March 16, 2019

How to do Santorini in a day

Mention Santorini to pretty much anyone and their shoulders sag and their eyes glaze over and they invariably say, “oh how I loved Santorini”. Or if they haven’t been, it’s on their Bucket List.

Santorini was one of the day stops on our 12-day cruise onboard Royal Caribbean ship Vision of the Seas, and I would rate the little Greek island of Santorini as my favourite place of the cruise – and one that I’d happily come back to for a week, although it would be a swimming, sunning, reading, eating and drinking kind of holiday, rather than scamper around like we did in just one day.

As a carefree Kiwi on my OE (Overseas Experience) based in London, we used to earn just enough money to take off on cheap weeks or weekends away. I’ll never forget flying to Rhodes arriving about 1am and spending that night in the airport because we had no accommodation booked! It all worked out – eventually – and we got a place in Lindos. Memories of a lifetime. The salty sea that you float easily in, the taverna and salads, but oh the ouzo! Bluurgh. I’m reliably informed that I did not taste it the right way and that I really need to give ouzo another go!

Santorini pink wall
Crammed but cute living quarters!

If you are wanting a Greek Island hopping holiday, I am thinking about taking a small group away to do just that in 2021 (Covid permitting). In the meantime, here is a great post on how to decide which Greek islands to choose.

Beautiful Santorini
Pin this to your Pinterest Travel board!

But if you have only one day on Santorini here are 3 things to know:

1: Get up early and disembark the ship as soon as you can. That’s if you haven’t booked an official ship excursion, of course, in which case you will have an off-load time.

On our ship we had a free-for-all for getting on shore via the tender boats between 7 and 8am, after that you have to take a number and it could be hours until you’re on terra firma.

2: Plan to spend €5 to take the cable car up to Fira. You can pay the same amount for a donkey who will walk you up the winding, poop covered cobblestones about 300m to the top. But since 2018 people over 100kg are not allowed to ride the donkeys, and obviously the whole donkey-riding thing is largely frowned on as being cruel to the donkeys.

Note: there is a massively long line for the cable car coming down so we ended up walking down. Jelly legs from 25 minutes doing thigh lunges, let me tell you!

Tip: Allow enough time to get down again before you need to board your ship.

Santorini donkeys
I’m happy to report not many people rode donkeys up the cliff

3: Rent a buggy or quad bike so you can get far away from the tourists and your fellow passengers on their official excursions, and can tootle around at your own pace. Stop for photos, have a wine on a terrace bar, eat where you like and browse the shops.

This was a tip from Meredith, one of the crew we met on our ship (and also from New Zealand) as that’s what they all do she told us, so we went with the expert opinion!

It’s €50 for the buggy or €40 for the quad for the day. A bargain we thought. The double seater buggy had already been booked, so we grabbed a quad bike and with husband driving and me wedged in behind, we set off for the gobsmackingly picturesque end of the island, Oia (pronouced Ee-ya)

3 brilliant things to do on Santorini

You must visit Oia!

Those hero pictures you see of blue domed while buildings under clear blue skies are taken in Oia, the farthest outcrop of Santorini to the north. I was also very pleasantly surprised and utterly delighted at the quality of the shopping. Ok sure, you can find tacky souvenirs if you really want that fridge magnet, but mainly you have local designers and artists selling paintings, sculpture, clothing, jewellery. And yes T-shirts!

I bought a gorgeous handmade ceramic figurine and had it shipped to New Zealand for an extra €35 (her photo is below). She arrived safely!

Santorini Greece

Lunch with a view!

Choose a taverna for lunch, overlooking the ocean with houses dribbling down the hillsides and order hummus, taramasalata, calamari, haloumi cheese, Greek salad and a beer (although probably not all of that just for one). Sublime!

That view!!

I have died and gone to Greek heaven!

Santorini taverna

Try wine tasting on Santorini

Believe it or not there is a wine industry on Santorini. In fact the first vines were planted here 3000 years ago! The soil is volcanic and pumicey and it hardly ever rains, but it is humid.

We found Gaia Wines, (pronounced Yaya meaning life), with a little cellar door of a tasting room out by the airport right on the beach, purely by chance. The whites are dry and salty. I know this from more than just the spiel that Leto, the Greek girl with the Scottish accent gave us, as I had a cold and sinuses had wrecked my taste buds so all I had to go on was tongue tastes – salty, sweet, sour. Yes I could taste the salt from the skins. They also do a fabulous balsamic vinegar. Except they’re not allowed to call it that because it’s not Italy.

Cheers from Gaia!
Gaia Santorini
Wines on the beach at Gaia!

We headed back to the main town of Fira, dropped off the bike, and saw the cable car queue was wrapped around a courtyard and past a bunch of shops. We thought it looked like an hour long, so decided to walk down. I’d not recommend it for anyone without sturdy footwear or dodgy knees. By the time we reached the bottom the last tender boat was arriving and I was gasping for it to end!

Here are some of my pics I took in Santorini. Feel free to pin them using the Pinterest button if you want to share, or better yet, I’d LOVE you to share this post to your Facebook friends. Let them know you’ve picked the next group holiday destination 😉

Splat man
This guy is selling splat balls to gullible tourists
Shopping in Oia
Shops line the narrow paths of Oia
Scooter with a view
Vespa with a view
Santorini church bells
Just another moment
Santorini ships
Our ship, the Vision of the Seas, is the smaller one behind
Santorini alley
How old are these streets?!
Santorini figurine
My figurine who winged her way to New Zealand.
Santorini Oia
You can’t take a bad pic on Santorini 🙂
Santorini Oia in the sun
Annnnd looking in the other direction, using my panorama feature on the iPhone to get it all in
Oia hilltop
It’s congested living on this hilltop
Santorini hibiscus
Just another pano of Santorini
Santorini Greece
Around every corner is a photo op
Santorini blue dome
I think I might frame this one 🙂

If I’ve whet your appetite for a cruise in the Med, read my latest post on what you can expect on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship >>



I arrived in Santorini on the Royal Caribbean ship, Vision of the Seas. Check out their website for Mediterranean itineraries so you too can spend a day here!

About Megan Singleton

Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this travel blog as well as on radio in NZ every Sunday. Former Travel Editor at Yahoo NZ and current freelance writer for a few newspapers and mags from time to time, I set off on this travel writing journey 20 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!) I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for my newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!

"How to do Santorini in a day" - What do you think?

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  1. Fiona Martin on

    Hi Megan
    Your photos are amazing, we are heading off on our trip soon. I was wondering if you just use your phone for photos? Not sure what to take.
    I have a Samsung 7 my husband has an iPhone 6 .

    • Megan on

      Hi Fiona, thanks for your lovely feedback on my photos. I do mainly just use my iPhone 6 and I know the Samsung 7 takes even better photos than that! In Santorini I used my phone and my Panasonic Lumix, but you will be fine with those two phones for fab pics. Just play with the position of the camera and the lighting. Enjoy! Megan


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