SANTORINI TRAVEL GUIDE
Wishing I could rewind time right about now because our recent adventure to the Greek islands of Santorini and Mykonos was INCREDIBLE. The food, weather, views, beaches and kind people just made this trip so special. If you have the opportunity to visit Greece: JUMP ON IT. You won’t be disappointed!
OUTFIT DETAILS // Anthropologie Maxi Dress
WHY VISIT SANTORINI?
The first stop on our trip took us to the beautiful island of Santorini. It’s part of the Cycladic island group located south of Mykonos and the Greek capital of Athens. Santorini is best known for it’s charming towns perched atop cliffs, incredible views of the caldera (a large sunken volcanic crater dating back to an eruption in 1645 BC) and picturesque sunsets. It’s a very popular spot for honeymooners because of its wineries, boat tours and overall romantic atmosphere. If you’ve ever been to Positano or the Amalfi Coast the vibe in Santorini is incredibly similar, especially the towns of Oia and Imerovigli!
HOW TO GET THERE
We had a really pleasant experience flying on Swiss Air to Santorini. To get to any of the Greek islands from U.S. you have to take at least two flights– there aren’t any that are direct. Our first flight was a 7 hour long haul from Newark > Zurich, followed by a 3 hour layover and ending with 2.5 hour flight to Santorini via Edelweiss Air (a Swiss Air partner airline.) I try to avoid long layovers at all costs, but we really didn’t mind hanging in the Zurich airport. It was SO nice and clean. There were lots of restaurants and some great duty free shopping!
You can also get to Santorini via ferry. I can’t speak to booking a ferry departing from the Greek capital of Athens, however to get to our second stop (Mykonos) we took a SeaJet ferry from Santorini. Will talk more about this in my Mykonos Guide coming next week!
WHERE TO STAY
We stayed in Santorini for 5 nights and 4 days– 3 nights at a hotel in Oia and 2 nights in Pyrgos. We felt this was more than enough time to really take advantage of all that the island had to offer, while still getting a chance to unwind and relax in the sunshine. If you’re limited on time and trying to pack in multiple destinations on your trip, I think that 3 days in Santorini would be sufficient as well.
To maximize your time I’d 100% recommend picking a hotel in Oia. It’s where you’ll find the best views and photo-opps, there are tons of restaurants and things to do. You can also walk everywhere and don’t need to rent a car.
Santorini Secret Suites & Spa
This Small Luxury Hotels boutique hotel is a total dream! Over the last 2 years we’ve really grown to love and trust SLH properties– we’ve always had great experiences at each hotel we’ve stayed at and this trip was no different!
Nestled in the cliffs of the town of Oia, Santorini Secret has the best of everything in the center of Santorini’s most picturesque. The first thing I was struck by were the gorgeous views. Every direction your look is just unobstructed beauty! I feel like it would be impossible to take a bad photo here.
All 17 suites have a private veranda with a pool or hot tub (some have both!) of course with an insane unobstructed view. It’s the PERFECT place for honeymooners or folks looking for a romantic getaway. Every morning a freshly prepared breakfast is brought to your room at a time of your choosing. I loved how every night we were asked to place our breakfast orders so the chef could go to the market in the morning and buy all the ingredients fresh. We chose to eat ours everyday out on our terrace 🙂
Even though the hotel is located below the path where many pedestrians walk to enter Oia, it still felt incredibly quiet and private. The cliffs are so steep that as soon as you walk through the gate and down a few steps towards the hotel, it’s like the rest of the town disappears and you’re in your own oasis.
Santorini Secret is also home to Black Rock Restaurant (more on this below!) and a small spa. When we weren’t out exploring Oia, we were enjoying cocktails and lounging by the heated infinity pool— I’m sure from my photos you can see why!
Carpe Diem Hotel & Spa
We also stayed at Carpe Diem Hotel & Spa (also a Small Luxury Hotels property) for 2 nights in Santorini! Carpe Diem is nestled in the foothills of the ancient medieval city of Pyrgos. Those looking for an ultra-private and quiet retreat away from the bustling towns and tourist crowds will love it here. There are only 10 suites in the entire hotel and each one has a private outdoor heated plunge pool. Unreal!!!
Besides the gorgeous suites, Carpe Diem offers incredible panoramic views of all of Santorini that are best taken in at the infinity pool or hotel restaurant and bar. I had the best bruschetta I’ve ever had in my entire life here– the food was incredible! If you’re really looking to unwind there’s a spa too! Another note about Carpe Diem– the service was top notch. I’ve never stayed somewhere where the staff was so attentive!
