Flying to Santorini direct or through Athens – pros and cons
The Santorini adventure begins even before you step on the island. Getting here is a quest, especially if you come from outside Europe – embrace the adventure and soak in the most of it! You read the title, today we’ll look at some basic pros and cons for choosing whether to fly directly to Santorini or to the capital Athens first. I’m by no means an expert, but here’s some of my own thoughts sprinkled with some things I’ve heard from the couples I’ve photographed over the years.
Direct flight to Santorini
- Many times these end up costing more money, the companies know that Santorini is a hot destination so they adjust their airfare accordingly.
- Flying direct you obviously save some time spent in the airports
- These days airport worker strikes might occur – these people are fighting for better payment terms and that’s fine but you might get caught in the middle. So if you choose to fly direct, you minimise the chance of being stuck in an airport.
- The island weather is a bit unpredictable, so you might have a bit of a rough flight if you come from overseas and the landing can’t be scheduled for a later time. Nothing serious, but if you’re not too comfortable with some turbulence, Athens will probably be more smooth sailing.
Flight through Athens
- Well, you get to see Athens! That is, if you plan it right. I would recommend staying there for a day or two, best at the end of your travel – it’s a vibrant city with rich history and you can only gain more from your travels.
- If you end up doing it, it of course comes with some costs, generally short hotel stays will be more expensive than longer package deals.
- If you go for a simple layover without staying, you might save some money on the airfare expenses.
- As said before, you have a bit more risk to get stuck in the airport due to strikes. In this case you could choose ferry for alternative travel option.
- There’s also a slight possibility that your luggage can be lost. On long overseas flights that happens more often. Nothing is lost at the end, but you might arrive to Santorini and have to wait for your bag to catch up :)
So here’s some things to consider. Of course, do your own research for precise dates before choosing, but these should serve as general pointers on what to look out for.
Santorini located photographer Anna Sulte
The ultimate Santorini Instagram spot list – the best places to level up your profile
This small island in the Aegean Sea could be the most Instagramable place on earth – there are small alleys, white church domes, cliffs and lots of other picturesque places and small details literally everywhere you go. But some places are true gems, and today you get the insider knowledge on where to head to take your Instagram game to the next level!
The Red Beach of Santorini is the perfect place for your laid back exploring shots while getting your tan on. This is a volcanic island and the red color of the sand is the proof for it – the red sand is literally formed from the elements remaining from the volcanic eruptions that formed the whole island, how cool is that!?
Oia Blue Domes and Oia crosses
The Oia church domes and the cross are among the most essential Santorini views. The traditional cathedral has nice views and the essential Santorini architecture look. The most daring even go up to the cross – be careful, this is more dangerous than it looks. The best time to arrive is early afternoon, when there’s not so many people around.
This place is usually crowded in sunsets, and it’s for a good reason! The views from there are majestic. Here’s a pro Instagram tip – instead of lining up with hordes of tourists, get up nice and early and go for the sunrise, it’s even more beautiful!
Keep an eye out for the unique doors all over the island. It’s a great opportunity to frame portraits and get creative. The best thing is that there are hundreds of them and you can discover new ones every day! Watch these types of details and you’ll be amazed of the little things.
Other honorable mentions
There are many other really good Santorini Instagram spots, here’s a small rundown of the remaining essential ones: Amoudi Bay, Imerovigli steps and of course the wonderful small streets of Eborio or Pyrgos. These are some of the top places, but I encourage you to stay curious and look around everywhere you go in Santorini, there are hidden unknown gems everywhere – I live here and I never run out of things to photograph :)
Photos by Anna Sulte, photographer based in Santorini
CHECKLIST OF SOME STUFF TO REMEMBER BEFORE YOUR
TRIP TO SANTORINI
It’s all about the journey, not the destination. That’s probably one of the least true quotes ever, at least in the era of plane travel it IS totally about the destination. The journey is just a huge mess of a million things to remember and some pitfalls to avoid to make sure you get to your destination with the least amount of stress and effort possible.
Well, today is your lucky day, because I might help your life become just a tiny bit less stressful with this simple checklist of some things to remember when setting out for travelling to Greece, Santorini. This will be especially useful for all you guys taking those long international flights (i.e. enjoying the journey the most I guess :) ).
