Greece was nothing like how I always imagined, but it is absolutely wonderful, and has become my husband’s top favourite country so far! The islands of Greece are a rugged type of beauty, full of rocky cliffs, breath-taking sights, and winding roads. The people are friendly, the food is delicious, and the lifestyle on the islands is different than anything I have yet experienced.
Santorini vs. Mykonos:
We went to both Santorini and Mykonos, and I will state right off the bat that there is no way to compare these two islands. They are both very different in their vibes, culture, and lifestyle; even the way the islands are geologically shaped affects their character. This is a two-part blog series that will focus on each island individually, and today we begin with our first stop: Santorini.
When you mention Santorini to a Greek, they say, “Ah, the romantic island!”. That is how Santorini is characterized, and I’d say it’s the perfect word. Not only do many destination weddings happen on this island, it is ideal for a honeymoon. I would recommend any traveller to make a stop here, though, even families.
The island of Santorini is long and narrow, with rocky mountainous cliffs on one side, and the shore on the other, lined with beaches of black and red volcanic sand. We stayed in Perissa, which is in the SE part of the island by the shore. It is quite the drive all the way up the island to the beautiful town of Ia (spelled Oia in Greek). Via quad, it takes about 45 minutes. Fira (Thira) is a popular town on the island, filled with many restaurants and dining options, and a night life and it sits on the cliff-y side of the island, about halfway between Perissa and Oia. Oia is wonderful for sightseeing, dining and shopping that ranges from high end and handmade to typical souvenir shops.
Walking is not an option if you want to travel between the different towns on the island. There is a public bus that goes to all parts of the island, but I recommend renting either a scooter, motorcycle, quad or even a small car to not be bound to the bus schedule.
What made us fall in love with Santorini was the easy-going, peaceful and (of course) romantic aspects of the island. I think it would make a great place to retire and enjoy the quiet life, where you can sun bathe, go swimming, eat well, see gorgeous sunsets, and if you’re active and adventurous, hike up the mountains. Sounds like a recipe for a long life to me!
Main highlight: The breath-taking beauty of Oia. Every Greek knows that is the place to be for a sunset, but even during the day the place is stunning. It was the perfect place for the hubs and I to celebrate our one year anniversary!
Where We Stayed
In Santorini we did AirBNB and stayed in a villa owned by Roussetos. It is styled in the tradition Greek island colours, white with blue accents. The rooms are of varying sizes, we had one that was enough for 2 people. All rooms have a private bathroom with a shower, bar fridge, small TV and a quaint balcony with seating for two. We had to request extra blankets and pillows, but apart from that is was pretty comfy. If it was warmer, we could have taken advantage of the very nice pool. They include breakfast, but due to our pork restricted life in Egypt, we opted to eat outside to get our hands on bacon! Lucky for us, there was a little restaurant right across the road. So while this location was fairly far from Oia, the drive was enjoyable and this place is great for those travelling slightly on a budget.
You can read more about our stay here in our Top Airbnb stays.
We grabbed a bite to eat in a handful of places, but these two restaurants we would probably return to and highly recommend:
Senor Zorba : This Tex Mex restaurant sits on a cliff with a gorgeous panoramic view of the volcanic bay. The food and drinks are pretty good, and I give their ribs a solid 4 and a half stars out of five. The portions are American, so come hungry! And it is surprisingly affordable too!
Sunsets Restaurant: This is the lovely rooftop restaurant we had dinner during the sunset in Oia. Their moussaka is to die for! Be sure to make a reservation, as the restaurant fills up quickly and touring groups can take up half of the rooftop. I recommend coming around 7:30 pm, to enjoy the changing colours of the sky as the sun begins its downward journey to meet the sea.
Things To Do
While the island is relatively small, there is plenty to do on the island. Apart from sight-seeing and dining, which there is plenty of! I have separated the activities between water-based and land-based.
Water Activities: If you love the water, here are some suggestions for you!
- Sun-bathing and swimming at the beach
- Scuba diving
- Boat tours of the smaller islands, including the volcano
- Tour the Wine Museum and vineyards
- Shopping in Oia
- Hiking in Ancient Thira, or going up by donkey.
- Visiting the Profitis Monastery
- Exploring different foods in Thira
Overall, I adore this island and would definitely come here again. If you are making plans to visit Santorini, I would try to spend at least 3-4 days to fully enjoy all the aspects of the island, and I also recommend going any time between May and October, if you want to enjoy the water (it was freezing when were there in late May!) and beach. If you don’t care for such things, come any time of the year! Though winter usually means cloudy weather, which could dampen the sunsets, but give you great lighting and photo opportunities! Either way, the people are friendly and the food is good all year round!
Overall advantages Santorini has over Mykonos:
- Bigger island
- Cheaper prices for just about everything (great for budget travellers)
- More mountainous
- Stunning sights of Oia
That being said, there are definitely advantages to staying in Mykonos! Check out Part 2 of the blog, where we shall talk about the ever popular island of Mykonos!
Are you planning to visit Greece in the future? Have you been to other islands? What do you love about Santorini? Let me know in the comments below!