My Guide to Santorini, Greece

Santorini is one of my all time favourite destinations to visit. I absolutely LOVE this island. I love it so much, I’ve already travelled here twice in the course of just over a year. It’s more than just romantic, it feels like another world. The sunsets here are incredible, and the charming towns that line the clifftops are beyond beautiful.

You can get to the Cyclades island of Santorini a few ways. Located in the Aegean Sea, most people visit Santorini for the day via cruise ship. You can also fly in (airport code JTR) and even arrive by ferry from Athens (or from many of the other Greek Islands) for longer stays.

If you’re visiting by cruise ship, you will have to tender (your cruise ship anchors out in the caldera and you are ferried onto the bottom of the cliff of Thira (Fira). You will then have a few choices. You can take a gondola/cable car to the top of the cliff side, a boat to Oia (sounds like EE YA), walk up the stairs or ride a donkey up. I’m going to be very honest, please, please, please do not ride the donkeys up the hill. They are overworked, working in very hot conditions and getting injured. Conde Nast Traveller wrote an article on the donkeys of Santorini that you can find here. Please keep in mind being a socially responsible traveller, especially when it comes to animal welfare. The cable car up is €6 per person, per direction, so €12 per person round trip. I recently did the boat to Oia option on my last trip, taking a boat from where the cruise ship tenders drop off. This option was €15 per person which includes the boat to Oia, bus ride up the hill into Oia and then the bus ride back to Thira.

Getting Around Santorini:

If you decide to check out Thira first, once at the top of the hill, you can’t help but take in the magnificent views. This island is just beautiful everywhere. Thira is one of the main towns on Santorini. It’s where you will find the main bus terminal (public bus system run by KTEL). A bus ticket to most areas on the island is around a €1.80 to €2.50 per direction, honestly it’s a great deal and the public buses are coach style buses. A bus from Thira to Oia will cost you €1.80 per direction.

Here’s how to get to the bus station from the cable car (red dot is the cable car, yellow dot is the bus depot, it’s about a 10 minute walk):

IMG_4073

Taxis on Santorini are limited and can be expensive. Renting a car, motorbike and/or ATV is the other option most visitors opt for. Rough costs for this depend on the depot and rental company used.

Things to see and do:

There are so many things to see and experience on Santorini. It’s a place to take in the beauty, relax and unwind. I’ve broke down some of the top sights and things to do based on each town.

Oia – Probably the most iconic town that tourists flock to. Here in Oia, my favourite thing to do is just to wander the streets and enjoy the sights. I love photographing the whitewashed homes, clinging to the cliffside. It’s just an incredible view. If you’re here for the day, visit early in the morning before the cruise ship crowds descend on this small village. Once 11:00am rolls around it can be very busy here as it is such a popular destination. Crowds don’t dissipate until later in the afternoon depending on the cruise ship schedules. Sunsets are absolutely amazing, however Oia can still feel quite busy if there is still a ship in port. There are several restaurants that have stunning sunset views, where you can order a bottle of prosecco or champagne and enjoy the experience. Oia is a tourist town, however there are a few locals shops here offering some beautiful unique products and gifts (don’t miss the Atlantis Books Store and a store called Nama). Oia to me it’s one of those places to explore, take amazing photos, grab a seat at a restaurant, enjoy a glass of wine with some amazing Greek food and ponder life while taking in the view over the caldera.

Thira – Thira is a place that most tourists arrive, it’s where the cable car brings thousands of tourists almost everyday in the busy season. There are a few local shops here, however it can also be a great starting point to exploring the island of Santorini. Santorini has some amazing wineries and breweries. One wine tour in particular is with Santorini Wine Adventures, they offer a great half day tour visiting three local wineries on Santorini learning about how the volcanic earth here help creates some great wines.

Red Beach (Akrotiri) – One of the most scenic beaches on Santorini, within walking distance from the Akrotiri Archaeological Site, a site not to miss. The site is covered and  enclosed to protect the discovered and very well preserved ruins from the Minoan Bronze Age. Red Beach itself can be a bit tricky to get onto depending on the level of erosion, but it’s a beautiful and unique beach.

Where to eat on Santorini:

Oia – My favourite place to eat in Oia is Lotza Restaurant. The food here is fresh, home cooked and just delicious. It’s a very quaint restaurant with amazing views overlooking the caldera.

Other restaurant options in Oia are Karma and 1800, for something sweet try Lolita’s Gelato on a hot day and Melenio Cafe for an amazing dessert.

Thira – Located a short walk from the Thira cable car, Volkan On The Rocks serves up amazing locally sourced food, their very own wines and beer called Volkan Beer.

IMG_1123

Other restaurant options in Thira are Fanari and Theoni’s Kitchen.

Whatever you see and experience on Santorini, you won’t be disappointed. It’s a beautiful island to discover and is full of history. Santorini is one of my favourite places I’ve ever travelled to and has a very special place in my heart.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If you have any questions about travelling to Santorini, leave me a message!

