Santorini on a Budget: Is it Possible? | Lady & her Sweet Escapes

Nov 22, 2017

Santorini on a Budget: Is it Possible?


Santorini.

How do I even begin to describe Santorini? I still get lost for words whenever I think about this beautiful Greek island and the days we spent in it. 

I know my words won't give justice to this piece of paradise no matter how I try. So, this article will not focus on the reasons why Santorini is one of my dream destinations and why it should be yours too. But rather on how we managed to have a comfortable holiday on a low travel budget in this dreamy and luxurious Greek island!

Santorini budget travel guide


Getting to the island
We had two options to reach Santorini from Athens. One, take the ferry which is a scenic and an economical way, yet would consume a lot of our vacation time. Two, ride an airplane. The latter is time efficient and actually not that expensive if flights are booked in advance.

We purchased Ryanair flights two months before the trip at only 40 Euro each. That costs almost the same as traveling via Blue Star Ferry on Economy for 8 long hours!

ferry to Santorini
Santorini is a volcanic island in the Aegean sea. In this photo is Nea Kameni volcano.

Lady in Santorini
It is in my travel list...

blue-domed church in Santorini
...because of its beautiful sun-bleached villages with pastel-toned houses and azure-domed churches.

Lady and Ed in Santorini
Santorini is a romantic tourist destination.

Santorini travel guide
It is a dreamy little island in the middle of the sea!


Getting to the hotel
Most of our transportation budget in the island went to the private hotel shuttle. We arrived in Santorini at midnight; hence, for convenience we booked airport pick up at 25 Euro, one-way. We also decided to book the same shuttle for drop off in the ferry port.

Getting around the island
We explored Santorini by foot and by public bus. The island has a local bus system which covers all villages in the island. But, the bus routes start and end in the main bus station in Fira. So, if you're traveling from Oia to the Red Beach in Akrotiri, you need to alight in Fira and transfer to another bus. One way bus ticket from Fira to Oia costs 1.80 Euro. 

Visiting the villages on foot is also possible. There is a designated trail for hikers; the most popular is the Fira-Oia route. It is an easy hike which usually takes two hours to cover, but can reach up to four hours depending on your speed.       

Ed and Lady in Santorini
Santorini is known to be an expensive destination. But getting around the island without breaking the bank is possible.

scenic hiking trail in Santorini
Here's Ed in the scenic Fira-Oia hiking trail. We did not spend a Euro for this amazing experience! 

famous church in Oia
The island is a home to a Catholic community.

a popular photo spot in Oia
And this is probably the most photographed blue-domed church in Santorini.


Where to stay in Santorini?
Santorini is popular for luxurious suites. This type of accommodation overlooking the caldera costs a fortune! That's when dilemma stuck. Should we settle in a hostel room in the middle of the village? Or should we splurge just to have a better view to wake up to?

We know for a fact that, with our budget, we couldn't stay in Oia - the most picturesque (and most posh) village in Santorini. So, we expanded our options and noticed a less popular village tucked between Oia and Fira. 

Firostefani also sits along the caldera. It is not as crowded as Fira and accommodations are way cheaper than Oia! It is the perfect village for us! We spent 300 Euro for 3-night stay in Villa Maria Damigou. Although it was priced almost 3 times more than the budget hostel, it has everything that we wanted for our Santorini holiday. Wonderful Greek breakfast, amazing caldera view!   

affordable hotel in Firostefani in Santorini
Firostefani is a quiet village near Fira. Waking up to this view gave us an instant Santorini-state-of-mind
which we probably won't feel if we stayed away from the caldera.

free breakfast in Firostefani hotel
Starting the day with a tasty Greek breakfast with this view is a dream come true!  

Oia in Santorini
This is Oia; Santorini's prettiest village.

accommodation in Oia
For those with money to burn, Oia is the perfect place to stay in.. 

Sisterhood of the traveling pants in Santorini
And this the most recognizable accommodation in Oia:
Lena's home in the movie Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.



Free Things  to do in Santorini
We all know that the best things in life are free. This also applies to Santorini. We never had to shell out a Euro for the best experiences we had in the island!

Hike from Fira to Oia
For adventure enthusiasts, I highly recommend taking the hiking trail. It is totally free and a great way to see the island in a whole new perspective. The journey from Fira to Oia normally takes two hours. But for a slow-walker and for somebody who loves to take photos, we reached Oia after 4 hours.

hiking in santorini
Hiking in Santorini is an unusual and an incredible way to appreciate the island.

ed in fira to oia hiking trail
We followed the rim of the caldera and got treated to an amazing view of the sparkling Aegean sea.

We passed by less popular villages and churches.

It was a chance to drift away from the crowded and touristy spots in the island.

Lady in Oia Santorini
And completing the hike, no matter how long it took, was a fulfillment!


Explore Oia
The stunning photos of Santorini in postcards, books and magazines were mostly taken in Oia. It is the island's most beautiful village, and perhaps the main tourist attraction as well. It is a traditional Greek village with tiers of white and pastel-toned houses, blue domed churches, and windmills. Oia's narrow alleys lead to luxury hotels, restaurants, tourist shops selling souvenirs and designer items, and local homes.

Oia is the most picturesque village of Santorini.
Oia is the most picturesque village of Santorini.

The famous spots often featured in postcards, books and shows are located in Oia.
The famous spots often featured in postcards, books and shows are located in this town.

shops in Oia
It is posh and cosmopolitan. Various tourist shops sell designer items apart from traditional souvenirs.

