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Top Things to Do in Santorini and Where to Stay – Santorini Travel Guide

My Santorini travel guide has the top things to do in Santorini, where to stay, where to eat, and top Santorini tips for a memorable stay. 

I have just returned from Santorini, and I wish I had this travel guide to help me before I went! I visited at the wrong time, stayed in the wrong resort, missed out on some of the top things to do in Santorini and spent a lot more money than I needed to! 

We spent 12 days island hopping in Greece and Santorini was our last stop. Don’t get me wrong, we still had a wonderful holiday, but if I was to return to Santorini I would do many things differently.

I booked a luxury villa in Oia, thinking it was the best place to stay – while it may be in October, trust me, in August, its not! I didn’t prebook a restaurant in Oia to see its iconic sunset because I assumed that we would see it easily while staying there – this didn’t happen either! 

Oia sunset

But all was not lost! We enjoyed some fabulous pool time, an incredible day sailing, and a superb dining experience on our last night – and now I have the best excuse to go back 😉 

I am also in the best position to advise you on the best things to do in Santorini, and give you my top Santorini tips to make sure you don’t make the same mistakes I did!
 

 

 

About Santorini

Santorini is a  small island, with a land area of about 76 square km – for perspective, Crete is 100 times larger! It is one of the most visited islands in Greece with over 2 million visitors each year.

santorini
Santorini got its half-moon shape around 1650 BC after a massive volcanic eruption which destroyed about half of the island.  Now half of the caldera is submerged, which makes it the only sunken caldera in the world. The volcano remains active and can only be visited on an excursion by boat.
 

 

 
I have listed the top things to do in Santorini below, as well as where to stay in Santorini and some restaurant recommendations – some are from personal experiences, and some great recommendations that I missed. Hopefully this Santorini guide will help you plan a fabulous holiday there soon.
 

 

 

Top things to do in Santorini:

 

1. Explore Oia in the morning

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Oia is the picture perfect whitewashed town perched on top of Santorini’s caldera, and is arguably the reason that Santorini is on most bucket list holiday destinations. However, its beauty comes with a catch – the crowds are maddening during peak season.
 

 

 
We visited in August, but I asked many locals and they all gave me the same response ‘Oia is always busy’! I suggest visiting Oia early in the morning, it is the best time to explore its gorgeous streets and you can really appreciate its beauty.

Oia colourful buildings

You can expect tour buses to start arriving from 10am and Oia is also extremely busy in the evening, as it is regarded as one of the best places in Santorini to watch the sunset. 

Despite staying 10 minutes walk from the centre of Oia for four nights, we never got to see its famous sunset – we found the crowds too intense. Queues started forming three hours before sunset and the narrow streets were packed with tourists from all over the island.
 

 

 
Top tips for visiting Oia: Go as early as possible in the morning, it will be busy from 10am. If you want a photo beside the Blue Domes, go there first! Lines start at 8.30am and people are allowed 5 minutes each (which most people take), so even with a short line it can take time to get to the top.
 how to take a photo of the blue domes in Santorini
Oia Castle, which incidentally is the best place to watch the sunset, is also a must visit – this is where you will get the iconic photo of Oia.
 
However, there is more to Oia than the Castle and Blue Domes. Take time to explore Oia’s narrow streets and you will discover pretty buildings, churches, boutiques and tavernas, all cloaked in Santorini’s traditional whitewashed architecture.  
 

 

 

2. Visit Fira in the evening 

Fira at night

Fira is the capital of Santorini, as well as being the port town. If you arrive at the port and don’t want to climb the 600 steps, or ride a donkey to the old town (please don’t), you will have to take the cable car. As you may expect this is extremely busy during the day, especially with cruise ship visitors.
 

 

 
Note: If you are arriving by car or bus from one of the other towns on the island, you can go straight to the main town and avoid the port all together. 
 
Once the cruise ships leave, the town gets much quieter and easier to explore. You will find Santorini’s best selection of shops here, as well as countless restaurants and bars.
 
sunset at Fira

You can catch the sunset from the main promenade here, without the crowds you would find in Oia. However, there are plenty of bars and restaurants with sunset views too –  PK Cocktail Bar is perfect for sundowners, or Vine is a popular spot for dinner.  See more restaurant recommendations on where to eat in Santorini at the bottom of this post. 

