Santorini is one of the most popular destinations in Europe and rightly so because it is darn right B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L! However, this also means it comes with a pretty hefty price tag, especially in the summer months. After a pretty expensive few weeks (AKA getting engaged and turning thirty) our last minute Greece getaway needed to to be something which wouldn’t break the bank.
There are so many different Greek island to choose from and each holds its own charm. Yet with the current situation (COVID-19, I’m not sure if you’ve heard of it…!?) we were limited on which ones we could still get to. Our selection whittled down to Mykonos, Santorini, Corfu or Crete. I had just spend two weeks in Corfu, Crete didn’t excited me and Mykonos was well… every man and his dog were there partying (not the vibe we were after). So, Santorini was the final option left – but could we keep one of the most expensive destinations in Europe to a budget?
Well, for the most part we did. Hopefully through this blog we’ll be able to give you a few precious pieces of advice and allow you to visit this stunner of a island without taking out a loan.
When to go?
We were limited about when we could go due to me being a teacher and us having to travel in school holidays. However, due to COVID we were lucky with prices.
Obviously, the cheapest time to go will be off season, but it is highly likely nothing will be open so you’re going to want to look at the shoulder season of May or October to make the most of your money. You play a little bit of a gamble with the weather but only a little bit! Also, if travelling in the off/shoulder season, I would email the hotel and ask them what will be open in the area when you travel, just to make sure you’re not disappointed.
Where to stay?
Now, this is the main factor which is going to save you heaps of money for a number of different reasons and the truth of the matter is – this will break your heart – you can’t stay in Oia. Oia is the s*** when it comes to Santorini, it’s the IT girl, it’s the captain of the football team, it’s the exact image of what you think Santorini will look like and therefore it’s hella expensive. Even Imerovigili and Thira are pretty expensive too but they are cheaper options if you want to stretch the budget a little bit!
We decided to stay in the south-east of the island in an area called Kamari at the Costa Grande Resort and Spa which allowed us to have a pretty luxurious hotel without paying a fortune for it. Where we stayed in Kamari would have been 4-6x more expensive in the North of the island, around the areas of Oia and Imerovigili, so yea… need I say more?
The trade off of being down in Kamari is you obviously don’t get the white cliff views on a daily basis. What you do get is a beautiful black sand beach leading straight into the ocean from your hotel, which is exactly what we want on a holiday!
Secondly, not staying in Oia doesn’t only save you money on the accommodation but it saves you money on all your day to day spending too. Food out of the main three areas (Oia, Thira and Imerovigili) is literally half the price. When we ate down in Kamari we would be spending 50-80 Euros on an absolute feast! I’m talking a litre of wine plus, three starters, the proper meat main courses and then desert. The food in the south is incredibly reasonable. However, when we ate in Oia and Imerovigili we would have a glass of wine each, no desert and less starters and the price would be double. So, for a proper dinner out (which is what you want because who can resist Greek food!?) you’re looking at 100-120 Euros easily and we didn’t even eat in any of the fancy-pants restaurants.
I’m not saying don’t eat in those places, eating dinner watching the sunset over Oia is one of the most incredible things I’ve ever watched in my life. I’m saying you don’t need to do it every night so staying in the south is easier on the budget.
Finally, if you stay in the south you can stay for longer! Many people who go to Santorini stay in the north and give themselves three to four days. Well, we stayed seven because we were not spending as much each day and the longer the better I say!
Another bummer in Santorini is taxis are super duper expensive. From the airport to our hotel it was 20 Euros for an 8 minute drive, from our hotel to Thira which is about 20 minutes it was 25 Euros each way and to Oia which was half an hour from our hotel it was 40-45 Euros each way. So yea… taxi are expensive. You can get a discount however if you return with the same driver and also if you call a driver directly instead of through your hotel. We got the card of our driver from the airport and called him directly about journeys to negotiate the price.
However, we didn’t use taxies hardly ever because the cheapest way and most efficient way is to hire a car! You can get a car for a day for around 40 Euros plus – less than one way to Oia – and you can go wherever you want, whenever you want! Santorini is a super small island and there are hardly any roads, so you get to know your way around quite quickly. We had a car for two days and covered what we needed too. Another plus about having the car is 99% of car parks in Santorini are FREE so you don’t need to worry about getting hit with high parking fees.