PS if you decide to stay here I would definitely recommend renting a car or ATV. While the private location has its perks, there are only a handful of restaurants and wineries that are walking distance.
***A note on hotels! We purposely stayed at two different hotels solely because I wanted to be able to review more than one option in this guide. Since Santorini is small and getting around is relatively easy it’s definitely not necessary to move hotels.
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
Black Rock Restaurant (Oia)— Gorgeous clifftop fine dining restaurant conveniently located in Santorini Secret. We had dinner here our first night and it was amazing! The menu is a mix of local Greek mediterranean cuisine and seafood. Price Range: $$$$
Lauda (Oia)— By far Oia’s most renowned fine dining restaurant! This meal was definitely a big splurge, but by far our best dinner in Santorini. The atmosphere is so romantic and every table has a gorgeous view of the caldera. Make a reservation around 8PM so you can get a picture with the sunset! Fun history tidbit: Lauda was the very first restaurant that opened in Oia back in 1971 where it was home to the village’s only telephone. Price Range: $$$$
Dimitri’s Ammoudi Tavern (Oia)— Super casual oceanside seafood restaurant that’s perfect for lunch. We had the yummiest seafood here! Dimitri’s is located along Oia’s famous Ammoudi Bay hundreds of steps below the town. To get there you can walk, take a donkey or have your hotel call you a cab. Price Range: $$
Elements at Canaves Oia Epitome (Oia)— One day for lunch we ventured over to the far north corner of Oia to check out the newly opened Canaves Oia Epitome and have lunch at the hotel’s restaurant Elements. It was honestly one of the best lunches of our entire trip– order the Souvlaki!!! If we’d had more time I would’ve loved to come back for dinner because from what I could tell that’s what the restaurant is really known for since Canaves has such a prime position by the water for watching the sunset. Price Range: $$$$
Roka (Oia)— This was the most authentic dinner we had in Oia! Roka is located off the beaten path a bit away from the congestion and main streets of Oia. While it doesn’t have a sunset view the food and cozy romantic atmosphere totally make it worth going for a meal. Price Range: $$
Naos (Oia)— We stopped here for classy rooftop cocktails one night before dinner and ended up wishing we stayed to eat. I can’t speak to the food, but judging by how amazing our drinks were I can only imagine that the food is the same. Pricey but worth it! Price Range: $$$$
Mary Kay’s Bar (Oia)— Probably the closest thing you’ll find to a dive bar in Oia. Even though we were so jet lagged our first night we didn’t want to just go to bed after dinner so our waiter at Black Rock recommended we head to Mary Kay’s for a super casual drink. It’s nothing fancy but the crowd was upbeat and they were playing really fun music you could dance to! When we walked by the next day we saw the bar had transitioned to a cafe + gelato shop. PS almost all bars and nightlife in Santorini are in the town of Fira. Price Range: $
Santoro at Grace Hotel (Imerovigli)— We stopped here for lunch and cocktail on the afternoon we were exploring Imerovigli! The view is spectacular and the hotel itself is just to die for. Really really beautiful luxe atmosphere. Lunch and drinks were fantastic too! Dinner here is supposed to be amazing as well. Price Range: $$$$
Le Moustache (Imerovigli)— Our last dinner in Santorini! We couldn’t get enough of the views from Imerovigli so we had to come back in town to see what it was like at sunset. Boy, did it not disappoint! Le Moustache is located on the far north end of town and has the most insane view. The menu was all elevated European and seafood dishes with a Greek twist. There was a large cocktail menu as well! PS if you visit during the daytime the restaurant also functions as a pool lounge and all those gorgeous cabanas are available for booking. Price Range: $$$
Confetti Dessert Boutique (Imerovigli)— Looking for a sweet treat in Imerovigli? HEAD HERE. We were feeling a little parched and in need of a cool down after exploring town and the gelato here really hit the spot. Nick order lemon and I had the chocolate peanut butter– SO tasty. Price Range: $
Rakadiko MeRaki (Fira)— The disastrous pre-dinner drinks we had at Franco’s Bar (see end of my post) sadly left us feeling really turned off from trying any other spots in Fira. We had planned to get dinner at another fancy-ish clifftop restaurant nearby, but decided we were more in the mood to grab something fast and casual. I’m so glad we ended up at Rakadiko MeRaki! The menu is huge and comprised of all traditional small Greek plates– perfect for ordering a bunch and sharing. The prices are incredibly affordable too. Our entire dinner bill was less than what we paid for two drinks at Franco’s! Price Range: $
A few more restaurant recommendations that we would’ve liked to try if we had more time!
