5 hours on Tripadvisor, 10 hours on Google and an unspeakable amount of time stalking travel Instagram hashtags. Useless. Below, our locals-only guide to the three buzziest towns in Santorini… and everything to do, eat, and see in between.
Photos by Leah Naomi
The capital of Santorini, Fira is a constant hub of activity with plenty of nightlife. Most of the restaurants sit high up on the caldera, overlooking an incredible volcano.
If you’re new to the island and want to book tours easily, Fira would be the best place to stay—the only downside being that it’s quite touristy and crowded. For accommodation Fira is a pretty safe bet, with a range of options for travelers of all budgets.
Costa Marina Villas / $90 and up
Tucked away in a quieter area of the town. Energetic, welcoming staff. A comfortable stay.
Petit Palace Suites Hotel / $500 and up
Prime location. Cute, feminine décor in each of the four types of suites—you will absolutely not be disappointed/OR one of the finest hotels in Santorini.
V lounge and Café / Bar and Lunch spot / $$
V lounge is perched right in the middle of Fira’s caldera making it the best sunset-watching view in the house. The lunch menu is casual but the food is consistently good.
Argo Taverna/ Traditional Greek Restaurant / $$$
Argo is the perfect restaurant for a romantic or special occasion. The view of the caldera is one of the best and although the food is on the pricey side, it’s worth every penny.
Lucky’s Souvlakis / Fast food and takeaway / $
Try not to judge it from it’s modest exterior; Lucky’s is the king of the Gyro. If you only eat one thing in Greece, make sure this is it.
Oia is hands down the most beautiful part of the island, known for its picturesque blue dome churches (those screensaver photos you see of Santorini? Most likely from Oia). The town is located on the most northern tip of Santorini, isolating it from the rest of island but a popular place to watch the famous Santorini sunsets. Although there are plenty of great restaurants in Oia, nightlife is almost non-existent (partygoers beware), making it a relaxing, quiet place for a holiday.
Oia’s hotels are some of the most romantic in Greece, many of them the traditional Greek Cave style with stellar views of the Aegean Sea.
They tend to run on the more expensive side and are suited more to couples and honeymooners—many hotels don’t allow children, so keep that in mind if traveling with family.
Ecoxenia Hotel / $60 and up
Decent, no frills accommodation. Close, but not too close, to the rest of Oia. Three-star accommodation at hostel prices.
Andronis Boutique Hotel / $600 and up
The epitome of romance: most suites are equipped with private Jacuzzis that overlook the caldera. Absolutely worth the splurge.
Lolita’s Gelato / Ice cream store / $
The staff at Lolita’s are some of the nicest in Greece and are the large seating area is the perfect place to relax after a long day.
1800/ Modern Greek Restaurant / $$$
1800 offers one of the best dining experiences in Oia. Their rooftop terrace has an incredible view of the famous caldera and their delicious Greek cuisine is the icing on the cake.
Imerovigli is the highest point of the island. The area is a short drive north from Fira and is made up mostly of five-star hotels and family homes. There are almost no restaurants, shopping or nightlife here: however, its location is central enough to explore the rest of the island.
It is worth noting that many of the hotels in Imerovigli are spacious and have pools—a luxury which tends to be rare in the other more crowded areas. The lack of development on Imerovigli’s caldera makes it a little less beautiful than Oia and Fira, but the ocean views are just as great.
Gold Suites Santorini / $200 and up
Impeccably decorated suites. A luxe infinity pool with volcano views. Perfect for traveling with friends.
Chromata Hotel Santorini / $600 and up
Traditional Greek Cave themed suites with modern decor. Rooms are spacious and breakfast is served on your private terrace every morning.
La Maison Restaurant / Modern Greek Restaurant / $$$$
One of the best restaurants in Santorini, ideal for a special occasion. The quality of this restaurant is no secret so make sure you book in advanced.
BONUS EAT, OFF THE BEATEN PATH
Dimitri’s at Amoudi Bay /Seafood / $$$$
This restaurant is missed by most as it’s tucked away in Amoudi Bay. However for seafood lovers, a meal at Dimitri’s will be the best dining experience they have in Greece.
