Still Dreaming of Santorini

 Photo by Daniel Schmitt | iPhone 8 | oia, santorini


I’m back! It’s been so long since I’ve hopped on here, but it’s that time of year – I’m getting restless for my next vacation! Having something to look forward to, really keeps me motivated, so I’m excited to start planning my next adventure. That being said, this Santorini post is way past due.

Last year I received a ‘Save the Date’ for my first destination wedding in SANTORINI! So we set out to plan the perfect grecian getaway! If you don’t know me, my entire extended family is from Scotland, so this trip was truly a special experience to celebrate love and family. I’m so excited to share with you all my favorite parts of the trip, if not to help someone planning an affordable trip, at least I get to relive it until the next trip! Sit back and get comfy, this is going to be a long post!

Flights

We decided to fly Norwegian and I couldn’t be happier with this decision! I had experience with Norwegian on my past trip to Europe on a long-haul International flight and it was great the first time and even better the second time. Norwegian is considered a budget airline, so you have to be aware that if you pick the lowest tickets – LowFare – you’re not going to get much. Definitely make sure to read up on what is included instead of jumping into that price when you see the low number.

We booked our tickets from Los Angeles (LAX) to London-Gatwick (LGW) to Santorini (JTR). We ended up booking the LowFare+ ticket type and we were so happy with it! Our departure was set for July 20th and we booked our flights on February 20th. We didn’t see a ton of fluctuation in pricing leading up to the booking, so we were happy with our lead-time in booking. Our tickets totaled $1,418.80 – LowFare+ / Round Trip. That pricing included a few add-ons as well. First, Norwegian’s website is so easy to use. You can find what is included with each ticket type HERE. I am absolutely certain that the ~$75.00 increase in ticket price, was worth the difference from LowFare to LowFare+ – it included 1 carry on bag (like LowFare), but also included 1 checked bag and seat reservation. You can add these items to the LowFare, but overall it was more cost effective to go with the LowFare+ and add a meal plan.

Baggage: Be sure you check the baggage requirements with your airline. Norwegian can be found HERE.  In comparison to Domestic Flights that I’ve experienced, Norwegian baggage requirements are much lighter! I bought THIS luggage scale on Amazon and it was a lifesaver.

The Seat Reservation alone made these long-haul flights so much more comfortable than I could have imagined. Two words: Exit Row! It was so easy to stand up, stretch, walk around, use the restroom without having to bother my row neighbors. I honestly can’t imagine what our flight would have been like without the Exit Row seats. For both our long-haul flights, between Los Angeles and London, we were lucky enough to book the Exit Rows. We flew on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner in rows 27 and then 9 on those flights.

Food: Our LowFare+ Tickets included food on the long-haul flights between Los Angeles and London. Depending on the time of your flight, you will get more bang for your buck. Leaving Los Angeles, we took a red-eye flight and we got dinner on the plane and it was delicious and really filled us up! On the way back from London, we got breakfast and it was pretty insignificant in comparison to the dinner, so I ended up buying snacks before the second meal.

In-Flight Entertainment: For the long-haul flights, even in the Exit Row, each seat had its own in-flight entertainment. The movies were a bit dated, but we managed to keep ourselves entertained for entirety of the flights (between watching and sleeping). The short flight on the small plane, did not have in-flight entertainment, still with Norwegian Airlines. I downloaded movies and tv shows from Netflix and Amazon to my iPad and that kept me entertained – it is so much harder for me to sleep on a short flight.

WARNING: The Santorini Airport is a logistical nightmare! This airport is so tiny and as we traveled during peak season, we experienced the chaos first hand. When we arrived at 1 AM to the island, it was all smooth sailing – landing and through customs. Our departure was a completely different story. Many of the flights off the island were delayed, but because of the size of the airport, that will push every other flight back. Our flight ended up being delayed hours and once you’ve gone past security, there is no where to go. We stood outside of our gate in the main area past security like sardines with hundreds of other angry, sweaty tourists. I don’t know from experience, but I was told it would have been MUCH easier to leave Santorini via ferry and flight out from another island – definitely something to look into when arriving or departing from Santorini.