Fino Cocktail Bar & Restaurant
Theros Wave Bar
WHAT TO DO
Whether you’re the adventurous type or prefer to relax out in the sun, Santorini has so much to offer both on the water and on land. Big shoutout to Whitney from Blonde Atlas— we were introduced through a mutual friend and she gave me a lot of these ideas prior to our trip! If you’re looking for someone to craft in crafting a full itinerary or just want a little help in organizing your travel plans, I’d recommend booking a session with her.
Go on a boat cruise. Booking a private day boat tour was one of the best things we did in Santorini! In my opinion it’s 100% worth the money because you can see and experience the island from an entire different perspective— the views were incredible and we made so many amazing memories! We booked ours through Santorini Yacht Cruises and were so impressed with the tour and level of service. I plan on doing separate blog post just about this so will link it here once it’s up.
Get a “pedicure” at KissingFish. Okay this was kind of a touristy thing to do, but we honestly had a blast. You don’t go to Kissingfish for a “standard” salon pedicure— there’s no polish involved. You basically just sit in an elevated lounge chair, but instead of sticking your feet in a basin to have your toes painted you’re dunking them in a fish tank! Once submerged, the little fishes nibble off the dead skin of your feet similar to if you were having them exfoliated. Nick was so into it and didn’t think it tickled, but your girl here was bugging out. It did work though! After 20 minutes our feet felt much softer! PS there are two Kissingfish locations: Oia and Thira. We also just walked in and were fine getting a chair without a reservation!
Visit a winery. There are a handful of wineries on Santorini and I’d definitely recommend doing a tasting one afternoon around sunset! We had a great time at Santos Winery— the view was incredible and they even had live music!
Rent an ATV (or car.) We ended up not renting a vehicle simply because days 1-2 of our trip we knew we’d easily be able to get around on foot in Oia and day 3 was going to spent on a boat, but this was recommended to me by soooo many people and I see why! Santorini is so beautiful and there are lots of little areas you can explore that aren’t easily reached on the road.
PS if you’re staying in Oia you don’t need a car because the entire town is walkable— no cars can even enter the main village— it’s all pedestrian walkways. However you might want to look into getting some type of transportation if you pick a hotel in another town. During our time at Carpe Diem we ended up taking at least 6+ taxis just getting around and to/from dinner. Our hotel was really helpful in setting these up for us and it was nice not having to worry about parking, but in the end we probably spent just as much money on the taxis as we would’ve if we’d rented an ATV or small car for that single day. Will talk more about car rentals in my Mykonos Travel Guide because we did get a car for our entire time there!
Get your shop on in Oia. There are tons of cute little art galleries and boutiques that sell pottery, jewelry, clothing and other souvenir-type wares in Oia! We didn’t do a ton of this in Santorini since we knew we’d likely end up shopping in Mykonos (+ we didn’t want to have to carry anything bulky on the ferry) but here are a few memorable stores that we popped in:
+ Atlantis Books- a quirky bookstore definitely worth visiting even for just a photo opp! It reminded me of something you’d find in a Harry Potter book. It was so adorable!
+ Poniros Jewelry- very high end Greek family-owned jewelry brand selling fine jewels and watches. We walked in just to browse, but ended up meeting one of the owners who let me borrow the most gorgeous rose gold and diamond evil eye ring to take this incredible photo. Poniros has an outpost in Mykonos town too!
+ Art Jewelry Antiques- I love collecting tchotchkes and little mementos on trips and I hit the jackpot at this antique store! They had lots of unique home decor and nautical trinkets. I ended up buying a bronze pocket compass/sundial dating back to 1885 🙂
Take a TON of photos. Santorini is one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever visited. The town of Oia especially. In my opinion it ranks right up there with Positano! What you can expect to see: gorgeous views of the caldera from almost every angle, whitewashed homes and hotels built into the cliffside, winding cobblestone walking paths lined with restaurants and shops painted in pastels, white chapels capped with blue domes, and colorful sunsets that will blow your mind. It’s something out of a movie! We spent so much time just wandering around taking it all in.
Top Photo Spots In Santorini
+ the Caldera views from Oia & Imerovigli
+ cave hotels along the Oia cliffside
+ sunset viewed from Oia Castle or anywhere in Imerovigli
+ the 3 blue domes in Oia
+ Oia windmill
+ the famous “Pink House” in Oia (Google Kastro Oia Houses for exact location)
+ Ammoudi Bay
+ the hike from Imerovigli to Oia
+ White Beach
+ Red Beach
Photography Tip // Generally the best times of day for photography is early in the morning as the sun is rising (before 8-9AM) and in evening before and during sunset (it was 8:30PM when we went.) If a goal on your trip is to get some beautiful photos, I highly recommend getting up early one morning to explore. You’ll avoid soooo much frustration and photobombers! Our best pictures out in Oia were snapped around 7AM and would’ve been impossible to get if we’d waited until later in the evening. The town can get very crowded especially around sunset!