If you’re really on a budget there are also buses which can get you pretty much anywhere major on the island. They’re no the most reliable from what I’ve heard but they’ll get you to where you want to go eventually!
Where to go and when?
Santorini isn’t a large island so you can explore it in a few days and spend the rest of your time there chin-chilling out in the sun. However, there are some key things which you’ll want to see to know you’ve seen the best of what Santorini has to offer.
Oia is what people go to Santorini to see, the picturesque white houses, churches and windmills high up on cliffs over looking the ocean. So this has got to be on you list. Obviously if you’re staying in Oia great… but if not I would recommend going to Oia twice. Once at sunrise for breakfast and once at sunset for dinner.
The reason I say to go twice is Sunset is beautiful over Oia and it is an experience I don’t think anyone should miss however, it is BUSY! Like I’ve never been somewhere so busy before busy. Most people head to the Oia Castle ruin because this is where you get the best view but be prepared for crowds. Due to the current COVID climate we decided this was a silly idea and instead went and sat in a roof top restaurant and watched it from there.
There are many different roof top restaurants around but we went for Apsithia where the view was great and the price of food relatively reasonable! It wasn’t super fancy but the food was hearty and to be honest all I cared about was the sunset! I would also book a restaurant in advance because they can get super busy. We didn’t and it was mildly stressful!
Then, go for sunrise. You’ll have the place all to yourselves and time to really explore!
The beast photo spots are:
- The ruins of Oia Castle
- Over looking the three blue domes
- Over the pink hotel at the bottom of the Castle
- Well, pretty much everywhere!
I would say just walk along the main ally and on every turning towards the ocean just nip down for a quick look! You’ll never be disappointed!
This is another beautiful white cliff top town. Its less popular than Oia so you’re not as limited as when you can come, but I would say mid-morning to lunch is a great time! It’s got a much more chilled out, modern vibe to it and although there’s not too much ‘to do’ just wandering the ally’s is pretty perfect.
We also has lunch with a great view at Aegean Restaurant which was more on the pricey side but delicious. Plus, as we normally skip lunch on holiday it was a nice little treat!
Thira is the capital of Santorini and again another beautiful white house, cliff side town with what we would argue were the best ice cream shops on the island. They’re dotted all over and they’re all delicious. We had two, no regrets.
In Thira there is more to do, there are Churches you’re allowed to enter, museums and greek trade workshops you can go to. You can spend a whole day here exploring if this is your vibe, it wasn’t really ours so again we just can for the views. Also, you’ll have to pay to get into some and it seemed like an unnecessary expense.
We were tempted to walk down to the harbour which sounds like a fun activity, but in the heat we wimped out. You can get a cable car back up which makes it slightly more palatable but we embarrassingly didn’t bother… we were too busy with our ice creams.
You can also get a donkey back up, but we would really recommend against doing this. It might look nice in your holiday snaps, but if you can’t be bothered to walk back up then why is a poor, hot donkey going to want to carry your lazy ass back up?
This was one of my favourite evenings while we were there hands down. Santo Winery is based on the west side of the island over looking the ocean and it is a perfect place to watch sunset.
On our last night we booked a table for 7pm and were able to get one right on the edge of the balcony (so 100% book). You can choose the amount of wines you want to try – 6, 9 or 12 glasses – and then a selection of platters to go along side. To most economical option would be to go for the six wines because then you also get a platter included but as it was our last night we went for nine wines, a meat and cheese platter and then a bottle of our favourite wine at the end. We splurged, but it can be done on more of a budget too!
The sunset there is incredible and you can see the whole island. It was a truly amazing experience and I cannot recommend it enough!
Forget about Hawaii, there are black sand beaches in Europe too! We were lucky enough to have the black sand beach (Kamari Beach) right on our hotels doorstep and it’s pretty cool. There are some pretty bouji sun lounger spots on the beach and some great little restaurants too, so its a great day out/ place to base yourself in my opinion!
Some restaurants we loved and would really recommend include:
- Almera Restaurant
- Alismari Restaurant
- Vinsanto Restaurant