Santorini: May 2017

I. Went. To. Santorini. I still can’t quite believe I can actually say that. It’s been at the top of my travel bucket list for about 3 years now and it always seemed like one of those far off travel dreams, but somehow I actually went. I took nearly 1000 photos on this trip, so it was so difficult to narrow them down, but these are some of my absolute favourites along with restaurant/sightseeing recommendations, tips and the hidden treasures of the island.

Whether or not you’re an avid Instagrammer, I’m sure you’ll have seen snaps of Santorini, or similar Greek islands, dotted around on the internet. With its blue waters, white and turquoise buildings and bright pink flowers, it looks like what I’d imagine heaven to look like. At a first glance online, it might seem like a holiday purely for catching the sun, but there’s actually quite a lot to do. I was there for 6 nights and I could’ve easily stayed longer and still packed in the activities. Before I go any further, I just want to say that if you’re vegan/vegetarian, there is SO much for you in the way of food. I was totally in my element with copious amounts of fava and pitta bread.
Hotels: Oia, Fira or somewhere else?

I personally stayed in Oia (pronounced ‘ear’) at a beautiful hotel called Galini. It’s owned by a lady called Maria who was really present throughout our stay and made sure we had everything we needed, gave us the lowdown about what’s worth doing/not doing, and I genuinely have nothing bad to say about her hotel. I know I’m biased because Oia is where I stayed, but I honestly think it’s the best place to stay on the island. It’s right at the northern tip, whereas Fira (pronounced ‘Thira’) is about halfway down and places like Akrotiri, Perrisa and Kamari are on the southern edge.

Though you’ll have to go into Fira by bus to get a bus anywhere else, I loved having the incredibly picturesque Oia right on my doorstep and being able to watch the infamous sunset every single evening before walking to dinner or back to the hotel for a dip in the pool (pictured below).

Pool seating area at Galini
Sunset from our window

The Town of Oia

This is where I took the majority of the photos. There’s not too much to say, most of these places were just taken while exploring all the little side streets, so just scroll and enjoy!

One of our favourite restaurants in Oia
Fava and pitta bread (what I lived on)
The view from Thalami

A restaurant with lots of vegan options (Candouni)

Lolita’s – the BEST (vegan) ice cream I have ever had – they even had chocolate sorbet!
Ah, Lolita’s. I went here every single day of the trip (not a joke) and got chocolate sorbet with a different fruit sorbet every time. The verdict: chocolate and orange was the best. We went so many times that the guy who owned it gave us free ice cream on the day we were leaving!

Melitini – another incredible restaurant with lovely views of the sunset
Fava and pitta bread. Again.

Another great vegan restaurant (Karma)

A pup tired of the sunset commotion

This of course depends on how active/mobile you are, but there’s a beautiful 11km hike between Oia and Fira which is definitely worth doing. Some bits are pretty steep/rocky but it should only take around 3-4 hours if you keep your pace up. The start of the hike from Oia goes from right opposite where we were staying, so we pretty much rolled out of bed and got going. Something I absolutely loved about the culture there in general was how laid back everything was; the sign for the hike route was literally a bit of paint on a plank of wood.

As you start to reach the outskirts of Oia, you’ll find sweet little reminders of the island like old boats and tiny wooden dollhouses on the cliff edge, and quite a few lizards – these little guys blend in with sticks on the floor so be careful not to step on one!

I’d advise not looking back too often because it’ll feel like you’ve barely walked any distance; the island is a C-shape so you can always see Oia and Fira to each side of you. But every so often, stop and take a drink of water (you will need it) and just breathe in the fresh sea air.

About 1/4 of the way to Fira (or 3/4 of the way from Fira) you’ll get to a little church and dome which is perfect for snapping some photos and home to a few adorable dogs – some are stray and some have collars but none are extremely friendly so approach with caution!

From there onwards it’s pretty much mountainous terrain and not a lot to look at (apart from the incredible views) so just take in the peace and quiet until you reach Fira!