Watch the sunset. Santorini is also known for having the BEST sunsets in all of Greece. Every night the sky looked like a pastel canvas! The best sunset we saw was on our last night in Imerovigli. It’s a much sleepier town than Oia (I don’t think the cruise ship crowds go there) so it was way easier to take in the view without being crowded by other tourists.
Wander the hills of Imerovigli. If you’re looking to escape the bustle of Oia and Fira, then I suggest heading to the small quiet town of Imerovigli. We had a taxi drop us off at the town entrance— again, no cars allowed— but you can also hike to here from either Oia or Fira on the path that runs along the cliffside! Imerovigli has gorgeous views and looks very similar to Oia, just on a much smaller scale. There are some amazing luxury hotels and restaurants here too! PS Imerovigli is very small– you could totally walk around and see a most of the town in just two hours.
WHAT TO WEAR
Wondering what to wear to Santorini? We planned our trip during the last week of May/first week of June and were blessed with 75 degree and sunny weather. Every. Single. Day. It was heavenly!
I honestly didn’t pack much differently than from what I’d wear at home during the summertime. Lots of breezy maxi dresses and colorful jumpsuits, plus some casual shorts, pants, skirts and tanks. Santorini is very white and blue so I made sure to pack some items that would complement the landscape and look good in pictures 🙂 How’d I do?
You’re likely going to spend most days out in the sun so I highly recommend packing a floppy hat that will protect your face, chest and shoulders. Sunburns = fast track to aged skin. Don’t forget a coverup to wear over your swimsuit when you’re not in the water. Don’t forget lots of sunscreen too! This is the one we packed and used our entire trip.
Speaking of swimsuits… Make sure you have a few in your suitcase as well! Santorini is the dreamiest place to hang by the pool or spend the day out on a boat.
Despite the warm temps during the day, Santorini gets somewhere chilly at night! I’m talking low 60s. At least this was the case during our trip. Since you’ll be out and about in the evenings you 100% should pack a cardigan or knit wrap that you can wear over top of whatever outfits you’ll be wearing to dinner. Some options below!
Let’s talk footwear! If you’re visiting Santorini you should be prepared to do a lot of walking. The main centers of the towns don’t even have car-accessible streets– just pedestrian walkways.
These are all the sandals I wore on our trip and I found each pair was comfortable enough to walk in for hours. If you just can’t do sandals as a walking shoe then I’d recommend these sneakers or boat shoes. Comfort on a trip like this is KEY! I also only packed one pair of heels for wearing to dinner. These wedges are comfortable and probably a safer better for walking on cobblestones and uneven sidewalks than a stiletto or block heel.
THINGS TO KNOW + TIPS
You can get anywhere via car in 30 mins or less. It’s totally possible to stay on one end of the island and still be able to explore other areas easily.
Santorini is WINDY. We didn’t notice the wind as much when we were in Oia, but everywhere else on the island… WHOA. It was especially fierce in the evenings! I wore my hair in a braid or bun for most of the trip because of this.
Franco’s Bar in Thira is totally overrated. I talked about this a bit on my Instagram Story, but it was honestly the biggest disappointment of our entire time in Santorini. Yes, it’s been featured on Vogue.com and in a ton of different travel guides, but trust me the place is dump and completely overpriced. When we went it looked like the tables hadn’t been wiped down in weeks and the lounge chairs + couches were covered in bird sh*t. There were fruit flies and little bugs everywhere (I even had one in my drink!) The only redeeming aspect of the bar is the view, but it’s a view you can see from hundreds of other bars and restaurants in Santorini. Don’t waste your time!
Santorini isn’t an island you go to if you’re looking to party or hang out at beach clubs. Yes Santorini has beaches, but most hotels are perched in the clifftop towns or secluded areas inland. To even get to the water in Oia it’s at least a 20 minute walk or donkey ride down hundreds of steps. If you’re looking to enjoy a cool dip, it’s best done at your hotel’s pool (Santorini hotels have the BEST pools) or out on the water during a boat tour!
All the cruise ships dock in Thira. It’s the largest town in Santorini and from what we could tell the shops and restaurants really seemed to cater to the touristy cruise ship crowds. I’m totally not trying to knock Thira– the town is cute and has incredible views– but in our opinion Imerovigli and Oia were much more charming.
^^ DON’T FORGET TO PIN THIS!