The land of the white washed buildings and blue domes. Right?
Eric and I were crazy surprised when we landed in Santorini. Not disappointed by any means, just surprised. If you are a Pinterest planner like me, you are most likely getting a fraction of the visuals that the island offers. When you google Santorini and click images - you're almost exclusively given pictures of Oia and the other more densely populated cliffside towns, with their white washed buildings and blue domed roofs. I think I saw one photo of a beach.
In reality, Santorini is SO SO much more than that.
You will absolutely find those visuals in Oia, Fira, and Imerovegli but the majority of the island is spread out, covered in vineyards, rocky (literally the island's "soil" is volcanic ash), full of cliffs with beaches, bays and more. It's stunning, even more than we knew it would be.
For the first two days, we stayed in Akrotiri at Apanemo Hotel. We loved it. It's a small boutique hotel in the south of Santorini, the views are unbelievable and the service was incredible! Kristin Sweeting gets ALL the credit for that one! Once my parents came to join us, we moved inland to Mesariá to save some bucks while they stayed at Alti Santorini Suites in Megalochori for a picture perfect view of the Caldera, a private plunge pool and outstanding service. Swoon!
After two days exploring Santorini with the workshop crew, we said goodbye. We had an extra day with one friend from the workshop, so we rented ATVs and drove all around the island. It was AMAZING. In my opinion, it's the best way to see Santorini. We loved it so much we rented them again once my parents arrived. Quick tip: If you're wanting to rent a non-traditional vehicle, get your international drivers license. It's around $25 and you can do it online, but be sure to print it out - most places ask for it. We used this website. As far as rentals go, there are a million options. When looking for a company, be sure to check out their inventory. Look for bikes and scooters that are well taken care of and on the newer side. We loved our time with Supermoto! They brought our rental to and picked it up from my parent's hotel. The quality of the quad bike was incredible, too!
If you're heading up to Oia for sunset, get there a little early. It gets pretty chaotic, and finding a seat can be tricky. Plus the streets are so narrow, they become reminiscent of a sardine tin. If you can get an early reservation somewhere or grab a spot with a view and wait it out - do it! If you want THAT view of the blue domes (you know the one you see all over the 'gram) you'll need to get there plenty early. Lines really start stacking up the closer you get to sunset. I suggest making a mini-day trip out of it, get the sites in, shop around, grab some food and drinks, then find a spot to park yourself for the sunset!
Ammoudi Bay was incredible. If you're a Kostos + Lena fan, this is the spot for you. There are about 5 restaurants down in the bay but beware - you'll likely need a reservation! Trust me, you do not want to walk ALL the way down there to not get a table! We dined at Ammoudi Fish Tavern for my Mom's birthday and it was delicious. Be advised that you can't really see the sunset from down here, at least not as well as from up top!
A few details for you if you're heading to Ammoudi Bay. First, wear good walking shoes or take a taxi down. The walk is stunning but steep and long. You have to get a car before you get into the streets of Oia, otherwise - you're walking! Secondly, this is where you'll find the donkeys that *can* take you back up to the top of Oia, like you see in so many movies. I advise you not to - it's not a kind experience for the Donkeys. It's my understanding that they are not treated very well.
If you're looking for even more recommendations - check out this PDF guide to Santorini!
What we missed:
- Ancient Thera (CAN'T BELIEVE THIS)
- Hot spring swimming in the Caldera
- The white beach and the red beach
- ATV-ing all over the island (it's loud, it's touristy, it's worth it.)
- Pyrgos - climb to the top and grab a drink at Bartago. (It used to be the old castle. Don't forget to grab a drink at the bar and look up for a beautiful surprise.)
- Perissa black sand beach (WEAR WATER SHOES)
- Sunset in Oia
- dinner at Ammoudi Fish Tavern
- Dinner in the village of Megalochori - so charming, especially at night!
Eric's Fave: the freedom of exploring Santorini by ATV!! AND Megalochori at night!! Christina's Fave: ...ATVs!!!!
Did you know that there are more wineries on Santorini than anywhere else in Greece? They use an ancient technique of making a basket with the vines, called a Koulara, which keep the grapes safe from the sun and wind. Most vineyards only use the humidity from the sea as a water source for the vines, the volcanic soil keeps that moisture for the vines to slowly soak up. There is so much history to winemaking on Santorini that I didn't know about until we visited. It was one of my favorite discoveries! On my mom's birthday, we did a mini winery tour and loved learning about the history!
Don't forget to download our easy PDF guide to Santorini, Greece!