Santorini, Greece (Photo creds: me)
Santorini is the most well known out of all the Greek Islands. It draws in tons of tourists and travelers from all over the world, excited to see the iconic buildings and the infamous Oia sunset. But what else is there to do in Santorini? Keep reading to find out!
1. First things first… Rent an ATV!
This is not only the most effective way of getting yourself around the island, but it’s also the most fun! Why waste your time waiting for hot buses when you can tour the island on your own time schedule? They’re not too pricey, and since an ATV easily fits two, you can split the price with a friend. Low season is cheaper than high season (July and August) but even during high season, it’s not too bad if you share with a friend.
Make sure you find a place that lets you rent for a full 24 hours! Some of our hostel roommates were unfortunate in their choice of rental place, they had to return their ATV’s by 11 pm, while Laura and I were allowed to keep ours until the following morning. Many hostels even give you the option to order the rental through them, and the ATV gets delivered right to you.
To find your way around, download the Ulmon: City Maps 2 Go App in your App Store ahead of time. After downloading the app, download the Santorini map while you have wifi or cell service. Once the map is downloaded, you can use it extremely efficiently without having to be connected to any service or wifi signal. It follows your movements second by second so you never have to worry about a lag in the GPS getting you lost. (The app doesn’t give you verbalized directions, but you are able to pinpoint your destination and follow the roads on the map to get there).
2. Check out Red Beach.
Using our handy app, we easily found our way to Santorini Red Beach. The beach is made up of distinguishable dark red sand and rock formations and is located steps away from the ancient site of Akrotiri. There is a large lot for people to park, before heading down to the beach there is a really great viewpoint that makes for an awesome photo op.
To get to the beach part of the area, we followed some of the other people along a pathway and over some rocks until we reached the rocky sand stretch. Once we got there, we set up our things and laid back to relax. Although it was really nice to chill out in the sun, there were a lot of tourists around; people snorkeling, people laying out, and constantly more and more people coming down to the pathway to join all the rest of us sunbathers. After an hour or two, we decided to leave, but before hopping back onto our ATV, we snagged a delicious fresh fruit smoothie at the cheap stand in the parking lot.
3. Find a private beach.
After leaving the crowded Red Beach, we still wanted to lay out on the sand, but we wanted somewhere less public. We looked at the Santorini map on our City Maps app and scanned the perimeters of the island looking for parts marked with sand. We found one relatively close to where we were and headed there. After finding the staircase down to the beach, we were happy to see that there was close to nobody there. Having a large beach almost completely to ourselves was awesome, and I highly suggest finding one as well instead of spending all your time at Red Beach or the even more infamous Perissa Beach.
4. Wander the streets of Oia.
Oia is a small town in the South Aegean of Santorini Island and is where you can find the iconic white and blue buildings commonly seen in photos of Santorini. After spending half the day
exploring some of the beaches of Santorini, we parked our ATV in Oia and set off to spend some time causally exploring and wandering the streets. It’s such a cutely quaint town, so peaceful and SO picturesque. We saw a couple brides in beautiful white gowns taking wedding photos, went through some jewelry and clothing stores, even found the most adorable little bookstore! We ended up coming across a little pastry/dessert restaurant and got a seat by the edge of the railing so we can eat delicious puffy treats while looking across the ocean.
5. Watch the sunset in Oia.
Oia’s sunset is ranked number #1 out of 23 tourist attractions in Santorini, and for good reason. The sun sets in the most perfect location for a breathtaking view. Although the sunset wasn’t until about 9 pm, people started lining up around 6 pm all over Oia, trying to find the most prime location for a sunset viewing. By the time we started searching for a spot a little bit after 7 pm, it was already packed and slightly difficult – definitely took us a few rounds before we found a place to sit and wait. For 2 hours, everybody just relaxes, talks, and waits while watching the sun’s slow descent to the horizon. The sunset was definitely worth the wait though. The colors running through the sky were such vibrant pinks, oranges, purples, so many colors it was unimaginable! As usual, photo’s can’t do it justice, it is definitely something that anybody visiting Santorini should do and see. You also have the option to go on a boat tour that finishes its day out on the water so you get a more personal view of the sunset… I have no doubt that being on the water watching the sun go down would be a spectacular thing to see.
