Santorini has been on my bucket list of for over a 10 years – I think it has all started with watching the movie “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”. Unfortunately, the popularity of this place was increasing each year – just as much as accommodation prices and crowds, what put us off a bit. However, we decided not to wait any longer and visit Santorini in August this year! If you want to find out if Santorini is worth a visit, how expensive it is, but also top things to do and recommendations where to find top restaurants with the most delicious greek food – stay with me!
Thira or Oia – where to stay in Santorini?
We decided to stay in two of the most beautiful and most popular places. We spent our first 4 days in the capital of Santorini, the city of Fira, and the next 4 in Oia, the smaller but, according to many people, the more picturesque one. Certainly, while in Santorini you have to see both of them! Despite the fact that both cities are picturesquely located on breathtaking cliffs, they have charming white houses, amazing views overlooking the sea and seemingly they are very similar to each other, they have a completely different vibe.
Fira is slightly larger, less luxurious, but more touristic – you will find a large selection of restaurants, cocktail bars with a view, but also clubs, making the city vibrant not only during the day, but all night long. Although Oia is featured on most postcards from Santorini, Fira has won our hearts just as much – the views of the cliff and the white narrow streets with pink flowers were charming, and the crowds were not as annoying as in Oia.
Oia is more romantic and elegant, but it is also the number 1 destination in Santorini. It has a long marble promenade, which unfortunately gets quite crowded when all tourists from the town, nearby villages, as well as cruise ships gather in the most picturesque place to see the sunset. Even though Fira is a much bigger town than Oia, you won’t really notice that while exploring the narrow streets, small shops and admiring the views, so you can definitely plan the same amount of time for exploring both of these cities. Besides that, they are connected to each other by a bus line, and moving between them is also easy. A ticket costs EUR 1.80 and the bus runs very often – several times per hour, but still expect lots of crowds. The main bus station in Fira is a good starting point for trips to other places on the island.
As you know, Santorini is not one of the cheapest travel destinations. Accommodation on the picturesque cliff in Fira or Oia, overlooking the sea, starts at around 500 euros per night. If your budget is limited, it’s worth considering a hotel outside the city centre, without a cliff view, as we did – in Fira we stayed in a small place called City Break – it had no sea view, but it was still very central and we were only a 5 minutes walk away from everything. For a 4-day stay we paid just over 500 euros. Still quite expensive, but for Santorini and Fira in this location it was one of the cheapest places to stay.
In Oia, on the other hand, we stayed at the newly opened Elitoz Suites, which was also not on a cliff, but in all other aspects was great. The rooms were spacious, each had a small terrace and its own jacuzzi, plus a large swimming pool. There was also no need to go anywhere for breakfast, because every morning the staff brought it to the terrace. In addition, we were only a few minutes’ walk away from the beautiful views of the sea and the town center. We paid 760 euros for 4 nights at the Elitoz Suites, booking it a month before we left. Unfortunately, we noticed that the prices are not as favorable as they were when it opened, and when booking for next year the night starts at 250 euros.
Santorini Food Guide: The Best Restaurants
During our stay in Santorini we visited many restaurants in both Fira and Oia. Most of them had delicious food, but there are some that we would really love to recommend.
Parea Tavern (Thira) – delicious local Greek food, a romantic terrace with a view and an excellent service. During high season we recommend to book a table in the morning or the day before, as after 5 pm the place is very busy. The food was so delicious that we were constantly coming back there – sometimes for dinner, sometimes for lunch and we managed to try almost everything – starting from different greek cheeses, fava, tzatziki, Greek salad, through seafood, grilled souvlaki, to moussaka and desserts. We have never been disappointed, the food has always been amazing and the prices are very affordable – starters are around 4-8 euro, salads around 8 euro, and mains on average 10-12 euro.
Enigma Café (Thira) – Really cool spot for a breakfast and coffee, which is worth a visit mainly because of the breathtaking view. The cafe is located on a picturesque cliff and as for this location, the prices are very affordable. You will pay around 3,5 euros for the toast and 7 euros for the Greek wrap with feta and other local ingredients. During our next days in Fira, we found out that these prices are really reasonable because even in the places without a view of the famous cliff, it is difficult to find a breakfast with such a good value for money.
Brusco. Wine. Coffee. Deli. (Pyrgos) – Right after Parea Tavern, our number 2 in Santorini. However, this is not a typical restaurant – here you will only find very local starters and wine. But how delicious! We were tempted by a plate of specialties, amazing tzatziki and fried Greek cheese.
