About three years ago, my (at the time) boyfriend told me he was going to be moving to Europe for work. After the slight heart attack subsided, my energy was transferred into my mind racing, thinking of all the possibilities! The history, the cultures, and oh, the beautiful places to see! Thankfully this meant that WE would be moving to Europe and all the possibilities would also be mine to share, so I started doing what any normal girl would do.... silently scrolling through Pinterest for hours under the duvet at night to plan perfect vacations with corresponding and situation appropriate outfits.
During this time I stumbled upon picture after picture of the beautiful Island of Santorini, Greece, and the love affair (read: slight obsession) was born....
How to get there, where to stay, and what to do! This comprehensive post is packed with need to know info. If you came for the pics then start scrolling and also check out THIS post next.
I think to truly appreciate how amazing Santorini is, you need a a bit background on how this little paradise came to be. I know we normally go history nerd on this blog but I'm about to drop a little science on ya..
Santorini is essentially what remains after an enormous volcanic eruption destroyed the earliest settlements on the island. This eruption created the geological caldera- a giant central lagoon surrounded by 900 feet high cliffs on 3 of the sides. The caldera is a whopping 1,300 feet deep, making it impossible for any but the very largest ships to anchor in the protected bay. The caldera is surrounded by volcanic ash deposits hundreds of feet deep and may have led indirectly to the collapse of the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete, 70 miles to the south, through a gigantic tsunami.
Scary: the last eruption occurred in 1953..
But that wouldn't stop you from going to see this view, would it?
So how do you spend your time in one of the most lovely and picturesque places in the world? Many go to lounge and soak up the sun, ourselves included. But for such a small island, Santorini has a lot of activities to offer, and I have covered some below!
Sail away in Santorini
We chose Spiridakos Sailing Cruises for our aquatic adventure and had a wonderful day with their crew! Our agenda included the red and white beaches, hot springs, a delicious Greek BBQ dinner, and memories of sunset views that cannot be beat. Also important: Greek wine and beer to compliment the beautiful day and meal. From beginning to end if was awesome, despite the fact I was feeling a little seasick from some waves that rolled in.
Island hoppers love to visit the famous hot springs at Nea Kameni. Formed around 1570 after a series of large eruptions, the springs are said to have natural healing powers. What I do know is they have a really high sulfur content so wash your swimmies immediately to avoid rust colored stains. You're welcome.
Rent an ATV and hit the streets
Though Santorini isn't terribly large, the towns are a bit too spread out to reach comfortably by walking. The easiest way to get between towns is to rent a scooter or ATV and cruise around, allowing you to stay at the accommodations of your choice but still reach other areas of the island. We had a blast passing through Akrotiri, Kamari, Fira, and Oia. ATV rentals are really plentiful, and in many cases your hotel can arrange the service for you- that was the case with our (exceptional) hotel, Astarte Suites.
The more cc's on your ride, the more power.
Remember less isn't more when it comes to caldera cruising!
This pink hat from The North Face was perfect to keep my hair out of my face on the ATV! Find it HERE.
Hit the beach
The beaches in Santorini are truly unique! Beaches are made up of volcanic sand and pebbles in a variety of shades of red, along with black and white. Because the beaches are not made up of fine sand there isn't much to cloud the water, leaving you with crystal clear waters perfect for snorkeling! Keep in mind that because the sand and pebbles are much darker than your standard golden beach, they get SUPER hot during the summer. Beach shoes are a must!
Watch the sunset
They say the sunsets in Santorini are the most beautiful in the world. I haven't been everywhere in the world, but I can say they were indeed pretty damn impressive in Santorini! You will see couples and families alike pull over on the side of tiny streets to watch the sun sink below the horizon. Restaurants and hotels center their businesses around the sunset, and have price tags that reflect a good view. Whether you grab a bottle of local wine and camp out on a cliff OR you're seated for fine dining around the caldera, you're sure to enjoy the sights!
Santorini sunsets, I love you times infinity.
I also love this infinity pool at Astarte Suites.