Accommodations

During our time in Santorini, we tried to slowly make our way up the island. We started in Fira for the wedding and worked our way up to Oia. We did travel to Santorini during their peak travel months so be sure to book early!

El Greco Hotel Santorini: We wanted to spend some time with my family around the time of the wedding, so we opted to stay at their recommended hotel for the first two nights and I am so happy with our decision and their recommendation! 

View from Private Balcony

Booking / Cost: We ended up booking through Expedia, as it was very difficult to navigate their website from America and impossible to call them. The booking was made easy through Expedia and the room was guaranteed for late arrival. We paid $619.08 for two nights with all fees – breakfast included.

Staff: We arrived in Santorini at about 1:00 AM local time – I asked my family to let the desk know we’d be arriving very late and when we got there, they were so friendly and accommodating! We checked in quickly and we were taken by golf cart to our room and our bags were taken up to our second-story room. We ended up also needing a few things brought to the room during our stay – an iron, scissors, etc.; throughout the entirety of our time at this resort, the staff were beyond incredible – I would recommend staying here solely for the guest treatment, but there is so much more to offer!

Grounds / Amenities: The grounds at this resort were absolutely stunning and the resort was also huge! Our balcony looked over one of six pools at the resort. Our pool was one of the more quiet of the pools, with loungers and umbrellas but each pool had its own vibe. Our room included complementary breakfast which was offered at a few locations on the grounds, we ate at a few different locations. Breakfast was buffet style and it was absolutely delicious! I got to try some new items, with the comfort of my usual breakfast favorites. For the rest of our meals, we basically lived at the Aeolos Pool Bar – the food was amazing and the water was cheap 😉

Location: El Greco is located just below the heart of Fira. It is walking distance from the main hub where there are tons of restaurants and nightlife. It is centrally located on the island and easily accessible to anywhere on the island – but generally most everything is as the island is so small.


Hotel Afroessa: Afroessa ended up being my favorite booking! We wanted to continue to make our way up the island, but we were having a hard time finding somewhere to stay for all the nights we needed due the peak travel months, so I wish we could have stayed here longer.

View from Our Room

Booking / Cost: We booked the “Studio No Private Balcony” through Expedia. We paid $376.85 for two nights which I think was a steal for this hotel! I mean it’s a steal for any luxury hotel, but this place was a dream.

Staff: This is a family-run hotel and they absolutely make you feel like family! From management, to the restaurant, to the bartender – every person here was just incredibly helpful. Unfortunately, I got sick on our trip and during check-in was feeling especially unwell, the staff checked in on me and made sure I was doing well.

Grounds / Amenities: Although we did not have a private balcony, we may as well have! For the two nights we were here, we were basically the only guests on the property. This hotel is built on the cliff of the Caldera in Imerovigli so it was stairs, stairs and more stairs. Our room opened up to the pool shown above with tons of lounge chairs and a bar and we were the only room on that level. The room was small with a bedroom with refrigerator and very small bathroom, but with these views, we were not looking to spend much time in the room anyway! Nothing was included with our room, but room service was available from the family restaurant upstairs, so we had breakfast brought down and ate by the pool every morning. The view was the most stunning thing I had ever seen!

Location: Located on the cliffside in Imerovigli, the hotel is slightly hidden. We took a 15 minute taxi ride from El Greco to Afroessa. Once we arrived at the end of the road, it was a walk down a small sidewalk that cars could not access. This walkway included tons of small hotels. Lucky for us, one of the Afroessa staff members was at the end of the road and let us know exactly how to get to the hotel and it was clearly marked. Down the first few sets of stairs once inside our hotel, there was another walkway that led around the cliffside and it offered tons of restaurants and small boutiques within walking distance. We ventured out for dinner our second night to Blue Notes and my goodness this place was such a find! It was located on the cliffside and on the second floor with large windows throughout – the food was also incredibly tasty!