Sunset Ammoudi (Oia, port) – This is a must-visit restaurant for all the fish and seafood lovers! It is located in Oia, but at the very bottom of the cliff, in the harbor. I have to say it was the meal with the most picturesque view – our table was right on the bay, and we were only a few centimeters away from the clear turquoise water. The food was very good, but it was also our most expensive dinner in Santorini – we paid over 60 euros for the fish only. Prices were on average 20-25% higher than at the top of the cliff in the city center. It’s worth coming for amazingly fresh fish and seafood.
Lotza (Oia) – another restaurant on a picturesque cliff. It’s worth coming here for the sunset, a glass of wine and a simple Greek appetizer (fried feta with honey was delicious!). We also tried the main courses but they didn’t impress. After all, it’s a nice restaurant for the evening, mostly to spend a good time and have an amazing view of the cliff.
Fino – here, the opposite is the case. There are no views, but the food is amazing. Not necessarily Greek and local, but still delicious. We tried gnocchi with truffles, goat cheese, ricotta, figs and pecorino cheese, and also ceviche. Unfortunately, it is quite expensive here. Cocktails are around 10 euros, gnocchi as a starter was 17 euros. After all, it was one of the best dishes in my entire life. If someone is not worried about the budget, it is definitely worth checking out, because the chef knows his stuff. The restaurant has a rating of 4.8 on Google, so probably other dishes would be also amazing!
What to see in Santorini?
Karavolades Stairs – it is the route that takes you from Fira, down the cliff, to the harbour itself. Quite picturesque, although the biggest attraction there are dozens of donkeys (and mules), walking up and down, sometimes with tourists on their backs – to our surprise, most of the animals we met on the way were roaming on their own. They often just stood in the middle of the road, so that you could come close and stroke them. Still, you have to be careful so that you won’t get trampled on by a huge mule running up or down. Despite almost six hundred steps, I would still encourage you to go down the route on your feet. Going back to the cliff, a cable car is a great option here – the price is EUR 6 one way. Don’t forget to put on comfortable shoes because the stairs are very slippery.
Cruise around the Island – One of the activities you cannot miss while in Santorini is a cruise around the island – you can book one on GetYourGuide, where you will find many different options. This is a cool opportunity if you don’t rent a car on the island, because you have a chance to explore quite a lot in just 1 day. The most common attractions on the cruises are the Red and White Beach, as well as the volcano and hot springs. We just went on a 5-hour sunset catamaran cruise with a Greek dinner and a barbecue.
Oia – as I wrote above – a must-see town in Santorini. Oia is the most known for its blue domes, but also for the famous sunset in the vicinity of the castle ruins. However, be aware that you have to go there much earlier because hundreds of other tourists come to watch this sunset every day and it is very, very crowded. Seeing the crowds, we couldn’t not understand this phenomenon for a long time, but once we decided to go and indeed – it was definitely one of the most beautiful views in our lives.
Pyrgos – it is a quite an underrated town, as it is not located by the sea. After all, it is very cute and worth a visit, especially if it is on the way to other attractions or beaches that we are planning to see. You can visit it and stop by the delicious Brusco. Wine. Coffee. Deli. for food!
Ammoudi Bay – in other words, the port in Oia (at the bottom of the cliff). It is completely different from the port of Fira which is very peaceful and quiet. In Ammoudi Bay, there are some nice seaside restaurants with picturesque views of the turquoise sea that are bustling even late in the evening. In addition, you can go for a 10-minute walk, passing restaurants and walking along the cliff, which ends with a gentle descent down the rocks to the blue water. Lots of people come to sunbathe and swim there because the water is quite shallow. After all, there is very little space in this charming corner, so be prepared for crowds of people.
Beaches – is it worth visiting the beaches of Santorini? In our opinion, this is not the main attraction of the Island. If someone has planned a few days’ stay on the island and has time for it – of course. However, when we have up to 2-3 days planned here – it is definitely worthwhile to see Fira and Oia Ammoudi Bay, go on a cruise, take a trip to the wine cellar or enjoy Greek food. We went to the beach in Perissa, but it is definitely not a must-see attraction in Santorini – in Europe you will definitely find much nicer beaches than those on the island :).
I hope you liked this subjective guide to Santorini and would be happy to take advantage of the recommendations of attractions and restaurants I have mentioned. I realize that Santorini is not affordable for everyone, it was also one of our most expensive trips, so I tried to list the prices of hotels, restaurants and attractions on the island – hope you will find it useful! Despite the prices, Santorini surprised us positively and we have to admit that it encouraged us to continue exploring Greece. We will definitely go there again someday! If only you have any questions, I’m looking forward to your comments!