10 Things to Do in Santorini on a Small Budget

Holidays in Santorini Don’t Have to Be Expensive

    You might not think of Santorini as a particularly budget-friendly destination and, to a large extent, you’re right. But that certainly doesn’t make it exclusively for those with plenty of money to burn. It’s possible to enjoy everything that the romantic Greek island is famous for without maxing out your credit cards in the process.

    Fortunately, Santorini is most famous for its black-sand beaches, its views and its sunsets, and all of those are supplied by Mother Nature free of charge. After that, all you need is a few tips on where to stay, where to eat and how to get around. Check out our selection of things to do in Santorini on a small budget and you’ll find plenty of advice on places to look for affordable fun.

    1

    Book a hotel in Fira

    And forgo the caldera view

    While Oia is the most popular place to book a hotel on Santorini, Fira is a lot cheaper as there are more choices available. Fira is the capital town of the island, so it’s much bigger, but it lacks the iconic view of the tiny village of Oia, which is why people tend to overlook it. If you’re willing to go without seeing the view every morning from your balcony, you can save a bit more by booking a hotel in the middle of town. Hotel prices also drop considerably when you’re booking outside of the peak season, so consider planning your trip around March–May or September–November to get the best combination of good weather and low prices.

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    2

    Hike from Fira to Oia

    Take plenty of water, sunscreen and photos

    When it comes to getting around Fira, there are a few budget-friendly options, but the cheapest is to walk. For the most part, the distances and terrain involved make this impractical, but the 3-hour trek between Fira and Oia presents you with some of the most beautiful scenery on any of the Greek islands. At just under 10.5 km, with some rough bits, it’s not exactly a walk in the park. However, the trail is generally clear and passes through a couple of small villages along the way, so you don’t need to be an experienced hiker to attempt it. To avoid the hottest part of the day, it’s best to set off either early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

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    3

    See Oia’s famous 3 blue domes

    Maybe the most photographed buildings in Santorini

    The blue domes of the Agios Spyridonas and Anastaseos churches in Oia are perhaps the most photographed roofs on Santorini. The 2 buildings are right next to each other and are iconic examples of the island’s Cycladic architecture. There are a couple of great viewpoints along the alleyways west of the churches, and they often get crowded towards the end of the day as people secure the best spot for the perfect sunset photo. It’s worth taking the time to look around during the day to find the many great angles.

    Location: Oia 847 02, Greece

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    4

    Do a photoshoot with the local cats

    And support local animal charities

    The island of Santorini is home to about 5,000 cats, though the number fluctuates a lot throughout the year. Most are adorable and approachable, and they make great (if lazy) models for budding photographers. You can capture them sunbathing on walls overlooking the caldera, chilling in the shade of the famous blue domes of the island’s churches, or strutting along the stepped alleys of the villages.

    On the subject of the fluctuating feline numbers, cat lovers can support one of the local organisations running spaying and neutering services to help stabilise the population. When picking your ‘model’, look out for the cats with clipped ears – they’re the ones that have already been treated.

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    5

    Explore Oia Castle

    Arrive early for a great sunset view

    Combining the island’s long and impressive history with stunning sunset views, Oia Castle is one of the most popular places to visit in Santorini. Also known as Fort Londsa, the castle was built some time around the late 15th century as a deterrent to pirate raiders. It was the home of the Venetian rulers of Santorini – the Argyri family. Sadly, the passing centuries and occasional earthquakes have left little of the once-grand structure. What little there is offers a beautiful view out to the western horizon over Amoudi Bay, making it an extremely popular place to watch the sunset from. You’ll have to come quite early in the afternoon if you want to secure the best views.

    Location: Oia 847 02, Greece

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    6

    Cliff jumping at Amoudi Bay

    If you dare!

    Amoudi Bay is a tiny fishing village below Oia, with waterfront cliffs that are a magnet for adrenaline junkies. The water along this rocky shore gets very deep within a very short distance of the cliffs, so it’s a relatively safe spot for testing your mettle (as safe as any 6-metre plunge into the sea can be, anyway). The village itself is a great spot for seafood lunches and sunset drinks. The top cliff-jumping spots are found down the coastal path to the south, around the headland. One of the best (and tallest) cliffs is at the Saint Nicholas Chapel, which is on a tiny off-shore island, just a short swim away.

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    7

    Get around on the KTEL buses

    It’s convenient, but often crowded

    The narrow alleyways of the main towns and villages of Santorini are obviously best explored on foot, but getting between villages would require long, challenging hikes. Fortunately, there’s a pretty good bus service on the island. Rides on the KTEL buses start from just €1.80 and tops out around €2.50. They even operate well into the night, though with slightly increased ticket prices. The downside is that the buses get very busy during the high season, so you might have a long wait to get a seat. Also, there’s no circular route around the island, so most journeys will have to go via the Central Bus Station in Fira.

    Location: Mitropoleos St, Fira 847 00, Greece

    Phone: +30 2286 025404

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    photo by Alf van Beem (CC0 1.0) modified

    8

    Trek up to Ancient Thera

    The view alone is worth the climb

    The ancient city of Thera once dominated the peak of Mésa Vounó, the hill in the southeast corner of Santorini. Relatively few buildings remain standing, beyond foundations and short walls, but those few are interesting to look around. The Agora (public square) in the town centre is in particularly good condition. The view across Perissa and Kamari beaches is spectacular, but be prepared for strong winds on the exposed hilltop. Getting up there is quite a challenge as it involves driving up a winding road (including 22 U-turns), paying a small entrance fee and then hiking the last 600 metres to the town. It’s worth the journey, though, as it’s a lot less crowded than the ancient ruins of Akrotiri. If you visit on the last weekend in September or the first Sunday of each month between November and March, you can get in for free.

    Location: Epar.Od. Mesarias-Archeas Thiras, Santorini 847 00, Greece

    Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 8am to 3pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +30 2286 023217

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    photo by Klearchos Kapoutsis (CC BY 2.0) modified

    9

    Eat near Akrotiri

    Enjoy tasty local food at fair prices

    Food is probably going to end up being one of the biggest expenses on your trip to Santorini since many of the restaurants around the popular villages and towns charge a small fortune for fairly underwhelming meals. While you’ll find a few good, cheap places in Fira, the best value for money is found further south. The food served by some of the local, family-run tavernas just north of Akrotiri is among the finest you’ll find on Santorini and comes at very reasonable prices. Be on the lookout for Aeolos Tavern, Theofanis Family Tavern and The Good Heart, among others.

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    10

    Watch the sunset

    Take your pick of the best spots

    Santorini is famous for its stunning sunsets and, thankfully, they’re completely free. There are plenty of fantastic spots to enjoy the show from, with the most famous (and most popular) being the village of Oia. Some of the more romantic options include the Akrotiri Lighthouse and Skaros Rock, near Imerovigli, though both will require some kind of transport or a long walk to reach. Wherever you choose, it’s best to get there and settled a little in advance to secure a good spot ahead of the crowds.

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    Ben Reeves | Compulsive Traveller

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