Santorini Travel Tips
Keep in Mind...
- Don't forget your dictionary Greek is the official language of Santorini, and while it is possible to find a few English speakers in the larger towns, you can help break down that language barrier by carrying a dictionary or phrasebook with you.
- Drink up Santorini's rich volcanic soil is ideal for growing grapes, making wine the beverage of choice here. Head to a local taverna to try some of the best of the best.
- Print your confirmation If you've made hotel reservations online, it's a good idea to print the confirmation as proof of purchase. This is especially important if you're visiting during the summer when hotels are booked solid.
Your first order of business in Santorini is to hit the black sand beaches, especially southeastern Perissa or Kamari on the main island of Thira. Next up, check to see if the archaeological delights of Ancient Akrotiri are open to visitors. And if not, head to the island of Thirassia and climb the ancient stairs that lead to the historic city of Manolas. From there, catch a breathtaking view of the caldera, a brilliant turquoise pool of water that serves as nucleus for the varied isles of this archipelago. Some would say you only need a day to enjoy these islands' charms (they are a popular port of call for cruise ships). Not true. To really get a taste of all that is Santorini, you'll need a few days to a week. Then you'll have plenty of time to learn there's more to these comely dots of the Cyclades than meets the eye.
A volcanic eruption around 1650 B.C. forced the center of what was then a single island, called Strongyli, to implode and succumb to the sea. Some say that Strongyli was the original home of the lost city of Atlantis, which long ago disappeared into the sea. Whatever remains of this mythological metropolis is now guarded by red- and black-sand beaches and bright, white-washed churches. Today, Santorini consists of two inhabited islands and several islets. Most visitors spend their time on Thira (the archipelago's largest island), which is home to Santorini's major towns, including Fira and Oia. Sleepy Thirassia makes for a relaxing daytrip too. And don't count out the quieter islands: Nea Kameni, Palaia Kameni, Aspronisi and Christiana are all worth exploring.
How To Save Money in Santorini
- Vacation in the fall The fall (and spring) seasons are known for warm weather, but very few tourists take advantage of it. You can find some great deals on prime hotels if you skirt the summer crowds with a shoulder-season visit.
- Hungry? Head inland While the thought of munching on fresh seafood while digging your toes into the sand may sound fantastic, many of the beachfront restaurants charge high prices for not-so-great food. For a more authentic and less expensive meal, try a taverna in town.
- Head east Hotels along the caldera in towns like Oia tend to attract honeymooners and wealthy travelers. You'll find much more reasonably priced rooms in southeastern towns like Kamari and Perissa.
Santorini Culture & Customs
Greeks often joke about the fact that many tourists know of Santorini but are not entirely sure where to find the mainland of Greece on the map. Santorini is one of the most heavily visited of the Greek Isle destinations, and Santorinians are known for their friendliness toward travelers.
Greek is the official language, and while it is possible to find English speakers in tourist areas, it's also a good idea to bring a phrasebook or dictionary. Understanding body language will also help you interact with residents. Be aware of your gestures. For example, using the thumb and index finger to signal "OK" is offensive, and Greeks indicate "yes" with a slight downward nod or "no" with a slight upward nod.
Shorts and T-shirts are acceptable when walking around the cities or the beaches, many of which are clothing optional. Dress continues to be casual even in restaurants, but you may wish to dress a little more nicely when dining out in the evenings.
When eating at a restaurant, it is considered polite to leave a 10-percent tip, preferably in cash. Restaurateurs often don't look at the receipt when charging a credit card and leave the tip off.
Olive oil and garlic are staple ingredients in any Santorini restaurant, as are fresh vegetables, meat and seafood. Certianly sample some grilled octopus or lamb skewers decorated with tomatoes and peppers. If you're in the mood for a lighter meal, try a crisp salad decorated with fried calamari and feta cheese.
Many travelers suggest avoiding the tourist-heavy restaurants along the beach in favor of a family-owned taverna along smaller side streets in Fira, Oia or Kamari, as well as in the many smaller villages found farther inland.