 

 

3. Hike from Fira to Oia

Santorini blue dome church
Image by Russell_Yan, Pixabay

The walk from Fira to Oia is one of the top things to do in Santorini. We visited in August, and felt that temperatures were too high to try it, but if truth be told, I regret not doing it!
 

 

 
The hike is 10km and takes approximately four hours. You will walk along the rim of the Caldera through hiking trails, dirt tracks and pathways, but with little shade, so it is best to do this early in the morning.

You will pass through the pretty towns of Imerovigli and Firostefani, while witnessing some of the best views in Santorini.

TOP TIP: It is best to walk from Fira to Oia so you can see the views of Oia as you walk and spend some time in Oia when you have completed it. There are also more downhill paths in that direction. 
 

 

 

4. See Santorini from the sea

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Make sure you book a boat trip, it is one of the best things to do in Santorini. There are many different options to choose from, but small group or private yacht cruises tend to get booked out in advance, so make sure you pre book.

Top Tip: The Meltemi winds can be strong during July and August which can result in cruise cancellations – book your boat trip early in your holiday so that you can reschedule if necessary. 
 

 

 
You can choose a full or half-day and opt for a day tour or sunset cruise. Both half day options are usually four to five hours and include lunch or dinner and drinks.

a boat trip is one of the top things to do in Santorini

Some cruises visit the volcano, swim in the hot springs, and have swimming and snorkeling stops at White Beach or Red Beach. This can be a good way to see some of Santorini’s sights on one trip.

We booked this private sailing cruise for sunset and loved it. We were brought to a fabulous swimming spot in Thirassia and watched the sunset from the boat. It was the best experience of our stay in Santorini, but there are many more cheaper options available.
 

 


 

5. Book a restaurant with a sunset view

pre book restaurants for sunset in Santorini

There are many places to watch the sunset in Santorini but if you want to enjoy it at your leisure over a nice meal, then make sure to pre-book a restaurant with a sunset view.
 

 

 
Some of the most popular places in Oia are booked out weeks or even months in advance so my advice is to book as early as possible.

Read: My top tips for island hopping in Greece.

In most cases you will need to pre-pay a minimum fee of €50- €80 per person for a front row table – this will be deducted from your bill.

Vine Restaurant, Fira

I pre-booked a ‘front row’ table in Sunset Taverna in Ammoudi Bay a few months before we left. It was not only a fabulous meal, but the views and overall experience was one of the best we had on our trip. See this and more restaurant recommendations in Santorini at the bottom of this post.
 

 

 

6. Go wine tasting

a wine tour is one of the top things to do in Santorini
Image by Reinaldo Calcano, Pixabay

A wine tour is one of the top things to do in Santorini. You can travel by car and visit wineries on your own, but you can’t enjoy the wine if you are driving! By booking an official wine tour you will not only be able to enjoy the wine, but you will also visit three wineries on one trip.
 

 

 
A small-group tour with a maximum of 8 people is the best way to experience them. You will be picked up and dropped back to your hotel, visit vineyards and wine cellars and taste up to 15 different varieties of wine, with light snacks included.   

There are day tours and sunset tours, each lasting four hours and I’m told that watching the sunset from Santo Winery with wine and tapas is a wonderful experience, and worth the additional €10 charge.
 
See more here
 

 

 

7. Spend the day at the beach

Kamari Beach, Santorini

Santorini may not have the golden sandy beaches that its neighbouring islands has, but it certainly has its fair share of places for a relaxing beach day.

Santorini is known for having black sand beaches, this is due to the black pumice that came from the volcanic eruption. Perissa beach is one of the best and is 7km long, with plenty of beach bars, restaurants and sun loungers for a relaxing beach day.
 

 

 
Kamari Beach is hugely popular and is one of Santorini’s liveliest resorts, there are plenty of bars, restaurants and water sports available here too.

This is also a popular sunset spot so its best to arrive in the afternoon and book a nice beachfront restaurant for dinner. If you want to party late into the night – you won’t be left wanting here.
 

 

 
If you fancy a change of scenery, Santorini’s Red Beach is another popular choice, although be prepared for the short hike in from the car park.

