Getting to Santorini from Crete: We started our trip to Santorini by ferry from Heraklion, Crete via Hellenic Seaways. It was very pleasant – kinda like an airplane of the sea with more room to walk around 🙂 We did book this ferry in advance and I am pretty certain it was sold out, so my advice is that you do the same and book in advance (especially in the summer) as to not find yourself stranded in Heraklion (because that town is pretty blah.) Once we arrived in Santorini, we also pre-arranged our transportation from the ferry to the hotel and I would recommend this as well. You cannot walk, so don’t try. Also, know that there are two ports in Santorini so make sure you know which one you are arriving in (one port is just for cruise ships, I think that makes it a bit easier for you).
Where to Stay: Imerovigli, Santorini
As I researched where to stay in Santorini, the village of Oia (pronounced E-AH) kept popping to the top of the list as “the place you must stay” but Oia is expensive… and touristy….and, due to our budget, we’d have a room looking at buildings…with no pool…We wanted everything and, to be honest, we couldn’t afford it all in Oia (especially in peak season for 3 nights). And so I kept searching for a better alternative. I knew there had to be something – this is Greece and this was my dream vacation after all!
After reading numerous travel blogs, we ended up finding the village of Imerovigli. IT WAS AMAZING!!! And, even after we visited Oia, we were glad we chose Imerovigli to stay. Here’s why:
You may know that Oia is famous for its sunsets but what you may not know is that Imerovigli looks at the exact same sunset, minus the crowds (OMG the crowds in Oia are like nothing you have ever experienced – especially when the cruise ships come in. Seriously, it is bad.) Our hotel was perfect and felt like our little secret. There were no tourists and we had our own private balcony with a view one could only dream up looking at the caldera. In fact, even if one day we have the money to splurge on Oia, I am not sure we would. We would likely stay in this same village time and again; maybe even in the same hotel. It was that good.
It’s very rare that I blog by posting photos of our hotel but where we stayed was so great that it warrants a share and an endorsement. The lady who runs it is so amazing and actually planned how we spent our time on the island for us. We told her what we were looking for, and she recommended and planned what fit our description. It was great. We really didn’t have to do a thing, adding to the relaxation of our trip.
Just in front of the apartments, is the walking path from Imerovigli to the towns of Fira or Oia (as seen below). When we were visiting, it was over 100 degrees F, so we chose not to walk too far – but just know this is an option.
Our first night in Santorini, we stayed in Imerovigli and walked from our apartment to a nice spot on the water (called Mezzos) looking at the sunset. While walking the path, you just see the coolest openings and gates – really, everything I imagined this island to be, it was.
And of course, our sunset view from the dinner table did not disappoint. (You can see the town of Oia here – it is located on the landmass on the righthand side. You can kinda see the white houses through the shadows. See…the same sunset)
Oh, and if you walk at night in Santorini bring a flashlight! The paths are dark 🙂
As I mentioned, the weather was HOT HOT HOT when we were visiting, so we wanted to be in the water all day and as you may know, Santorini is not known for its beaches (more rocky beaches here). So, we asked our hotel girl what she’d recommend and we signed up for a boat trip. It was perfect. It ended up being being almost a private tour of the island, with only one other couple, which was an unexpected added bonus.
We went to: the Red Beach (red/black volcanic rocks)…
…The White Beach (limestone beach)…
…and we even went swimming in the volcanic hot springs! Yes, there is still an active volcano underwater and you can swim to the springs, feeling the water get hotter as you approach! It is a bit of a swim, but the water is so buoyant, it makes it a bit easier.
A word of caution: if you have white on your bathing suit, it will turn red from the sulfur and it will NOT come out no matter what.
The captain made us a fabulous lunch and took us around snorkeling in the waters. It was so wonderful! I would highly recommend this when visiting Santorini, especially if the weather is as hot as it was when we visited.
After we came back to our hotel and got cleaned up, we rented a car and drove to the town of Oia to see what all the fuss was about 😉 It ended up being cheaper to rent a car for a few days than take a cab around the island; plus, we arranged to drop the car off at the port so that was an added convenience. Oh, and 4-wheeler rentals are super popular here too, but it was even too hot for that when we were here.
Oia really was all it was hyped up to be 🙂 This town is the postcard town that you see when you think of Santorini: the white houses, the blue domes – you know what I am talking about. The shopping is incredible – but, so were the crowds, so we just took a few pics before heading out of Oia and decided to come back in the morning, after the cruise ships had left. Oh, and know that if you plan to eat dinner in Oia during sunset, make sure to have reservations in advance.
As you have likely figured out by now, we hate crowds 🙂 So, for our dinner, we drove down to Ammoudi Bay (another recommendation by our fab hotel!). Ammoudi is the port below Oia and is the place to go for fresh seafood. Actually, you can walk to Ammoudi from Oia via lots and lots of steps (see them in the image below winding up the hill from left to right? Oia is at the top and Ammoudi at the bottom.) It was hot and we were glad we had a car to take us down, and up, the hill avoiding the hundreds of steps…
Ammoudi IS the definition of fresh fish and waterside restaurants. I mean, literally… look at the octopus on display.
And, let’s talk for a minute about this freshwater tank filtering in the fresh sea water!
After a fabulous dinner, we concluded yet another successful day in Santorini…
For our third and final day on the island, it was HOT again and our ferry back to Crete didn’t leave until early evening so we went back to the town of Oia and take some less-crowded photos and do a bit of shopping (I even convinced my husband to buy blue linen pants!). In fact, it was so hot the store owners let the stray dogs stay in their air conditioned stores – which I thought was so sweet.
Anyways, here are some shots in and around Oia, Santorini.
In the image below, you can see Ammoudi Bay – see the boats and turquoise waters near the shore? Well, that’s Ammoudi.
Then as the morning passed, even walking around Oia was too hot for us, so we hopped back in our rental car to drive around and explore the island (in AC). And drive around we did.
With no destination in mind, we came across an amazing restaurant called Pyrgos, which was on some windy road that I would never be able to find again 🙂 But it had the BEST Greek appetizer sampler platter. Honestly, one of the best restaurants during our entire trip. If you have the time, you should come here and try it.
And, as we finished the last bites of stuffed olives and tzatziki sauce, our time in Santorini (and Greece) had come to an end and we were on the ferry back to Crete to catch our flight back to Poland. Goodbye Santorini 😦
This was honestly a trip of a lifetime and I would come back time and again if given the chance.
Be sure to read about the beginning of our week spent in Crete, Greece: