Finally got around to writing about an amazing trip to Santorini last May!
Cost: £££ – it’s expensive but you don’t have to totally break the bank if you do it right
Rating: 9/10 – would definitely recommend
Tip length: 4 nights is ideal
Vlog: click here
We found reasonably priced flights on Skyscanner and flew direct from London Gatwick to Fira with Easyjet for £204 per person.
I could not recommend our hotel enough – it was one of the nicest places I’ve stayed at in a while and the service was unbelievable (drunken requests on WhatsApp were answered immediately!!)
Alleys Boutique Hotel and Spa is located in Pyrgos Village, a short taxi ride away from Fira Airport, as well as Fira / Oia (which is where most tourists will be).
I hadn’t actually realised that Pyrgos wasn’t in the centre of the action, but we were SO glad we stayed there. Here is why:
- the cost of our hotel was much cheaper than if we were to stay in Fira / Oia and felt very private and peaceful
- in Fira / Oia, the hotels are so beautiful, but often the pools or hot tubs are right by walkways so you’d constantly have tourists walking past
- it’s a beautiful village and our favourite lunch spot was only a short walk away – the restaurants are more authentic, delicious and reasonably priced
- you’re only a short taxi ride away from Fira / Oia so you can visit as much as you like
- it has plenty of white-washed buildings and pretty blue church domes which Santorini is so famous for
We paid EUR 900 for 4 nights / EUR 450 (approx. GBP 400) per person so GBP 100 per night including breakfast. We had a beautiful room with a balcony and outdoor hot tub too. Breakfast was very good with lots of choice.
Currency is the Euro – check conversion rates before you go.
The public transport was not reliable from our experience (the buses from Pyrgos were hourly but they sort of came when they came and not at all to the schedule we were given). It is easy enough to order taxis via the hotel and they were about EUR 25 village to village. There are no roads in the villages themselves and they’re very hilly so be prepared to get your legs going!
Things to do…
– Catamaran sunset cruise
We booked a 5 hour sunset cruise with Caldera Yachting through our hotel. I can’t remember exact costs but I believe it was about EUR 100 per person which included unlimited drinks (we well and truly went for it) and a delicious BBQ. It was a highlight of the holiday so I would definitely make time for it…
The cruise departed from the Amoudi Bay in Oia (which is also famous for fresh seafood – some nice restaurants around there) and stopped at / went past:
- Thirassia island – swimming and snorkelling
- Volcano and hot springs – can go swimming here too and the water is warmer
- Black Rock of the Indian
- White and Red Beach
You can also visit the beaches we went to via car and spend some time on the land, but I think they look more beautiful from afar.
– Hike from Fira to Oia (or the other way around)
It’s 6 miles from Fira to Oia and quite an easy route to follow. We went on the hottest day we were there which was a bit of a mistake as we were desperate for water mid-way (so go prepared) but it was worth it for the views.
It truly is a beautiful route and was pretty flat the whole way (just a few short but difficult climbs). Saying that, we did see some people on the route seriously flagging, so maybe not for everyone. Also, as Santorini is a small island, it can get incredibly windy so be prepared for that.
– Explore Pyrgos
This is the village where our hotel was! It’s the highest point of Santorini so has some gorgeous views, but is very windy!
The village is so pretty and there are cute restaurants, shops and blue domes everywhere you turn.
As you can see from one of the photos below, donkeys are commonly used by tourists (and locals) in Santorini to help with the climbs up the hills. I didn’t actually see anyone use a donkey when I was there, but have watched some really sad videos online so suggest you avoid and walk the hills yourself.
We also spent a windier morning at the hotel having treatments! They aren’t cheap but the massage was amazing and the spa is very relaxing. Do book in advance.
– Explore Fira
Fira is the stunning capital of Santorini and an Instagrammers dream! You definitely need to spend an afternoon and evening here – truly postcard perfect.
Fira is full of hotels, little shops, pretty restaurants and and bars with the most stunning views of the still active volcano! There’s also a cable car which looks like a popular thing to do from what I’ve read.
We were there off season so it wasn’t horribly busy, but during peak times we were told that about 3 cruise ships dock there each day so it can become incredibly hectic as an FYI.