Fira (pronounced Thira)

Fira is the hub of the island because all buses start and end there. While I was definitely happy with our choice to stay in Oia, if you’re thinking of doing something different every single day it might be worth staying in Fira. Having said that, the views in Oia are unbeatable and I was more than happy to stay there at the price of an extra bus each day (bearing in mind the price is under 2 euros per ride).

We didn’t spend very long in Fira apart from the many bus trips through it, but at the end of our hike we treated ourself to an amazing lunch at Falafeland – see what I mean about vegan food? Pretty much everything sold here was vegan and it took a lot of strength to resist getting the bus back to Fira  again just for these!

Fira is pretty similar to Oia with a few more shops and crowds, so if you need a more ‘buzzing’ atmosphere when you’re on holiday, Fira is probably more for you. Don’t get me wrong, Oia is absolutely packed with tourists during the day but Fira is quite a bit bigger.

The Pompeii-esque ruins of Akrotiri weren’t something I’d heard of until about a week before our trip. It’s a 7000-year-old village that was preserved by the mudslide of a volcanic eruption. It’s much smaller than Pompeii and it’s all undercover because it’s still being excavated, but it was still incredibly interesting to walk around. In some places, entire houses with intact beds and pots have been uncovered (though there are no people there because it’s thought they had warning and all fled the village before the eruption happened).
The only thing I’d say about Akrotiri is that the buses run once an hour to/from Fira, and the ruins took just over an hour to look around, so we just missed a bus back and had to wait another hour. It wasn’t all that bad because Santorini’s famous Red Beach and White Beach are just around the corner, but we were warned not to walk on the Red Beach because of falling rocks.
Amoudi Bay

Amoudi Bay is a little port in Oia down about 200 steps. They’re pretty uneven, cobbled and covered in donkey poo so I’d choose suitable footwear if you want to trek down there! I actually wore flip flops and was fine, but I get the feeling I had beginner’s luck. There wasn’t a whole lot for me to do when we reached the bottom (it’s mostly fresh seafood) but we did see the boat that goes across to the island of Thirassia a few times a day. We had planned on doing this trip but after reading a few reviews decided to have an extra day exploring Oia in stead (do check it out though, I’m sure it’s a great day trip).
When you get to the bay, rather than turning right and walking through the restaurants, turn left. You’ll find yourself on a (sometimes challenging) path that leads round to a secret little cove where you can swim across to a tiny island and jump off it! There aren’t many people there, it’s a true hidden gem.
The walk down to Amoudi is probably your best chance of seeing some donkeys
This little white door is on the way down to the bay
On the path to the secret cove

Perissa & The Black Beach

This sounds a bit like a Pirates of The Caribbean movie, but there are two black beaches on this volcanic island: one at Perissa, and another in Kamari (just north up the coastline from Perissa), but after reading reviews and looking at pictures we decided Kamari didn’t look quite as good as Perissa… and I’ll take a guess that we were right. Though black sand might not look particularly inviting, it’s just as soft as normal white sand beaches – it just gets a lot hotter, so make sure you’ve got your flip flops with you. We went to Tranquilo which was another amazing vegan restaurant with plenty to choose from. They refill your water, which was needed because there wasn’t much shade, and have lovely beanbags and beach tables to sit at. There were plenty of seats and umbrellas to sit at on the beach, but you have to buy a drink or something to eat to use those. The best thing to do is just to buy another drink once you’ve finished your meal and take that onto the beach.

We found my favourite restaurant of the holiday (Tranquilo) towards the end of the beach. 
Those are pretty much all the things of note that we did on our trip. Those are all the main towns, and you’ll end up passing through other little villages throughout your stay, too. A boat trip around the Caldera would be beautiful but they’re super expensive; do your research and don’t let tour guides charge you an extortionate amount! If you’re into your wines, we heard Santo Wines is a great winery.
Other than that, I think I’ve covered everything! If you have any questions, fire them through on Twitter and I’ll be happy to help. Thanks for reading!

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