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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.

I’d happily come back to for a week! Although this time it would be a swimming, sunning, reading, eating and drinking kind of holiday, rather than scamper around like we did in just one day.

Santorini pink wall
Crammed but cute living quarters!

If you do happen to be planning a week – or longer – in Santorini, here are 11 Santorini hotels with pools that you might want to check out!

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!

Beautiful Santorini
Pin this to your Pinterest Travel board!

In the meantime, here is a great post on how to decide which Greek islands to choose.

But if you have only one day on Santorini here are 4 things to know:

1: Disembark the ship early.

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 had to take a number and it could be hours until we were on terra firma.

2: Take the Cable Car up to Fira

Plan to spend €6 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 can be a massively long line for the cable car coming down so the first time I visited, we’d left our descent too late and we ended up walking down. Jelly legs from 25 minutes doing thigh lunges, let me tell you! The next time, we spent time having aperol spritzes in a restaurant in Fira while the line died down.

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

3: Rent a buggy or quad bike

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 was €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)

4: Rent a Bambina

On our second visit we booked a Bambina for the day, and my cousins booked another one, and we added two more people in the back of each. It was a squeeze! We drove to Oia (see below – the hero village you’ll want to go to, but verrry crowded). Then we tootled around the island and found a winery for a cheeky tasting.

I had my heart set on driving a little Bambina, but it was quite hard to find. There are several rental car companies in Fira, where the cruise ships come in, so have a Google and you can walk to pick it up. We used Get Santorini Car Rental and they were great.

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 here. 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!

If you’re looking for more things to do in Oia, like where to find the best spots for that Instagram photo or how to find steps down to the beach, you’ll need to read this post.

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 >>



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Fiona Martin

Sunday 29th of April 2018

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 . Regards Fiona


Sunday 29th of April 2018

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

Jan Lawrance

Sunday 10th of September 2017

We are on Naxos Island today, Santorini tomorrow, nice timing for me to have a read of your blog.


Sunday 10th of September 2017

Oh fabulous! What's Naxos like?

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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!