Visiting Santorini is on most people’s bucket list and for good reason. It is one of the most unique, beautiful destinations in the world! While I have wanted to visit ever since seeing Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants circa 2005, I know, I know, how unoriginal of me, I never thought I would get to see the land of clear waters, blue domes, towering cliff sides, and white washed walls so soon.
I have talked before about how we managed to save enough money for a European vacation in this post, but once you have your plane tickets bought, and accommodations booked, how do you make sure to stay on budget while traveling? I knew Santorini would be the most expensive place we went while in Greece, and since Anthony and I wanted to do it cheaply while still getting the full, magical experience, we had some planning and research to do. If you are in the same position as us and want to visit Santorini, but feel like it’s too expensive, I am here to tell you it is possible and spending less will not take away from your time there! Here are some of my tips to visiting Santorini on a budget.
When to go: If you are trying to do Santorini cheaply, then I urge you to avoid going during the time of June-August. Hotels can be double the price during peak season and it will also be much more crowded. We went mid September which is considered mid-season and the prices were very do-able, crowds manageable, and weather near perfect.
Tip: if you want to still have wonderful weather and even lower crowds, head to Santorini in early to mid October!
While, in my opinion, Oia is the most beautiful town in Santorini, we opted to stay in the capital city of Fira because it is centrally located on the island and so much cheaper than staying in Oia. We chose to book at the Sea of Ageaon hotel because it was located only a 7 minute walk from Fira’s city center and a 10 minute walk to the main bus stop. While we did not have a caldera view, private pool, or a king sized bed, we actually loved our time here. The girl who worked the front desk was so friendly and always answered my millions of questions, it had a small pool to cool off in midday, and the best part, it was only 170 euro for three nights. Pair that with the easily accessible location and it was a good fit for us. I will warn that the beds were not plush, the shower the size of a shoe box, and you may or may not blow a fuse if you plug in too many things at once. Just letting you know from experience. Since this was a trip for our five year anniversary, Anthony and I opted to not stay in a hostel, although I read that Caveland (a five minute drive from Fira) is a great, clean hostel with free breakfast!
Tip: Look into Air BnB for some amazing places in Santorini and great deals!
Eating: Gyros, and Greek salads, and Baklava, oh my! It’s no secret that Greek food is fresh and delicious, but I was surprised at just how much I loved it! The seafood was fresh, the meats tender and juicy, the vegetables abundant, and the cheese and Greek yogurt out of this world. When I got home I was disappointed to remember that you don’t get a massive block of feta cheese with every salad. I still have dreams of that stuff! While eating out for every meal can be expensive, I am happy to report that we are some amazing food while in Santorini, all for super cheap! Right on the square we found our favorite, favorite place on the island, Lucky’s Gyros. This place is definitely not some big secret! The lines for lunch were out the door and around the corner, but it was well worth the wait for massive Gyros filled with pork, fresh vegetables, fries, and delicious taziki sauce. We have no shame in admitting we ate here three times over three days. For 2.50 euro per gyro (say that three times fast) it was hard to pass up! Some of our other favorite cheap eateries were Falafelland, (get some spicy sauce on the side for even more flavor!) Chillbox for frozen yogurt, Homemade for delicious smoothies and coffee, and Forno Pasta and Pizza for some amazing Greek pizza! All these places we ate for less than 15 euro for two people. If you are wanting seafood, try to avoid eating in Oia or Imerovigli and instead go off the beaten path into the less touristy parts of Santorini.
Tip: grab a bottle of wine, some meat, fruit, and cheese from the local grocery store and then find a perfect place to eat and watch the sunset. We did this one night in the town of Imerovigli and it was so romantic, even more special to us than dining at a fancy restaurant!
Activities: Luckily, once you arrive on the island of Santorini, most of the best things to do are free! While there is a bus system, ATV’s and scooters are the transportation of choice around the island, and on our second day there we decided to join in on the fun and rent one! Oh my word, are we glad we did! We had the best day exploring the entire island, seeing the black sand beach, the lighthouse, and taking in all the beautiful views. For two days it only cost us 35 euro + gas for our ATV and it was totally worth it! We also used it to ride to Oia at sunrise and it was a day I will never forget. If I can give you one piece of advice, it is to wake up at sunrise one morning while you are in Santorini. Waking up with the sun will help you see the city in a whole new light and really take in the beauty. We arrived in Oia around 6:30 am, and practically had the whole place to ourselves until around 9. Plus, if you are into photography, the light is gorgeous at this time and you can have the whole place to yourself for photos!
The best thing about Santorini, is Santorini itself, and that doesn’t come with a price tag.
Tip: Another free activity is to hike from Fira to Oia. The hike takes about three hours and has incredible views! Go early in the morning and reward yourself with an espresso and Greek yogurt with honey at the end!
Where we splurged: The one thing we chose to splurge on during our Santorini visit was a 5 hour long sunset cruise. While the 90 euro per person price tag seemed steep to us at first, we thought, when in Rome (Greece) and decided to book it anyway. Best. Decision. Ever. and well worth the price. I don’t have a ton of photos from this day as we decided to disconnect and just really soak everything in, but I hope I can convince you that you need to do it. We got to visit the volcano and hot springs, the red beach, the white beach, and then see the sunset from Ammoudi bay in Oia. They also fed us a massive Greek feast and the food was delicious! Our five hour journey flew by and we went to sleep that night with full stomachs and full hearts.
Tip: Book a cruise that picks you up and drops you off from your hotel, ours did and it made things so much easier and more enjoyable! We booked through Santorini Sailing Company.
Overall, what I have learned is that you can make travel happen, on any budget! Santorini is just as dreamy as all the photos make it look, and it is well worth checking off your bucket list! Don’t forget to check for cheap flights here!