 

 

Cruise Review – 11 Day Mediterranean Cruise – Norwegian Spirit – Day 7

Day 7 – Santorini, Greece

Visiting Santorini has been a place on my travel bucket list for years. I woke up again before sunrise as we were sailing into Santorini. I was so excited!

IMG_1901

I wanted to be one of the first ones off the ship as I knew the gondola up was going to get full very quickly, so I went down to Cagney’s for breakfast at 7:00am, had my french press Lavazza and one eggs benedict. After breakfast, Karin (the concierge) informed myself and another couple that the first tender was ready to accept passengers. We were then escorted downstairs, past everyone that had lined up for the tender (we didn’t even need a priority tender card), and walked onto the first tender in front of the line. Upon arrival to the gondola, I noticed another error in the Greece Lonely Planet guide, it said the gondola was €5 round trip. Its actually €6 each direction, so €12 round trip. It wasn’t a long wait as I was on the first gondola ride up.

IMG_1022IMG_3842

At the top, once in Fira, it was time to rush to get to the public bus stop, I only had an idea where it was, so I did miss the bus by five minutes which was slightly annoying. Here is the map of Fira, the red dot is the top of the Santorini Cable Car, the blue lines are the easiest walking route, yellow dot is where the bus station is located (it’s about a 10 minute walk):

IMG_4073

So I had a bit of time to kill (about 35 minutes), so I walked around that immediate area. As it was so early in the morning (about 8:00am), there wasn’t a whole lot open, so went back to the bus stop and waited for the bus to Oia to arrive. The bus arrived and I’m glad I was early as the crowd had tripled in size waiting for the same bus. I scrambled onboard and grabbed a seat. The ticket agent came onboard and took our €1.80 for a one way ticket to Oia. Not a bad deal. About 20 minutes or so later, we were in Oia.

I can’t describe the complete beauty of this place. It’s absolutely stunning…

IMG_1902

From the bus stop, its a block into one of the main streets, where you can just wander and take in all of Oia’s magnificent views. I was so glad I did Oia this way, I was here ages before most of the crowds from the ship. I think we lucked out anyways as it was only our ship here, with a few day tours from a ferry I believe. I was shocked I was able to get so many photos with NO ONE in them 🙂

IMG_1907IMG_1908IMG_1903IMG_1909IMG_1914IMG_1916IMG_2175IMG_3730IMG_1920

This place is honestly incredible, I knew it was going to be beautiful, but this place took my breath away around every corner. I did buy a few souvenirs here and after a morning of really walking around, I worked up an appetite. I found a really cute cafe with a balcony overlooking Oia with incredible views. It was called Lotza Restaurant. I ordered a bottle of sparkling water (I needed it at this point, it was again a hot day) and Tzatziki, followed by a Greek Salad and a Spinach Pie. The food here is AMAZING, just like the view from the patio! I’ll be going back here this year in October during my next Mediterranean Cruise!

IMG_3733IMG_1917

It was then time to start wandering back to the bus stop to head back to Fira, I was so glad to have just wandered Oia. I really got to relax, take my time and take in the atmosphere here. I would have hated to be ushered around like in some of the ship tours I saw. I found a few cute boutiques on the way back to the bus, and did buy a few knick nacks.

IMG_3737

On the bus, I paid my €1.80 and stared out the window, totally melancholy, taking in the wondrous day I just experienced. Again, so grateful…

Once back at Fira, I walked back to the gondola, however still had a bit of time to kill. I found a bar with a view, this time of the bay with the Norwegian Spirit anchored below and free wifi. I ordered a beer called Volkan, a local beer made here on Santorini. It was really refreshing and great tasting! I’m normally a wine drinker, but this trip seemed to be more beers haha…

IMG_1123IMG_1924

It was then time to head back down to the ship. I boarded the gondola, again reminiscing of the perfect day I had. The tender line wasn’t too bad, I was actually expecting worse, perhaps because it was only us in port today. Once back onboard, I went to my room and changed into my swimsuit and headed to the pool and went swimming. About an hour later the ship sounded it’s horn, probably a 30 minute warning to passengers already not onboard that we were leaving soon. As we raised anchor, I headed back to my stateroom and watched our sail away from my balcony. I opened another bottle of prosecco and “cheered” Oia as we sailed by, thanking the universe for such a great day…

It was then time to get into my white cocktail dress (it was the “White Hot Party” tonight), and head to the Latitudes cocktail party. Again it was nice to connect with the officers and some of the other guests. Had a couple more glasses of prosecco and a glass of white wine to go, where I met up with friends again to watch “Mistika” Magic Show at 7:30pm. I thought it was going to be tacky, however the show was great! I actually really liked it! We then went to the Garden Room (another MDR) and had a late dinner. I had a spring roll to start, followed by a primi of carbonara then my main course of chicken cordon bleu. I had an amazing tiramisu for dessert.

