So, if you are a follower of my Instagram page (if not, get thee to “@the.Blonde.Blog!) you will have noticed that I recently took a little Easter holiday break to the gorgeous Greek island of Santorini! I think I must have a slight obsession with visiting romantic locations…in the last 3 years I have been to Rome, Venice, Barcelona, Cinque Terre, Pisa, Florence and Paris (the last few with The Canadian, the first three with Mama Blonde…who says you can’t visit a romantic destination with your Mother eh?!). I must admit I’m not a huge fan of overly-hyped tourist-magnet escapes and I do tend to like to explore a little off the beaten track (a tad tricky in the aforementioned cities you might think but not impossible) and there were definitely a few ‘must-see’ trips in that list!
Speaking of which, Santorini has been on my travel wishlist for a while now. Being the Instagram fiend that I am, I couldn’t help but lust over the gorgeous white and blue hues that this Aegean Sea paradise seemed to promise. Santorini appealed to me (and lucky the other half also) because of it’s dreamy vistas, intimate size and the fact that it’s actually pretty quick (and cheaper than you think) to get to.
I’ve had a few of messages from my followers asking who we had booked our holiday with – well, the answer is we did it all ourselves and it was pretty easy! There have been times in the past that I’ve used travel agents, particularly when I took a career break a few years back to travel the globe. STA Travel proved an excellent resource for researching trips and booking multi-city flights much more cheaply than you can find online. However, in the last few years I’ve tended to put a little time aside and dedicate a few hours to researching bargain flights myself (if you’re flexible with your days it can help A LOT, our flight price was halved because we could choose any days within a two week period) and it’s worth shopping around for hotels also. We booked our flights through the search engine Kayak with Norweigian Air and Easyjet and they totalled around £180 each for a return including a checked bag. We booked our suite after scouring Expedia and Booking for the best prices and reviews and paid around £450 for four nights in a villas with a private jacuzzi and breakfast served daily on the balcony.
Anyway, on to the stunning island of Santorini! Well…ladies and gentlemen, it did not disappoint! The views, the scenery, the houses, the food and the people were all amazing. I honestly think it was the most romantic place I have visited – I can totally see why people flock here for their destination weddings and honeymoons! The island has four main towns where tourists tend to stay Oia, Kamari, Perissa and Fira and our suite was located in the latter. Originally I had wanted to stay in Oia. After reading about the breath-taking views of the sunset and noting that is seemed to be this part of the island that most commonly featured in promotional material and the Instagram photos that I had pawed through it seemed the obvious choice. The downside to Oia of course is the price – it’s the most expensive of the towns in terms of accommodation. As we were only heading there for a few days to celebrate our anniversary (he’s managed to put up with me for a whole year…hat’s off to him!) rather than for our wedding or honeymoon I was happy to compromise in order to keep costs down (especially as I’m limited to school holidays for my getaways #teacherproblems!).
Fira turned out to be a good decision actually. It’s the busier of the towns and features lots of small shops, cafes and restaurants so there’s plenty of choice if you’re in self catering accommodation, plus it’s ideal for people-watching! It also served as a good base for exploring the island – it’s located only a 15 minute taxi ride away from the airport and is in central spot for visiting the volcano (sadly we didn’t have time for a trip this time but I’ve heard it’s well worth the journey) or exploring the southern points of the island, which I was assured by our suite managed boasted beautiful beaches. It was also only a 20 minute bus ride from Fira to Oia at a cost of €2 and with buses running regularly every half an hour.
As magnificently beautiful as Oia was it was not only the accommodation that we found to be more expensive. Lunch there carried a slightly heftier price tag than back in Fira also! Obviously it depends what you consider expensive and arguably with views such as those in my photos below for lunch perhaps it’s worth an extra few euro! I think the main selling point for me of staying outside of Oia is that that had I chosen to stay in here, I don’t think I would’ve felt the need to explore our base town Fira and the smaller Imerovigli, which was a short walk along the coast away. That said, Oia really is truly beautiful and I think if your budget allows you to stay there – do it! Just make sure to also perhaps put a day aside to visit other areas of the island so that you get the ‘true’ Santorini experience.
One of the main attractions of visiting Oia as I mentioned before is watching the sunset! Although we loved watching the sun go down from our private balcony in Fira, it really was the sunset at Oia that I think we will remember – it’s honestly beautiful the way in which the orange and pink hues light up the stone white buildings on the coastal shore. Visiting in April meant that although crowds did gather at the famous Byzantine Castle ruins at the northernmost point of the island, it wasn’t overrun with tourists. We grabbed a few chilled beers and headed over to find a spot about an hour before sundown. I think if I was planning another trip to Santorini in the future I would definitely be tempted to head back in late spring and aim to beat the summer crowds. I can’t imagine the appeal of aimlessly wandering the pretty little boutiques and the ease of sipping a glass of wine at a sea view table at lunch in a quiet restaurant is quite the same in peak August!
So, I think that you can tell from my gushing report that I really did truly love this island. It was everything that I hoped it would be and more and I honestly can’t wait to visit again!
If you’re planning a getaway to this magical island yourself, here are my Top Five Tips for Santorini:
- Book flights and accommodation early! We booked our flights in January and I think that’s partly why they were such a bargain. The popular hotels and villas can also sell out months in advance. Also, don’t be afraid to mix airlines…it meant we had to transfer terminals on the way back in order to reach the car park but as London Gatwick had a speedy shuttle service it really wasn’t a problem!
- Explore more than just the one town that you are staying in! Get out and about – it was really interesting to see the differences between the main areas of the island.
- Set aside time for sunset! Yes it’s lovely to have an al-fresco dinner (don’t we Brit’s appreciate that when we’re abroad!) but make sure you leave at least one evening to sit and watch the sun going down – it’s truly stunning here!
- Visit outside of high season if you can! Santorini isn’t a huge island and some of the streets, boutiques and restaurants can be quite small. It’s far more fun to explore when you’re not jostling the crowds!
- Bring comfortable shoes! You’ll be doing a lot of walking and much of the streets (particularly in Fira) are cobbled. There are steps up or down to many of the hotels or villa complexes and some of them are pretty steep (although it does mean you don’t feel so bad for skipping your gym sessions and indulging in local cuisine whilst you’re away!). Also if you can, try to walk along some of the coastal path and take in the natural beauty and changing perspective as you gaze out at the breath-taking Caldera views.
Have you ever visited Santorini? Do you have any suggestions for other romantic holiday locations I should add to my ever-growing list? Let me know in the comments!
The Blonde x