If you’ve never traveled to Greece before, there’s a good chance that Santorini’s whitewashed houses and iconic blue-domed churches are the first things that come to mind. And for good reason—more than a million tourists are drawn to Santorini’s volcanic sand beaches, panoramic views, and gorgeous sunsets each year. Thinking about planning a trip to the island? Whether you’ve been to the Greek islands before or this is your first visit, here are a few tips to ensure your trip goes smoothly.
Deciding where to stay in Santorini can be a bit challenging, especially if you aren’t quite familiar with the island’s geography yet. One side of the volcanic island is shaped like a semi-circle, with the caldera running from Akrotiri to Oía. The highest point of the island is in Profitis Ilias, which is located roughly 1,860 feet above sea level. Below that at 1,200 feet above sea level is the capital city of Fira. This clifftop town boasts a number of beautiful villas, hotels, and villages, with stunning views from nearly every angle.
If you’re looking for a more peaceful getaway, consider staying in Firostefani, located off the western edge of the caldera. You can spend the day exploring Firostefani’s local cathedrals and restaurants, or venture to Thira, which is only a short walk away.
For those seeking a more eclectic location, Oía’s long and winding streets are filled with art galleries and independent shops, as well as numerous cafes and restaurants along the cliffside. While they do boast some of the island’s most spectacular views, some of Oía’s hotels and villas can lack privacy given the popularity of this area for tourists. If you decide to find something in a little less crowded of an area, you may want to consider a hotel on the quieter side of Oía, away from the tourist-filled accommodations in the caldera.
If you arrive on the island via port, you’ll have a couple of transportation options to reach Fira, the capital of Santorini. In the past, donkeys have traditionally been used to transport tourists up and down the cliff. However, visitors today are discouraged from taking this route due to the poor treatment of the animals.
The cable route is easily the most popular option, lasting only a few minutes and boasting dazzling views of the cliffside along the way. One thing to note is that you’ll want to allow plenty of time once you’re ready to take the cable car back down. During peak tourist seasons, there is often a very long line for the cable cars, which can sometimes mean waiting an hour or longer in the hot sun.
If all else fails, you can always walk the steep 20-minute trip up the cliffside, assuming you don’t have any heavy luggage!
This should pretty much go without saying, but make sure you wear comfortable shoes for exploring the island of Santorini. In addition to walking, you’ll also be doing quite a bit of climbing—up and down the steps that lead to the quaint houses and shops built into the cliff sides of the caldera. Your day will be much more enjoyable if you can avoid worrying about sore feet and uncomfortable shoes, and just focus on the beautiful landscapes around you.
When you’re ready to venture further into Santorini, there are a few different ways to get around the island beyond walking. If you’re someone that can easily navigate a new location, the local bus routes are an inexpensive way to explore the island. Taxis are also available, though they are undoubtedly more expensive than public transportation. Another popular option for many tourists is scooter rentals, which allow for more freedom than the local bus, and are less expensive than taxis. Adjusting to the narrow, winding roads may take a little while (especially if you’re afraid of heights) but once you do, a scooter is the perfect way to see everything Santorini has to offer.
The biggest thing to remember in planning your trip is to do your research. Taking the time to figure out what kind of trip you really want and the places that will provide that experience is truly worth the effort in the end. No matter where you decide to spend your time in Santorini, you’ll take in breathtaking views, enjoy delicious food, and immerse yourself in a vibrant culture that’s unique to the Greek islands.
Lastly, before you leave for your trip to Santorini, make sure your health is protected with a travel medical insurance plan. If you're interested in trip cancellation coverage, you can also check out our travel insurance plans. Get a quote for both here!
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