IMG_1126IMG_1128IMG_1129IMG_1130

It was then time to head up for Norwegian Cruise Line’s Signature “White Hot Party”. As soon as I got upstairs, I honestly was beat. It was a long day in the heat again, and the tiredness hit me full on. I stayed for awhile to enjoy the music and a bit of the party. Then it was time to call it a night…

IMG_1135IMG_1138IMG_1131

Here are the “Dailies” for Day 7 – Santorini:

IMG_4069IMG_4070IMG_4071

Next up… Katakolon (Olympia)…

 

 

 

Cruise Review – 11 Day Mediterranean Cruise – Norwegian Spirit – Day 5

Day 5 – Iraklion (Heraklion), Crete (Greece)

Today I was officially in Greece…

Woke up around 8:00am local time to views of the Island of Crete, the clocks did go ahead one hour last night. I went for breakfast at Cagney’s again, ordering only one eggs benny as two is just too much for me. I did have to deal with an overcharge at the gift shop this morning, so headed down there and got that sorted. How did I notice there was an overcharge? I use the Norwegian iConcierge app when sailing on a Norwegian ship. Once you’re onboard, you can track your onboard account, what’s happening that day on the ship (even get a sneak peek to other activities on other days before you receive the daily), and you can pay to use it to message others.

IMG_3677

After dealing with that I headed back to my stateroom to watch the sail into Iraklion, Crete. It was quite an interesting, busy port, with a historic fort still attached to one end. There were several ferries, and an airport very close, so spent a bit of time watching the planes take off as boats were coming and going while we waited to be cleared by the port authority.

IMG_3683

Cruise ship leaving, plane taking off as we arrive…

IMG_3322

Arriving to Heraklion, pilot boat on it’s way

IMG_3332

Pilot boarding the Norwegian Spirit

Iraklion (or Heraklion), is the fourth largest city in Greece, and is close to ruins of the Palace of Knossos, where my name was first found anywhere, Ariadne. Princess Ariadne helped Theseus to overcome the Minotaur, which to Greek mythology was under the Palace of Knossos. Heraklion is known as Hercules’ city, and is full of history.

IMG_0927

Once off the ship, you board a free shuttle to the port terminal. If you want the best price to get around, I did the public bus. It costs €5 for a day pass. Once you exit the terminal, you will see the small manned kiosk to the left across the roundabout. From here you can take a bus up to the Palace of Knossos. Today was HOT. This is also where the Greece Lonely Planet guide let me down, it mentioned that the entry price was €6 per person in the guide I had (only a year since printed). Once at the admission gates, there was a massive line and the price was €25 per person… Mmmmm nope, don’t need to see it that badly. I got fed up standing in the heat and decided to hop back on the bus to go explore Heraklion. I realized afterwards that this also could have been a “cruise ship day” price…

IMG_0933IMG_0930IMG_0932IMG_3724

I collect Starbucks mugs from all over the world (just kinda started to happen, so I kept going with it), so I found a Starbucks and got a set of two demitasse mugs. I like the idea, as I can grab a mug and sip a coffee with memories of the place I picked them up at…

This is the one place I wished I had actually done a tour. I enjoyed walking around, but it’s just another seaside city. I think doing a wine tour here would have been a lot more fun, heading into the lusher valleys. I had a Greek beer near the end of the pedestrianized road after you guessed it… shopping, and just enjoyed the view in the shade. I found out a bit later that they did have wifi, so again checked in at home. From here the sun was starting to set a bit, so instead of bussing it back to the port, I did walk. It was maybe a kilometre or so to the terminal from here.

IMG_0938IMG_3391

Once at the terminal, I boarded a shuttle that took me back to the ship, where a cool towel and drink were waiting on the gangway for us. Once back on board, I headed up to my room, relaxed then started to get ready for dinner at Le Bistro.

IMG_3360

I noticed we hadn’t left the dock quite yet and walking outside the wind had definitely picked up. I watched the final bit of the sunset on the promenade before my dinner reservation was ready. I was seated by the window and at that time I noticed that we were trying to leave but couldn’t. The wind was pushing us back to the dock. Even mid ship at Le Bistro, I could feel the ship trying to maneuver, but wasn’t going anywhere.

Dinner at Le Bistro was heaven. I had the scallops to start, followed by the most amazing french onion soup. My main course was the beef tenderloin and dessert was a hazelnut chocolate torte. Everything was beyond amazing.

IMG_0942IMG_0944IMG_0946IMG_0947IMG_0950

By the time I finished dinner, we had finally started to move, probably three hours or so after we were originally set to depart. I could tell that it was full steam ahead to keep on schedule. After, I headed up to the Galaxy of the Stars, had a nightcap of a Moscow Mule (in the souvenir tin mug) and listened to the live music for about an hour, then called it a night. When I arrived back into my room, a towel rabbit and my daily were waiting for me…

IMG_0941

Here are the “Dailies” for Day 5:

IMG_4058IMG_4059IMG_4060

Next up… Piraeus (Athens)…