Everything You Need to Know Before You Travel to Santorini

Are you planning a trip to iconic Santorini? You’ll love it! Whether you’re looking forward to iconic sunsets, blue and white architecture, or the freshest seafood in the Aegean, here are the most important things to know before you go!

What is the Caldera?

If you’ve done any research on Santorini yet, you’ve probably seen references to “the Caldera,” as in, “Overlooking the caldera.” A caldera is the hollow part of a volcano. The entire island of Santorini and its associated islands are all parts of a dormant, but active, volcano! That’s why there are hot springs “inside the caldera,” and why Santorini has such dramatic sloping cliffs. The side of the island that faces the inside of the volcano is the “caldera side.” This is where you’ll find Santorini’s famous cave hotels and villas!

Overlooking the Caldera!
Important info: What to Know Before You Stay in Oia, Santorini

Book Your Hotel Early

How early? Shoot for three to six months in advance. Many accommodations only have a few rooms to begin with, and they book up quickly if you decide to wait. We made the mistake of waiting a little too long to book, and before we made our final decision, four of the five hotels we were considering got completely booked!

Our accommodation was fantastic!
Read next: Why Hotels.com is Better than Hotel Brand Loyalty

Book Your Airport Transfer in Advance

This was the number 1 tip I found in my research about Santorini! Our accommodation actually reached out to us when we booked our room, and we were able to coordinate it soon after booking. Oia, Fira, Imerovigli, and other villages are pedestrian-only areas, and there are no street names! That alone is enough to necessitate a guide to help you find your accommodation. Add to that the fact that there are about a million uneven, slick stairs to traverse with luggage, and you’ll be glad you have someone there to help you!

Steve and I are very independent travelers, and we always like to find our own way, but once we realized the value of that airport transfer, we were glad to have it! Our transfer was €40 each way, to give you an amount for reference.

Thank goodness we had our very own Hercules!
Read on: Mistakes People Make When Planning a Trip to Greece (and how to avoid them)

Use the KTEL Buses

Most of the Greek Islands have a KTEL Bus system that connects their major towns. But these aren’t just any local buses. These are massive, nice charter buses with air conditioning! And they run on schedule. When was the last time you took island transportation that ran on time? For me, I think this was a first! Steve and I were both super impressed.

The only unusual thing to note is that all buses go to and from Fira. For instance, there is no bus from Oia to Akrotiri across the island. There is only the bus from Oia to Fira, then another bus from Fira to Akrotiri. Again, the buses are very efficient, so even the extra step of changing buses doesn’t cause too much inconvenience! Santorini has eight routes that go both ways between these city pairs:

  • Fira to Oia
  • Fira to Port
  • Fira to Airport
  • Fira to Perissa
  • Fira to Kamari
  • Fira to Akrotiri
  • Fira to Monolithos
  • Fira to Vlychada

Buses stop at other points of interest along each route, and fares vary between €1.60 to €2.40. (As of May 2022.) Drive time for each route ranges from 10-25 minutes, and buses run from once a day to twice an hour. Check the schedules and find more information on this website.

These are not your average local buses!
Keep reading: The Best Things to Do on Santorini

Don’t Drink the Water

You can drink the water on mainland Greece and on other Greek Islands, but Santorini is the exception, even for the locals! I can’t believe I didn’t read this in any of my research for this trip! So I’m telling you now. Plan to buy some bottles of water when you arrive, and always order some at restaurants. The sun can be harsh on Santorini, so hydration is important.

*Note: Ice in your drink is okay! I asked the staff at our hotel, and they told me that every restaurant makes ice with filtered water, so no worries!

Santorini Water: Look, but don’t drink!
Read next: How to Practice Self Care on Travel

Watch Your Step!

I think my husband said it best when he explained to my mom, “There are no two steps alike on the entire island!” With as many stairs as you’ll be climbing, as many villages as you’ll be walking through, you will probably trip a time or two. Be careful out there!

And please, wear reasonable shoes! I saw so many girls and women in cute shoes and ridiculous dresses slipping and tripping all over the place while we were there. Even I slipped a couple of times, and I was wearing my sneakers!

Whether you’re walking on the main road through a village or climbing a million stairs, watch where you step!
Also helpful: The Ultimate Guide to Travel and Your Feet

The Island is Not Lush or Green

Those beautiful climbing, green vines and hot pink bougainvillea flowers you see in photos online are gorgeous, but Santorini is actually kind of brown and barren. There are cacti growing out there! Don’t get me wrong, it’s a uniquely beautiful island, but if you’re looking for tropical, lush greenery and vibrant flowers of every color, you’ll be disappointed. Right-size your expectations!

Very beautiful, but not very colorful!
Keep reading: Everything You Need to Know about the Oia to Fira Hike

Don’t Flush the Toilet Paper!

This is true all over Greece, but the islands have even less reliable plumbing than on the mainland. It’s very important to throw the toilet paper in the little trash can next to the toilet. This is not a suggestion. It’s important!

This is not an “if you want to” situation.
Find this and more tips here: What to Know Before You Visit Greece

No Drone Zone

Please respect this one. There are “No Drones” signs posted throughout Oia, but we still saw several, especially at sunset. I know you want the photo, but please understand that the rules apply to you, too.

There is very little privacy in Oia because of the nature of the cave hotels and villas, and your drone will most certainly see something it shouldn’t. Also, the other hundreds of people watching the sunset don’t want your drone in their photos. Respect the rules, respect the privacy, respect the people who are following the rules. No drones, please!

Trust: You can get epic photos without a drone here!
Also helpful: The Ultimate Secrets to Travel Photography

Want more? You’ll find all my posts about Santorini on my dedicated Greece Page!

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Published by quickwhittravel

Welcome to the blog! We do things a little differently around here: no ads, no negativity, and no checked luggage, y'all. My name is Whitney, and Quick Whit Travel Blog is your one-stop shop for all the best travel tips, packing advice, and destination information. Click around or message me on social media @quickwhittravel for more!

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