts always do put a lot of effort in so it is worth paying for.
How to get around the island?
We found renting an ATV is one of the most fun and uncomplicated things to do in Santorini. Having a car can be very impractical since there is not a lot of parking space. And many streets are too narrow for cars. Public transport is not really a thing. So that leaves you with grabbing one of the 25 cabs on the island or an ATV.
Many places around the island are quite far away from each other. So you do need to think about some sort of transportation for your excursions. Also keep in mind, that you cannot access all streets with a car at all. Therefore you might have to carry your luggage around town to your hotel if you do not arrange your transfer beforehand. You definitely wanna keep this Santorini travel tip in mind before your next journey!
Overall, I can recommend Santorini to all slow luxury travelers. The scenery is stunning! The sunsets are inspiring and there are plenty of quiet and picturesque places to take in the vibe and to fully enjoy this special piece of heaven.
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