[I got this perfect Santorini shot by wandering alllll the way up the Caldera from Fira; I even saw a wedding shoot taking place later on!]
Santorini is a lovely island, but maybe not what you expected! At least it wasn’t for me. I thought it would be all sandy beaches and annoyingly romantic and gross.
BUT surprise, surprise – the beaches were not all that great! If you want beautiful beaches and whatnot, get your ass to Paros or Naxos. Santorini does have beaches, don’t get me wrong – I went to the red beach, which was cool and all, but it didn’t have that super soft sand that you may picture. It was more like fiber-y chunks of tree bark. And the black beach and white beach are supposedly cool, too (I didn’t go) – but again, not what you expect. Santorini is a raised island, so it’s like up on a platform. Hence the not so great beaches and rockiness.
[Waiting for the sunset in Oia]
And I was not in it for the romantic nights or Greek men because I had a boyfriend at the time. But I WAS nervous to go to Santorini solo because I thought it would be literally all couples and I’d feel super lame and left out alone forever. Yet nay – it was not like that at all! I met two other solo female travelers in my hostel on the first night and we went to see the sunset in Oia together. SO HA, take that silly brain. The next day Andrew arrived (my friend I’d made in Athens!) and I met another solo female that was staying in his room in our hostel! Basically if you’re a solo female and you really wanna go to Santorini you should 100% do it. There will def be couples (quite a few when we went to see the sunset) but I guarantee there’ll be some other single ladies there, too!
OKAY so. You’re probably like, well that sounds chill and all, but like what should I actually DO in Santorini? GIRL (or guy), LET ME TELL YOU.
[Incoming ferry as viewed from the volcano tour – read more below]
First of all, know that it’s about an 8-hour ferry ride from Athens to Santorini. Tbh I love ferry rides and boat things and basically anything on the water, so I would 100% take them over and over again. Once you get into Santorini, you’ll need to take a bus to the part of town you’re staying in. I would suggest Fira Backpackers, which is where I stayed. That way you’re in the main center of town, and close to a 24-hour bakery (EEEEEEK). They also offered laundry services for a ridiculously cheap price (I mean, you still have to do your own laundry but I think it was like 2 euro for the soap or something ridiculous) so I took full advantage of that! It was also definitely geared more towards younger travelers/meeting people, which was nice.
Personally, I enjoyed Santorini but don’t think I’ll be back. Don’t get me wrong – I love Greece, but would choose to go back to Paros or another less touristy island (read: not Mykonos or Ios; however, I’ve heard Crete is beautiful!). It’s getting a bit too busy for my taste, and I went there right before the tourist season (I was there in early June) and it was already starting to get crowded. If you’re going to go, I would HIGHLY discourage you from going in July or August, as it’s been rumored to feel like Disneyland.
WANDER AROUND THE CALDERA
It’s free. And you can’t beat free. I wandered around in Fira, and found that once I passed all the shops and restaurants it was pretty empty – perfect for blue-domed church scouting, relaxed vibes, and getting pics with no people. There are a shit ton of stairs – be prepared!
AND STARE AT THE PRETTY DETAILS WHILE YOU’RE AT IT
[Blue doors + white buildings + reddish flowers = OMGOMGOMG]
They really know how to decorate on the Greek islands, let me tell ya. Ugh. I couldn’t handle all the beautiful doors and contrasting colors. JUST. SO. BEAUTIFUL.
SEE THE SUNSET SOMEWHERE
[Sunset in Oia]
I mean, I don’t think the sunset in Oia was the most beautiful freaking sunset I’d ever seen in my entire life (and the crowds of people around didn’t make it any better, lol) but it was still pretty freaking gorgeous. You literally see the sun sink into the water, which is cool. If you do decide to go to Oia, make sure you get there EARLY to secure a good sunset viewing spot. If you’re planning on taking the bus over, make sure you line up early, as well, as they fill up fast and you may have to wait another 20 mins for the next one.
THE VOLCANO/HOT SPRINGS TOUR WAS PRETTY COOL
[The “hot” springs – it was so pretty, I thought it was worth it just to see the area alone!]
I think it was 20 euro, and you take a boat ride (on a cool looking boat!!) over to and island where you hike to a volcano. The volcano itself was kinda anitclimactic (it’s like a small amount of smoke rising from a small hole) but the guides are pretty knowledgable and give you some good info. Then they take you to some ‘hot’ springs (spoiler alert: they were definitely more lukewarm than anything) and you put mud all over yourself. Then you ride the boat back. I thought it was pretty cool overall, and totally worth the money. Whatever you do, PLEASE DO NOT ride the donkeys up or down to the dock. There’s a gondola you can take, or you can walk (but be prepared for it to be smelly!) – the donkeys don’t seem to be treated too well, and have to walk up and down extremely steep and slippery stairs all day.
BUT IF YOU DON’T DO THE TOUR, AT LEAST GET ON A BOAT
[Boats docked at the volcano tour]
Did you even go to the Greek Islands if you don’t take a boat ride somewhere? And yeah, I guess a ferry kinda counts…But if you can, you should definitely do some other sort of boat ride! When we were in Oia, there were a ton of boats out on the water doing a sunset tour (not sure how expensive that is, though, but it looks super pretty), and the volcano tour is cool and only €20, and there are plenty of other cool boat things to do!
EAT MORE SOUVLAKI AND GO TO MORE BAKERIES
If you’ve read my Paros post, you’re familiar with my love affair of vegetarian Souvlaki and baked goods. YUM.
RELAX UNTIL YOU CAN’T ANYMORE
[I feel like you can’t not look at this and just want to chillllllllllll]
Greece is a place for relaxation and chilling the EFFFFF out.
THE RED BEACH
Such a pretty place! It really does like more reddish than I expected it to, and the color of the water is beautiful! It is a little rocky and kind of a trek to get to if you’re taking the bus, but it’s totally worth it IMO. I think Chacos or Tevas are great to wear for this excursion.
HAVE DINNER ON THE WATER
Andrew and I stopped for dinner on our walk back from the Red Beach, and watched the sun go down as we ate. It was pretty amazing, and such a great way to end the day.
If I’d had more time, I would’ve done the hiking trail from Fira to Oia. Sounds absolutely lovely! I’ve also heard about a cool cliff jumping spot in Amoudi Bay. I also would’ve checked out the white beach and the black beach, and maybe rented an ATV. However, since I’d already rented one in Paros, I didn’t feel the need to rent one again, and they were a little more expensive in Santorini.
Things to note: Santorini is much bigger than you may expect – I’d suggest either renting an ATV or knowing that you’ll be taking the bus. The buses in Santorini are more reliable than in Paros so we didn’t have any trouble taking them (EXCEPT for the night when Andrew and I were at the Red Sand Beach and the last bus never came!!).
Where you stay is important! Fira is the city center (where I stayed) so it’s easy to get around from there, and there are lots of restaurants and bars within walking distance. However, it’s not near the beach, so you’d need to take a bus or drive to get there. Oia is more for honeymooners/couples, and tends to be a little more expensive. Perissa is super cheap and near a beach, but is kind of isolated, and is at the bottom of the island so you don’t get the view from the cliffs of the caldera. Imerovigli is isolated and more quiet.
[The Red Beach again because it’s so damn pretty]
Above all: HAVE FUN! Santorini really is a beautiful place, and one I’m very very happy I visited.