All things aside, here’s a simple list of some stuff. Feel free to print and checkmark. Remember your:
- International drivers license
- Credit card with no international fees
- Call and notify credit card company and bank of travel
- Download viber (or any other international communication app)
- Update music on phone or MP3 player (yeah, the no-internet life is still a reality in some places)
- Scan, print and add to iBooks app (great to avoid losing your ID info if the physical documents are lost or forgotten):
- Divers license
- Detailed itinerary
- Hotel information – addresses and phone numbers
- Ferry information – boat names, reservation numbers, times and gate numbers
- Be sure to download all flight company apps and save your tickets there digitally, for a super safe option you can also print them.
This should cover most of the bases for you. Also, if you’re from outside EU, you’ll probably thank yourself for bringing some nice sleeping gear – get one of those neck pillows, they save lives! Also, forget your high fashion, do the flight in sweatpants or even pijamas for super extra comfort.
Explore a different side of Santorini in wintertime
Sure, the season is ending on the Santorini island, but that can be used to see a different, more authentic side of this Greek island. Let me share a couple of tips on how to come offseason, save some money and still get an awesome experience.
The type of traveler this is for
It really comes down to what you expect from your visit. Offseason Santorini is more suited to the people looking for a quiet getaway rather that someone looking for partying. Most of the bars and restaurants close down, some of the more authentic ones visited by locals are open.
What to do
The number one activity in this time is active exploring, especially nature hikes. This is the time when Santorini is not crowded by tourists and you can get a more genuine feel about life on the island.
You will have the chance to see some of the most impressive views that are not blocked by crowds, and this also means there’s lots of good photo opportunities – what is not often shared in this blog is the way we have to struggle to not include tourists in some of the in-season couple shoots we do :)
That being said, there’s still some tourist activities going on all year. You will probably still be able to arrange a horse riding trip or go diving (don’t worry, the wetsuits will keep you warm and toasty). The number one thing to check for in a hotel is whether they have a hot tub – this gives you a chance to spend your evenings enjoying life with a bit of wine and sunsets.
In short, there’s still plenty of places to explore and stuff to do, but you have to be active and spend some time planning. If you’re up for that, Santorini will reward you with an authentic experience.
Santorini vacation photographer Anna Sulte
MAGNIFICENT town OF FIRA – THE CAPITAL OF SANTORINI
Fira is, of course, the gem of the island of Santorini. If the time of your stay here on the island is limited for some reason, you can just visit it and really take in the various opportunities and sights it has to offer. It lies on the caldera opposite the volcano, so you can be sure that the views will be no less than awesome. However, it does not end there – Fira has much more!
The town has loads of museums, galleries and hosts many cultural events. Moreover, it also has the biggest shopping centre and a large choice of places to dine and entertain – this is the place where nightlife is bustling on the island of Santorini.
The town has one of the largest varieties of architecture and variuous cultural landmarks that have preserved from the times when the island was ruled by Turks as well one of the oldest, largest and most scenic ports in Santorini.
If you’re looking for the perfect village for all sorts of activities and want to enjoy a big selection of various restaurants, hotels and places for entertainment, Fira is probably the perfect place for you!
Santorini photography by Anna Sulte, Thera based photographer.
Different Santorini – Volthonas village
Today on my blog post series of the various villages of Santorini it’s time to look at a small rock village 6km away from Fira – the Volthonas village.
It has been called one of the places with the most different architecture on the island – many villages in Santorini offer the classical small buildings built on cliff sides and the occasional captain’s house or cave house here and there, but Volthonas leaves a different impression. The local craftsmen here were very worried about storms, so they have adapted the village to tough weather in all sorts of ways. This creates a special feel of the places, where the unique layout merge with the traditional Santorini style houses and perfect little domed churches.
If you go to Volthonas, don’t forget to take a look at the oldest church of the village – Agia Anna, which dates back to 1827. It’s most beautiful detail is inside – it has a wonderful carved wooden panel which portrays scenes from the Old Testament. If you’re looking to stretch your legs, you can take the 20 min walk to the Panagia Trypa chapel, which is located on the edge of a cliff – the beauty of its location and the chapel itself will be the best reward.
Santorini photographer Anna Sulte, vacation photographer in Greece
Karterados – the village with beautiful cave homes
Next stop on my Santorini village series is the colorful village of Karterados which is about 15 min walking distance from the capital of the island – Fira.
This village is quite old and definitely has its own face – the oldest homes are carved into rocks in various caves, the main square has a beautiful traditional windmill, which has become one of the symbols of the village.
It has all the extras you can wish for – restaurants, cafes, a couple of bakeries and even a shopping area with a supermarket as well as a tennis club.
