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Must Do vs. Disappointment in Santorini and Paros

Hello!
My husband and I are traveling to Santorini (Sept 28-Oct 2) and Paros (Oct 2-8) later this year from the US. After reading and reading and reading, I'm ready to ask for specific recommendations. This is our belated honeymoon as well as what we're calling our "gateway to Greece" trip, meaning we know to expect tourists, tourism and that Santorini will be $$$$ and we are OK with that, as its hopefully 1 of many bucket list trips. We plan to come back and add a little more Greek culture and knowledge every time.

That being said, we're staying just outside of Oia and just outside of Naoussa and looking for your must do's/can't miss or disappointments. We're willing to get around the island as needed.

Here's where I'm looking for your insights:
1) We're foodies and not opposed to spending our entertainment budget on a nice meal out. We understand fish will be priciest. We'd spend up to 250USD on an amazing meal, but would also take your $10 gyro recommendations too! Don't forget coffee shops/bakeries too!
2) We're looking for best guided tour options, whether that be land (private driver) or sea (catamaran or similar).
3) What other "experiences" have you enjoyed? Cooking class, winery, spa, pottery making, etc?
4) What, if anything, should we be looking to purchase? On those 2 islands will it be easy to find locally made items?

Thanks!

Hi There,

Santorini: Definitely take a sunset catamaran tour. La Maison is splurge worthy for dinner. Lunch at Dimitris in Ammoudi Bay. Sunset drinks at PK Cocktail Bar. Lunch or dinner at Aktaion.

Paros: Dinner at Sigi Ikthios. Drinks at Sante. Rent an ATV and take it on the short ferry to Antiparos where you can swim & eat lunch at Captain Pipinos.

I didn't do much shopping, so I unfortunately can't help you there. Have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
11368 posts

I am not a shopper either but did purchase some nice pottery on Paros and Crete. The shop was in a town on Paros that was way up a hill. Maybe Lefkes? On Santorini I bought a small ceramic tile of cactus that can be hung on the wall. I bought it directly from the artist at her shop. Not a fan of Santorini, a huge disappointment, but I do like my tile. Must do, drive all way around the island of Paros.
I know some posters pack bubble wrap to use to bring breakables home.
We never take guided tours preferring to rent cars to explore on our own so no cooking classes, spa etc. We love checking out the small towns.
I am not home to look in my files but we never had one bad meal while in Greece, fresh caught fish and salads were our main stays. We ate at 5* and at the very most basic places, and all were very good, prices varied but the food was always delicious and fresh.

Posted by
991 posts

I am in Greece now having spent three nights and two days in Santorini last week. I really enjoyed Santorini, frankly much more than I expected. There are few general tips that helped us navigate the crowds, plus some recommendations based on your specific questions.

General Tips:

  • Look at the cruise ship schedule and plan your visits to Oia and Fira around those schedules. For example, we visited Oia a day in which there were no cruise ships. We visited early in the day, before 9:00 a.m. and had much of the town to ourselves. When there are a lot of cruise ships in port, look to visit other parts of the island with less traffic or as one of the forum members recommended take the catamaran cruise. This tactic allowed us to see a more relaxed and less crowded Santorini.
  • Travel time: buses are very convenient, but they require some planning, especially if you are outside of Fira and Oia. Allow your self enough time to get to places. We found it easy to arrange a transport with our hotel when we weren’t taking buses. In every case, it required cash.

Food & Wine

  • Highly recommend a food tour. Forum member recommended Eat & Walk Santorini Food Tour. There are daytime and evening tours (we took the evening tour) starting in Firostefani and ending in Fira. Our guide Lena took us to some amazing small eateries and make recommendations for the rest of the trip.
  • Wine tasting. There are a lot of options, including taking a tour. For us, we visited Santos Winery on our own. We enjoyed the tasting which comes with a selection of meat, cheese, and fruit. It is a lovely place to see the sunset (for that make reservations). We also visited Venetsanos which also has a lovely sunset view and more options for food, including the fava bean spread, tomato fritters, and Santorini Salad. Up near you in Oia is Domaine Sigalas, one of the original wineries to introduce Santorini wines to the US.
  • Melitini is a traditional cake make around Easter, however, there are a few bakeries that still make them during the year. Ask your hotel which ones are making them when you are in town. These are tarts whose name means sweet like honey and uses fresh unsalted cheese mixed with flour, eggs, sugar, vanilla, a mastic powder. One of the best things I ate on the island.