A visit to Red Beach is one of the top things to do in Santorini

While the backdrop of Santorini’s red cliffs is an interesting sight, I don’t think it is one of the best beaches in Santorini. There is no beach bar here and limited sun loungers, and there are many warning signs to avoid swimming here due to rock slides! 

Santorini also has a beach called White Beach, but this is only accessible from the sea – it is a popular stop on sunset cruises.
 

 

 

8. Watch Mamma Mia at the open air cinema

watch Mamma Mia in the open air cinema in Santorini

The beach resort of Kamari is home to the popular open air cinema in Santorini. You can expect to see the latest blockbusters as well as old classics, but when in Rome and all that… you simply have to watch Mamma Mia! 
 

 

 
Located in what looks like a large garden, you can expect a full bar with cocktails, local beers and wine, and plenty of ice cream and snacks. The entry fee is just €10 and movies are in English, with Greek subtitles.

The movie starts at 9.30pm but get there early because they don’t take reservations!

See more here
 

 

 

9. Hire a car or ATV for the day

rent a car in Santorini

While public transport is cheap and easily accessible, I suggesting hiring a car for at least one day to explore some of Santorini’s highlights.
 

 

 
ATV’s are also popular and can be a cheaper and fun alternative, they can also be easier to park in busy towns. However, they are obviously not as safe as a hiring a car, so make sure you check that you have adequate insurance to cover you for driving an ATV.

Search prices here
 

 

 

Top places to visit in Santorini by car:

 

10. The Heart of Santorini

the Heart of Santorini is one of the top things to in Santorini

The Heart of Santorini is a naturally carved heart-shaped hole that offers magnificent views of the Aegean Sea and the caldera. It is located in a small village called Megalochori, and there is parking on site. It is an ideal place to visit if you have hired a car or ATV and are touring the island.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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You will also see Agios Nikolaos church here, that is built into the cliff. I was told you can climb down and enter this small church, but the views from the top of its triple bell tower are impressive in their own right.

This area is a romantic spot to watch the sunset and one of the popular Instagram locations in Santorini. Note: you have to walk down a short but steep path to get to it, so comfortable shoes are a must!
 

 

 

11. PyrgosPyrgos Santorini

If you are looking to escape the crowds and want to discover one of Santorini’s hidden gems – visit Prygos. Pyrgos is an authentic Santorini village located only 10 minutes drive from the capital, but it is world’s apart from the hustle and bustle of Fira. This hilltop town was once Santorini’s capital and offers panoramic views of the island.
 

 

 
There are numerous churches to visit, as well as the Santorini’s best preserved castle, Kastelli Castle. However, part of its charm is exploring its pretty streets, and enjoying some local Greek food and wine outside the Santorini tourist trap. 

Top Tip: Stop at Franco’s Cafe for drinks and the best views
 

 

 

12. Akrotiri

Akrotiri Lighthouse, Santorini

The archaeological site of Akrotiri is often described as Greece’s Pompeii, as both cities were buried by a volcanic eruption. However, this ancient city predates Pompeii by 4000 years. 
 

 

 
The ancient city of Akrotiri is one of Santorini’s top attractions. The town was originally constructed around 4500 B.C and although it was destroyed by a volcanic eruption around 1650 B.C, much of it has been preserved by lava. There are many guided tours available, or if you are hiring a car it is possible to visit independently.

Akrotiri, Santorini

TOP TIP: If you are visiting Akrotiri, take a trip out to the Lighthouse afterwards. Located on the southwestern tip of Santorini, you can see views of the entire caldera here. And better still, stop off at Naboo beach bar for lunch. 
 

 

 

Where to stay in Santorini – My guide to Santorini’s best resorts and hotels:

 

Oia:

Oia is without a doubt the prettiest and most popular of all Santorini’s villages, however this comes at a cost. Be prepared to share it with tens of thousands of visitors each day, and an extraordinary amount of people in the evening who are there to watch the sunset.Sarah in Oia after sunset

The sun doesn’t set until approximately 8.30pm in July or August so it is not the ideal place to an evening stroll or drink before dinner – if that is the type of experience you like. However, if you travel off peak you are unlikely to find the same crowds.

Oia is one of the most expensive places to stay in Santorini so it might be best to consider an alternative resort if travelling during peak season. However, if you are travelling off peak, here are some recommendations on the best places to stay in Oia. 

