I am starting to count the days down till my summer holiday already, which this year will be Sorrento and the Amalfi coast, cannot wait! I've been looking over last years photos from Santorini and day dreaming about being in the sun and sea. I realised the other night, I never did a guide/top tips to Santorini, so here it is (better late then never eh?)
My first top tip is to give the little family run hotels a chance, often smaller independent hotels have low star ratings but the majority of the time this is due to them not being part of a big chain. The hotel we stayed at, Anemomolis Hotel (above), was just at the start of Oia, the most beautiful (and expensive) part of the island. The hotel only has two stars but when you read the reviews for the hotel, they are outstanding and I have to say the guys there was so helpful and welcoming, they have a beautiful pool, the location is perfect, a short walk into Oia, a bus stop outside and you can see the famous sunset from the pool! Which we found a lot easier to do, as trying to get to the side of the island to see the sunset is a nightmare, people are queuing in the streets to walk round. We found the hotel on the a hotel comparison site, which meant we got to stay on the most desirable part of the island without breaking our small budget, yet when we visited the travel agents we could only afford the least desirable part of the island! When the time comes for us to return, we will most definitely be staying here.
The transport on the island is really good, we got the local bus everywhere, it does get crammed, but the majority of the buses have air con, and they are always on time. This means its easy to adventure. On one of our days we got the bus to Pryos, a beautiful small village at the highest point of the island. Its a lot more quiet then other parts of the island but offers beautiful authentic greek streets to wander, and charming cafes to sit and people watch.
Akrotiri is a small fishing village, where, unsurprisingly, is suppose to be the best place to have a fish meal. It's really calming to walk along the seafront, at some points you have to pass through a few restaurants to be able to carry on walking without having to take a swim instead!
Akrotiri is also home to the red beach, which is red due to island being Volcanic. It's a very very tiny beach and so many people flock to it, however this photo is how close I got to the beach. As you approach the beach there are signs everywhere saying to not go on the beach. The cliffs towering over the beach often give way and a few people have been really injured due to this. It doesn't matter how pretty a beach is, its not worth risking your life!
My "don't go to red beach tip if you want to live" brings me onto my next tip, the black beach. We LOVED the black beach, Perissa. This was our favourite beach by far, we visited Kamari, which is actually a pebble beach and very very touristy, I didn't like it at all, to us it felt a little out of place on the island. Perissa gets busy but as much as Kamari and there are a lot less children running about, which I think is mainly down to the fact there are less shops and restaurants but the ones that are there are really good. Oh and the bus drops you off right at the beach!
If you stay in Oia it means you get to adventure around Oia at night, and this was by far my most favourite time to be there. By this point all the cruises have left and everyone has gone back to the other parts of the island they are staying at. You find yourself wandering completely empty streets. We ate every night in Oia and it was calm, peaceful and relaxing and if you look around, you can find really affordable places to eat with amazing views over the sea.
Akrotiri is also the home to a bronze age settlement from roughly 1627 BC preserved in volcanic ash, it is said to be just as important and significant as Pompeii. It was amazing to walk around the remains, from the front of shops to the remains of beds and storage pots. It's also all inside so its a good way to get out of the sun.
If you are thinking of going to Santorini to adventure around the island ant not sit by a pool, one of my most important tips would to be to not go in august, the heat was pretty unbearable on some of our days, and it meant the steep stairs on the hill side were something that we just couldn't even attempt (we did once, and it wasn't pretty, I'm sure I even cried at one point) so it meant we couldn't always adventure to where we wanted to!
Be prepared to want to buy everything! The island is full of handmade home wares, everywhere you look there are beautiful colourful pieces. I think I came home with about 7 different bowls!
My last tip is that sometimes its best to not plan, and just let the streets guide you to where you should next go. Around every corner is either a hidden restaurant, or a door that leads to the sea. It really is a magical island.