They say couples should escape parenthood at least once a year to be good parents. We are lucky Santorini is just a 35 minute flight from home and we could escape at the most romantic island of the world!
That was actually our very first chance to get away ever since September 2016 when we became parents. It was 2-3 weeks after the last time I breastfed and having had to succcessful sleep-overs at grandma, we found ourselves on an early and very sunny flight to Santorini. Just the two of us!
And you know what? We could travel again as we used to: we rented a car (we had an excellent service at Spiridakos Rent A Car) and explored the island,
Within 3 days, we could stroll around the cobblestone alleys of Oia, Fira, Imerovigli and Pyrgos village. Enjoyed the caldera view at Akrotiri. Sunbathed at Perissa beach and swam at the Red Beach. Had seafood lunch at Ammoudi port, saw the sun set behind Thirasia and drove from north to south twice.
And these are my top recommendations:
Where To Stay
Traditionally, this is the best accommodation option. Fira town is located next to the port, right above the old marina where the daily cruises depart from, a 10 minute drive from the airport and next to the highway that connects Fira with all beaches and villages of Santorini. We stayed at Kalisti Hotel & Suites, in one of the large suites with a patio jacuzzi and a view to the east sea. It’s not located in the alleys, so it’s easily accessible and quite, yet close to the caldera.
It’s right next to Fira (a 5 minute drive, 45 minutes walk). The rock in the sea is what makes it so unique, together with the fact that some of the best sunset views hotels are located here. Not so many eat and drink options here though – which of course means it’s serene and beautiful.
Right between Imerovigli and Oia, you’ll find some 5 star hotels with a sunset view, which are however not built on the characteristic rock and are also too isolated.
Oia has changed quite a lot since the last time I was here. It used to be a quaint little caldera village back in the 90s, with cozy cafes drenched in bougainvilleas, lost in the maze alleys. They have given their place to elegant hotels perched in the rock, all featuring infinity pools overlooking the Aegean, and expensive boutiques. All have blended beautifully with the white washed houses, the blue roofed chapels and the typical cycladic architecture of the cobblestone streets. Oia is definitely unique, if you’re looking for luxury, isolation (it’s at least 20 minutes away from the nearest village and the airport and the road is not very safe) and a town that has it all in moderation (bars and restaurants don’t abide).
Even though some of the best luxury hotels with caldera views are here, they’re not nestled on the rock (but on the hillside). Rock perched, cave like hotels can only be found in Fira, Oia, Imerovigli and possibly Firostefani). But most importantly, there’s no village here. It is however close to the lighthouse, the prehistoric site and quaint Pyrgos village and Fira are just a short drive away.
Where To Eat & Drink
Having been seriously spoiled in every single Cyclades island we’ve been to when it comes to food, I’m afraid we weren’t as lucky in Santorini, since we’ve found a huge difference in quality and service between quaint taverns and high gastronomy restaurants. And though I’ve never suggested that before, I have to advise you to stay away from the typical taverns, no matter their view and their cuteness, if you want to enjoy all of your meals at your dream destination.
There are budget option of course and they’re awesome. In Fira and Oia, you’ll find a huge variety of take-away and street food from all over the world, with souvlaki being the best option. Enjoy your wrap with a sunset view 😉
If you’re looking for a serene environment away from the hustle and bustle of Fira or Oia, you have a much better chance to find a table at the traditional maze village of Pyrgos. All restaurants are so pretty here!
There are of course seafront taverns (less April-May, September-November), with the most famous being the one in Ammoudi (the marina near Oia) and the second best being only accessible by boat from Ammoudi.
Of course, if you can afford to eat mediterranean gastronomic masterpieces every day, please do so and seek a table at some of the best restaurants of the country – some located in the luxurious hotels of Oia and Imerovigli and some are:
Catch Oia: This one is an exquisite haute cuisine restaurant featuring a mixologist that works wonders. Take in the sunset view from the terrace while enjoying an extravagant color-changing cocktail or a steamy one or even one served in a bird shaped glass. Please order the tuna salad, it’s a dream come true. I also recommend the flank steak and the cod served with brussels sprouts.
If wine is your thing, ask the restaurant sommelier to guide you through the best options based on your dish.
Idol Fira: We loved this caldera view bar restaurant right in the heart of Fira town. Try the Santorini salad and the seafood.
Kallisti Hotel Fira: In a warm outside space elegantly decorated with wood and straw and some splashes of black, right next to the amazing pool, this hotel restaurant serves amazing mediterranean cuisine, crazy good cocktails and serenity.
Drink: Fira is probably your top choice, as you can even find rock bars and jazz bars hidden in the alleys. Wherever you choose to go, head to some cliff hanging bar first to enjoy the sunset!
What To Do
Pyrgos: A traditional village up on a hill with a panoramic view to the east and west sea and the caldera. Get lost in its maze like alleys, visit its countless chapels, rest under the shadow of a white washed arc and stay here for lunch, too.
Fira is probably the best choice for your strolls, as it’s built right on the rock, with a great view, numerous cobblestone alleys, tons of little shops, quaint cafes and restaurants with a view. If you’re traveling with a baby, bring a carrier, as there are some ramps here and there.
Οia is small and remote. The post-card beautiful caldera town is home to some hotels that are a sight for sore eyes, all lost in cobblestone alleys and accessible through stairways that seem to be headed to the sea. It’s magic!
Come for your boutique shopping. Come for the sunset. Come for the downhill walk to Ammoudi marina for your seafood lunch. Come for drinks. Don’t skip Oia.
Imerovigli is even smaller, but since it’s close to Fira, it’s worth a drive. Go up and down its stairway alleys with a view to the blue and the rock, visit the chapels, see the sunset behind Oia
Akrotiri Prehistoric Site
Neater and neater every year, this site reveals a prehistoric settlement destroyed during the volcanic eruption.
Day Cruise At Kameni and Thirasia Islands
The boats leaves from the old port at Fira. You can go there on foot or with the cable car. NOT on a donkey. The daily cruise is the perfect time to swim in the deep blue Aegean sea, cover yourself in healing mud, walk around the volcano on Kameni island and enjoy some great food on the red rock beach in Thirasia island.
Ask your hotel concierge about the best Wine Tasting experiences in Santorini.
Perissa Black Beach
it’s a must visit! The lava black sand makes the scenery so unique. The beach is mostly organized, so enjoy your sunbathing with a cold coffee!
The Red Beach
It is definitely worth the walk/climb! From the white chapel built in the red rock to the view of the fire red beach, the experience is breathtaking! Have snacks and water with you.
What To Expect
As with all the dream islands around the world, Santorini is not dreamy everywhere. Be prepared to walk on the road (no pavements anywhere), become acquainted with the villages’ trashcans and allow some time to find somewhere to park your car.
Small price to pay for one of the top destinations of the planet though 😉
Enjoy your stay!