OVERVIEW: Santorini has been the number one place on my Travel Bucket List since I could remember. My husband and I planned to go alone for my 40th birthday but when I started planning all I could think of was how few years we all have to travel with the kids and how much they would love to go on this trip with us. So my sweet guy let me bring our little rug rats with us, as well as his mom who is the best person to travel with! The trip turned out to be better than I could have imagined. Everywhere you look in Santorini takes your breath away and just when you think you’ve seen the best view, you turn the corner and you’ve stepped into a postcard.
SUNSET IN OIA: If you are in Santorini at sunset be prepared to see one of the most beautiful sunsets of your life. However, be prepared to watch it with hundreds of other people all trying to get a good spot. The key is to find somewhere you can sit way before sunset so you do not have to fight the crowds. There are many restaurants with prime seating for the sunset and perhaps an early dinner would be worth it to save your spot. However, the absolute best place to watch the sunset is from the water. That way you can also watch the light reflecting off the beautiful town of Oia.
AMOUDI BAY: This gorgeous bay sits at the bottom of the island under Oia and feels like a completely different area than the town. We drove down to the bay because it was 90 degrees and we dreaded the walk home up the 200 steps to get back to town. This tiny seaside spot contains a strip of small fish taverns with seats right up to the water’s edge. In the evening you can get a great view of the people watching the sunset and be thankful you are not stuck in the crowds above you. It’s also fun to watch people’s reaction to the octopus that are hung up to dry in the sun.
A fun thing to do when you are down there is to swim in the refreshing water. The walk to the swimming area is rocky and it is a little difficult to get in and out of the water but if you walk all the way to the end you can walk right in. The kids actually had no problem, it was us adults that needed help! There is a tiny island that you can swim over to where people cliff dive. (My husband did this and our girls were so proud!) There are no facilities at the swimming area so be sure to bring water, towels, and a change of clothes if you plan on eating down here.
RED BEACH: This is one of the most unique beaches we’ve ever been to. The high dark red cliffs serve as a backdrop to a clear beach with red sand. If you don’t feel like walking down to the beach you can get a great view from the top of the cliff. If you do walk down, make sure you are wearing proper shoes because there are loose rocks. The beach can get very crowded so you may want to go early in the day. If you walk to the rockier part of the beach there will be less people but the swimming is not great. Also, the dark sand gets extremely hot so you may want to wear water shoes. The beach is located right next to the Akrotiri.
AKROTIRI ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE: This beautifully preserved site is housed inside a building so the sun is not beating down on you like most archaeological sites. The building does get quite hot in the summer but it is tolerable. It may be a good idea to get a guide if you want to know a ton about the site but there are information boards throughout the site that give good descriptions of what you’re seeing. There is a pathway that completely surrounds the site and then paths that lead you inside the ruins itself. Unlike Pompeii, no bodies were discovered here so we did not have to go into those sad details with the kids.
- Open daily from April 11- October 21 from 8:00-8:00.
- Open from November 1- March 31 from 8:00-3:00, but I believe it is closed on Mondays during this time. You may want to check the website before you go.
- The cost per person is 5 Euros.
KAMARI BEACH: I have mixed feelings about this beach because we didn’t have a great experience here. The cliffs that line this beach are a beautiful shade of white and grey and look porous. The beach is lined with chaise chairs that have umbrellas and you can order food and drinks to enjoy at your seat. The sand was extremely hot and rockier than many beaches. The bad part about our afternoon there (and this could happen at any beach) was my younger daughter was stung by a pink colored jellyfish. It immediately blistered up and it ended our day on a bad note. Our waiter was kind enough to bring her some ointment for the sting but by then we were all ready to pack it all up. It is a gorgeous beach with great amenities and it’s definitely worth an afternoon trip.
BYZANTINE CASTLE RUIN: Since we had late nights my girls would sleep in most mornings. My most memorable morning was when I decided to go for a walk around Oia alone. The town was almost empty, without a cruise ship in sight. I wandered around and came across these beautiful castle ruins. The actual building is more like a shell but the views from atop it were breathtaking. 360 degrees of blue water, white buildings, windmills, and amazing cliffs welcome you from the top of the ruins. When I was there, a man was playing an instrument that looked like a small guitar that played high pitch music. Listening to him play while looking at the view was one of the most amazing parts of my trip. It was like a dream.
ALEX’S PRIVATE BOAT RENTAL: On my birthday we chartered a boat for the 5 of us for half the day and it was the absolute best thing we did on our whole vacation. Panos and Dimitri picked us up at the docks of Fira. (Take the funicular down to get some amazing views.) Our boat was clean and comfortable. Panos was so knowledgeable about geology and the history of Santorini. He was so respectful, professional, and was kind to the kids. A special treat was when he cooked us 8 dishes from family recipes. So delicious! He took us to several places we would have never seen without a boat. We made our reservations months in advance because they fill up quickly.
Here are some of the things we did on the boat ride:
SWIM IN THE HOT SPRINGS: How often can you say you swam inside of a volcano? It was one of the coolest things my daughters have ever done and was the first thing they wrote about when they returned to school. There are some hot springs that most of the other excursion boats go to and the water is just a little warm, but because Panos has a smaller boat we were able to go to the hot springs that are really hot. The cool thing about them is they are hot at the surface, but if you hang your legs down the water is cool so you are feeling two different temperatures at once. The water has a copper color to it and it can discolor your bathing suit so you may want to wear an old one for this activity.
SNORKEL AT WHITE BEACH: The beach and cliffs of white beach were a beautiful light ashy grey color and the water was crystal clear. We were able to see some colorful fish but the best part is you can see the actual drop-off of the volcano. It made my stomach drop the first time I saw it. My older daughter did not want to come out of the water.
SUNSET BELOW OIA: This was such a memorable experience because there is nothing standing between you and the gorgeous sunset. We were right below Oia so we were able to gaze up at this amazing town as the sun reflected off of it. It really felt like you were sitting in a postcard.
EXPLORING OIA: Honestly, the best part about Oia was walking around the town getting lost in its maze of streets, poking into small shops, stopping to get a drink in a tavern, and letting yourself get swept up in the beauty of the town. I can’t stress enough how perfectly gorgeous this town is. It’s a great town to get lost in because if you want to go back to the main road all you have to do is go up. There are hundreds of steps in the town so be prepared to get a good workout. I suggest going for a long walk on the cobblestone winding walkways early in the morning or in the evening, after the cruise ships leave the town. It is then that you can sit back and consider yourself honored to be part of this community.