Santorini is on pretty much every bucket list you’ll ever read. For me, it had been on mine for longer than I can remember. White towns dotted along the cliffs, blue domes churches, picturesque beaches, archaeological sites, seafood galore and luxurious cave hotels complete with infinity pools offer something for every island lover. Santorini well and truly exceeded all my incredibly high expectations and I very quickly fell in love with this magical Greek island. There is so much on offer in Santorini, but here are our five best things to do on Santorini.
1. Hire a Quad Bike and explore the Island
We hired a Quad Bike (or ATV as they call them) which cost approximately €35 and we only had to put about €8 worth of fuel in it for the entire day! Parking at all the beaches and most of the towns was also free, just make sure you park in actual parking bays as we were warned you’d be fined if you just parked by the side of the road in towns.
We hired our quad in Oia and spent the entire day exploring. All of the roads were in a decent condition and there wasn’t too much traffic so we felt fairly safe the whole time. The only time the roads got busy where when a ferry arrived and all the trucks disembarked so we just pulled over and got an ice cream whilst we waited for the roads to clear a bit.
We made sure we got helmets when we hired our Quad and as always were surprised with just how many tourists weren’t wearing helmets. We highly recommend to get helmets, it very well may save your life! We also recommend ensuring your travel insurance will cover you and that you do of course, have travel insurance!
If at any point though, you need help from home for example, needing someone to help you to book a return flight and you can’t because of a bad internet connection, it is always helping to know how to send money to Australia efficiently and safely.
2. Stay in a Cave Hotel
Your stay on Santorini will be perfect if you choose to stay in a cave hotel. Every town and village on Santorini has its charms but Oia is without a doubt one of the most charming and stunning villages of not just Santorini, but also all of the Cyclades islands. Oia is built on the steep slope of the caldera, with most of its buildings nestled into the volcanic rock which has led to the creation of the ever so sought-after cave hotels.
Santorini is one of the most picturesque places on Earth and I truly don’t think it would be possible to have a better view than the view from the cave hotels. We stayed at the beautiful Nostos Apartments where no matter where you were in the hotel, you had the most epic views of the caldera, volcano and beautiful white cliffside buildings of Oia.
Oia is a hive of activity every day with tourists from all over the island and from cruise ships and so it is wonderful to actually be walking distance from the main sites and also be able to relax and enjoy the views without the massive crowds from your cave hotel.
3. Watch the Sunset
The Santorini sunset is certainly something on everyone’s Santorini Bucket List. Whether you watch the sunset from Oia, Fira, Imerovigli or even from your own boat it is guaranteed to be magical. Our first night we caught the sunset from our hotel in Oia and the second night we went to the “typical” sunset spot which is Oia Castle. We were prepared and knew that we would be watching this sunset with thousands of others, but I could tell there were some people who were disappointed by the experience. It was a beautiful sunset in a magical spot and yes there were thousands of other people sharing it with us but like anything, it is what you make it (and we took a few ciders along which helped) and Dan still managed to squeeze through the crowds and get a few shots!
There are also plenty of restaurants and hotels with the perfect view just be prepared to book in advance and pay well for the location!
It is also worthwhile getting up before sunrise at least one morning during your time on Santorini to explore Oia with no crowds. Oia’s beauty and charm means it draws crowds from all over the island as well as from the many cruise ships who dock in the bay each day during summer. We spent our first morning strolling the empty streets of Oia, falling more and more in love with it each step we took. When we returned that afternoon after Quad biking we found it jam packed with people and it literally took us ten minutes to walk a few hundred metres!
If you want to experience Oia as we did (and as you’ll see in the photos below) then get up and start EARLY, you won’t regret it.
4. Hike the Caldera Trail from Oia to Fira
The hike from Oia to Fira (or in reverse) is about 10km and took us just over 4 hours. It is without a doubt one of the most scenic hikes we’ve ever done, easily comparable to the Path of the Gods on the Amalfi Coast! The path is doable by anyone with reasonable fitness levels but just make sure you start early in summer! There is basically no shade and you will literally fry if you are walking in the middle of the day in summer. Make sure you plan the time to do this walk and it is definitely one of the most scenic walks ever and the views are unforgettable.
5. Visit the Beaches
Santorini is known for having some of the best beaches in the Aegean. The beaches are so unique ranging from the famous black volcanic sand beaches to the red and white sand beaches. Our favourite beaches were the black sand beaches of Kamari, Perissa, Pervolos and the unique red sand beach near Akrotiri village. The black sand beaches were nice for swimming but the red one had quite a bit of seaweed, however was worth the walk as the colours were truly striking!
Santorini has so much to see and do. We spent a few weeks island hopping around the Greek Islands and only spent a few days on Santorini as we knew it would be the most expensive and busiest island. I’d love to return one day during shoulder season and spend a few more days exploring this beautiful island further. A few things on our list for next time are to take a tour over to the volcano, take a winery tour, a sailing trip around the island, visit the archaeological site of Akrotiri and climb the steps from Oia down to beautiful Amoudi Bay.
Have you been to beautiful Santorini?
It is honestly as dreamy as I’d always imagined!
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This post was written in collaboration with The Currency Shop.