How to get to Santorini:
Your journey can largely depend on your starting point but one we can all access is Athens, Greece. From here you can elect to take a ferry (regular or high-speed) or to take a quick flight. Ferry times vary from five to eight hours depending on what ship you select, and price can fluctuate depending on which class you pick (regular, vip, private). For us, time is money (especially on Santorini) and we wanted to make the most of our time and fly. From takeoff to landing it's 40 minutes. Depending on the day of the week, you can grab an Agean Airways or RyanAir flight for around $100 during peak season BUT typically the flights depart Athens at 7am and have return flight times around midnight or 1am. Seeing as how we wanted to actually relax on this vacation, we opted to book with Volotea, which was about $100 more than RyanAir options but allowed us to have 11am flight times which were much more comfortable! We had never flown Volotea before but found it to be comparable to other small European carriers.
If you're not keen on spending time in Athens, you can also fly direct to Santorini from some of the larger Western European cities like Paris, London, Rome, Frankfurt, and Amsterdam. I was pleasantly surprised to see direct flights between these places at the tiny Santorini airport, but keep in mind this option will be seasonal.
When to go:
Some resorts will close in November and re-open in March, and you may have a lot less options for flights and ferries this time of year, but because "off season" tourism is becoming more popular, this is the prime time to get awesome deals at hotels that stay open year-round. May through October are the "best" weather, with July and August being the hottest. High season for tourism is late June until September, and we went in late June/early July.
Where to stay:
When planning your visit to Santorini, one of the biggest #firstworldproblems you will have is: what hotel to stay at? There are a few main towns on Santorini and each have a little something different to offer.
Notes on a few of the popular towns for accommodations:
Oia- your most photographed area with beautiful blue domes. Gorgeousl luxury accommodations but because it's one of the most popular towns and the way it is laid out, it's a little difficult to find privacy. Restaurants and shopping are plentiful and so are amazing views.
Imerovigli- amazing sunsets, some of the most gorgeous hotels, smaller and more private than Oia, but also less restaurants and stores.
Fira- largest town with great access to restaurants, nightlife, and shopping. More selection of Air B&B's than other towns, and good variation in price points for hotels than you'll find in some other towns.
Akrotiri- budding in development with some new and posh accommodations! Archaeological site in town and close proximity to beaches and the port for sailing.
Kamari- situated on the beach side of island rather than caldera facing. Laid back, great for families, and a vibrant beach vibe to match its style.
Let me tell you, I poured over my laptop for at least 10 hours total trying to figure this out. After realizing that there were SO many top contenders, I created a little matrix to help me narrow it down. Let me also say that my "wish list" for our Santorini stay was a bit more boujee than my usual requirements, which made the arduous search slightly more bearable. In terms of what hotel or home rental to go with, I say dream big.. there really is no answer as the "best" place to stay because it depends on what you're looking for. I scoured websites noting the amenities like airport transportation, poolside bar, room service from a great restaurant, an infinity pool, options for a private jacuzzi or plunge pool, spa services, and the guarantee of unforgettable views. Maybe that surpasses a "little boujee" to full blown "oh you fancy huh?" but this is SANTORINI which opens up a whole new level of luxury options and we are strong believers in the work hard, play hard mindset.
The perk put us over the edge (literally, built into the side of a cliff!) was the idea of starting each morning in Santorini with an expansive fresh breakfast being served to our private terrace, allowing us to watch the sun rise over the caldrea in our bathrobes. They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and I would bet that Astarte Suites agrees with that statement.
I promise we aren't sponsored by The North Face, we just really like their hats! Here is Luke's... it comes in 20+ color options. (PS call me, North Face)
This beautiful breakfast scene was quite the morning motivator!
The chic infinity pool was also a VERY strong selling point... can you blame me?
I can't say thank you enough to Astarte Suites and their amazing staff. George, Kostas, and Stratos were all simply amazing. When I say everything was pristine and done with care, it's no exaggeration. The dining, concierge services, drivers, and in-room massage were all fabulous. Seriously, the cleaning staff and the care they took, alone, is enough to hand out five stars. We stayed in the Executive Suite and it was absolute perfection. Hands down the best hospitality experience I've ever had.
Photo below of Executive Suites open air hot tub c/o Astarte Suites
Remember when I mentioned all those appropriate outfits I had planned for each of my "bucket list" trips? Well, they did come to Santorini with me but it was SO windy that I hardly got pictures in any of the! As a "blogger" I am supposed to be really upset by that but in all honesty, I'm not... but for the record they were all blue and white and very cute. #notsalty
“The most beautiful in the world is, of course, the world itself.”
Agree or disagree? Is it possible that the most beautiful thing in the world is actually the view in Santorini? If you need some more convincing, check out THIS POST for a photo diary of the island!
BON VOYAGE, BABES!! xoxo