Santorini is the most popular island in Greece and without a doubt is one of the most beautiful Greek islands. We have travelled all over Greece, from the historic streets of Athens to the serene beaches of Milos and the beautiful island of Rhodes. Each place has its own special charm. But Santorini? It’s in a league of its own. 

Santorini is iconic and very touristy. Sure, it might not be the best place for a super authentic Greek experience, but it is the kind of place that everybody should visit at least once. This volcanic island in the Aegean Sea is known for its unique architecture, stunning views, and incredible sunsets.

You’ve probably seen pictures of Santorini’s white-washed buildings with blue-domed roofs, but trust me, this island has so much more to offer. 

In this post, I am going to share all you need to know before travelling to Santorini and talk about where to stay and why you need to rent a car. And in a separate post, I covered the best things to do and see in Santorini.

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How to get to Santorini

Santorini has an international airport and there are direct flights from Athens and many European cities including London during the summertime.

Another popular way to reach Santorini is by ferry. There are frequent ferries from Athens, Crete, and other Greek islands. We took a ferry from Milos, and it only took us two hours to get to Santorini. 

Travelling by ferry is a popular option even among locals, so make sure to book your ticket online in advance, especially if your trip is in peak season. 

When is the best time to visit Santorini? 

I highly recommend avoiding travel to Santorini during the peak season, which is July and August. It’s hot, very crowded with tourists, and prices are at their highest.

The off-season runs from the end of October to March. While you'll find cheaper hotels and might even have the island to yourself, many hotels and restaurants are closed during this time. Since Santorini is a touristy destination, not much happens during the off-season, and many Greeks also leave the island during this period.

The best time to visit to avoid crowds and high prices is the shoulder season, which includes late May, June, September, and early to mid-October. During these months, you'll enjoy pleasant weather, fewer tourists, and more reasonable prices.

Where to stay in Santorini 

The most popular towns are Oia and Fira. Oia is famous for its stunning sunsets and picturesque photo spots, while Fira is the capital of the island. Most tourists stay in either of these towns and if I had to choose between them, I’d go for Fira. It feels less crowded due to its larger space and offers easy access to public transport. Some of the best places to stay in Fira are Aperto Suites, Villa Thiranthemis, and Lilium Hotel Santorini.

If you prefer to stay in Oia, be sure to check out Fanari Villas, which is built on a cliff and offers stunning views. Another great option is Santo Mine Oia Suites, where you can enjoy a private pool with a sunset view.

In general, I prefer to stay away from touristy spots, which is why we booked a beautiful hotel, called Potnia Theron Suites, in the south of the island. Our suite came with a private swimming pool and a jacuzzi, and we paid £300 per night. Another great hotel in this area is Absolute Paradise Santorini

Santorini is not a huge island; you can drive from one side to the other in less than an hour. This makes it easy to find more affordable accommodation outside of the main towns while still being able to explore the entire island.

How many days should you stay in Santorini?

You need at least three days to experience the best of the island and visit the top tourist attractions. We stayed for four days and managed to visit Oia, Fira, and some other beautiful towns in Santorini like Pyrgos and Megalochori. We spent our last day on the black and red beaches.

With one more day, we would have had time for a fun excursion such as horse riding or sea kayaking. So, five days is ideal to see the highlights of what Santorini has to offer.

How to get around the island

The best way to get around Santorini is to rent a car. While there are local buses and taxis, they can be slow and busy during the high season. Plus, having your own car gives you more flexibility to explore lesser-known places at your own pace.

When you're in the towns, you'll see many shops offering rental cars, scooters, and quad bikes. However, I always prefer to book the car rental online in advance from CarRentals or DiscoverCars This way, you can compare prices and terms and secure the best deal.

We booked our car from the airport. When we arrived by ferry at the port, we took a local bus to the airport to pick up the car. This arrangement was convenient because it allowed us to easily drop off the car when we flew out.

Food in Santorini

We love Greek food—honestly, who doesn’t? We’ve travelled to many different destinations in Greece and always enjoyed great quality Greek cuisine. However, the situation can be a bit different in Santorini. Don’t get me wrong, there are nice restaurants with good food, but Santorini is not Crete. The food here might not be the best in Greece.

That said, we did find a great local place called Kira Niki outside Fira where we enjoyed authentic Greek food.

Another thing to keep in mind is that many of the famous restaurants will be booked well in advance. So, if you have a restaurant in mind, especially if it offers sunset views, be sure to reserve your table ahead of time.

Is Santorini really expensive?

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room that not many people discuss on social media: Santorini can be very expensive, especially compared to other Greek islands. And accommodation will be your biggest expense. You can definitely find much cheaper accommodation in places like Crete, Rhodes, and Milos. 

The price of food and drinks is also higher than the average in Greece. This doesn’t mean you can’t find budget-friendly options, There are local tavernas away from the main tourist areas. but you are in Santorini, and if you want to have a nice meal in a good restaurant with views, you might need to splash out a bit.

While Santorini is known for its luxury, there are still plenty of free and fun activities such as hiking, watching the sunsets, and relaxing on the beach.

Where to watch the sunset

Santorini is known for offering some of the best sunsets in Greece. As I mentioned earlier, Oia, particularly Oia Castle, is the most popular spot on the island to watch the sunset. It gets very crowded, and you need to arrive early because the car park has limited space.

Another great spot to watch the sunset is the highest point in Pyrgos. It offers stunning views and is less crowded than Oia. Additionally, the Akrotiri Lighthouse is another peaceful and less crowded location to enjoy the sunset.

What to pack for Santorini 

Santorini is hilly and has a lot of stairs, so make sure to pack comfortable shoes because you’ll be doing a lot of walking. The sun can be strong, and there isn’t much greenery for protection, so bring hats and sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun. 

Santorini is a picturesque island with many photo opportunities, so plan ahead your outfits and pack accordingly. You can also check out my packing tips for more detailed advice.

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