If you walk to the main square and take a left turn after it, you’re in for a treat – this is the start of Steps of Galaios, a small neighborhood with cobble stone streets, beautiful Captains houses and the cave houses for which this village is well-known.
YOU MIGHT HAVE ALREADY GOT A
SNEEK PEEK AT SANTORINI – SOME FAMOUS FILMS THAT
SHOW OFF THE BEAUTY OF THE ISLAND
Have I already told you that Santorini is a fantastic place? Many film directors seem to think the same – that is why this small Greek island has already shown off some of its looks in a couple of films. Maybe you have already seen a part of this island and just have not noticed it? Or maybe you’re looking for the perfect film to get you into the sunny Greek mood before your trip? Take a look at this list!
Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003)
This is probably the most popular films in which you can see the classic Caldera and small Greek houses that are enjoyed by tourists and lovers alike. Have to say that the scene is rather brief, but memorable – it’s right at the beginning of the film, when a Greek wedding is interrupted by an earthquake (quite fitting, since the whole island was created by a massive volcano eruption and seismic activity thousands of years ago).
Summer Lovers (1982)
A bit old and unknown, but this shows off all the Greek island beauty. It’s a film about an American couple who meet a French woman on their tour to Greek islands and they develop a kind of love triangle relationship. For people who are looking for something romantic and hot for their holiday start.
The sisterhood of travelling pants (2005) and the sisterhood of Travelling Pants 2
A light and cheerful film about four best friends who each head out to different places on the globe and have a rather amusing plan of how to stay connected – sharing that perfect pair of yeans that fit each of them ideally. Choose this if you’re not looking for something too serious, maybe with a glass of Greek wine.
This should get you ready for your trip. Athough no film can capture the beauty of the place you see in person, but they’re a good start to get into the right travel mood.
Vacation photographer Anna Sulte 2016
BAUTIFUL LITTLE BROTHER OF FIRA – THE FIROSTEFANI VILLAGE OF SANTORINI
If you are looking for a smaller village to stay in Santorini, you are in luck – Firostefani might be just what you need! This little gem lies to the North of Fira and it in many ways has a lot of similarities to it, only it comes in a smaller package.
You might be dreaming of the total seclusion on a small Greek island, but once you come to Santorini, you’ll soon find out that the bigger villages are bustling with life, especially during the tourism season. That’s why smaller village like Firostefani that lies right next to a bigger one (Fira) are a safe bet to combine the best of both worlds – it is small, yet it has lots of restaurants etc. and it even has the magnificent view of the volcano and caldera!
There are still many hotels to choose from in Firostefani to suit everyone’s needs. The village itself has its own charm of a smaller place in which time has a different flow than in the more bustling villages.
Firostefani is the place if you’re looking for the views and comfort and yet want a more relaxed and calm holiday stay. Of course, the island of Santorini is small – if you want to go clubbing in the bigger villages all of a sudden, it is not a problem to get a taxi and ride there in no time!
Santorini photography by Anna Sulte.
portrait/vacation photographer on Santorini.
VILLAGES OF SANTORINI – Megalochori
As part of my Santorini village blog series, it is time to explore the unique Megalochori village. This is one of the oldest villages on the island – the first records mentioning the island date back to the 17th century. It lies less than 10 km away from Fira, but it has its own characteristics and vibe.
Not only is it old, it is super scenic as well. It is all you could dream of when coming to a small Greek village – narrow streets that lead up hills littered with small little white houses with small enclosed gardens, and some magnificent classic Greek churches in between it all. You can really get lost in the labyrinth of the small streets here, very often you might end up in some place serving the local wine which is of top quality. The famous Boutari winery is widely known in all of Greece – the local volcanic soil really makes Santorini one of the most unique vine grape growing regions on the planet, and Megalochori is a great place to explore the wine culture of the small island of Santorini.
When your small street labyrinth walk leads you to the main square, it is definitely time to enjoy a tasty meal in one of the local taverns found there. The locals here are really active and this is a vibrant place even after the tourism season ends. So, if you ever want to feel a taste of the Greek lifestyle, you can go there in autumn as well. If you’re looking for an authentic winery experience, it is worth taking a look around on various volunteering websites – the local wine grape growers sometimes post job postings during the grape harvest. Who knows – maybe you were meant to be a wine grower on this Greek island!?