6. Take a boat tour.
There are many different boat tour options in Santorini, and most hotels and hostels help you book it through them. We booked a boat tour that would take us to the caldera volcano, to the hot springs, and to the island of Therissa which is another part of Santorini. We got picked up at our hostel which made the commute to get to the tour much easier. Our boat looked like a pirate ship, and Laura and I immediately claimed our spots at the front of the boat for the best view of our surroundings. It was a gorgeous day with just the right amount of breeze to keep us at a happy temperature. The first stop was the caldera volcano.
We got to the port and had to pay 2€ for entrance to the trail to the top. It was a bit of a hike, and we worked up a good sweat. Make sure to wear comfortable hiking shoes, as the entire walk is uphill and on rocky, pebbled dirt. Throughout the entire walk up to the top, there are many places to veer off and see gorgeous views, but the best view is definitely once you hit the caldera. Like I said, it’s a bit of a hike, but it’s completely worth it. There are paths all over the area, but Laura and I walked a bit off the beaten path to get a more secluded view of the caldera.
The next stop on the boat tour was Therissa. We docked there for lunch and had the opportunity to explore a bit and find some amazing, authentic Greek food. We had the option to walk up to the top of the hill, but we decided to spend our time relaxing at the base of the mountain with good food and Greek music. There were restaurants all over, but Laura and I chose to eat at the cheap gyro stand, not only to save money, but also to take advantage of delicious gyro’s while we could. After the gyro, we went back for some colorful ice cream, which was more than perfect on this hot day. To this day, that gyro was the most delicious one I’ve ever had.
After eating, we still had a bit of time before the boat would be leaving, so we decided to go back to our spot on the boat and lounge for a bit. Once back, we started talking to two girls our age who were also taking advantage of the empty boat. As always, meeting other travelers is great, and this time we all decided to be adventurous and jump from the highest point of the ship into the water.
Ignoring the fact that this wasn’t technically allowed, we jumped into the water and spent some time enjoying the clear, warm ocean. Once people began boarding the boat for departure, we made our way to shore and, steering clear of the many sea urchins, finally got out of the water and rushed back to the boat. The deckhand saw us jumping in, but he was really nice with us the whole time and just laughed and helped us get back on. (Later he also helped us during a situation with a very rude, sexist Italian man.) If you do the boat tour, take a dip in the water! Jumping in from so high up was exhilarating, and swimming in that clear, blue water may have been my favorite part of the boat trip.
Our last stop on the boat tour was the hot springs! We had 30 minutes to jump into the cold water and swim over to where it turned into the hot springs. In the past, I’ve spent some time at different hot springs, and it’s always very fun and interesting, but unfortunately, these hot springs weren’t my favorite. They weren’t very hot, they were pretty dirty, and EXTREMELY overcrowded. Nevertheless, it was all still a great time and a very enjoyable day.
After the hot springs, our boat made its way to the dock, where myself and many other passengers would be getting off, while those who paid extra would stay on to see the Oia sunset from the water. Laura and I didn’t pay extra for that, as we’d already seen the sunset and didn’t want to spend the extra money, but I suspect the sunset would be absolutely breathtaking from the boat.
7. Go to Perissa beach.
Perissa beach is the infamous ‘black’ beach that Santorini is widely known for. Our hostel was right at the edge of the beach, so we had really easy access. Unfortunately, I have no photos from Perissa beach during daytime, as we only went at night and didn’t take a camera, but we did enjoy a wonderful breakfast on the edge of the beach, at a restaurant next door to our hostel, and we had an incredible view to eat to. Perissa beach is lined with tons of restaurants, hostels, and other fun places to check out. Definitely a place you can kill a good few hours!
We actually were lucky enough to see the sunrise over Perissa beach. On our day of departure, we had to leave very early in the morning and while waiting for our cab to take us to the port, we had the chance to admire the sun rising over this spectacular setting. I know we all love our sleep, but I suggest waking up early one day to catch the sunrise. This picture does NO justice, and the colors were blending throughout the entire sky. It was incredible!
Anny Studio’s Perissa Beach – ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Our hostel was in a great location, and offered help with booking ATV’s and Vespa’s as well as booking tours, though the facilities could use a bit of work. Bathroom’s weren’t kept up, and the light switch into our bathroom often shocked us (we started turning the light on using random items instead of our fingers).
Overall, Santorini is an incredibly picturesque destination, hence the popularity among tourists and backpackers, and it is definitely a must see for anybody trying to experience the world!