An island with more churches than houses, more donkeys than people, and more wine than water (or so a sign on the bathroom door told me)… Santorini really is a place like no either. Underwhelming is not a word that enters the vocabulary when you first lay eyes on this island. Hundreds of white-washed buildings gathered together on a striking volcanic cliff. The rich, blue Mediterranean ocean perfectly complements the signature blue domes of the many churches scattered around the island. This island truly is a sight to behold.
During our five day stay in Santorini, we rode donkeys, climbed an active volcano, jumped off a boat into hot springs, went quad biking on crazy roads, sun-baked on black sand beaches, dived into crystal clear waters, drunk cocktails by sunset and danced till dawn. As you can see, there are almost too many unique and incredible things to do during a visit to Santorini! If you are planning a trip to Santorini or even just fantasizing about onei, I’ve compiled for you a list of my favorite experiences that I hope you will enjoy as much as I did.
1. Go cliff jumping at Amoudi Bay
Does jumping into crystal clear Mediterranean waters surrounded by the striking cliff faces of Santorini sound like your cup of tea? Well, then you HAVE TO check out this incredible swimming spot at Amoudi Bay. It was honestly one of the best things I did during my stay in Santorini. You can swim straight off the rocks, or if you are game, climb up the stairs of the massive boulder in the water and do your best dive in!
TO GET HERE: This spot is actually quite hidden and requires a bit of stair climbing, but I promise it will be worth it! Basically, from Oia, look for the big set of stairs that go down to Amoudi Bay. Once you reach Amoudi Bay, walk left along the cliff face. Keep walking over the rocks and eventually, you’ll spot paradise (and lots of people uncomfortably sun-baking on the rocks).
2. Hike the Fira Trail
If you want a chance to up your Instagram game with some of the BEST photo opportunities Santorini has to offer, this hike is a must. The hike goes from Fira to Oia and is about three hours long (if you take it at a leisurely pace). I recommend doing the hike at sunset, as it won’t be as hot at this time of day, AND you’ll get the most beautiful photos at this time of day!
3. Stay in a Cave house
Or for that matter, anywhere typically Greek! We stayed in a lovely hostel called Caveland in Karterados for five nights during our stay in Santorini. The hostel itself felt wonderfully Grecian- think traditional, white-washed cave-style buildings featuring bright blue doors framed by fuchsia flowers. Complete with a pool, super friendly and helpful staff, and even morning yoga classes, it was incredible as far as hostels go (not to mention a total bargain)!
On the downside, the location was quite isolated and was a fifteen-minute walk to get into the main town of Fira. If you are looking to be in the center of all the action, your best bet is to actually stay in Fira, although you may pay a little more to do so. If you are seeking a quieter getaway with the best views of the caldera and have a bit more money to burn, I would recommend you check out all the amazing properties Oia has to offer!
4. Hire a quad bike and drive around the island
What better way to explore this beautiful island then cruising down the roads with the wind in your hair!? Hiring a quad bike (or ATV) for the day is surprisingly cheap and only requires a standard license. It’s a great way to discover areas that aren’t accessible by bus (and to feel super cool while you’re at it).
If you are nervous about driving on the busier roads, head towards the black sand beaches of Kamari and Perissa- it’s a super easy drive with virtually no traffic. Just you and the open road baby! Alternatively, if you don’t have a driver license, you could cruise around the island on an electric bike tour instead.
5. Go on a Sunset Wine Tour
Santorini is home to many fantastic wineries, so make sure you don’t leave the island without sampling the island’s finest grapes! If you want the full experience, take a sunset wine tour, where you will be taken to 3 traditional wineries to taste over 12 wines. On the final stop, you’ll get to sip your wine whilst watching Santorini’s famous sunset- there isn’t really much that can beat wine with a view!
Alternatively, appreciate the iconic Santorini sunset from the water with a 4-hour cruise on board a catamaran. On the cruise, you’ll sail see Santorini from a whole new angle, all whilst enjoying a barbeque dinner, plus unlimited wine and soft drinks. You even give you a chance to jump off for a swim or a snorkel!
