I’ll just start by saying… I wasn’t sure about visiting Santorini, let alone wondering about how many days we should stay. After all, when you are married with kids and have been for quite some time, a honeymooner’s paradise isn’t the first destination that comes to mind. But I am glad that we went, as it was everything it was rumoured to be BUT also so so much more. I would even go as far to say, it was probably my favourite of the Cyclades islands. Bold statement I know! But when you dig a little deeper below the tourist trail, there are some pretty authentic treasures to discover.
Let me break it down for you below. Our guide to the best place to stay and the right places to eat – if you know me you’ll know I love good food! I’ll also share all the island highlights and how many days you should stay in Santorini. I recommend you save this guide for later, because you’ll need it.
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The Best Place to Stay in Santorini
You know the quintessential photos of Greece… the sunset view of terraced houses on a cliffside, white washed walled houses with blue roof tops, overlooking the Mediterranean? That is Oia most likely… and this is where you want to stay. Everyone on the island at some point will come to Oia for the famous photo at sunset. And it is crazy busy. Tourists from every country in the world it seems, cram themselves shoulder to shoulder along the narrow paths to get the best photo spot. It is rather overwhelming to say the least. SO… I recommend you do the following instead.
Book with Zoe Aegeas traditional cave houses and you won’t need to fuss with all the sunset chaos. Instead you’ll sit on your own balcony or rooftop in privacy and enjoy the suns descent in peace. Zak is the owner of this boutique accomodation. His insider recommendations, are what made our few days in Santorini so unique. I promise you, this accomodation is idyllic, authentic and private.
If you’d like to know more about getting to and from the island, check out my post on the perfect 14 day itinerary to the Greek Islands. It provides more logistical advice about how to plan your entire vacation in Greece and also how many days you should plan to stay in Santorini.
Where to Eat in Oia – Santorini
So you’ve decided to stay in Oia… good choice by the way! But where to eat? There are literally hundreds of places to choose from, as you’d expect in one of the busiest travel destinations in the world. BUT, not all food related experiences are created equal right. So how to identify the good from the bad?
Word of advise… walk the back roads and see what you find. The best view doesn’t mean the best food – but you probably already know that right. We were recommended the following restaurants and tried each one. They are small and super busy so you’ll likely need to book in advance, but what I loved was their authenticity and obvious love for good quality food.
This was my favourite for sure. This cosy restaurant is a couple of lanes back from the tourist trail and views, but the atmosphere and vibe won’t disappoint. Two brothers, one who knows wine, the other who knows food, together have developed a very special place.
If you like wine and would like to know more about what makes Santorini a unique region for wine-making then you have to go. The friendly staff (the wine brother if you are lucky) will walk you through some great wine tasting. If you have young kids, don’t worry as they will keep them entertained at the same time.
They also specialise in local produce, including meats and cheeses which are also available for visitors to purchase. They bring all this together in a funky space, filled with art, good music and such good food. Don’t miss it!
Also small and also a couple of lanes back… this place is a total gem. You’ll definitely need to book as this place is super busy and is well known amongst the locals. And the food is to die for. If you can’t decide just what to have, the staff will help you find something that will leave your mouth watering for more. Check out their instagram link above to see the kind of dishes they produce… some seriously good Greek food!
Vitrin Cafe Creperie
Okay, now I know I said get off the tourist trail, but I make an exception here. This place is definitely on the tourist trail… bang smack in the middle of it in fact. However, it is fantastic for smoothies, milkshakes, coffees, crepes and the VIEW! If you manage to wake early on just one morning this vacation, then do it here and go for breakfast to Vitrin. And trust me, you’ll need to be early to get a seat as this place is tiny and always busy!
At the time of writing this, Vitrin did not have an active website or instagram page… so you’ll need to ask the locals for it’s location. But follow the main tourist lane towards the point and you shouldn’t miss it.
Guide to the Highlights of Santorini
Without stating the obvious, it’s a good idea to walk the main lane which runs parallel to the cliff and take in the view. If you like people watching this is the place to do it! We loved watching the newly weds with their photographer poised in front of the magnificent backdrop. While Santorini is a popular destination for honeymooner’s, we also discovered it is a fantastic destination to elope. Check here to read more about how to go about eloping in Santorini.
You could easily spend hours in this book store… they have it all. But it is their story that makes them extra special. A group of friends came to Santorini fell in love with it, and came back to open a bookstore. The are true book lovers and you can feel that as soon as you arrive at their front door. Make your way down the steps into the store to start going through shelves of unique titles. Or head up to the rooftop and flick through pages of second hand books while at the same time gazing out at the ocean, to marvel at the view.
This is going to require some energy. I’m not going to lie, it’s going to be a bit of mission walk out. But if you’re up for it, put some kind of walking shoes on and make your way down to the bay that lies at the base of the cliffs.
When you get to the small bay full of fishing boats, carry on passed the restaurants and over the rocks. There is a small track cut into the rocks and if you follow it you’ll get to a waterhole. If you are feeling game, you’ll take the jump. If you’re like me you’ll stand back and admire the others that do.
On the way back, be sure to stop at one of the restaurants lined up along the bay. Whether this be for a meal, a light snack or a well deserved drink. AND if your walking back up the hill, you may want to add a double expresso to your order.
A Day Trip Around Santorini
If you drive get a rental car and explore the island for a day. There is more to this island than meets the eye. Start by driving South…
If you are interested in archaeology you are going to love this… and if not then feel free to skip it. But when you visit Greece, Athens and the likes, then naturally you’ll have SOME interest in history I’m sure. This site is pretty phenomenal and is a great place to explore early in the day.
I’m not normally one to join a guided tour but on this occasion we did and it was well worth it. The discovery of the ruins, and the unique story about the volcanic eruption that buried this city long ago, is an explanation well worth hearing. The site is under the cover of an extensive structure to protect the ongoing excavations.
Overall, it is a short tour and great start to the day. Our kids wandered through happily, with a muesli bar or two to keep them going. (And maybe a promise to head to the beach next.)
Black Sand Beaches
Jumping back in the car, head to the East of the island for something a bit different. There you will find the black sand beaches of Santorini, and there are three to choose from. To be honest they all kind of blend together – Agios Georgios, Perivolos and Perissa Beaches. So drive the long stretch, enjoy the coastline and find somewhere to park up. There are plenty of restaurants right across the road to lunch at. Enjoy yourself here through the midday, until you’ve had enough of sand and sea then it’s time to head towards the highest point of the island.
Monastery of Profitis Ilias
The highest point on the island and a spectacular drive! The view of the whole island from this monastery is breath-taking and a good place to stop for an hour or so.
If you are lucky you might even find a monk there selling honey, figs and jam. Which taste great I might add and make great gifts!
Sundowners at Santo Wines
To finish the day, head to SantoWines for a sundowner (or two if you’re not the one driving). Perched atop a cliff and just off the main road, this is the perfect vantage point for a sunset photo and sundowner.
This is a large vineyard and winery where you are sure to pick up a few extra bottles of wine to take home no doubt. They are very busy at this time of the day, but there is plenty of seating to go around.
How Many Days in Santorini?
So, this little guide of Santorini will give you an idea of how many days you think you’ll need. Our itinerary recommends three nights, two full days if you can. I felt like we only scratched the surface, but what we did see we really liked. There is a fantastic alternative scene so long as you look for it, and don’t get sucked up along with the crowds.
Be sure to check out the other two posts in this series, to get the full lowdown on Greece.