A guide to Santorini – how to plan the perfect trip?

Flashpackers/ Backpackers and group travellers – Everyone loves to sunbathe on the Santorini sands with amazing views of blue domes of white churches and pastel-coloured houses popping everywhere. When a place is this beautiful, it ought to attract 2millions of tourists a year. After spending splendid seven days here, we will help you enjoy the best and avoid the bad in Calderas.

So here is your complete guide to the beautiful Greek island Santorini.

Index

Why visit Santorini?

Indian traveller standing infront of a blue wicket gate of a white house lined with pink bougenville flowers

The backdrop of the towns with sugar cube houses and blue water at the foothill is one of the most picturesque places in the world. The food is good; the sights are excellent. You can do many things here, Or do nothing by laying on the sands under the sands. Hailing from a tropical country, the sun doesn’t excite us much. But dipping in the cold Mediterranean water and soaking in the sun later with a mug of beer on the black sands of Perissa beach is heaven.

Is Santorini very touristy?

Santorini is the second most visited place in all of Greece. So the connectivity to this island is way better than the other beautiful islands. You may have to avoid some places in Santorini to avoid the “Over tourism” crowd. But the island is big enough for travellers to seek their own pocket of Mediterranean heaven.

Is Santorini worth the hype?

Yes! Fantastic views, delicious food, charming walking trails, soft sand beside pristine water and brilliant sunshine, easy reachability, bustling towns to cosy villages – What more do you want for a laid back vacation?

White church tower with Blue dome with a cross on  top of it situated on a black volcanic soil mountain beside blue mediteranean water in Santorini

How to reach Santorini

Santorini is on the southern side of Greece. There are only two ways to reach the island – Either by flight or Ferry / Cruise. I can’t stress enough why you shouldn’t buy a Eurail pass for Greece. It can fetch some discount on Ferries to islands and is hardly useful in Greece’s mainlands. The railways in Greece aren’t that well connected, and there are no international trains to Greece as of 2020.

What airport do you fly into Santorini?

Santorini Airport (JTR) is labelled as an international airport, but the facilities are equal to my town. Bangalore’s interstate bus terminal at majestic! Most flights are connected to other countries with transit at Athens. The airport website says it is open 24hrs, but I have read a traveller’s story who had planned to sleep in the airport but was denied entry after 10 pm! So don’t plan a sleepover at the Santorini airport. Don’t reach the airport too early because they open at around 6.30 am! The timings may change seasonally, but don’t depend on Santorini airport for sleepovers as they shut the airport by night, and during days, you hardly get anything to eat inside the airport. There was a coffee shop selling Cappucino and old bread. That’s all.

We took a flight from Santorini to Istanbul. Considering it was an international flight, we were at the airport 3hrs earlier than the departure time. We were made to sit on the walkway’s curb for a while because only a few seats were waiting for passengers inside. The only thing you can rely on at Santorini airport is – the flights do fly from here!

The cheapest way to get to Santorini from Athens

Sea Route – The cheapest, fastest and best way to reach Santorini. Santorini has two ports – Athinios Port ( New port) for speed boat ferries and Skala (old port) for cruise ships. Cruise ships are slower and more expensive, while speed boat ferries are cheaper and faster. Along with Athens and Mykonos, other islands like Naxos, Paros, Mykonos, Ios, Anafi, and Milos connect to Santorini by regular ferries. It is simple to book tickets on GoFerry with a few operators like Sea Jets and Blue star. We chose the speedboat ferry from Sea Jets, as we wanted to spend more time on the land exploring than spending time on the cruise ships with tourists.

Ferries also offer seats in different classes -Club class or premium class based on the operator. Boarding ferries is similar to boarding a flight. You have to be there at the boarding port one hour before departure to collect the boarding pass and get to the boat along with all the luggage.

How many days to stay in Santorini

Restoration of real Cycladic village at Pyrgos

We stayed for six days and seven nights. There was not even a single dull moment in those six days. You can stay up to 10 days if you want to explore the island thoroughly. However, if you are thinking of hitting the main spots like Oia and Fira, two full days are enough. Read our post” 20 Best Things to do in Santorini” to decide your plan.

