The first thing people always say when they set foot upon the enchanting island of Santorini is... "it's just how I've always dreamed Greece would be!"
So, should you desire to wake and find your Grecian dreams have come true, then Santorini is the island to visit and our Santorini Travel Guide has absolutely everything you need to know...
I can never explain, nobody ever could, what it feels like to step out of your door on that first morning in Oia. Your eyes wander down the lane and out over the caldera - the ancient volcano now filled with seas of sapphire blue, upon which boats sparkle like silver glitter.
Your feet follow your eyes; past cottages of wedding cake white - each cottage hugged by exuberant scarlet and mauve bougainvillea, while their blue doors and window frames seem to be made of the very blue of the sea far below.
How could the day possibly get any better?
Well, wait until you've seen a sunset in Oia and you'll know it does get better; ever so slowly those deep blues of the sea and sparkling whites of the cottages turn gold. Before you know it the entire world about you is ablaze - one of the best sunsets you'll ever see.
For a small island there are a lot of options:
If you're young or just young at heart and enjoy nightlife into the wee hours of the morning then Firá is where you'll want to be. Don't worry though, you can still have plenty of romance and unforgettable views in Firá too. Where should you stay? Try the Anteliz Suites.
If you arrive by cruise ship you have three choices to get up to Firá: donkey, cable car or 587 steps.
I always walk and this is why:
Should you be a little older and want a place where evenings can be spent in quite contemplation of the beautiful destination that life has lead you too then Oia is certainly the option to choose.
Oia may not be cheap, with more five star hotels in this one little town than in many cities. The one hotel I'd suggest you try is the Katkies Hotel, which offers an experience you'll tell your grand-kids about. If you can't get in there try any other four or five star hotels - I've never heard of anyone having a bad hotel experience in Oia.
The other nightlife area is on the east coast around Perissa. It is more a package tour destination but there are a lot of hotels to choose from and it is cheaper than Oia or Firá. Here are some Perissa hotels.
Santorini can get really crowded between early June and early September and it gets really hot too.
My advice is to visit in late April or early May when the weather is warm and their isn't much rain. The great thing about this period is that the island is still very green because the wet autumn/winter season has just ended and the spring flowers are at their best. Also, there are far fewer tourists.
Late September is just as good, the sea is a bit warmer too but the island isn't so green and beautiful.
If you're arriving on a cruise ship, or are only on the island for a few days, then tours are a good idea to explore the island without having to rent a car. These are some of the tour options available.
For longer periods a car rental is a good idea as you can then discover most of the island on your own.
You don't really come to Santorini for the beaches. Yes, there are beaches but there are far better ones elsewhere in Greece - my choice would be those on the island of Zakynthos.
Being on a black volcanic beach is a rather interesting experience (bring shoes or your feet will catch fire!) and you've two good ones to choose from:
Kamari Beach: Sandy beach with shallow calm waters making it ideal for families. It's kept very clean and has all the facilities you need. I don't like crowded beaches though and this one gets very crowded in July and August, the two main months when thousands of package tourists descend on the south-eastern corner of the island.
Perissa, a little further south, also boasts a black beach that is even longer than Kamari Beach. It is just as crowded though - mostly with young northern European package tourists sleeping of hangovers from the previous night's parties. Still, the beach offers lots of facilities and if you come in June or September it's lovely.
Santorini's Red Beach, near the Akrotiri archaeological site, is stony, very famous, very popular and small... which means it is always crowded.
Unless you are on the island in early spring or autumn don't even bother to spend any length of time on the beach but, seeing as it is is near the archaeological dig - which you must see if you're on Santorini, take a look at it on your way there.
It's worth having a quick visit as the landscape is unreal - look towards the beach and the cliffs from the water's edge and you'll feel you're on the red planet of mars... after an invasion of weird swimsuit clad aliens from earth.
Could this be the missing city of Atlantis? Many experts believe that to be the case.
Until the 1960's nobody new that this ancient city even existed. It had vanished nearly 4,000 years ago after being buried by the volcanic eruption of 1626 BC .
Now that a lot of the site has been excavated you get a really good idea of what the city was like - some of the art and pottery they've discovered is truly amazing - and the city itself must of been one of the most advanced and prosperous on earth during its heyday.
Once you've visited the site also visit the Museum of Prehistoric Thera in Firá to see many of the more delicate objects recovered.
Firá is the best town to shop. Of course there are lots and lots of souvenir shops where you can pick up a few mementos or gifts however, once you've seen a few souvenir shops, you might enjoy shopping for some more genuine local products - like the wonderful ceramics, wine and jewellery.
The island has been making beautiful things out of precious metal for over 4,000 years and its reputation is as good today as it was back in BC times. Firá is where most of the jewelry stores are located - two worth visiting are Greco Gold and Lagoudera Jewellery
In Oia visit the amazing workshop of Dimitri Koliousis, an artist who paints the icons to be found in many Santorini churches. The Kyrgos Art Gallery in Oia is also well worth a visit as is the Mati Art Gallery in Firá. Your hotel should be able to direct you to all of these.
Try the excellent local vines made from the Assyrtiko grape; they go perfectly with many of the local dishes. I prefer the dry varieties but there is a lovely sweet version called Vinsanto that matches perfectly with desserts like baklava.
If you'd like to take wine home with you then Iama wine, located in the main street of Oia, is about the best wine shop on the island. Even better though is to take a tour of the islands exceptional wineries, they succeed in producing world class wines in a dry and difficult climate - this is the tour I recommend.
There aren't many restaurants left that offer only local cuisine and cater for locals; most offer a "tourist menu", featuring a broad range of Greek dishes with things like moussaka being ubiquitous. Still, surprisingly, most of the tourist menus are rather good but I know you aren't the sort of person to settle for touristy things - you'll want to try some of the wonderful local treats... like the addictive tomato keftdes fritters. So here's where you need to go...
Definitely go with Candouni - the food isn't strictly local but they do have local dishes mixed in and everything I've tried has been excellent. Definitely the best fish on the island and they've a wonderful selection of local wines too. Also, for those with Italian blood or just a love of all things Italian, they offer the best pasta in Santorini - try their farfalle & salmon if available - it's as good as the pasta in Italy.
To Ouzeri is my recommendation; one of the few places in Firá where you'll actually find locals eating out - probably because they do all the local dishes exceptionally well. It's one of those family run, typically Greek restaurants, where you feel part of the family from the minute you walk through the door.
You can fly to Santorini from most major European cities. If you are in Italy or want to get here from Athens or elsewhere in Greece then ferry is the best way. FerriesinGreece is the way to research and book.