6. Eat Frozen Yogurt for dinner
Alright, I’ll let you off if least make it your second course after 2€ gyros. But seriously, the frozen yogurt I had in Santorini still lingers in my food dreams. If you are in Thira, you must check out Chillbox. They’ve even got Bueno sauce topping to put on your frozen yogurt- it’s almost too good to be true. Once your mouth is in heaven, you can sit back and think about how cool it is that you are eating frozen Greek yogurt in Greece. Yep, that’s next level cool.
7. Jump off a boat into hot springs
Picture this. You’re on a boat. You dive off into the cool Mediterranean ocean. You swim about twenty meters and suddenly, the water changes color and temperature and you’ve just swum into hot springs. This is just another one of those unique things you HAVE to do during your stay in Santorini (just don’t wear your best swimsuit in the hot springs, I’m still mourning over my ruined bikini). Every day, boat tours in traditional wooden yachts leave from the Old Fira port which will take you to the hot springs and also to the volcanic island of Nea Kameni, where you get the opportunity to hike around the rim of an active volcano.
8. Experience the REAL meaning of dinner with a view
It’s not every day you have the option of dining with arguably one of the best views in the world. Even if you’re on a budget, choose at least one night to splurge a little at one of the many restaurants overlooking the ocean. Time your reservation for sunset and prepare to have your mind (and hopefully tastebuds) blown. The last night we were in Santorini we ate out at Volcano Blue, a reasonably-priced restaurant along the water at Fira with a priceless view. The timing of our meal could not have been more perfect. Not only did we get to watch that fiery red ball descend into the shimmering ocean, we also got to witness a spectacular firework show over the volcano once the sun went down!
9. Sunbake (or fry) on the black sand beaches
For a unique, and to be honest, slightly painful experience, head to the black sand beaches of Kamari and Perissa. Within seconds of stepping on to that hot sand in summer, your feet will fry and you’ll turn three shades darker. But hey, that’s all part of the fun- right? Luckily you can rent out a sun lounge and an umbrella to avoid these things, and then after a dip in the water, you can always retire to one of the many restaurants lining the beach for a well-deserved drink.
10. Get the perfect spot to watch the best sunset in the world
So I know it’s an obvious one, but there is a very good reason why this is recommended on every Santorini guide imaginable. I’m not exaggerating when I say that sunset at Santorini was by far the most spectacular sunset I have ever seen. Ever. There aren’t many crowds that erupt in a round of applause once the sun makes its final descent beneath the ocean. This is one of those pinch-yourself kinds of moments, one that you are going to remember for the rest of your life. To make watching the sunset over Oia the BEST experience possible, securing a good spot will make all the difference. My advice? Bring a little picnic, arrive at the very least an hour before sunset, and make your way up to the viewing platform and secure a good seat. Take a million photos, but also don’t forget to take time to really be in the moment, to soak it all in.
WHERE TO STAY IN SANTORINI:
You’ll find a fantastic range of unique accommodation to rent in Santorini on Airbnb, including the stunning Cavela with most places far better value for money than a traditional hotel. If you sign up with my link, you can even get $38 off your first visit!
Caveland (Karterados)– a hostel with stunning cave rooms, an amazing pool, and outdoor area, free wifi and breakfast included.
Ampelonas Apartments (Imerovigli)- great location near the town of Fira, spacious rooms with private terraces.
Kirini Suites and Spa (Oia)- five-star luxury experience in the iconic town of Oia, incredible suites with private plunge pools, outstanding service.
HOW TO GET TO SANTORINI:
There are two main ways you can arrive in Santorini- by boat or by plane. If you fly into Athens, you can catch the Blue Star ferry to Santorini, which will take eight hours and cost from €38. There are also high-speedboats that will take only 4-5 hours but cost you more.
Flying into Santorini can actually be cheaper than the ferry, especially with the rise of budget airlines like Ryanair. One of the easiest ways to find cheap flights to Santorini is through the free Skyscanner app (available on iOS or Android), which allows you to search across all airlines to find the most affordable fares. You can also use the Skyscanner flight search engine below to find flights:
I highly recommend getting travel insurance before ANY international trip. World Nomad’s offer the most flexible worldwide cover that I have come across, and you can purchase a policy online, even if your trip has already commenced. If you’re not traveling with tech gear, you may also want to check out SafetyWings, which is a bit more affordable.
In the end, words describing Santorini just don’t do it justice and come to think of it, neither do photographs. This place just HAS to be experienced.
Check out our adventures in Mykonos:
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