Santorini. The go-to destination when one dreams of visiting Greece. A romantic island in the Aegean Sea known for its clusters of whitewashed buildings, panoramic ocean views and beautiful sunsets. It's been in the top 3 of my bucket list for years and as a pre-wedding trip, Ben and I finally got to go.
Our flight arrived at 5am and when we got to our hotel in Imerovigli, it was still dark out. The whole town was asleep, besides a couple girls just getting to their hotel after a night out (slay). No one was in the hotel lobby when we got in, so we climbed onto a private balcony with our luggage and watched the sunrise over the ocean.
IMEROVIGLI + OIA
We started and ended our trip to Greece in two different areas of Santorini. For the first few nights in Santorini, we stayed in Imerovigli, the island's quietest town along the caldera, which I found to be romantic and the least touristy in comparison to Oia and Fira. According to Santorini Dave, Imerovigli is the most romantic and peaceful and boasts the best sunsets, restaurants and views, which I can definitely confirm.
Oia is the most popular town in Santorini and probably the most common place to stay, with endless options of restaurants and hotels. This is the Instagram hot spot - where you'll see all the girls scoping out the best views of the buildings and ocean for their feeds. Because it's super crowded all day, especially during sunset, I preferred staying in a part of Santorini that felt more intimate and less commercial.
For our first night in Santorini, Ben reserved a table at Petra Restaurant in Oia, a romantic spot with gorgeous views of the ocean. We were told Oia itself gets crowded with tourists trying to catch the sunset so it was nice to enjoy it away from the crowds from one of the few tables at the restaurant.
Notable places to eat in Imerovigli:
Galini Cafe - Located in Firostefani in between Imerovigli and Fira. Great spot for breakfast with a view of the ocean and the traditional architecture of the island
Mezzo - A restaurant in Imerovigli that has three levels of dining for three different views
Aegeon - Another great spot to watch the sunset over a meal of traditional Greek cuisine
WHERE TO GO + WHAT TO DO
I assumed that because Santorini was an island with amazing ocean views, the beaches would be amazing, too. To my surprise, Santorini is not known for its beaches. Akrotiri, along with Kamari, Perissa and Perivolos, is one of the few beaches you can access. Akrotiri is known for its beautiful red sand, which contrasts beautifully with the deep blue ocean. It's a bit of a walk downhill through the rocks and the sand isn't really sand at all, but rocks and pebbles.
Kamari is located in the southern and much less popular part of Santorini. Instead of going back to Imerovigli and Oia, we decided to end our Greece trip here at the Bellonias Villas.
Kamari and its neighboring beaches of Perissa and Perivolos are best known for their black sand. While each beach looked the same with its sun beds, umbrellas and water sports, we found that Kamari was the best and probably the most unique of the three. The beach itself was... interesting. The ocean floor was completely volcanic rock and felt like you were ice skating barefoot into the ocean, which was cool but not exactly comfortable or relaxing. The best thing about Kamari is the waterfront walk of hotels, restaurants and bars that you can't get in Oia or Imerovigli.
Kamari also has the cutest outdoor theater, Open Air Cinema, which is popular during peak season. The garden-like atmosphere, old-fashioned snack bar and traditional Greek architecture made the perfect setting for a movie night.
Pyrgos, one of my favorite parts of Santorini, is a less touristy town on the island with the traditional white and blue architecture and windy, hilly pathways. It may not have had the ocean views of Oia or Imerovigli, but its charm and authenticity made up for it. After exploring the shops and churches, we stopped at a cute cafe called Brusco for lunch.
While I had a very bad experience with the sunset sail due to major sea sickness, many people seemed to consider it the highlight of their trip. We booked this activity because of the popularity we saw on so many different blogs. Between my 5 trips to the bathroom to dry heave, we visited hot springs, various beaches and took breaks to swim in the ocean.
My biggest regret of the trip is not spending time in Amoudi Bay. We ended up in the tiny port because the sunset sail tour departed from its dock. With it being right under Oia, Amoudi Bay is framed by the traditional Greek buildings, the red mountainside and turquoise water. I wanted to eat at one of Amoudi Bay's waterfront restaurants right after the sunset sail, but with me getting sea sick, I wasn't in the mood to stick around.
In between our time in Santorini, we spent a few days on the lesser known island of Milos. Unpopular opinion: It was way better than Santorini. Click here to read about the less touristy (read: much better and more beautiful) island of Greece.