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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
I have died and gone to Greek heaven!
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.
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 😉
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 >>