As I mentioned in the Greek Islands post, Santorini was my favorite stop. A new “thin place” for me. Oh it was crowded for sure. There were seven cruise ships there the day we were there. But I had dreamed of this place for so many years I was determined to maneuver it all so we could really experience that incredible place. So here we go with my thoughts about how to make the most of one day in Santorini.
Maybe one of the reasons we loved this place so much was that we braced ourself for crowds. We worked hard to avoid them, but we also knew it was inevitable they would be there.
And they were!
But oh boy, I’m here to tell you those crowds are worth it.
Santorini, like most islands, was formed by a volcano. I think it’s cool that from the map you can see that circular ancient volcano top:
So much history about that place that is super interesting that I won’t go into on this post. Settlements, important sea ports, a newer volcanic eruption, occupied by different people. Please look it up if you’re interested. For records purposes I’m just going to concentrate on what we did there for that one precious day.
tips for Exploring Santorini in one day
Get on the island as early as possible
Just like our stop in Mykonos, we knew in order to see as much as possible, we needed to get on that island speedy-quick.
We took the first tender boat from our ship and arrived at the port in Fira before the crowds mashed in there.
In pictures you always see Santorini filled up with the white buildings with colorful domes, but this is what it looks like from the sea coming in:
All that white glory is actually clinging to the top of that caldera (volcanic top).
In order to get up there where the “happening” goes on, you have to either take the steps from the port in Fira zig-zagging up the cliff (can you see them if you look close in that photo up there). There are apparently 913 of them.
Take the cable-cars up to Fira
OR you can opt for the tram-type thing to get up to the town of Fira.
Since we were there as early as possible, there were no crowds so we took that tram right up the mountain.
Hike from Fira to Oia
We had a lot of advice to hike the six miles from Fira to Oia (pronounced “ee-ah”). Can you see Fira up there on the map kind of in the middle of that backwards “C”? That is where cruise boats drop off tourists. And Oia is up North right near the top of where that “C” curls in at the top. Oia is where you see most of the glory pictures of Santorini. It was also where most of my anxious anticipation was to get to. We wanted to get there fast before crowds, but man alive, I’m SO glad we did this hike to get there because it was incredible.
This was probably our favorite thing we did.
I mentioned we made a few friends on the cruise and they ended up joining us for most of the day.
The six of us took off to hike the ridge of that ancient volcano caldera from town to town.
From little side streets in Fira:
To this awesome town about a mile from Fira called Imerovigli:
If you ever happen to go stay in Santorini, I think this would be the place to stay. A little more low key than Oia but so gorgeous.
We had some advice to go to a restaurant there called Anogi that we never got to. So if you ever go, try it out and let me know if it’s as good as these people raved about:)
We continued on and could hardly even handle all the beauty.
From every direction the sea stretched out so piercing blue in contrast to the cliffs below us. The little towns were so perfect, all white with some colorful roofs mixed in, just clinging to the edge of the cliffs.
I can’t imagine how much white paint Greece must use!
See that little group on the trail below? That’s us.
Little boutique hotels, private aqua-colored pools hanging onto various houses, stunning domes stretching out amidst the rooftops all with the backdrop of the sea.
Arrival in Oia
It took us close to three hours to maneuver that hike through all that gorgeousness up and down all kinds of trails to reach Oia, and my excitement kept mounting as we merged in with the multitudes of other tourists trying to take it all in.
Dave was calling in his inner-calm to brave this crowd (see pic at the top) to see the most prized spot on the island:
But it was ALL so very beautiful!
Swimming in a secret swimming spot below Oia
We ate lunch sitting on a little veranda overlooking the ocean, met up with those new friends again and headed down 387 wide stone steps to get down to the swimming spot our neighbor had told us about down on the water.
Looking back up from below:
It felt so good to cool down and Dave and I did some cliff jumping off an old ruin out on a little mini island. Yow.
Looking back up, and the area around there:
Our friends figured out a water taxi to get back to the main port, but I was dying to see more of Oia and also an iconic church we had missed earlier on the trail. So sweet Dave took the trek back up those hundreds of steps (378 of them as a guy told us half way up), to get back to Oia.
Got some gelato and explored more of the tiny alleys and streets.
Then took a taxi to see this gorgeous church up on the hill:
We just stood and took it all in. A sacred moment together.
The world is so amazing.
Then we hustled our booties to get back to Fira:
We found the line for the cable cars we had taken up earlier a crowded mass of craziness.
So we opted to take the 918 steps zig-zagging their way down the cliff/mountain, holding hands tight so neither of us would slip on the slick stone.
SO MANY donkeys waiting for people to pay to ride them up or down amongst those now huge crowds of people.
No one seemed to be taking them up on the donkey-riding-option btw. Poor guys!
Once we reached the dock we got to elbow our way through the thousands of people catch our tender boat back to our ship.
Watched Santorini, that huge dream of mine, shrinking in the distance with a heart expanding with gratitude that we got to BE THERE.
And see all that beauty.