Santorini is an island that comes from the bowels of the earth. This island complex was created precisely because of an intense volcanic activity that has contributed to the creation of the famous Caldera which is the only one inhabited worldwide. Santorini (or Thira) is located in the southernmost point of the Cyclades and is essentially a complex of islands consisting of the islands of Thira, Thirasia (or Thirasia), Aspronisi, Palea and Nea Kameni.
Santorini is an island that will enchant you. Your vacation in Santorini will be full of marvellous moments, spending your days under the bright Mediterranean sun and wandering in an explosion of contrasts, between the black sand of the beaches and the whitewashed villages of the caldera. A combination of wild volcanic sculptures with the simple Cycladic lines of architecture. And in one of these beautiful Cycladic buildings, you’ll choose to stay during your vacation. Will it be in a hotel on the Caldera or in a village near the historic sites of the island?
The island offers countless accommodation options for every individual need, budget or taste. Of course, all you have to do is search for these offers. Santorini owns an abundance of blissful hotels with exceptional amenities that combine perfectly with the stunning and natural beauty of the island. Santorini can be considered one of the most expensive islands (and it really is), but with the right research, you can find the perfect hotel at the perfect time, to fulfil your dream of visiting it. Experience the very best of Santorini now.
The history of Santorini, officially Thira, is one of the most fascinating narratives of the eternal struggle of man versus nature. As the elements of nature – which in Santorini are strongly associated with the action of volcanoes – raged and erupted, the people of Santorini found ways to survive, endure and create over the past centuries. Until about 1620 BC, Santorini – then called Kallisti – was just another volcanic island with volatile magma chambers under it.
Then came one of the most violent volcanic eruptions known to mankind, causing the centre of the island to collapse into the now-empty caldera. The accompanying earthquake that came with the eruption, triggered a tsunami which caused the demise and destruction of the historical Minoan civilization of ancient Crete.
Undoubtedly, the history of the island is directly connected to its restless terrain and its massive volcanoes. “Palea Kameni” and “Nea Kameni”, the two calm islands that loom over the archipelago of Santorini, shaped the history of the island along with its people, who learned to survive and create an everlasting culture despite the challenges and adversity throughout the years.
In the 18th century, Santorini experienced great growth due mainly to wine exports. The sweet wine of Vincado reached as far as Russia and the island became an important naval power in the country, with the magnificent mansions that are scattered throughout the island to function as proof to the glamour of that time. The coeval earthquake of 1956, caused significant damage to the infrastructure of the island, once again disrupting the course of Santorini and its inhabitants, as many residents were forced to leave. But after the 1970s, Santorini became famous for its undeniable unique landscape and its rapid development into a world-class tourist attraction that we know today.
It’s one of the greatest spectacles of the Mediterranean, with an estimated 2 million visitors each year that mainly consists of honeymooners, cruise-ship patrons and backpackers among others.
There are thousands of songs that have been written and thousands of words that have been said to describe this very peculiar, romantic, and enchanting island of Santorini. An island full of contrasts, but also with an unparalleled style, it welcomes millions of visitors every summer from all over the world. But if you look closely, there’s much more about Santorini, except the prominent sunset which you might have seen in countless postcards and photos in your feed.
It’s an island for all ages, either for romantic holidays (obviously) or for your holidays with your group of friends, and with a good and attentive search, you can spend your days much cheaper than other Cycladic islands. As much as the adjective “dear” is used to describe its prices during the summer season.
The heart of Santorini beats in Fira. The capital of the island is the place where you will spend almost all your afternoons. Get lost in the endlessness of its alleys, buy the renowned products from local businesses and take the best photos overlooking the vastness of the Aegean.
The sunset in Oia is incomparable. Why do you think that all foreigners are trying to buy a house in the beautiful and high-end area (to say the least) of Oia? It’s the place that has been advertised more than any other on the island and with a good reason, of course. It goes without saying, that the picturesque settlement is filled with thousands of tourists all of them enchanted by its unrivalled sunset, mostly Chinese, who applaud ecstatically every time the sun goes down. In Oia you will get to see the sunset, you’ll take photos and videos, but it is recommended not to buy anything from there. Unless you have a few dozen euros available to spend. Also, shortly after Fira on the road to Oia, you can stop at Imerovigli. The sunset from there is just as impressive as in Oia and less crowded. And you’ll end up enjoying it more.
The beaches in Santorini are distinct. You will not go to Santorini for the turquoise waters and the huge sandy beaches. If you are looking for something like this, you should definitely look elsewhere. Here, your baths will be unique and have something from the magic of a volcano. And it gets better. The colour palette of the beaches in Santorini is black, white and red!
