This blog post was updated on October 11, 2018.
It is easily Greece’s most recognizable island, immortalized in photographs and film with its whitewashed buildings, blue domes and deep sapphire sea. Santorini is one of the most visited islands in Greece for its very look and feel. When I set foot on Santorini for the first time a few weeks ago, I too was mesmerized by the island’s alarmingly beautiful appearance. However, as a traveler, there were those things I wish I knew about the island before I visited that would have changed my experience for the better. If you have always dreamt of transporting yourself to those blue domes of Santorini, here are a few things you might want to know before you make the trip.
Pack light or struggle with the stairs: Easily the most photographed spot in Santorini is the town of Oia. Clinging to the cliffs, the city lays out on what would appear to be several staircases. In fact, most hotels in the main towns of Oia and Fira are perched in such steep locations that you will have to arrange your check-in ahead of time to have someone come and pick up your bags. Before I traveled to Santorini, I wish I knew this very fact. The island is not the easiest to maneuver around, especially if you don’t pack light. If you want to avoid thighs aching over all of the stairs that Santorini holds, it is best to pack light for the island.
Don’t expect to flush toilet paper: The image of Santorini is that of the ultimate honeymoon. It exudes romance with days spent just roaming picture perfect streets and catching the sunset each and every evening. However I didn’t fully grasp the water problems on the island, especially when it came to the sewer system. Every restroom that I came across on the island strongly discouraged the traveler from throwing their toilet paper in the toilet. If there is a trashcan next to the toilet, most hotels and tourist sites expect you to throw your toilet paper in the trash or you might cause some flooding and embarrassment in the process.
Get up early at least once to see the sunrise: Santorini’s time to shine is at sunset. Hordes crowd around cafes and cliff side perches to capture the sun fading from day into night. While Santorini sunsets are an iconic experience to have while in Greece, you shouldn’t forget about the sunrises. Not only will you be able to enjoy Santorini at sunrise without throngs of tourists, but you will also get to see the island in a whole new light.
Watch out for ATVs and scooters: We rented a car on the island in order to see it from end to end. Little did I know, the thing to do on Santorini is to rent an ATV or a scooter. Most of the roads were clogged with these vehicles, driven by those who clearly weren’t used to the Greek sun judging by the color of their sunburns. If you are going to drive on Santorini, it is best to be aware that you will share the road with plenty of slow moving ATVs and scooters.