Some people who have been to Greece will say that Santorini is an island to skip. They claim it is too crowded with other tourists and not worth the visit. For me, Santorini was the picture perfect epitome of what I expected from a visit to Greece. It has it all–the white washed buildings with blue dome roofs, gorgeous beaches covered with anything from white sand to red volcanic rock, and the most beautiful sunsets you could ever dream of. We spent two incredible days exploring this whole island, and though I agree that Oia gets a bit crowded when it comes time to watch the sunset, there are always ways to avoid the crowds.
My first piece of advice for visiting Santorini is to properly plan out your transportation for getting there ahead of time. Josh and I arrived at the port in Crete to get tickets for the ferry ride to Santorini. We arrived shortly before the boat was to depart only to find out that tickets are supposed to be purchased two days in advance. Our only chance of boarding was to leave our luggage at the port and go sprinting as fast as we could to the ticket office where they luckily had a few tickets left to sell. We sprinted back and were the last ones to board, and although we didn’t get to sit together, we did make it to Santorini by 11:30 am and everything went much more smoothly from there.
The first thing we did when we got to the island was rent a car. Renting a car in Santorini is super easy (unlike inKefalonia) and I highly recommend it unless you are on some super organized tour group trip where all your transportation is already planned out for you. It wasn’t too pricey and enabled us to go where we wanted, whenever we wanted without waiting around for a bus any time we wanted to get somewhere.
A lot of the towns in Santorini are tiny and you can only access the houses by walking. We were staying in an airbnb (www.airbnb.com) home built into a cliff in the tiny town of Finikia. We couldn’t figure out where the addresses were on the houses so we literally just walked around until we found the house that looked like the picture on the website (it only took a few minutes). It was a great little place for us to sleep and after dropping off our bags and meeting our host, we hopped back in the car to go explore the island.
We spent the day on a secluded beach we just happened to find. There were maybe three other people that we saw the entire time we were there. No one trying to sell you anything and no fighting over the beach spot to put your towel. Just you, the sand, the sun, and the ocean. We spent the afternoon at a winery we came across while driving aroundwhere we sampled multiple wines and enjoyed some stuffed vine leaves (a Grecian delicacy that didn’t sound great but was heavenly…I am craving them right now!) Both things we would not have been able to do had we not rented a car.
Of course, the sunsets in Santorini are famous so we had to catch one on our first night there. Rather than heading to Oia where the crowds are abundant, we went to Ammoudi beach where we still had a perfect view of the sunset, but had our own spot up on a hill where we didn’t have to battle anyone for a great view. After the sunset, we enjoyed a delicious seafood dinner accompanied by a bottle of wine right by the ocean. After a week and a half of the go-go-go style of vacation, it was nice to have a day to go at a slow pace with nothing planned and just do whatever came about. If you are interested in visiting Oia but don’t want to fight the crowds, the morning is a perfect time to do that. We had breakfast by ourselves in a little restaurant tucked into a cliff with a perfect view overlooking the island.
If you are interested in a more crowded beach where all the tourists hang out, Kamari is a good one to go to. We
generally try to avoid places like this, but it was the only place we could find on the island with cliff jumping. If you walk to the end of the beach where the cliffs are, you can climb up them and jump off into the crystal blue water. It’s definitely a rush jumping from that high.
After we got our fill of thrill seeking for the day, we headed to a beach known as “Red Beach.” It is true to it’s name and the backdrop for the clear ocean water is what looks like a wall carved out of red volcanic rock. We spent the afternoon climbing around on the huge rocks and wading in the water where we discoveredall kinds of sea life we had never seen before. Although Red Beach doesn’t really have the soft sand you expect to be walking on with a typical beach, it is definitely worth checking out for it’s unique qualities and lack of too many other humans.
For our second night of sunset gazing we once again avoided Oia and went to Fira instead. Fira was probably almost as crowded, but as we had spent the evening before watching the sunset from a secluded spot, we figured we would spend this evening exploring the town while still being able to watch the sun go down. The best part about Fira was definitely the ice cream. I kid you not, it was so good that after we finished our ice cream cones, we went back and got more. We had another fantastic outdoor seafood and wine dinner to end our trip. There is nothing I wish more than that we didn’t have to head home.
Overall impressions of Santorini—It’s definitely worth going to. Rent a car, stay with a local, avoid the crowds, enjoy the seafood, and find somewhere other than Oia to watch the sunset. You won’t regret it.