The black sand dominates everywhere on the island. In most of the beaches, you will find the notable black sand, which naturally comes from the volcano. Perissa, Perivolos, Kamari, Monolithos, look more or less like each other. The first two are the most famous on the island, with Perivolos being a hangout for most young people. There you will find many numerous beach bars, sunbeds, music and parties that last from the evening until the early morning hours. On the contrary, in Kamari and Monolitho you’ll encounter several families and small children.
The red beach is simply breathtaking. This is a really impressive setting. A huge red rock like a canopy and orange sand full of sunbeds will make you feel like you’re taking your vacations on the Planet of Mars. It is worth visiting at least once. The red beach is located in the southern part of Santorini, near the village of Akrotiri.
On the white beach, the scene changes. Here things are a little bit different. This beach is more reminiscent of Milos and not Santorini itself, due to the lunar landscape. It is only accessible by sea and is considered (justifiably) one of the most beautiful places on the island.
Walking on the volcano of Santorini. If you want to do something different from the usual stuff, then you can book a tour on the small island of Nea Kameni, opposite of Thira and see up close the crater that once destroyed the culture of the island with its eruption.
Today Santorini has become the absolute gastronomic destination of the country. Unique agricultural products, pioneering restaurants with national and international distinctions, hospitable taverns with local delicacies, visitable wineries with excellent wine tastings, special corners of local products, cooking lessons and gastronomic attractions.
On the island, you will find a variety of very expensive restaurants, to small and economical taverns, as well as of course the all-famous souvlaki restaurants. Therefore, you judge according to your budget. For amazing traditional dishes, an excellent choice is the restaurant “Spilia tou Nikola” in Akrotiri, but also the “Anogi” in Imerovigli. If you want something quick and substantial, the souvlaki from “Lucky” in Fira will take you out of the hassle of searching and is an honest solution.
The cuisine of Santorini is very tasty and is known for its distinctive cuisine and ingredients, courtesy of the peculiar volcanic soil called the “aspa”. Local dishes like the famous fava (yellow split peas, pureed), domatinia (flavourful cherry tomatoes), white aubergines (which taste subtly different from purple ones), the glorious wine vinsanto made from raisins and a huge variety of white wines, guarantee the unique enjoyment of your palate.
Although many of the traditional recipes can be found in the taverns of the island, in several restaurants the local products start to take off in the hands of young chefs who with a creative spirit and philosophy of renewing the local cuisine are offering inspired and incredibly imaginative dishes.
One of the most popular and important restaurants in the history of Santorini is the “Selini” where for more than 30 years it has been dedicated to the development of Santorini’s cuisine and the promotion of gastronomic tourism, with its weapons of extremely imaginative aesthetics, the perfect cooking techniques and unique tastes.
Another restaurant worth mentioning, perched in Oia, built in a privileged position with plenty of views of the caldera and the Fira, is the classic restaurant named “Kokkino Podilato”. Try the salad with marinated feta cheese in Visanto, watermelon heart with fennel, port and honey and ouzo granita and you can thank us later.
As shocking as the spectacle from above can be, sitting by the sea in Ammoudi and feeling like the imposing red rock is hanging over your head, is a tremendous experience. But along with the spectacle of the fishing boats and the serene waters, there is also the tavern of Dimitris where you can enjoy anything fresh that the Mediterranean sea can offer, from sea urchins and sea breams to swordfishes and you can watch them all getting grilled in front of your eyes. And don’t forget the lobster spaghetti, it’s a classic.
There are only two ways that you can get to Santorini, and it’s either by boat from the port of Piraeus or by plane.
Regarding the boat option, several itineraries connect the island with Attica with tickets starting from 39 euros and reaching up to 79 euros per person, depending of course on the ship you choose. The distance between the port of Piraeus and the port of Santorini is 127 nautical miles (approximately 236 km).
The ferry connection between Piraeus and Santorini is daily all year long. During the summer season, there can be up to 6 direct ferry departures per day, while in the winter there are 2 or 3 ferries per day serving this route. The earliest ferry departs from Piraeus around 7 am and the latest departure can be from 20.00 to midnight depending on the season and the ferry itinerary.
The slow boat takes about 8 hours to reach the island, while the fast boat takes about 5. The port of Santorini is called “Athinios” and basically has nothing but coffee and food to offer for those who travel. From there, you’ll definitely be going to ride a bus or rent a car to get to your hotel.
Santorini is also connected to the rest of the country by its airport the “Santorini (Thira) International Airport (JTR)” – one of the few airports that can be spotted in Cyclades islands – located 6 km (4 mi) southeast of Thira. Although it’s a slight and small airport, most of the biggest airlines in the country fly there, including Aegean Airlines, Olympic Air and Ryanair. Ideally, you should aim for spring or autumn for cheap flights to Santorini, but keep in mind that direct flights to Santorini are usually only available during the summer months (May to September) which is the busiest time on the island.
