It’s almost 2 years since I was in Santorini, my how time flies!
I only went for 3 nights as a birthday treat to myself, and actually, this was what kick-started my solo-female travel obsession! It was as amazing as I imagined it would be, yes, just as beautiful as the photos show, but there were a few things I noticed that I hadn’t previously read about when doing my research… I hope my knowledge can take your trip from ‘amazing’ to ‘spectacular’ with a little insider hindsight!
Staying on the Caldera.
If you’re staying in Fira (Thira) or Firostefani on the Caldera (or within Oia for that matter) make sure you have extremely detailed instructions for how to get to your accommodation. Also, make sure you’re prepared for the walk to your accommodation and can do steps and narrow streets with your luggage. Transport cannot reach these tiny back streets, and Google Maps can’t cope with the Caldera streets at all, it just shows up as a green area — Worst than navigating in Venice and that’s saying something!!
If you’re lucky, your accommodation will send a porter so you can just follow him as he manhandles your luggage, if not it’s up to you to carry/drag it from the road and along the cliffside streets, up/down stairs and likely around in circles.
Wherever you stay on the island, don’t take wheeled luggage. This is a backpackers paradise due to the cobbled streets. Ever try to drag a suitcase on cobbles? Me neither. After seeing so many people struggle I was so glad I was the girl with a sweaty back due to carrying the backpack!
Slippery Steps and Paths!
More than once I almost embarrassed myself by slipping and sliding down the path. Flip-flops don’t have the grip required to navigate the shiny flagstone paths, even more hazardous when you add a little rain to the mix!
(Pronounced Ee-ya, not Oi-ya) this is the place on everyone’s must-see list. Check the timetable for cruise ships arriving/departing and try your best to avoid peak days/times.
I recommend getting up early to see this wonderful place. Do not enter Oia in the Summer at midday, you won’t be able to move and you won’t be able to enjoy it. The streets become full of multiple tour guides showing hundreds of passengers Santorini.
I caught the 8.20am bus into Oia on my visit which gave me about 90minutes of this fabulous place to myself (just shopkeepers opening up, wedding couples having photos taken and a couple of other tourists with the same ideas as me!).
Akrotiri Archeological Site.
Don’t bother visiting here unless you’re an archaeologist / dedicated historian. If you do go, pay extra for the guide. I like being a culture vulture but I’m sorry – I was bored by this place. You can see some doorways, a few amphora, the rest is just a warren of rocks that you’re looking down on from the walkway and it’s unclear what you’re actually meant to be looking at.
95% of the artifacts have been moved to the museum in Fira which is worth a visit. I feel bad for saying this but I wish I hadn’t of gone here – I wasted an hour and 5euro, should have gone to Ancient Thera instead!
I went here because I’d never seen black sand and judging from the photos it seemed the most stunning of the beaches. However, I soon discovered that the majority of the photos you see of Red Beach have been enhanced to make the red a lot redder than it is. It was still great to pick up lava rocks and walk in the black sand but perhaps other beaches would have been nicer still.
If you catch the bus, note that you need to get off at the archeological site and walk along a parallel road to the white church, there you’ll pick up the trail to the beach. If you carry on down to the 2nd stop you end up at the wrong beach! Either way, be sure to wear shoes with good grip as it’s quite a trek across and down the rocks to get to Red Beach.
The Ferry Terminal.
It’s rather dire! The concrete structure shown above makes up 1 ‘departure lounge’. Another is a little better in that it’s actually a fully enclosed building with a vending machine inside – And I seem to recall toilets too, but maybe that was just wishful thinking after the disgusting toilets I’d just experienced in the taverna opposite!
There’s no need to arrive at the port early – There’s no check in or security and until your boat arrives all you can do is wait. There are a couple of tavernas but they’re super crowded, best to not stop here long!
Drinking Water – You cannot drink the tap water on Santorini. Be prepared to buy and carry a lot of bottles of water! I mean really. Most places tell you not to drink the water but here they actually mean it. Also be super conservative with it when you’re showering, brushing teeth etc, they have to ship it in!
It’s to be expected, and to be honest, I was expecting it to be worst. It’s all about timing, and getting off the tourist trail!
As I already mentioned, if you want to explore Oia, do it early, before 10 am, otherwise you’ll be caught in the narrow streets with the cruise ship crowds as pictured above (this was my cue to leave!). If you can manage it (I couldn’t!) get out at sunrise.
For sunset photos, pick your spot early. The tavernas with the best views, and indeed the streets with the best views get super crowded. If you bag a prime seat at 6.00pm, do not move until that sun has fully set, otherwise, you’ll regret it later!
Don’t let any of my ‘negatives’ or ‘warnings’ put you off going to Santorini, or even from staying on the Caldera, with wheeled luggage – Just be prepared and then you can’t get stressed – Though with the stunning views it’s hard to get too stressed!! This is Greece after all, siga-siga (slowly-slowly).