From the stunning waterfront sunsets to the vibrant, blue-and-white cliffside homes, Santorini is definitely a bucket list item for travellers. If you haven’t had a chance to visit yet, get ready because you’re about to be blown away by how beautiful this place is. I had a chance to visit a few years ago on a backpacking trip, so I thought I would put together a list of five things I think everyone should do on their first visit to Santorini.
Enjoy the Sunset
This might seem like a very touristy thing to do, but who cares? It’s absolutely worth the hype. The Santorini sunset is gorgeous from anywhere, but I recommend heading over to Oia for a breathtaking view of both the sunset and the light shining on all the buildings. Word of warning, it can get pretty crowded with hundreds of people gathering to watch the sun go down every evening.
You’ll still get a gorgeous view even with the throng of tourists, but if you want to avoid being smushed and have some money to spare, consider heading to a restaurant in Oia an hour or so before sunset to get a good seat (and some delicious food!) while you soak in the scenery.
Explore Oia’s Hidden Lanes
One of my favourite things to do when I visit a new city is to just get out there and explore. Oia is full of cute little lanes and colourful homes adorned with bright flowers. Oh, and there are literally kittens everywhere, which is definitely the best part. We left our hostel and just wandered in between homes and shops, stopping for pictures almost every other minute. You never know what you might find! My friend and I stumbled on this colourful bookstore and had to stop to take a look.
Hike to Oia
Lining the caldera between the town of Fira and Oia is a hiking path providing spectacular views of Santorini and the Aegean Sea. The hike itself takes about three or four hours, not counting time you spend stopping for photos (which you’ll definitely want to). As with most hikes, make sure you’ve got the right footwear.
The path is well marked, but it’s rocky and mostly gravel with a few uphill sections. Also, you’ll want to bring lots of water as there isn’t much shade up on the caldera and your body will thank you for staying hydrated. There are several rest stops or stalls that sell water though, in case you down your bottle in one go like I did 🙂
Meet New People
My friend and I chose to stay at hostels for most of our backpacking trip, mainly because of cost. I personally don’t mind hostels, so long as they’re safe, clean and well-located. We really lucked out with our hostel in Santorini. It was called Youth Hostel Oia and was literally at the center of all the action. It had a full view of the ocean and even free breakfast.
Like most hostels, we shared a room with about 9 other girls, but ended making so many new friends (I did end up having a run in with a rather furry tarantula on my way to the bathroom, but the hostel was beautiful enough that I wasn’t even bothered!). I know hostels aren’t for everyone, but I still recommend giving it a shot at least once. You meet people from all over the world. I still keep in touch with my hostel friends!
Visit the Beach
A trip to Greece wouldn’t be complete without a day at the beach! One of the most famous is Red Beach, named after the red and black volcanic rocks and pebbles covering the coast. It’s a well-known tourist attraction and can get pretty crowded, so try and get there early.
My friend and I didn’t end up going ourselves, but instead chose a beach closer to our hostel. It was mostly quiet, which made it the perfect place to relax and catch up on some reading. Quick tip, some of these beaches charge a small fee which we weren’t initially aware of. After setting up our beach chairs, this guy came up to us and handed us a receipt for about five Euro. It’s not much, but make sure you’ve got some small change handy just in case.