Previous Next

Photo: Joye~

Two summers on the Greek island qualifies Liv Hambrett to tell you what to do…and what not to.
1. Don’t… expect Ios/Mykonos

Santorini is not a party island (necessarily). Yes, you will find clubs in the towns of Fira and Kamari (and, to be honest, I’ve had some big nights on Perrisa’s beachfront) but Santorini is not famed for its round-the-clock partying the way the islands of Ios and Mykonos are.

Do… love Santorini for that fact

Part of the charm of the island lies in its relaxed, have-a-frappe vibe. If you want a party, you’ll find one, but I suggest you take off your watch, put your feet up, and just savour the slow pace.

Perissa — the black sand village — offers the best of both worlds; chill out by the pool with a strawberry colada at Soul Bar or enjoy live music on the beachfront at Yazz. If the dancing mood strikes you, head to Beach Bar around 2AM.

2. Don’t… do a tour

There are loads of tours on Santorini: volcano tours, hot spring tours, boat tours. But the hot springs aren’t particularly hot (and the sulfur content is very high) and a closeup of the volcano is less spectacular than the view from afar.

Santorini is a diverse island that I find can’t be properly appreciated on a run-of-the-mill tour. You have to roll your sleeves up and dig in.

Do… create your own

Hire a quad bike, a car, or a scooter and start driving. It’s one of my favourite things to do on the island. You can cover top to bottom in a day and it would be difficult to get lost on an island of ankle-high grape shrubs and beaches.

With the wind on your windshield, you will see more of what the island has to offer, from cranky donkeys (not just the ones lugging tourists through Fira) to the island’s resident seal (he’s in a cave somewhere; ask someone in the know) to 10-metre rock piles in clear, turquoise water.

If you do take a wrong turn on your way home, pull over and watch the sun set — it’s beautiful, no matter where you are on the island.

3. Don’t… think the island is just Oia and Fira

Oia and Fira are Santorini’s most-photographed villages, for good reason. Blue-domed white houses draped with fuchsia bougainvillea, built into cliff faces and set against the backdrop of the endless Aegean. It’s hard to take a bad shot.

But there is a lot more to the island than just views of the caldera and pastel cliff houses. Make sure you see all the colours of Santorini — not just the white and blue.

Do… realise it’s so much more

Sunbathe on a ruby red beach. Have lunch on Perissa’s famous black beach or, for a touch more ‘surf’ and some ancient rock formations, explore Vlychada’s white beach.

Cliff jump in Amoudi Bay. Walk to a tiny church on top of the huge rock separating the villages of Kamari and Perissa. Gorge yourself at a traditional taverna in Akrotiri, your table on a pier that juts out into the flat Aegean sea. Go looking for old cave houses in Emporio. Find secret beaches near the airport. Cycle along roads for miles without seeing a another person.

4. Don’t… spend a fortune on a meal with a view

In general, the more touristed a village, the more expensive. You’ll pay more to eat and drink in Fira than you would in, say, Perissa. And paying more doesn’t mean it will be better food.

One thing I learned pretty quickly is that on this island you pay for location and view as much as you do your meal.

Do… get it for cheap as chips

You’ll find some traditional tavernas in Megalochori, Vlychada, and Perissa where the food is excellent and moderately priced. Try God’s Garden in Perissa, where the moussaka is as close to perfect as I’ve had. Or the lamb plate at Xani’s on Perissa’s main road — a generous portion for just 5€.

Dimitri’s in Vlychada is unassuming to look at, but serves up excellent seafood. And being that Santorini is such a beautiful and varied island, you can have great views from almost anywhere.

5. Don’t… expect everything to go smoothly

You’re on a Greek island so — take it from me — time is irrelevant. If something breaks, it will get fixed. If not tomorrow, maybe the next day. Or the next. Don’t sweat it.

The same goes for the water supply. Santorini’s is taken care of by very large trucks that rumble through every week and replenish residences. If you run out before it’s water day, you’ll just have to wait. Have a swim. I find the high salt content of the Aegean to be quite cleansing.

Photo: atayxw

Do… as the Greeks do

Take it easy. Whenever I’m on the island, I take great pleasure in spending an inordinate amount of time drinking a frappe. I nap in the afternoons and sleep-in. I eat as if every meal is my last, particularly any of Santorini’s specialties like fried tomato balls or fava, and I drink the light, local wine like it’s going out of style.

Then I eat some more. I shrug, Greek style (which involves both a shoulder and a mouth shrug) if the bus, boat, or donkey is late. Or if it takes a village 90 minutes to organise a boat to ferry us away from a rockslide.

But most of all, I don’t plan my days. I just sit back with my frappe, put my feet up, and see what happens.


Visit our Matador destination page for Greece to find out who’s there, who’s an expert, and to read community blog posts.

What NOT to do


  • Harvey

    NIce bit o’ escapism right there!

  • Sayo

    lovely article!!

  • Photokak

    great article . But you should try Chios Island that is not so much mass turism

  • Suzanne Allen

    I just can’t wait.

  • Marijean Cromwell Skiba

    I’m going in October….this is helpful.

    • Scott De La Sierra

      great guide, cant wait. Were going in October too! :]

  • Marijean Cromwell Skiba

    Farmers market woodbury

  • Ana Semedo


  • Denise Stevenson

    from what I read, its prob best NOT to take a donkey ride, as it is very very very cruel. Why don’t they stop this practice.

    • Alexis Palladas

      actually man its quite the opposite. i had the same impression as you, but after talking to the locals i got it. even the fattest turist is actually holidays for the donkeys. this is their time of since in winter they are used to carry building material allover the caldera, so they can build all those houses with no road access

  • Rick Baker

    The highlight of our trip to Santorini was the cruise on the Thalassa. We also enjoyed a day with a rental car touring the island; red, white & black beaches plus Oia. The sunset sailboat ride is not to be missed!

  • catherine iblan

    Thanks for the tips. I can’t wait to visit Santorini! Now, I’m regretting that we’re only staying there for 3 days. Such a short time it seems!

Matador’s destination expert on Uruguay lays out the country’s avoidable...
Matador’s destination expert on Guadeloupe lays out the Caribbean archipelago’s...
Matador's destination expert on Egypt lays out the country's avoidable attractions...and...
Melbourne native Rebecca Kinsella shares her tips on how best to experience her home city.
Stephen Lioy advises on some of the country's avoidable attractions...and what you should...
Mary Richardson breaks down the island's avoidable attractions...and what you should do...
Eman Ramos lays out his hometown's avoidable attractions...and what you should do instead.
Matador’s NYC-based managing editor, Julie Schwietert, lays out the city’s avoidable...
Matador’s destination expert on Paris lays out avoidable attractions in the City of...
Most pubs close at 11:30pm on weeknights and 1am on weekends. Something about curbing...
Matador's destination expert on Japan lays out the country's avoidable attractions...and...
Matador’s destination expert on Oslo, Norway, lays out the country’s avoidable...