Days 3 – 5 – part of wider blog ‘Island Hopping and Hot Air Ballooning – Greece and Turkey in 2 weeks’
Santorini is arguably the most beautiful place I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. Whether chilling on its famous black sandy beaches, exploring the stupendous wineries or hiking to Oia from Fira (the most breathtaking hike of my life) you will not regret a visit to sun-soaked Santorini (a.k.a. Thira). Let me walk you through the ideal 3-day itinerary.
With the exceptions of Santorini and Cappodocia we stayed in largely budget accommodation during our 2-week tour which is what I would recommend for those with less than adequate sized wallets. Having said that Santorini is no place to skimp. Its famous white sun-baked cliff side apartments with caldera views come hefty price-tag attached – but trust me, it’s worth the weight in gold. Watching the sunset over Thira’s sea-drowned caldera (with wine in hand) from our very own balcony was about as breath-taking and memorable as anything else I’ve ever experienced.
The choices are numerous and much depends on your budget. We stayed in Fira – a great spot with the most to offer in terms of nightlife and food options after a day around the island. The downside being, perhaps, it lacks the charm of some other towns around the island.
Arguably the best spot for sunsets (and the most beautiful town), Oia at the northern end has plenty to offer in regards to both nightlife and eating options – its only downside being the distance from other areas on the island.
A great compromise and my personal recommendation, would be to place yourself between the two in Imerovigli within easy walking distance of Fira, but a little more charming and better options with regards to choice of accomodation.
There are other options and truth be told everywhere on the island has something a little different but equally special on offer – do your homework!
We booked our own cave apartment with caldera views (from a shared balcony) at Enigma Suites. Highly recommended! I can’t speak of other places on the island but we were extremely well looked after. Our beautiful hosts made every effort to make our stay as memorable as possible, planning out a recommended three day itinerary for us before we even arrived! Comparing other accommodation in Fira you’d be hard pushed to find much better for the amount of money you’d have to part. Check out some online reviews here!
Santorini is not a large island however it would take too long to walk the length of it. There is a great hike from Fira to Oia (roughly 4 to 5 hours) which will take up a full day and in my opinion a must do! Aside from that, however, and exploring a few other sites, beaches and towns, you will require some mode of transport to get around and see everything.
Many tourists opt to take day tours by bus organised by a variety of different companies on the island. My recommendation, as we decided, however, is to hire a car to explore the island. The idea being you have free reign as to what you would like to see and how much time at each site, town or beach you feel is necessary. We hired a little Fiat 500 convertible and needless to say we loved it!
Plenty of car rentals are available so do your homework to find the best deals. More to follow in Layover Escapades 3 day itinerary (see below).
Seafood appears to be the main choice of cuisine on the island for obvious reasons but many other options, Greek or otherwise, are on offer. Below is a small list of good, if somewhat overpriced, (sorry – can’t be avoided in Santorini!) restaurants in both Fira and Oia.
Like any destination worth the time, money and effort taken to come and visit, a number of unfortunate tourist trap eateries, often overpriced and distinctly average, exist. No more is this true than in Fira itself. As always do your homework!
Apiron is an extremely well received (also expensive) restaurant that will require prior booking. For something a little more affordable check out Salt and Pepper. I can also recommend the very reasonable Naoussa Tavern for options within Fira.
In Oia I’m happy to report the number of tourist traps appeared less prevalent. Top of the list here Katharos Lounge is very highly rated. Following this I would also consider eating at either Santorini Mou or Kastro. For seafood, walk down the 300 steps into Ammoudi port. The bay area boasts some great tavernas where you can hand pick your own fish from the day’s catch for dinner!
Other restaurants on the island worth considering include Terra Nera, Metaxi Mas and Tranquilo. (On a side note may I also recommend trying the beer from the Santorini Brewing Company. After trying several average largers in Athens I figured that beer was not going to be a highlight from our trip to Greece. I was wrong – very wrong! The Santorini Brewing Company (we were told not to try it by the locals as they considered it “not very good” – go figure!) has a selection of fantastic flavored beers. I’m told you can also visit their brewery on the island – I wish I had!).
Santorini is a geologists’ porn site. The natural beauty and unusual geography is due to an eruption (excuse the unintentional pun) that took place some several thousand years ago. Once round the now half moon shaped island, looking west over its sunken caldera, affords staggering views. While plenty of other sites exist, including wineries, quaint villages and stunning black sandy beaches, the sheer beauty of the place is ultimately the main thing to see here. Hence my number 1 recommendation hiking from Fira to Oia. No more so than on this hike will you get an appreciation for the incredible beauty of the island. More to follow in layover escapades 3 day itinerary (see below).
Should admiring the view from your sun soaked balcony or soaking up the sun on one of Santorini’s jet black beaches not be enough for you, there is plenty to keep you occupied during your stay. Please see Layover Escapades suggested 3 day itinerary below!
LAYOVER ESCAPADES 3 DAY ITINERARY:
Day 1 – Fira to Oia – the most breathtaking hike…
Start your day by checking into your picture perfect cave suite as you admire the majestic caldera view. Once settled grab a feed at the wonderful Naoussa Tavern before setting off from Fira to Oia. Follow Gold Street, hugging the cliff face with the caldera to your left, as you make your way to the northern end of Fira. Be sure to look back down the island just past the cable car and take a few snapshots.
From here continue northwards making your way through Imerovigli. If you’re feeling adventurous make a left and climb atop the striking Skaros rock for some of the best views imaginable. Be forewarned the climb atop isn’t the easiest so mind your step! Make a pit-stop at Bella Thira or Imerovigli Tavern.
Continue northwards following the path round the caldera cliff edge as you eventually find yourself in the stunning town of Oia. Grab a drink before watching the spectacular sunset from the Oia castle. Finish up with dinner down in Ammoudi port at one of the seafood restaurants. Ask the waiter to call a taxi for you when ready to leave.
Day 2 – wine tour and caldera sunset…
Begin day 2 with a wonderful wine tour around the island (perfect should it happen to be raining as it was for us). There are plenty of operators so do your homework to find the best. We went with the company recommended to us by our hotel manager who gave us a very knowledgable guide taking us to several wineries, stopping along the way to explain about the Island’s geography and history.
Following that take a breather back at your hotel cave suite. Feel free to wander streets of Fira in the afternoon or take it easy and enjoy the balcony and caldera view with some of the wonderful wine purchased that morning. Be sure to get back for sunset at the very least!
Finish up with dinner at either Apiron or Salt and Pepper before stopping by a few bars to see out your second day.
Day 3 – Ripping around Santorini in a Fiat 500…
Grab some breakfast before picking up your desired vehicle for the day. Drive to the southwestern tip of the island for a different perspective as you clamber the rocks around the lighthouse. Feel free to stop along the way in order to get some great snapshots.
Following that make a stop near Akrotini to explore the fascinating archeological site and beautiful red beach. For lunch continue to Perissa and swing by the funky Tranquilo for some grub in the sun before chilling on its famous black sand beach.
After taking a dip in the Mediterranean, drive to the top of the mountain of Profitis Ilias for views across the whole island in time for sunset. Finish your final day with dinner and drinks (after dropping off the car) in the charming village of Pygros.