Tours

  • Private Ala Carte Sunset Tour with Kostas Sakavaras, a local tour guide recommended by Rick Steves. Kostas lives in Santorini and showed us some of the more rural parts of Santorini. In addition, we had him take us to Akrotiri, the Cycladic Bronze aged ruin. It was a fascinating tour. He also took us the Venetsanos winery for sunset. Kostas is warm and friendly and very knowledgeable, when we visit again, we will take another tour with him. A couple of notes if you book Kostas, book early as like most of the Rick Steves recommended guides, Kostas books up early. Also, after your deposit, the rest of the tour is paid in cash.

Shopping

  • Not a big shopper. The one thing I wished I had purchased and didn’t is the grape compote. It is whole white grapes in a rich (almost caramelized syrup) a wonderful accompaniment to Greek Coffee. I am now scrambling in Athens to try to find some. Also, the Santorini capers are spectacular and I wished I had purchased those.

Hope this helps. Enjoy your trip.

Posted by
2025 posts

Are you planning to rent a car? Any advice about things to do, see, or buy also depends on the means of transport you will have, knowing that in October the bus schedules are limited and you will be staying in Santorini at Oia, and in Paros near of Naoussa which are not the “hub” of the bus network.

As for the restaurant budget, €250 is the amount you can spend for 2 people for 4 days, eating very well for lunch and dinner, but especially if you avoid Oia in Santorini and Naoussa in Paros.

Speaking of expenses, be careful, the small fishing village of Naoussa has been transformed in a few years into a mini blue and white shopping center with high-end boutiques, it's a bit like 5th avenue in NYC but in a Greek island version . This is why Naoussa is a destination recommended by sellers of “honeymoon” packages.

Posted by
11368 posts

Frank, I agree about Akrotiri. The only reason we returned to Santorini was to visit Akrotiri when they reopened it. Otherwise, we disliked Santorini just as much the second time as the first.

Posted by
1666 posts

I also recommend Aktaion for dinner while on Santorini. Delicious food and reasonable prices. And I highly recommend renting a car for a day while on Santorini to explore the island. We visited Akrotiri, the red sand beaches, and the black sand beaches. A highlight of our trip!

Posted by
881 posts

Another vote for Aktaion (reservations were recommended) and touring with Kostas https://santorini-private-guide.com/#tours. We chose his "A La Carte" tour and we included a tasting at Venetsanos Winery which was very enjoyable. Our catamaran cruise was daytime and it included lunch and snorkeling. We were very pleased with the experience and service of Spiridakos Cruises. They were very agreeable to working with us when we had to switch dates for our cruise due to our luggage being delayed by the airlines.
https://www.santorini-yachts.com/

Posted by
3133 posts

Another excellent private tour guide is Gabi Birbeck. She can be reached through her Facebook profile.

For an excellent meal try Metaxi Mas in Exo Gonia, considered one of Santorini's best restaurants.

Posted by
15 posts

Frankly, do not drive in Santorini, as it is totally stressful and dangerous! The narrow roads, steep cliffs, and heavy traffic make navigating the island a challenging and nerve-wracking experience. It's best to rely on local transportation options or tours to get around safely and enjoyably.

  1. Since you will be staying in Oia, the best Giros place on the island is there, and it is "Pitogyros Traditional Grill House."

  2. For sure, one day should be your catamaran day. I would recommend a morning cruise. The company I recommend for you is "Sunset Oia," as this is located in Oia and starts from there. This way, you will avoid picking up and dropping off from all around the island, as most other companies start their catamaran tours from the south marina of Vlychada.

As for a private tour, I would recommend Aphrodite of Santoriginal Tours (https://www.santoriginal.com/day-tours) She knows how to avoid the crowds and will give you special hints on when to do your private tour to steer clear of the cruise ship crowds.

  1. Visiting a winery is a must-do, but you can include it as a stop in your private tour.  Additionally, the black sandy beach is another must-see.

  2. There are so many shops with a vast array of items, so make sure to buy something that you like. Most of them are sourced from Athens, whether you're looking for handcrafted jewelry, traditional ceramics, or unique souvenirs, you'll find something special.