I’m back! It feels like I haven’t blogged in ages. I’ve been a bit stuck for things to write about; no major home renovations going on at the moment and I’ve been a busy bee over these last few weeks! I am over the moon and rather shocked to announce that I am now engaged (nine years people, it’s been a long time coming!), which happened on the beautiful island of Santorini. It felt right that Santorini was the next thing to blog about to share my experiences and recommendations with any future travellers. Greece has always been my favourite holiday destination anyway, but nothing could prepare me for the beauty and charm of Santorini. As the plane was descending at nighttime and I could see the tiny island twinkling away in the distance I actually had tears in my eyes; I never usually get emotional by such things but I knew that we were going to have a magical time. And we did!
The island basically has a beach side and a caldera side. The beach side is on the east of the island, and generally where there is more nightlife. I say ‘beach side’, but if you’re after a beach holiday then I wouldn’t recommend Santorini. The beaches are black pebble beaches, picturesque but very rocky, and if you want to go in the sea then you really need sea shoes! The caldera side is on the west, that’s where the likes of Imerovigili, Fira and the famous Oia are and where you find all the cliff side white buildings with blue roofs. It’s the caldera side where tourists gather for the amazing sunsets and beautiful views, but there is definitely less nightlife and places tend to shut quite early. It’s also where the hotels and restaurants are much more expensive – you’re paying for the view!
With the above in mind, we decided to stay in Kamari on the beach side of the island. Accommodation was much more affordable than the likes of Imerovigili and Oia and it had lots of things to do without seeming too commercial. I am so happy that we chose to stay here and when we go back to Santorini I will definitely be staying in Kamari again. There are so many shops, restaurants and bars and these are all along the beach front with a few side streets. Bar and restaurant wise, you are literally spoilt for choice and the majority have a sea view. I can honestly say that other than alcoholic drink prices we found staying in Kamari no more expensive than other Greek islands. Yes it cost more for accommodation to stay there, but evening meals and hiring vehicles didn’t seem to cost more. Although it wasn’t on the caldera side it still had more of an upmarket boutique type feel to it than other Greek islands. Although it was a pebbly beach, it was still beautiful with volcanic scenery. Everywhere was so clean and the people were so friendly.
Note: another really good place to stay is Perivolos. We didn’t stop off here but had a ride through and it’s a long stretch of beach with hotels and restaurants all along the beachfront. It looked like a lovely place and somewhere that we would definitely consider in the future. It seemed to have a sandy beach too!
I’m sure many people will disagree with this because there is so much debate on whether Kamari or Perissa is the better resort, but neither me or Luke liked Perissa. Perissa is next door to Kamari, just on the other side of the big mountain. We visited a couple of times to have a wander around and stop to have a drink but everything seemed very run down in comparison to Kamari. Everything in Perissa was very spaced out and felt ‘older’, Kamari is much more compact and ‘new’ in my opinion. Accommodation wise I think it is the cheapest resort to stay in Santorini. I wouldn’t want my comments to put anyone off though, it’s so easy to travel around on the island so you’re never restricted to stay in one place.
Before we visited the north of the island, we went south. Akrotiri is home to the ruins of a prehistoric village and there are some amazing viewpoints to stop off at on the way down there. Right near the tip of the island is where you’ll find the lighthouse, which is apparently one of the oldest in Greece and is a very popular spot for sunsets. Although you can’t go in the lighthouse, it is still well worth a visit (unfortunately it was overcast when we went but the views were still beautiful!). Nearby is Red Beach and the clue is in the name, its a beach surrounded by red volcanic rock. We parked up and went to have a look at it from a distance and take some photographs. It’s meant to be closed to the public currently due to big landslides but some crazy people were still sunbathing. We didn’t bother because it would be our luck to get squished by a big rock. If you’re near Akrotiri then you won’t be too far from Theros Wave Bar, definitely one of the coolest beach bars I’ve ever been to and I’ve even considered this as a wedding venue. I will never forget lying on that beach with a wine and feeling so relaxed and happy.
When you imagine Santorini, you imagine the white buildings with the blue roofs on the cliff edge looking out to the sea. That’s Oia. It is by far the most spectacular place I have ever visited. It is DREAMY. It is just like the pictures you see on postcards and so much more. There are little winding cobbled paths with beautiful shops and the views are breathtaking. If you keep walking you end up on a square with the most amazing 360 view and its basically full of people with selfie sticks. People flock here for the sunsets and apparently everyone is packed into the village like sardines so we visited in the day and avoided evening time. It was crowded with tourists when we went in May so I can only imagine what it must be like in high season. Once the sun has gone down there is very little nightlife here, and to stay in one of the hotels overlooking the sea costs a fortune.
