The travel destination on everyone's lips right now is most definitely the beautiful Greek island of Santorini, part of the Cyclades in the Aegean sea. With its picture perfect blue domed buildings, whitewashed walls and bougainvillea aplenty, this little isle is an absolute must for your travel bucket list. Famed for its beautiful views, Santorini is often thought of as being an expensive place to visit, but whatever your budget, there's sure to be a spot in Santorini for you!
Where to Stay
Depending on your budget and what you want out of a sunny holiday there are two main options when it comes to accommodation in Santorini; caldera or beach. The caldera is the side of the island that overlooks the volcano and the resort towns are situated high on the cliffside. If the views are what you're after then the caldera side is definitely for you. The other side of the island is home to the beach resorts. If you're looking for a more budget trip and prefer to be by the beach everyday then opt for one of these resorts.
On the caldera side there are three main places that you can stay; Fira, Imerovigli and the world-famous Oia. Fira is located roughly half way between the North and the South of the island, it is home to the majority of restaurants and shops on the caldera side of the island. It is also where the cruise ships dock in case you will be arriving by this method! It's more affordable than Oia and has more options for eating and drinking. Imerovigli is approximately halfway between Fira and Oia. This is a small village/town and is perfect if you want something a little quieter, with caldera views, and easy access to both Oia and Fira. Oia (situated at the Northern tip of the island) is the place most people think of when they think of Santorini, and is where you want to head for some of the most beautiful sunsets you'll ever witness. But bear in mind that this means that it is very busy and can be swarmed with tourists especially at sunset. It is also the most expensive resort due to its reputation, so if you're after a luxury stay then Oia could be the one for you.
For a holiday by the beach then why not try Kamari, Perissa or Perivolos. Kamari is a beautiful upmarket town on the South-Eastern side of the island that is sophisticated with a hint of old Greek charm. It's great for swimming in the sea, sunbathing on its black sand beach, and has a great selection of restaurants. Perissa is another great beach resort and features picturesque whitewashed villas with a dramatic volcanic backdrop. Not to mention a lively beach bar scene. Perivolos is along the coastline from Perissa and is ideal for a relaxed, quiet holiday by the sea. And don't worry, the island is very small, so no matter where you stay, you're aren't too far from anything. To get around there is a great bus service that only costs a couple of euros per person, or try hiring a car or a quad bike to make your way around.
What to See/Visit
Sunset Views - Top of your list when visiting Santorini has to be watching the famous sunset from Oia. But be warned, you need to get there early to claim your spot in the height of season as hundreds of tourists flock there to see the sun setting. Or, if you're able to, grab a spot in a restaurant or bar overlooking the horizon in order to ensure the perfect view.
Ancient Towns - Santorini is home to Akrotiri, an ancient site left behind after a huge volcanic eruption, similar to that of Pompeii. If you're interested in the history of the island and civilisations this is definitely a must see.
Wine Tasting - The volcanic makeup and climate of the island means that it is very good for making wine, and wine that has a very special taste. As a result there are several wineries that you can visit whilst in Santorini, one of the most well-known being Santo Wines.
Hiking & Walking - There are a number of hikes that you can undertake on the island due to its mountainous, volcanic structure. However our top recommendation would have to be a hike along the caldera from Fira to Oia. It will take you between 3 and 5 hours, depending on how quickly you walk and how often you stop, but the views of the volcano and the island from here are breath-taking. And rest assured, there are cafes and restaurants along the way if you need to take a break. At the hottest time of year it's best to attempt this one either early in the morning or in the late afternoon to early evening.
Cinema Under The Stars - Kamari on the Eastern side of the island is home to an excellent open air cinema and is the perfect way to spend a relaxing evening sipping cocktails, munching on popcorn and sitting outside in the warm Greek nights.
Boat Trip - A trip to Santorini would not be complete without a boat trip. If you're looking for luxury, there are plenty of companies offering exclusive catamaran trips during the day or at sunset. If you're on a budget there are so many different boat trips to choose from, whether you want to sail around the island, visit various spots, or just get out on the ocean wave!
Visiting the Volcano - The caldera view overlooks a still active volcano that was once part of a single island called Strongili. Thousands of years ago an eruption destroyed the island and formed the beginnings of what Santorini looks like today. You can visit the volcano and walk to the uppermost tip for the most amazing views of Santorini.
Where to Eat
Santorini is famous for its sunset, and as a result there are many restaurants and bars situated along the caldera cliffside in order to watch the beautiful views day and night. Naturally these restaurants can be quite expensive but if you're looking for a little luxury this is where to head. Also make sure to get a reservation if you want a good table for the sunset.
For those on more of a budget, there is a huge range of budget-friendly options for eating. Away from the caldera, either further into the towns or on the beach side there are plenty of restaurants at a lower price point offering all different cuisines from Greek to Italian to Chinese. If you want a really cheap dinner, head to a gyros shop and grab yourself one of the local gyros for around €3-€5. These are a piece of pitta bread wrapped around chicken or pork kebab meat, chips, salad and tzatziki. The perfect on the go dinner or snack!
And to finish, make sure you check out Lolitas ice cream parlour in Oia for the softest, tastiest ice cream around.
Have you ever been to Santorini?