THINGS YOU MUST EXPERIENCE IN GREECE IN YOUR LIFETIME
Many of us make these bucket lists of the things to do in our lifetime, and I thought I could give you a few ideas of some awesome things and places to experience in Greece and the island of Santorini. This country has a lot of surprises you might not have known before so read on and who knows – you might add some of these to your list! Of course, Greece has lots to offer, but here’s a few to get you started.
Once in a lifetime experience in the cradle of modern Western culture and democracy – Athens
Athens has been continuously voted as the best travel destination in Europe, and not without ground. This was the home of some of the most influential and well-known European thinkers, playwrights and historians. Apart from knowing all the grand history of the place, you really get a sense of heritage and grandeur when walking the streets of modern Athens.
Visit the unique Greek islands
The island of Santorini is great of course, but it is not the only Greek island with unique character. In fact Greece has around 1600 of them – although a big part is uninhabited, there are still lots to visit and discover! You could include the island of Symi and the island of Syros and the island of Skopelos – they each have a lot to offer and their diversity is amazing!
Fancy a wine tasting with spectacular view?
It might sound simple, but wine tastings in Santo Wines take it to another level. You will have the chance to taste more than 18 vines with great cheese and view to top it off. Wine tastings do not get better than this.
Never stop searching for your next adventure and be sure to add more and more to your list. As Hellen Keller put it, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” Don’t stop wondering and I’ll see you soon.
THE MESSARIA VILLAGE – AT THE CROSSROADS OF SANTORINI
Hello, all! Today I thought I should get on with my introduction of the amazingly varied Santorni villages. Some might think that every village on Greek islands is similar, but I think this is very far from the truth, that is why I have devoted a whole series of blog posts to highlight what is unique about each of the villages of the small Greek island of Santorini. I think today it’s time to dive into Messaria village.
Messaria lies at the crossroads of all the roads connecting other villages, that is why you could call it the heart of Santorini – you can hardly avoid going through it even if you want to drive to other village! Today it is a much more peaceful place, but during the 19th century Messaria was a real center of industry – you can still see it in the architecture. The traditional cave houses and white houses are mixed in stately homes and the impressive landmark of the Markezinis building, which used to be a very prominent knitting factory.
Messaria is a real vineyard village, and nowadays it is its primary feature. Here you can really get a taste of the original Santorini vine, which has a real distinct taste due to the special volcanic soil on the island. Santorini was formed during a volcanic eruption and that is why it is very hard to find a more unique vine growing region than Messaria and its surroundings – the vine here is truly one of a kind, and vine tasters around the world enjoy its exquisite flavor.
The heart of Santorini is really an apt name for this place because it really is a lively village – it has a big population and therefore it has more shops, restaurants, supermarkets etc. then Caldrea villages like Firostefani or Imerovigli, and they all work throughout the year since the majority of the population is formed by locals. Very often many street vendors offer the freshest fish, vegetables, fruit, plants and other local produce on the crossroads from their parked trucks – if you are looking for a place to shop in for local foods then Santorini , Messaria is really the place for you!
Santorini portrait photographer Anna Sulte
PYRGOS – THE HIGHEST VILLAGE OF SANTORINI
Today as part of the blog post series exploring the different villages of Santorini we are going to embark on a little excursion to Pyrgos – the village that can be found on the highest point of the island.
The location of Pyrgos is really one of its best assets – there are stunning panoramic views of the whole island nearly from everywhere you go. Of course, the village also has stunning classical Greek architecture typical to fortress settlements of the Cylades, that is why it has been declared a protected settlement in 1995. This is also one of the five places where you can see castle ruins – the ruins of Kasteli Castle. At one point, Pyrgos became the capital of the island (after the Skaros Castle was abandoned in the 18th century and right before the current capital – Fira – was chosen).
It is no wonder that Pygos has been declared a protected settlement – its architecture is a true gem! The village is full of traditional architecture, remains of neo-classical mansions, it has the romantic narrow winding paths on the hillside, small white houses, galleries, vineyards, churches which are all illuminated by the magical sunsets at this part of the island.
Every sunset here is a little celebration. I really suggest you head up from the main square in the direction of Zannos Melathron and up – there you will discover a few hillside cafes with great wine – here you can indulge in a quiet meditation and watch as another evening sets over the island from the highest point.
Pyrgos is really worth a visit. This post only scratches the surface of the special feeling you get while being there. Be adventurous, pack your bag and embark on a journey there! Make sure you charge the battery of your camera, because you will want to take some snaps of the panoramic views all the time – guaranteed!