The is the capital of Santorini a little further south than Imerovigli. We drove down the main road a few times (there’s a McDonald’s) and it seemed a bit commercial and not very nice, if I’m honest. But we parked up one day and went for a walk and it’s actually really lovely. It was packed with cruise ship tourists and was very busy like Oia. There’s little winding paths with some lovely shops which leads to spectacular views, again! If you’re exploring the island by bus then Fira is where the main bus station is. (Just a side note, if anyone reads this post and is planning on going to Santorini in the future then please, please, please do not ride on the poor donkeys. They are abused; stood in heat all day without adequate food and water and they struggle to carry the heavy loads. There is a lot of publicity about this).
We went for lunch in Imerovigli after going to Oia. Can’t remember the name of the restaurant now but it was beautiful; lovely food with amazing views. And it wasn’t expensive at all! Imerovigli seemed quiet and peaceful, and had some stunning hotels overlooking the caldera. Before I went to Santorini I had read that Imerovigli is the best place to watch the sunset as it has a very similar view to Oia but without the volume of people there. If we were to return to Santorini I would stay in Kamari but would like to stay for a couple of nights in Imerovigli to have that view on my doorstep.
Not even sure have you pronounce the name of this place, but it is my favourite place in the world! This is home to Santo Winery and is the place where Luke proposed. I hadn’t even read about Pyrgos beforehand as being a top place to visit, but I would highly recommend it. Santo Winery has a beautiful restaurant with 360 views that look out to the caldera and the volcano in the middle. We had an evening meal there and did some wine tasting; if you want a ‘front row’ seat for the best view of the sunset then it’s best to book beforehand. To watch the sunset we drove on a motorbike around the back of some villas to the cliff edge and parked up there. It was the most wonderful experience ever, and it’s where we went back to on the second to last night and Luke proposed. It was a bit of a hidden spot and definitely the best place for watching the sunset. This place will always have my heart and I can’t wait to go back to that exact spot in a few years time.
Getting around the island
If you don’t want to drive then apparently Santorini has a brilliant bus system (we never used it). If you want to hire a vehicle then there are rentals literally everywhere! We rented four different vehicles during our week, one of which was a convertible smart car. It was an interesting experience, a bit like driving around in a tin can. Quad bikes and mopeds are everywhere. Exploring is always my favourite bit of the holiday. As the island is so tiny (around 11 miles long) is so easy to get from place to place.
Is Santorini expensive?
While you’re there, Santorini can be as cheap or expensive as you want it to be. You only have to search on travel agency websites to see that flights and accommodation are more expensive than other Greek islands, so you’ll always pay more for a holiday here than if you went to Corfu, for example. Kamari and Perissa are the cheaper beach resorts but if you stayed somewhere such as Oia then accommodation costs a bomb. In my experience alcoholic drinks were higher in price than other Greek islands but I didn’t feel that eating out and shopping was any more expensive! If you eat at restaurants in Oia all week then yes, I guess it would be very expensive, but we never did that so I can’t really comment. All I can say is that I expected to spend more money than what we did. What I did notice when we were renting vehicles is that we paid the cheapest price because May is classed as low season. If you went to Santorini in July then you can expect to pay a LOT more for your actual holiday and I believe prices are generally higher when you get there too.
Our accommodation was on the beach front and is called Afrodite Venus Beach Hotel and Spa. We upgraded to a superior room and it was stunning, definitely the nicest hotel we have stayed at in Greece. I would highly recommend this hotel, with the only drawback being that the pool area didn’t seem as relaxed and quiet as other hotels. From our hotel room was the view of the road to Ancient Thira, a tourist attraction of the ruins of a city up a mountain that was inhabited in the 9th century. We drove up there on the quad bike but didn’t go in because it was red hot on the day, we planned to go back but didn’t have the time. My only Santorini regret!
Best time to go?
In April, May and September flights and accommodation are cheaper, and vehicle hire costs less. As these months are not high season there are less tourists and the place generally feels more relaxed. Weather can be hit and miss; we’ve never had bad weather in Greece before but when we went in mid-late May we had a few overcast days and it rained a couple of times! It was still very humid though and didn’t stop us from doing anything, just were less tanned when we got home! For pretty much guaranteed sunny weather visit in July and August, but be prepared for tourists EVERYWHERE and the roads to be very busy. Personally I wouldn’t want to go to Santorini when it’s scorching hot because we definitely wouldn’t have been able to explore as much as we did.
So that’s my thoughts and recommendations in a big nutshell. I loved writing this post because I fell in love with Santorini and I’m dying to go back. At the moment I’m debating on whether to have my wedding here, but that’s an entirely different story…
Thanks for reading,