A budget guide to exploring Greece’s most exclusive island
Santorini. It’s an island known for its beauty, for its piteresque buildings hanging off the cliff edge and it’s breathtaking views over the Aegean ocean. It’s also an island known for its extortiate prices. However with a little planning, there’s no reason to bankrupt yourself if visiting the island and it can be easily slotted in to an island hopping itinery, costing no more than any of the other islands.
Book ahead: Travelling around Greece in general is not the same as travelling around Asia. Arriving without prebooked accommodation can be done but it is definitely the expensive way of doing it. Book up months in advance for the cheaper rooms and look at going outside peak tourist months, July and August.
To give some context, rooms at the cliff edge in Oia, the most picturesque village and Fira, the main town, can go for hundreds or even thousands per night. We stayed in Santorni Camping, a 15 minute walk from the caldera of Fira and paid just €15 for two people per night. For this price we got a small cabin with a fan and a shared bathroom and shower. You can pay a little less and bring your own tent or pay a little more and get a room.
Buses are the easiest way to get around Santorini. The main but station is in Fira and has routes all across the island to Oia, the port and the beaches. Taxis are limited on Santorini so can be expensive and hard to get. If you’re planning on going out in the evenings, bear n mind it’s probably best to stay in Fira as buses stop running in the early morning and you may face a long wait for taxis. Hiring your own transport is also a good idea in Santorini.
Not every restaurant charges €40 for a main but a lot do, especially in the restaurants on the caldera so check the prices. As a general rule, the further inland you go, the cheaper the food. Cocktail bars are perfect to people watch from and you can order a coffee or a juice to sit in these, saving money.
One of the best things to do in Santorini is wonder aimlessly around the beautiful winding streets. Oia is a photographers heaven and you never know what you will come across next. Fira is best in the evening, Tropical bar is good for a low key night out. If you walk just outside of Fira along the cliff edge, you’ll get to Fira Stefani, another town which is a little quieter and has more authentic restaurants.
Watching the sunset in Santorini is a must. Everyone heads to the fort in Oia or to a cocktail bar but seek out your own place instead. The best sunset views I got were from the far end of Oia at the point where the thira to Oia trail ends.
Speaking of which, the best free activity is the Fira to Oia hike. This 10k walk, took just over two hours to complete and was by far our favourite thing we did in Santorini. Pretty much hugging the coast the entire way along, this hike has spectacular views across the entire island. We set off early in the morning to avoid the heat and arrived in Oia just before lunch. It can be rubblely in parts so pack trainers.
Another place I would recommend visiting is Atlantis Books in Oia. Nestled down some steps below the main street, this bookshop is a wonderous maze of new books, old books and first editions of classics like The Great Gatsby. The shop is a product of two american friends who went travelling and decided to open up a bookshop on the island. It’s well known across the world but still feels like a hidden gem. It’s also completely free to visit, just don’t buy a first edition if you’re looking to save on cash. They can cost thousands.