 

 
Oia Sunset Villas is the perfect choice for groups or families who are looking for a luxurious villa, with our without a private pool, but with the added benefit of hotel facilities.

I can happily recommend Oia Sunset Villas if you are looking to stay in Oia. They are located just 10 minutes walk from the centre of town and offer super service, sunset views, and lets take a moment for these fabulous sun loungers!

where to stay in Oia - Oia Sunset Villas
Communal pool at Oia Sunset Villas

Check price here
 
Canaves Oia Suites & Spa in Oia is one of best hotels in Oia. All suites have a private plunge pool with caldera views, and the hotel boasts a fine dining restaurant and a private motor yacht for sunset cruises. 

Check price here
 

 

 
Santorini Secret Suites & Spa is another luxury five-star boutique hotel that boasts an outdoor plunge pool or hot tub, but is much lower priced than Canaves – so my advice is to book early!

Check price here
 

 

 
Hector’s Cave House: If you can’t beat them, join them! Don’t wrestle with others for the perfect sunset view, get it from your own balcony.

Hector’s Cave houses are 250 year old houses that are perched on top of each other on the caldera, offering stunning views of Santorini. And, when you want to cool down, you can take a dip in your plunge pool.

unique airbnbs in Santorini

Check price here
 
Read: 10 Airbnbs in Santorini with private pools
 

 

 
Myst Boutique Hotel is a top-rated 4-star hotel located just 900 metres from Oia’s famous sunset spot. All suites have sea views and private balconies, and the hotel boasts a spacious pool with floating sun loungers, a pool bar and restaurant. 

Check price here
 
Aethrio Sunset Village is a great value option for couples or friends looking to stay in the heart of Oia. Located in the main square of the village with a pool on site, it has everything you need for a central stay in Santorini.

Check price here
 

 

 

Imerovigli

Imerovigli

If you want a pretty whitewashed town without the crowds, then stay in Imerovigli. When I visited Imerovigli I knew immediately that if I was to return to Santorini, this is where I would stay.

Imerovigli has some of Santorini’s best hotels and restaurants and most offer stunning sea views. It is also located just 10 minutes drive to Fira if you fancy a livelier scene. 
 

 

 
Cavo Tagoo is one of the best hotels in Santorini but it does have a price tag to match! Its stunning seaviews are have gone viral on social media and it is a top celebrity hang out.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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It has just 13 suites and all boast private jacuzzis or heated pools. The main heated infinity pool and its lively pool bar are a popular location to watch the sunset.

Check price here
 

 

 
Cresanto Luxury Suites is another five star option, but it doesn’t have the celebrity status of Cavo Tagoo so it is much more reaonably priced.

If you are looking for the ultimate Santorini experience – a luxurious room with a hot tub and sea views, without breaking the bank, then this looks like a great choice.

santorini holidays from Ireland
Cresanto Luxury Suites

Check price here   
 

 

 
Afroessa Hotel by Pearl Hotel Collection is a top-rated four-star hotel offering a choice of room types including suites with hot tubs and caldera views. It has a swimming pool and a stylish poolside bar too.

Check price here
 

 

 
The Windmill Villas are a super choice for families or groups looking for a unique place to stay in Santorini. All windmills have two bedrooms and a private pool. The ground floor contains the living room, dining room and the kitchen, while the first and second floors, which are reached by spiral staircase, are home to the bedrooms.
 
luxury villas in Santorini

Check price here   
 

 

 
Abelonas Retreat and Seven Suites are two boutique style options offering great value stays in this upmarket resort. Both are rated as Excellent on Tripadvisor and have a communal pool on site.

There are a choice of room types to choose from including studios, maisonettes and one and two-bedroom suites.

Abelonas Retreat   
 
Seven Suites   
 

 

 

Fira

 

 
 
 
 
 
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The capital and port town of Santorini is a busy place during the day but is very pleasant during the evening time. This makes it a good choice if you want to relax by the pool or are sightseeing during the day, and want a lively but relaxed atmosphere in the evening time.

There are plenty of late night bars and clubs here if you fancy partying into the small hours too.
 

 

 
Athina Luxury Suites is a luxury five-star hotel and is probably the best hotel in Fira. Located on the cliffs in the centre of town, all suites in this boutique hotel have stunning sea and sunset views.

