Ah, Santorini. The most picture-perfect island in the Cyclades. I’ve dreamed of roaming the streets of this island since I was a teenager watching Lena fall in love with Kostos in ‘Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants’ [please tell me I’m not the only one!]. So when we began planning our trip to the Greek islands, I knew that visiting this wildly popular island was a must.
As I began to do more research on Santorini, I admittedly started to second guess my decision to visit. Traditionally, I prefer to visit more off-the-beaten path locations, avoiding the contrived and often overpriced fun of touristy locations. Despite this, I knew that I couldn’t miss those cliff-side whitewashed buildings, and famous blue domes – and so I began to plan a short, but very sweet, visit to Santorini.
Read on to hear how I made the best of a quick 48 hours in Santorini!
WHERE TO STAY IN SANTORINI
There’s no way around it – hotels on Santorini are expensive. Having only 48 hours on the island, we wanted to stay as close to the popular town of Oia as possible without breaking the bank. We chose to stay at Finikia Memories Hotel, which was roughly a 20 minute walk from Oia [or an affordable cab ride]. The hotel was nothing exceptional, but was exactly as we expected for the moderate price point. Most importantly, the rooms were spacious and clean, the location was perfect, and the hotel offered a good complementary breakfast [you’ll realize how big of a bonus this is when you see the food prices on Santorini]. The hotel also featured a beautiful hill-side pool overlooking the ocean which was a welcomed bonus!
GETTING TO & AROUND SANTORINI
Santorini can be easily accessed by plane from Athens, or by ferry. We arrived on the island by ferry, which was a bit of a chaotic experience. I can recommend two things: have your guard up and be prepared to move fast when exiting the boat. We were able to quickly exit the ferry and run over to the shuttles. We took the shuttle up the steep cliffside road and to Fira, the capital of Santorini. Here, we had arranged a rental car, which we used to get around the island.
When we were looking at rental car options, many sites suggested getting a car right at the ferry port. However, after seeing the steep, winding cliff you have to drive up and down, I would highly recommend getting the car in town.
With only 48 hours on the island, a car was really the only reasonable way to get around to make sure we made the most of our time. Driving in Santorini was fairly easy – the roads were well paved, directions were clear, and getting across the island was very efficient.
Alternatively, if you prefer not driving, there are a variety of buses that can get you to all the popular locations across the island.
THINGS TO DO IN SANTORINI
With only two days on the island, we made a list of all the places we wanted to visit. Here’s all the locations we were able to cover in two days.
This town is the reason I was so keen on visiting Santorini. We visited Oia twice – in early morning and in late afternoon/evening. If you’re looking to truly experience the beauty of this town, you must wake up early and see it before it’s swarming with other tourists [and their selfie sticks]. We arrived in the town around 8:00am and the streets were virtually empty. We were able to take it all in, snap a bunch of pictures, and bask in the calm before the storm. It was easily one of the highlights of my time in Greece.
We returned to Oia later that day for dinner at Kastro, which is often coined as the best spot on the island to watch arguably the world’s most famous sunset. We booked this reservation roughly two months in advance and were still seated near the back of the patio. However, we lucked out when another reservation didn’t show up and we were moved to a table front and centre at the restaurant, just in time to watch the sunset. We experienced the most breathtaking views from the best sunset spot on the island while others crowded the streets around us. It is an experience I will truly never forget and couldn’t recommend this sunset dinner spot more.
Is Oia touristy? Yes. However, it is touristy for a reason. I swear, the pictures do not do this place justice. Even if you’re skeptical like me, I truly believe it is a bucket list item that every travel-lover must experience in this lifetime.
I came across the village of Emporio and knew I needed to visit. This spot is much less touristy than other locations on Santorini. We virtually had the entire place to ourselves as we roamed the narrow medieval alleys surrounding the Emporio castle, getting lost in the maze of winding pathways. I have never seen a village quite like this one before and highly recommend making this a stop on your two-day Santorini adventure.
Red Sand Beach
We also spent time visiting the famous red sand beach. This place is definitely worth seeing if you are visiting Santorini, as the volcanic structures is truly breathtaking. However, I wouldn’t recommend going swimming at this beach. Not only is the red sand extremely hot from the sun, but it is very rocky and not ideal for swimming. In general, Santorini is not the island to visit if you’re looking for beach time [if beaches what you’re looking for, you should check out my Milos and Naxos island guides].
Sitting at the bottom of the cliff below Oia is Amoudi Bay, a picturesque little fishing village with a variety of seafood restaurants along the water. In the interest of time, we drove down to explore this village, but I have also heard it is an awesome experience to climb the 200 steps down from Oia. In addition to Oia, this is also coined as one of the best spots on the island to watch the sunset.
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK IN SANTORINI
Kastro: If you’re looking to splurge on a sunset dinner, this is the place to splurge at. The food and service were good, but what you’re really paying for is the sunset – and let me tell you, it’s worth every penny.
Domaine Sigalas Winery: This spot was a highlight of our time on Santorini. The winery was a short walk from our hotel and was completely underrated compared to many of the the more ‘famous’ wineries on the island. We sat in the middle of the vineyard near the ocean, watched the famous Santorini sunset and enjoyed delicious food and flights of wine. I couldn’t recommend this spot enough!
WHEN TO VISIT SANTORINI
When is the best time to visit Santorini? I have be told by many people that have visited in the summer months that it is almost unbearably hot and busy with tourists. I still found May to be quite busy, but it was definitely manageable and more affordable. We also enjoyed warm weather during the day with highs of 25 degrees Celsius and cooler temperatures as low as 16 degrees at night. For these reasons, I would definitely recommend visiting Santorini (or any other Greek island) in May.
I hope you enjoyed my ’48 Hours in Santorini’ island guide! If you have any tips or suggestions, please feel free to email me or add them to the comments section below.