– Explore Oia
Oia is another incredibly famous spot with white-washed traditional buildings, narrow ally ways and blue church domes right on the water. From what I’ve read, Oia is the best spot for sunrise / sunset (we spent one on a boat nearby).
We caught our boat from Amoudi Bay which is an old fishing village at the bottom of Oia by the water which is worth visiting even if you don’t have a boat to get on.
– Go to a winery!
I certainly don’t claim to be a wine expert, but I had no idea how yummy Greek wine was! Lots of places do wine tasting but Santo Wines came recommended and fortunately was only a short walk from our hotel. We chose a self-guided wine tasting (10 wines). Prices were super reasonable but I would suggest booking in advance (looks a little empty in the pics but they were rammed when we arrived and could barely squeeze us inside – too windy outside for tasting).
– Food and drink
We enjoyed some mouth-watering food in Santorini! Here’s where we went…
— Metaxi Mas (walkable from Pyrgos)
You HAVE to go here and suggest you make a reservation as it was incredibly busy (we couldn’t book for dinner but luckily snuck in for lunch). It came highly recommended by a friend, and was only a short walk from our hotel. All the food looked great, but my seafood linguine was SO yummy. The outdoor area is also located in a little sun-trap, protected from the wind. Make sure you order the house wine – was the best wine we drank in Santorini (it was all so good) and so cheap… we had a lot!
— Franco’s Cafe (Pyrgos)
We enjoyed a very windy coffee here one morning, and an equally windy cocktail (or 10) and sunset here one evening (the amazing guy at our hotel booked the best seat in the house after we drunkenly messaged him on WhatsApp after the very boozy lunch at Metaxi Mas asking for a sunset bar reservation!) As you can see, the views were stunning. The cocktails weren’t cheap, but not as expensive as in Fira / Oia.
— Mythos Tavern (Pyrgos)
We were SO hungry the night we arrived, took a couple of steps outside our hotel and found this place with great views of the sunset. It was so delicious and reasonably priced that we went back (I think twice more). The calamari was the best we had in Santorini and was only about EUR 10 with tasty chips and salad. The local wine (Mythos) and beer was also delicious. Highly recommend.
— Pyrgos Restaurant (Pyrgos)
You can’t really see from the pictures as it was late when we went, but this would be a beautiful venue for a wedding or romantic meal! Just a 5 min walk from our hotel, Pyrgos Restaurant is definitely a place for a special dinner. The calamari was very tasty but Mythos was slightly better (although lacked the fancy feel of this place).
— Kaliya (Fira)
A beautifully decorated restaurant with stunning views from the balcony. We only enjoyed a drink here as it was a little early for dinner, but the menu looked yum too. Prices significantly more expensive than in Pyrgos but to be expected as this is the main tourist area.
— Idol Restaurant Bar (Fira)
We enjoyed a feast at Idol Restaurant. Food and views were great, but SO expensive – I think it especially felt that way because we had been eating and drinking like queens for such a reasonable price in Pyrgos and this was our last dinner. One bottle of wine cost more than 3 the previous evening! However, it was a really beautiful restaurant so worth it, and the owner gave us free cocktails and pudding so 10/10 from me.
— Oia Restaurants
There are lots of gorgeous restaurants in Oia, similar price wise to those in Fira. We only stopped quickly for a snack before our sunset cruise.
Overall, I think you can see from the photos that Santorini is an incredibly beautiful place and I would definitely recommend going / even want to go back myself. It can be ridiculously expensive if you’re not careful so here are my final top tips for not breaking the bank:
- go off season – we went in May which meant we still had sunshine, but the hotel and flights were a lot cheaper than peak times, and it wasn’t anywhere near as busy. Apparently in June / July / August, Fira and Oia are so overcrowded you can barely walk down the streets anyway
- stay outside of the tourist traps – as much the pictures of the villas / hotels in Fira / Oia look amazing, other holiday makers will be constantly walking past your pools / hot tubs as they explore. By staying somewhere a little off the beaten track (like Pyrgos), it means you pay less for luxury, and pay less for unbelievable food. On the flip side, it does mean you have to get a taxi to Fira / Oia, but we only did this a couple of times so it didn’t seem too bad