There is a bar and restaurant on site as well as a heated infinity pool which is a popular place for sundowners.  

Athina Luxury Suites, Fira
Athina Luxury Suites

Check prices here   
 

 

 
Astro Palace Hotel & Suites is rated the top hotel in Fira on TripAdvisor but is much more reasonably priced than Athina Suites.

Located in the heart of Fira with a Wellness Centre, swimming pool with seaviews, and a bar and restaurant on site, it is a great for a luxury stay in Fira. All rooms boast a large balcony or terrace with sea views and many have private pools.

Check prices here   
 

 

 
San Giorgio is a family owned hotel offering a great value stay in the heart of Fira town. There is a small swimming pool on site and a choice of room options, including a two-bedroom family room.

Check prices here   
 

 

 

Kamari

Kamari Beach, Santorini

If you want to visit Santorini on a budget then choose a beach resort rather than one of the key towns. Kamari is the largest and liveliest of all the beach resorts.

You won’t find a typical Santorini white washed village here, but it offers great value accommodation with bus routes and tours available to all of Santorini’s top attractions.
 

 

 
There are countless bars and restaurants all situated beside Kamari’s long black sandy beach. Santorini’s open air cinema is also located here and there are plenty of options for late night drinks, with live music and discos open until the small hours. 

Santorini Kastelli Resort is considered the best resort hotel in Kamari. It is located just two minutes walk from the beach and boasts two pools, a Spa, and a pool bar and restaurant. Breakfast is also included in the cost.

Check prices here   
 

 

 
Acqua Votos Hotel is a great value choice that boasts a large pool and snack bar, as well as a chill-out lounge bar for evening drinks. This is rated as Excellent on TripAdvisor and receives great reviews from previous guests – yet priced unbelievably low!

Acqua Votos Hotel, Kamari, Santorini
Acqua Votos Hotel

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Sigalas Beach Hotel is another great value option located beside the beach in Kamari. There is a fresh water pool and pool bar on site and a choice of room types available, including double rooms, one and two-bedroom apartments and suites. 

Check prices here   
 

 

 
The Nissia Beach Apartments & Suites are the perfect choice for a self-catering beach stay in Santorini. As the name suggests they are located beside the sea and offer beautiful sunrise views. There is a swimming pool on site and a choice of room types to choose from including one and two bedroom apartments and suites

Check prices here   
 

 

 ;

Perissa

Perissa beach at sunset, Santorini

Perissa is another good choice for a beach stay in Santorini, in fact it is home to one of Santorini’s best beaches – it stretches for 7km. Perissa feels more like a village than Kamari, and while both have plenty of watersports, restaurants and bars to choose from, Perissa is slightly more low key. 
 

 

 
It can be difficult to choose whether to stay in Kamari or Perissa but something that is worth mentioning is the location. Perissa is located closer to the south of the island so if you are planning on travelling to Oia and Fira and are short on time, Kamari might be a better option, as it is more accessible and offers a shorter journey time. 
 

 

 
Aqua Blue Beach Hotel is regarded as the best hotel in Perissa and as the name suggests it is located right on the beach. It has a private beach area with sun beds as well as three outdoor pools, a kids pool, a buffet restaurant, as well as a pool bar serving drinks by the pool and beach.  

Aqua Blue Hotel, Santorini
Aqua Blue Hotel

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Meltemi Village Hotel is a great 4-star choice located in the centre of Perissa, and just 350 from the beach. There is a choice of room types including suites with outdoor jacuzzis, and maisonettes that sleep up to five, as well as a garden with pool, restaurant, bar and fitness centre.

Check prices here   
 

 

 
Anezina Villas: For families looking for a great value stay in Santorini close to the beach, look no further. Located just 250 metres from the beach, with a pool, snack bar and spacious apartments that sleep up to six, this is one of the best value apartments for families in Santorini.

Anezinia Villas are a great choice for family holidays in Santorini
Anezinia Villas

Check prices here   
 

 

 
Stelios Palace is a great choice for couples looking good but cheap accommodation in Santorini beside the beach. Don’t let its 3-star rating fool you, it is rated as Excellent on TripAdvisor and gets high praise from previous guests. 