Is Santorini an expensive holiday?

If you compare it to any town in Thailand or Iran – It is expensive. But when compared to Brussels and Amsterdam, it is cheaper. There are tons of ways to spend your money to make your Santorini travel experience expensive. For example, staying and eating in Fira and Oia (even budget hotels are expensive here), renting a car or an ATV, and shopping for souvenirs in tourist hotspots.

If you like to save money like us, stay in areas like Perissa or Pyrgos, take public buses, and eat at smaller restaurants away from the tourist trails. By doing so, we needed 90-100 Euro per day for two of us excluding accommodation and including everything else.

Which are the tourist traps in Santorini

How safe is Santorini?

Is Santorini a tourist trap?

One word – It is safe for all kind of travellers who uses common sense and take care of themselves like they do in any part of the world. Fira is a party hub. Villages like Perissa and Pyrgos sleep early. But we have walked on these streets at the night and we didn’t face any problems. Nott getting drunk to lose your consciousness, and not exhibiting yourself like a typical tourist is the key to staying away from scammers.

Yes and No – It depends on how you deal with it, what kind of places you are sticking to and how good your homework is.

Cube white houses and a few windmills stacked along the terrain of Oia in Santorini by the seaside

Oia is the most Picturesque town in Santorini and is the nest of Santorini Scammers.

That doesn’t mean you must avoid Oia. Because That is where we witnessed open of the timeless sunsets surrounded by “I am here for the gram” tourists.

So here are some tricks and tips to have the best time in Santorini on a budget.

If you have already read our post ”15 tips before your trip to Greece”, you may be aware of the taxi agent’s scam. When you land at the Thira port, the agents approach you saying it is hard to move around Santorini from town to town, so you must hire a car for a bomb price. Don’t do it. The public buses are super-efficient throughout the island. The island’s central station is at Fira. They have the bus schedule printed and posted at the bus station to know the exact timings. The buses may delay +5 minutes, but they are efficient, economical and convenient.

The ATV Scam in Santorini

The second scam is ATV! I have never seen those many ATVs at a time anywhere else in the world! Fira has hundreds of agencies for ATV rental. When you walk on the streets, the agents approach you saying walking is tedious in the island’s undulating paths, so an ATV makes your life easier. Only one part of their words is correct – The island is undulating, but an ATV doesn’t make it easier! It rips your wallet apart, snatching all the fun of walking and adding the stress of driving at the peak sunset hours. Don’t hire ATVs. Walking in Santorini isn’t as hard as they explain it to be. If you are a regular hiker, this is nothing for you. There will always be a cafe for some shade and thirst when you get tired.

The last and monster – Santorini package tour with a guide.

Unless you are a senior citizen who needs help, don’t opt for packages. Communicating in English here is more manageable than in Athens and Meteora. You don’t need a guide for exploring either vineyards or the beaches. The boats’ captains and crew are good enough to tell you about the different islands and beaches nearby when you go sailing. Do it yourself; else, you will end up in fixed spots for a fixed time which are essentially tourist swamps.

How has tourism affected Santorini?

When the sun sets behind the rim of extinct volcano (there is one active volcano in Santorini), the place turns ethereal. This soothes and evokes a calmness in everyone’s mind – Provided, there are no annoying groups of tourists – I am Talking about Oia. On the other hand less touched Pyrgos shows you the old world charm in an actually working Caldera village. But the swamp of tourists helped Santorini’s economy grow. So the island developed in terms of infrastructure and other civic facilities. From Minoans to Turkish Riviera and the real Greeks, this island is a coast of happiness for all kinds of travellers.

So tourism affected positively by encouraging more people to come in and hence the city developed itself. Meanwhile, the irresponsible travellers are soiling the real beauty just for the sake of a picture for their social media.

Published by Sahana Kulur

Traveller | Blogger | Architecture and history

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