THE TRIP TIP
Santorini is one of the most expensive islands in Europe, so hotel prices can get steep, especially during the summer. Last August, I found a traditional Greek style cave apartment smack-bang in the middle of the Oia’s beautiful caldera through Airbnb. I felt a little guilty watching the sunset from my private terrace while I had paid a quarter of what everyone at the hotel next door had (okay, not guilty at all). There are quite a few hidden gems on Airbnb in Santorini, so definitely check them out if you’re struggling to find accommodation last minute.
WHEN IN SANTORINI...
1. Red Sand Beach
Unique red volcanic rocks make Red Sand Beach perfect for a photo stop. However, with rocky terrain and plenty of tourists, it’s best to make it a quick trip.
2. Kamari Beach
Black Sand Beach is one of Santorini’s most popular beaches. There are plenty of sun loungers and beach activities to keep you occupied. The beach itself isn’t that special but when the Greek sun makes you feel like a marshmallow roasting in on an open fire, it’s a great place to cool off.
3. The secret swimming spot next to Amoudi Bay...
Hidden around the corner of Amoudi Bay is a little swimming spot that many people don’t know about. It’s main attraction is a large rock not far off the shore which is perfect for cliff jumping. This spot is not the most comfortable place to spend the day, there are no sun loungers or beach areas. However the rocks are big and relatively comfortable to lay out on—just bring a towel.
How to get there: Right at the end of Oia down the long donkey path, you will find Amoudi Bay. It’s incredibly pretty, with all these little seafood restaurants sitting right on the water’s edge. At the bottom turn left and walk around the corner until you find the large rock and stairs into the sea. If you are too lazy to walk all the way up the track to Oia afterwards, take a donkey ride.
4. Donkey riding and cable car
For donkey-riding in Fira, take the cable car down to the port (and look out for the beautiful view of the caldera). As you exit the cable car, turn left for the donkey ride entrance. There’s usually a line for the rides but it moves pretty fast, even during peak season. Hold on tight, don’t scream, and remember to appreciate the stunning views.
5. Quad bike rental
Nothing beats exploring Santorini in a quad bike convoy with your friends. They are cheap to rent and you don’t need any special license. You can also rent scooters and cars although they aren’t as popular. Please keep in mind quad bikes cause a death per day in the Greek islands during the summer. If you do choose to do this activity be very careful.
There are plenty of stores in Santorini, but sorting out the touristy stores from the decent ones can be a little difficult. If you’re going to Mykonos too, I’d recommend holding back on the shopping in Santorini. Fira has the most stores out of any area, you could easily spend a whole day shopping there—it pays to start early and avoid the crowds. Oia has a few amazing women’s clothing stores. They tend to be on the more expensive side, but the dresses are beautiful and worth the splurge.
Santorini is known for their incredible vineyards, the winery tours are one of the most popular activities on the island. If you don’t have time to do a whole tour, or you’re not a wine enthusiast, make certain to visit Santo Wines. It’s a beautiful restaurant and winery right up on a hill and boasts one of the most breathtaking views on the island. It’s perfect for a quick photo stop on your way to another activity.
8. Volcano tour
Fitness junkies will adore Santorini’s Volcano tour. The hike is short (only an hour and a half, usually) and the view looking back at Santorini is the ultimate reward. If you haven’t been on a volcano before you might find the smell of sulfur a little bit pungent, but it’s nothing to be afraid of. Make sure you wear good, closed-toe shoes as volcanic rock can be really sharp and treacherous.
9. Skaros Rock Hike
Back in medieval times, Skaros rock was a fortress where the Greeks lived for protection from pirates. Today it’s an hour-and-a-half hike to the rock from the Agios Georgios church in Imerogvli. I wouldn’t call it difficult, although there are a lot of stairs. Bring water, sunscreen and some comfortable walking shoes. It’s one of the highest points on the island, which means the view is to die for.
To see more of Leah's adventures, visit her website leahliyah.com or on instagram @leahliyah