Check prices here   
 

 

 

Where to eat in Santorini:

Ammoudi Bay, Santorini

Restaurants in Santorini are expensive, so I recommend trying as many local dishes as you can. Some of my personal Greek favourites are Prawn Saganaki – a hot prawn dish in tomato sauce with Feta cheese, Feta Cheese with Honey in Phyllo (filo pastry),  and of course, no trip to Greece would be complete without having a traditional Greek salad ❤️.
 

 

 
We didn’t get the opportunity of visiting many of Santorini’s top restaurants but I did receive many recommendations from fellow travellers. I have listed some of the most popular choices below as well as some of my own favourites.
 

 

 

Oia:

Sunset Taverna Fish Restaurant: I can highly recommend dining here – everything about it is superb, the food, setting and service. Located in Ammoudi Bay, at the bottom of the cliffs in Oia, it is a place to savour for your last night.

Sunset cocktails, Santorini

You need to pre-book and pay a minimum fee of €80 per person for a table my the sea – this will be deducted from your bill. And don’t worry about making your way back up the hill afterwards, the restaurant will kindly call you a taxi.
 

 

 
Karma Greek restaurant serves up great food in a garden setting on one of Oia’s side streets. We dined here and particularly enjoyed the Prawn Saganaki, Feta with Phyllo and Greek meatballs with rice. 

Karma restaurant, Oia
Prawn Saganaki in Karma Restaurant

Other top recommendations in Oia are Vineyart for fine dining, Pelekanos for sunset views and Melitini for tapas with a view. Pre booking is essential as they were all booked out during our visit.
 

 

 

Fira:

Vine Restaurant is a modern restaurant with sunset views and an international menu, located on the main promenade in Fira. We dined here for sunset – (there is a minimum spend of €75 per person), although the sunset view was exactly the same from the open promenade below!

Sunset at Vine Restaurant, Fira

Food was good, and it is a nice option if you fancy a burger or a break from traditional Greek food, although I wouldn’t pay the premium price for sunset – opt for PK Cocktail Bar nearby for sundowners instead.

Argo proved such a popular restaurant that the owners decided to relocate it to a larger space five minutes drive from Fira. It is renowned as being one of Fira’s best restaurants though, so it might be worth the spin!
 

 

 
Other top recommendations are Naoussa for tradtional Greek food with caldera views, and Cacio e Pepe for great Italian food.
 

 

 

Imerovigli

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Athenian House offers some of the best sunset views in Santorini, but you need to book weeks if not months in advance.
 

 

 
Le Moustache Caldera Pool Lounge & Restaurant is another luxurious option, but is a nice idea for lunch because you can rent loungers here afterwards. It has beach club vibes, but with a pool.
 

 

 
Cavo Tagoo: If you can’t afford to stay in Cavo Tagoo, perhaps you can dine there instead! While Athenian House is arguably the better dining experience, Cavo Tagoo is regarded as one of the most beautiful hotels in Santorini, so it is worth a trip just to check it out.
 

 

 

Akrotiri

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Naboo is one of the best beach bars in Santorini and is the perfect option for lunch or drinks if you are touring the island. You can also rent sun lounger afterwards for the perfect relaxing afternoon.
 

 

 

Kamari 

Vassilikos Santorini
Vassilikos Restaurant, Kamari

Vassilikos is one of the best restaurants in Kamari. Located beside the sea it serves up traditional Greek dishes as well as Mediterranean favourites such as pasta carbonara.
 

 

 
Metaxi Mas: I asked locals what was the best restaurant in Santorini, and they all said Metaxi Mas. It is located about 5 minutes drive from Kamari, in a non-touristy area, but that just ads to its charm. If you want to live like a local, then dine here!

 

 

 

 

Embrace the Gyros

Gyros

Gyros are a typical Greek fast food option and consist of a pitta wrapped around chicken or pork with vegetables, sauce and chips. They are similar to kebabs, and trust me at €4 – €6 each, they are a great value option for lunch on the go. 

I’m told Lucky’s Souvlakis in Fira has the best Gyros in Santorini!
 

 

 
I hope my travel guide featuring the top things to do in Santorini will help you plan a trip there soon. While every effort is made to ensure accuracy, attractions, prices and accommodation offerings are subject to change. Note some of the links in this post contain affiliate links, where I receive a small commission if a booking is made, but at no additional cost to you. 

 

 

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