Greece is the ultimate tropical paradise for everyone – novice travelers, experienced travelers, families, singles, people looking to find themselves, people looking to escape their mundane lives, people awaiting a beach vacation or just people who want to explore the country because they have heard how beautiful and exquisite it is.
While starting to plan your Greece vacation, it can be overwhelming to see it all – the cities and the islands, a bit of all the 70+ villages, and the different activities each part has to offer. In my first trip to Greece, I wanted to see a bit of both city and island life. I wanted to visit Athens, but also have some dedicated beach time reading a book and sipping a cocktail. After a bit of research, I settled on Santorini, mainly because I heard so much about its glorious sunsets, and variety of beaches.
Where should you stay in Santorini?
Greek islands have developed due to massive volcanic eruptions more than four thousand years ago. The eruptions led to the development of five mountains and civilization started through inhabitants forming five unique villages, of which one is Santorini.
There are several villages within Santorini, the most popular ones are Oia, Fira, Perissa, Imerovigli and Akrotiri Village. Each of them is beautiful, picturesque and romantic. I stayed in Perissa to be closer to the beach, but each village has something unique to offer.
There are a variety of red, black and white beaches formed due to variable cooling of rocks containing high iron content across the villages of Santorini.While Oia is almost three times more expensive than Perissa, if you are looking for a romantic break watching the sunset, I would recommend to book an accommodation in Oia, though reserve a few months in advance as most resorts and vacation rentals get super expensive during peak seasons. Fira is the capital and known for the nightlife/ parties, and also shopping. If you are looking for a romantic and quiet place, then go for Imerovigli. It also offers really nice substantive, aerial views.
How should you travel in Santorini?
You can either fly in to Santorini or take a fast ferry from a nearby Greek city or island. I took a fast ferry from Athens and the journey took about 5 hours. The ferries are quite comfortable with with aeroplane-like seats (though wider) and variety of food and drinks onboard.
Within Santorini, most hotels offer a free pick up. On the island, there are only 30 official taxis. Most travel is organized through private transport and mini vans. Alternatively you can also rent a car, but parking spots are limited close to the sights. You can also consider doing a bus tour if you are limited on time. I recommend this tour for a traditional sightseeing experience with Oia sunset.
What should you eat?
Greek food – fresh, healthy and nutritious. Think of fresh fruit salads, tomatoes, olives, feta cheese and egg plants all lathered in olive oil. You can go for traditional dishes like mousakka, souvlaki and greek salads and tzatziki, but also try Greek seafood.
What should you drink?
For drinks, definitely Greek coffee, liqueurs (ouzos, rakis and tsipouros ) and schnapps (flavors like chili, pomegranate and even potatoes). Also try Greek wines – Santorini has a variety of red, white and dessert wines. I recommend going for wine tasting at the Venetsanos winery.
Which places should you visit for a stopover in Athens?
I cannot end the post without recommending some city sights. I like cities as much as beaches. I like to know the history of the place, how it evolved, the current lifestyle of the locals and what makes the city unique.
There are numerous city sights in Athens, but I have my top 5 which you should not miss-
- Parthenon temple in Acropolis to get a feel of ancient Greek architecture
- Agora market in central Athens for local food, spices, sweets, and souvenirs
- Plaka neighbourhood for its sidewalk cafes along cobblestone streets
- Olympic stadium, the original stadium hosting the ancient Olympic Games
- Temples of Olympian Zeus and Poseidon which truly dominate the archaeological sites of Greece