A guide to Santorini, Greece

Feeling totally defeated and drained after SZIGET, we knew the Greek Islands would bring us back to life. The ocean, greek salad, greek yogurt and did I mention the ocean? As kiwis we love the ocean, we’re water babies as Liv would say…So it was no surprise that Santorini was next in line after SZIGET music festival, for some much needed, much deserved R&R time.

Please note: Before you even book anything, firstly figure out the order of the islands you want to do. Also keep in mind the ferry costs to and from the islands. They were more expensive than we anticipated, probably because we only booked a few days in advance but each ferry cost us around €50-€70, that’s around $75-$110 NZD! Nuts aye? So book as soon as you can to try save costs.

WHERE TO STAY:
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Fira or Oia (pronounced EE-AH, not OH-AH) – These are the main sorta touristy places to stay on Santorini island. Fira is the capital of Santorini, found on the west coast of the island. It’s the most commercial part, with everything from McDonald’s to scooter hire shops, cafes, restaurants and shopping. Basically it’s geared up for the tourists. Oia is a scenic village on the northern edge of the island, known for its famous sunset. With rolling white houses along the cliff face, blue domed churches and lots of narrow pathways with little shops and restaurants, Oia is really charming and is where we chose to stay for our 3 days. Keep in mind, like every popular and beautiful city, tourists flock to these towns between the months of June-August, us 6 being some of the thousands.

Right after our day from hell which you can read all about HERE…we got off the 5 hour ferry at Thira port, Santorini and saw madness. Among the hundreds of people getting off the boat and hundreds getting on, not to mention taxis and busses everywhere and 35 degree heat, we found an angel. A little Grecian man with a little sign “Georgis Apartments” (found on booking.com) – this is what we’ll call home for the next few days. 

Our place was in a little village called Finika, a 15 minute walk or 2 min quad from Oia. Georgio and his wife have 11 apartments, all different sizes so it can accommodate small or large groups and yes I would totally recommend it to anyone going to Santorini. We booked the 6 bed apartment, which had 2 singles in the lounge, a bedroom with a double bed and a loft with two singles pushed together. A kitchen, dining room table/lounge/chill area and an outside garden/table area. There’s a communal pool too which you can see here…

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And a communal terrace, where you can watch the sunset, sunbathe, or just chill.

The nearest car park to the apartment was 200m away, so on arrival, a donkey called “yutosh” was there to greet us and take our bags up to our room. This is when it starts to feel like Greece! “Yutosh my arse” I keep hearing Bryn say…Dry I think to myself but everyone else gives a wee pity laugh.

Other than Georgis Apartments, friends of ours recommended Caveland Hostel and boy does this look epic! All the rooms are in caves, with pastel colours and unique designs. Theres a swimming pool, girls only rooms, cozy lounge areas and colourful gardens. Check out the website above, we’ll seriously consider staying here next time.

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Photo credit from cave-land.com

I’ve only really recommended two places so…If you’re going to Santorini and wanna look at all the availability, check hostelworld.com for ya hostels, and Airbnb or booking.com for ya private rooms/homesteads/apartments. Those 3 websites are what we’ve used so far and it’s all been really easy and straight forward! We have noticed though, being a young couple, it’s been cheaper and better for us to book rooms/homesteads/apartments through booking.com or Airbnb, rather than hostelworld.com. Sometimes a room in a family run homestead is more cultural and authentic too, plus we miss sleeping next to each other when we’re in hostels. Totally depends on who you’re with and what you want out of it.

WHAT TO DO:
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Hire some quad bikes – This should be your first port of call after you’ve settled into your accom in Santorini. Georgio recommended a hire company in Fira, so after we had our breaky which was inclusive of our stay, a dude came to collect us and take us to the shop. Pairing up into teams of two, we only needed 3 quads, QUAD SQUAD, we called ourselves. There are so many scooter/quad hire shops all around both Fira and Oia. It’s honestly the only way to get around the island. The cars just get stuck trying to go down the narrow streets, not to mention the parking sitch. There are no taxis and who the heck wants to go on the busses!? On a quad you can squeeze through everywhere, park close to where you wanna go and easily move around the entire island! It’s awesome. If you stay in Fira and wanna go to Oia, you easily can and visa versa (you can drive along the coast or up high along the cliffs and it’s really pretty!) Helmets are optional, you get them when you hire the bike but it’s up to you whether you wear them. Safety first tho aye kids! Bryn and I hired our quad, a 250cc, for €90 (two days) and everyone else hired a 150cc for €70 (two days). This is a must must must!

Hit the beaches – Now that you have your mode of transport, put your Dora The Explorer cap on and go find some beaches! There are so many dotted around the island and if you get a map, you’ll see little swimming icons to tell you where you can go. Alternatively, you can just ride the quad untill you come across a beach! It’s impossible to get lost on the island.

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We went to Amoudi Bay. A beach…well more like a swimming bay on the rocks, located at the furthest point on the island (Oia end). After parking up the quads, we walked through a little fishing village on the water, which has a bunch of seafood restaurants along it and donkey rides up and down the cliff.