Oia to Ammoudi Bay
From Oia, we walked down to Amoudi Bay via the donkey trail.
Donkey rides are available, but we preferred not to patronize this activity.
 
taverns in Amoudi bay
Amoudi Bay is a popular venue for seafood lunch.
Amoudi bay in Santorini
It is also a spot for the thrill seekers. Further down this path is a cliff-jumping site.


Watch the sunset
People rave about the sunset in Santorini, particularly when viewed from the Castle or Kastro in Oia. The place was already full-packed when we arrived an hour before sunset. Ed had to tiptoe, peek, and squeeze in a little to get a good shot of the famous sun.

So, what makes sunset in Santorini more special than the rest of the world? I have to say, I've seen countless of perfect sunsets, but it is only in Oia Castle that the golden hour is celebrated. Everyone's attention is in the sun. And staring at the sun for a long time is quite hypnotizing! The more I stare, the more special it looks. It sparkles. It dances. It changes colors! I guess that's what other people saw as well because they clapped and cheered when the sun disappeared into the horizon! 

Watching the sunset in Oia Castle is an experience to remember. But due to the crowd, it is a little less romantic compared to when spent the sundown in a random spot in Fira. On our second day, while walking to our hotel, Ed and I simply stopped along the cliff and quietly watched the sun go down. No crowd. No cheering. Just us and the golden Santorini sunset. And that's when I can finally say I have successfully ticked off #18 in my 20 before 2020 list.  


Oia castle in Santorini
Ask anybody where is the best spot for sunset in Santorini and you'll be directed to this old castle.

Oia during the golden hour.
That's the beautiful village of Oia during the golden hour.
Santorini sunset
The much talked about Santorini sunset viewed from Oia castle! 

sunset watching in Fira
Fira is a less popular sunset spot, which makes it more ideal for romantic sunset viewing!

viewing deck in Fira
Just us and the sunset in a random viewing deck in Fira!


Explore Fira
The capital of Santorini, Fira, is the cultural and the commercial center of the island. It is located on the caldera cliff, opposite the volcanic islands; Palaia Kammeni and Nea Kammeni. Although not as polished as Oia, Fira has its own charm. The lively town has museums, shopping areas, bars and restaurants, and accommodations for all types of budget.

Fira is the modern capital of Santorini.
Fira is the modern capital of Santorini.

Lady in Fira
It built on the edge of the caldera, opposite the volcanic island Nea Kameni.

cable car in Fira santorini
The town center is connected to island's old port by a footpath and telerifik (cable cars).

cable car ride in santorini
Taking the cable car is the most convenient way to visit the Old Port. One way costs 6 Euro/person.

boats in old port
The Old Port is the starting point of excursions and boat rides. There are also taverns and shops in the area. 

shopping in Fira market
We were not able to buy anything in Santorini, but we looked around
 and saw that souvenirs in Fira market are cheaper compared to the ones in Oia and Firostefani.
 



Budget Eats in Santorini
As you are most likely to explore the villages on the cliff with narrow walking paths and steep stairs, it is best to start the day with a healthy Greek breakfast. Ed and I were lucky to stay in a hotel which offered an excellent complimentary breakfast. Our days in Santorini started perfectly with Greek yogurt and honey, bread with jam and butter, eggs, fruit juice and coffee. The breakfast terrace overlooking the caldera is an added bonus!

A huge chunk of our food budget went to our meals in Oia. It's quite hard to find cheap restaurants in this posh village. We spent 32 Euro for a Santorinian salad and a pork rice dish in Lotza, and 55 Euro for wining and dining in Dimitri's in Amoudi Bay. Nevertheless, based on the quality of the food and the amazing views, we felt we got what we paid for.

Sticking to our budget, after splurging for lunch in Oia, we settled with a light and simple dinner in Firostefani. We found a souvlaki shop near the hotel selling cheap gyros and budget-friendly Greek dishes. We only spent 4 Euro for pita souvlaki and water on our first night, 13 Euro for Greek salad, dolmades and souvlaki stick on our second night.         


Breakfast with a view in Santorini
Breakfast with a view in Santorini


Santorinian Salad
Lunch at Lotza in Oia
Santorinian Salad made of local produce: tomatoes, anchovies, capers, cucumbers,  local cheese

pork with beer dish in Santorini
traditional rice dish: pork cooked with beer and honey 

lunch in amoudi bay
Dimitri's: our lunch venue in Amoudi Bay
Grilled octopus in Dimitri's
Grilled octopus in Dimitri's

shrimp saganaki in Dimitri's
Shrimp Saganaki is a must-try!


Off-season Visit
We visited Santorini on the first week of October which is a Shoulder Season. Visiting off-peak has its pros and cons. We saved a lot on transportation and accommodation. The flight, ferry and hotel prices are as much as 50 percent lower than during peak months.

There are still plenty of tourists, but not crowded. The weather is perfect for sightseeing. It is sunny, but not too hot. The sea breeze is chilly especially early in the morning and at night. A bad news for Ed is that the water is already cold; not a good time to visit the beach and to cliff jump in Amoudi.

autumn in Santorini
We were blessed with a great Autumn weather during our trip in Santorini! 

  
Our Total Expenses in Santorini

Details

Expenses in Euro (for two persons)
Accommodation
3-night stay in a deluxe room with a view in Firostefani

300 Euro
Transportation
Flight from Athens, Ferry to Naxos, Bus rides, Hotel shuttle

230 Euro
Activities
All free except for the Cable Car in Fira (6 Euro/person, one-way)

24 Euro
Food
Meal for 2 in a restaurant with a view: 35 Euro average
Budget meal in souvlaki shop: 10 Euro average

150 Euro
Total
704 Euro
Around 3,000 AED for two


And that's how we traveled to Santorini on a budget without compromising comfort and convenience!   


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