Santorini was always on my bucket list and it appears on nearly every travel top ten out there so I was delighted to find out on my wedding eve that my new husband had booked us a week there as part of our Greek adventure filled honeymoon. Unlike usual holidays, I didn’t have time to plan what to take or research the island much, so I arrived there with no idea of what to expect apart from beautiful seas surrounding a white and blue topped village built into the side of a mountain.
Here are my top tips to read before you go as I had a few surprises:
- Take in a sunset on open water – Santorini is known for having some of the best sunsets in the world. To truly appreciate the sunset I recommend taking a boat trip around the volcano as the day closes. It’s s magical moment when all the tourist boats turn their engines off and people just stare at this magical orb setting over the sea near Oia. Boat trips are around £80pp including food and alcohol.
- Do not pack heels – in fact pack a pair of trainers/walking shoes. Santorini is built into the side of a mountain, created from a volcano so to get anywhere you have to walk up and down loads of steps. Also, there are no pavements so you are walking on slippery cobbled streets wherever you go. I saw lots of tourists slip wearing flip flops.
- Beware cruise ships – Little did I know that Santorini, Fira specifically seems to be the hot spot for every cruise ship. If you time it wrong, you could be sharing the beauty of Fira with 100s of American and Japanese tourists, meaning doing activities such as donkey rides and cable cars are impossible. Once Fira had four cruise ships dock at once, meaning 10k tourists were bursting out of the area. Find out from locals the best time to go to avoid the crowds.
- Don’t be grossed out by the toilets – Just in case you don’t know, Greece is a flush free zone. Toilet paper has to go in a bin beside the toilet so it’s rare to find a sweet smelling WC.
- It’s not cheap – Lots of the tourists there seem to have money to burn as it is quiet exclusive so don’t expect to be able to eat and drink cheaply. On average, a bottle of wine is from around £25 in a restaurant and around £15 in a shop. A main meal is around £15 and up. Beer is only £3 a pint though. The quality of food is great though, especially good for seafood and traditional mezze. Remember restaurants on the Caldera with views will always cost more.
- Don’t expect to sunbathe easily – As you can imagine, building pools in hotels that are carved out of the side of a volcano isn’t easy so they are limited and most hotels don’t have many sun loungers. Couple that with the lack of beaches and you have little chance to sunbathe. You can take trips to the red and white beach but again there is no sand there.
- Make the most of the wine – yes it isn’t cheap but it’s incredible. Santorini Assyrtiko benefits from the volcanic soil and has a deep rich minerality – like a good Sancerre. I recommend a wine tasting tour (around £60) to find out what you like and how it is made. Santorini don’t export much of their wine so remember to bring some home. Remember 90% of the wine produced in Santorini is white. Red wine is available but for those red drinkers that like a rich red wine, you may struggle.
- There are no bugs – Bearing in mind my husband always gets eaten alive, Santorini seems to be devoid of mosquitos. Whether it’s the volcanic atmosphere or the sea I don’t know but it’s a bonus!
- Pre arrange help with your baggage – We asked for our hotel to pick us up at the airport and carry our bags down the many steps to our accommodation. It’s a good idea to negotiate this up front as Santorini doesn’t have many taxis and having to carry suitcases down lots of slippery stairs isn’t easy (this is an ideal place to travel to with just hand luggage for that).
- Don’t expect wild nightlife – Santorini has a great eating and drinking culture. Restaurants expect you to stay all night and chat/drink rather than go elsewhere. The amount of bars is minimal and there are no clubs/late night venues around. Eat late after enjoying sunset drinks.