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Too pricey for our budget but it smelt amazing with fresh calamari, crayfish and octopus being cooked as you walk past. If your budget is bigger than Ben Hur, I’d defiantly indulge in the seafood here, but by now we were good at just smelling it. Keep walking around the rocks for another few minutes and you come to a rocky bay, with an island 10m off land. We swam over and found a modest sized rock to jump off and we were happy as Larry.

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The other beach we went to was Kamari, about a 30-40 min quad from Oia. Well worth it tho! The village was right at the water, as opposed to Fira and Oia up on the cliffs, so it felt like a real beach town. Kamari beach has been awarded The Blue Flag and you can totally see why, Liv even thought it was the best beach she’d seen in Europe so far. The moon shaped bay is organised with umbrellas, sun loungers, water sports and diving and the row of many cafes + restaurants running parallel to the water made it even better. We parked up, paid €7 between two and got a lounger for the day. Swimming, reading, cheap food, better rock jumps and a whole lot of tanage. Feels like holiday mode now!

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If you’ve got time, drive up the hill at the south end of the beach. It winds its way up for an epic view and being higher than the planes when they land is one to tick off!! Epic!

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Take some photos of the iconic white houses with the ocean backdrop – When you first enter Oia, you’ll see this on your left. You can’t miss it because it looks just like the postcards! This, seen by day, is absolutely beautiful and you have to get some photos! Or just perch up and take it all in. We ran across people’s roofs to get some photos and boy do they look incred. Blue domed churches, white and yellow houses and ocean for days. This is super iconic for Santorini and a must do.

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Watch the sunset – The place to watch the famous Santorini sunset is in Oia. We had 3 beautiful sunsets, 2 from the terrace at Georgis Apartments and one…well I’ll explain that in a little more detail now. I’ve dreamed of sitting at the furthest point in Santorini watching the sun go down, so we set of at 7:30 to get there for the 8:10 sunset and jeepers was this a nightmare. The whole town was jam packed with busses, cars and people all rushing for the same thing. We leaped off our bikes and started charging through the crowds, Liv first clearing the path. Closer and closer to the sunset point (furthest point of the island) and the more packed it got untill we were cattle moving through the narrow Santorni streets. THIS IS NOT WHAT I DREAMED ABOUT DAMMIT. Before we even reached the point, the crowds in front of us were turning back. “It’s too crowded, you can’t get it they’re turning people away” WHAT! I saw my dream crumble in front of my eyes. Nah that’s a bit dramatic, we all actually started cracking up because it was proving to be such a mare! We took off down a side street so we could peer around some buildings and at least see the sun go down, even if it wasn’t from the famous sunset spot, but guess what?! About 200 other people had that same idea! It was hilarious, not romantic, but absolutely hilarious.  

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Our other two sunsets were on point. Having a kitchen in our apartment, we grabbed some super market food and made raw pizza sorta things with tzaziki, tomato, red onion and feta on pita bread for dinner. On the terrace we set ourselves up for one hell of a sunset. What’s a bit of romance between friends aye? If you’re staying at a place where you get sunset views, make sure you do this!

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Watch the moon rise – After our fail of a sunset in Oia village, we were wondering back through the streets and realized how absolutely beautiful the scene was in front of us. The light of the moon, reflecting off the ocean, casting an ambient blue light across Oia. It was actually better than the sunset and I can’t ramble on enough about it. We had a full moon, making it all the more powerful but the white houses on the cliffs, with their lights on, sparkled against the night sky. Very special.

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Take time to relax – Santorini is a relaxing island, so take time to do exactly that. Whether it’s just reading a book by the pool, going for a walk or looking around the cute little shops in Oia or Fira. There are many cafes and restaurants to choose from, gelato stores, clothes shops, day spas and throw in a bit of history too. Chilling out was important for us after SZIGET, so we spent lots of time in our apartment chilling, cooking, eating, reading and swimming. Finally feeling refreshed and back to normal before heading off to Mykonos Island.

THINGS TO REMEMBER

  • Stay in Fira or Oia if you’re looking for the more commercialised and iconic Santorini
  • Use hostelworld.com, Airbnb or booking.com when looking for accommodation
  • Hiring a scooter or quad is your easiest and cheapest mode of transport – so do it
  • If you have a kitchen, save money by making home cooked meals
  • If you want to watch the sunset at the point, get there at least an hour early to secure a spot, don’t do what we did!
  • When taking photos, try get to somewhere where all the people aren’t, even if that means jumping up on someone’s house that clearly has a “do not climb” sign. A photo always looks better when there’s not a million other tourists in it.
  • Most importantly explore the island. Set off and just roam around where ever you want, find your own hidden gems. (Let me know if you find some goodies worth mentioning!)

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Hopefully this guide can help you with planning your own Santorini trip. Even though we cant afford the beautiful cliffside accom, the restaurants or the shopping, backpackers can still enjoy the epic island of Santorini.

Peace
Leah | free & addicted

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