There’s a public bus that can get you from the airport to Fira, where there are further public transport options. There’s also a taxi rank outside the airport, that can get you anywhere on the island, and it shouldn’t cost you more than 15 euros, but do try to negotiate the fee with the driver before jumping in. If on the other hand, you are one of those people who love exploration, then the best choice for you is to rent a car. Renting a car will give you the ease of your daily transportation, whenever you want, exploring and probing all the hidden secrets of this magical island.
You’ll notice that most of the roads in Santorini are very narrow. They are narrow because they used to be donkey paths for moving in and out of the villages (there weren’t any Fiats back in the day). Remember that you’re always driving on the right-hand side of the road and pay great attention to some elementary driving rules to avoid any unpleasant circumstances. The speed limit varies from 130 km/h (80 mph) on the motorway, 90/110 km/h (55/70 mph) on normal roads and 50 km/h (30 mph) in built-up areas.
Motorcycles and ATVs are very popular in Santorini for some reason. That means that you got to watch your overtake near them, as they do not have clear visibility as you may do. It is also important to remember that there isn’t enough lighting on the streets of Santorini at night, so always check the lights of your car before you start driving and look out for passing pedestrians.
Many first time travellers prefer staying at a hotel in the Caldera cliff and this is totally understandable because who doesn’t want to live on the top of a cliff? And thanks to the unique morphology of the island, many hotels provide the luxury of infinity pools that you might have probably seen on numerous photos.
These pools literally stand on the edge of the cliff, offering a marvellous sight for the human eye, by merging with the vast Aegean sea into an endless, peaceful image which leaves no one insensate. Spending time in this spot, looking at this perfect image with a glass of wine in your hand and your feet dipped in the water, it is an emotion that cannot be described and it is on everyone’s bucket list, for sure! But that is a luxury that anyone can afford.
And judging by that, Santorini is often interwoven with luxury and consequently, with high prices too. And if you chose to live in Caldera, then you might have to put your hand deep in your pocket. But that’s not the case everywhere. There are sure hotels in various villages scattered across the island, that are totally affordable. If travellers are willing to compromise in fewer amenities, there are plenty of hotels that are charging 50€ per night, or even less.
So if you’re looking for economical accommodation, you can easily find provident hotels in the Kamari, Perissa, Perivolos and Karterados regions. During the summer season, Kamari, Perissa, Perivolos, and Karterados regions are accessible by bus every 15 minutes, so you don’t have to worry about your transportation from place to place.
In general, the quality of hotels and their services is high in Santorini and you shouldn’t be so concerned about this issue. It’s safe to say that Santorini owns an abundance of heavenly hotels that cover every taste, need and budget for your vacations. The best way to save money in Santorini is to book a hotel without a caldera view. Typically, adding a caldera view will increase the price by 50% or even 100%, so be aware of that.
If you’re not so interested in the frequent summer habits, such as sunbathing or swimming at the sea, you can visit the island from November to April. This is the time that most hotels make special offers and you can find the cheapest prices even for hotels that are prohibitive in the high seasons. If you are a family, you might consider staying at an apartment of a villa, where you can prepare your meals any time, instead of spending them in the restaurants.
Most frequent questions about booking a hotel in Santorini
On average, hotels in Santorini cost 100€ per night, but the prices and availability might fluctuate during the peak seasons and on each hotel.
The best places to stay in Santorini are the towns of Fira, Oia, Imerovigli, and Firostefani that are located along the caldera cliff on the western side of the island. All of these towns have wonderful views of the volcano and caldera.
Popular places to stay in Santorini include hotels near Black Beach, Central Bus Station Fira, and Cape Columbo Beach.
If you’re primarily looking to spend your time at the beach then choose a hotel near Kamari for example, and if on the other hand, you’re interested in shopping, eating and sightseeing then Fira, Oia and Firostefani might be a better place for you.
To really experience Santorini, consider spending three to five days: you’ll be able to sightsee, hike, and beach-hop while embracing the relaxed pace of the island life.
Yes – if you want to find the best prices in the best hotels for your vacation, try to book your hotel room early, especially if you’re planning your trip during the high season.
Probably the best place to stay in Santorini is the west coast side that actually offers the best uninterrupted famous views of the volcano, the caldera and the sunset.
Fira is the island’s capital and the livelier village of the two with much more intense nightlife and shopping. Oia is a more luxurious village with romantic restaurants and high-end shopping.
If you’re looking for a relaxed and budget-friendly vacation, consider the months of late March, April, May, October and November, where the weather is still warm and you get to enjoy the wine touring, the sightseeing and the food-tasting of this greek island.