Rhapsody Apartments (via airbnb): For some reason, we could not find a hotel available on the Wednesday in the middle of our trip! We ended up having to book an airbnb for the single night. We spent almost no time here, but it was a lifesaver since the rest of the hotels were booked up.

Booking: We booked through airbnb at $136.41 for one night.

Staff: George was incredibly accommodating and kind. He was able to check us in earlier than expected so we weren’t sitting outside in the heat with our luggage. He promptly answered all of our questions and was very helpful to us as a local on recommendations.

Grounds / Amenities: The apartments were much like a small motel with rooms accessible from the outside, George also manned the front desk/lounge area. The rooms were beautiful and quite large, with a separate bathroom, bedroom, kitchenette and den space as well as outdoor seating. The grounds did not include a pool.

Location: Although near the western coast, the apartment offered extraordinary views of the eastern side of the island. It was also walking distance to the closest bus stop to get us to our Catamaran excursion.


Rimida Villas: Rimida was our final stay in Santorini! These villas were what I imagined Santorini would be like, staying in caves and the location was so ideal.

View from Private Hot Tub

Booking / Cost: We booked the “Studio with Hot Tub” through Expedia. We paid $746.46 which was our priciest stay, but Oia is a major tourist location, so I would still recommend.

Staff: Just like basically every person we met here, the staff were incredibly friendly! Checking in was easy, but we were not able to check-in early. We were able to leave our luggage with the registration and come back and hang out on their balcony until our rooms were ready. The rooms were kept stocked, clean and breakfast was brought down to our private balcony daily.

Grounds / Amenities: The rooms and grounds were absolutely gorgeous! These were true caves with private balconies and hot tubs. The hot tubs were heated naturally by the sun daily and were so nice and relaxing! The rooms were much larger than expected  with a large bathroom, bedroom and kitchenette.

Location: Located on the cliff of the Caldera in Oia, these Villas were a hidden gem and by hidden, I meant we definitely got lost after the taxi dropped us off! The location was walking distance from all we wanted to see in Oia without the crowds.

The Wedding

My gorgeous cousin, Chloe, got married to her high school sweetheart, Kieran which is why we were in Santorini! It was honestly the most beautiful wedding I have ever attended! We took a

Ceremony View
Picture Credit: Le Ciel

very short luxury bus ride from the El Greco Resort to the Le Ciel Venue. The Venue had a beautiful view of the Caldera. If you’re ever considering a destination wedding, I couldn’t think of a more beautiful location than this! The sunset first dance was dreamy!

The reception venue was steps away and inside it was air conditioned which was a must in the July heat! The tables were gorgeous and there was a massive dance floor and full bar. The night was so fun and full love. I felt so blessed to be able to spend this time with my extended family after years apart.

Excursion

We spent one of our days on a Catamaran through the Caldera. My cousin booked it through his  hotel, but the excursion was available through a ton a different hotels, through Caldera Yachting. We walked from our AirBnB to the nearby bus stop and were picked up by a small van that drove us to the dock in Oia. We got aboard the Golden Pearl with a small group and after going through the protocols, we were off! We took the Sunset cruise and I’m glad we did – the views were spectacular and the timing was spot on to view the island and to get to see the gorgeous Santorini Sunset. I would highly recommend this excursion or any that will take you off the island and give you a guided tour so you can really appreciate the history of the island!

Route: The Sunset Trip starts from the old port of Ammoudi. We got an amazing view of Thirassia island and then on to Palea Kameni for a swim at the famous Hot Springs. The Hot Springs were unexpected and so nice to swim in! We didn’t make any further stops, but we could see the Black Rock of the Indian Beach, White Beach and Red Beach.

Includes: Transportation to dock, maps/information about the island, Open Bar (local beers and wine), Dinner on board – the dinner was absolutely delicious! Everything we had eaten in Santorini was so fresh and flavorful and this meal was no different.

Extras!

Check out my Santorini Instagram Highlight – @sam_bosarge – for personal videos on our experience! You can also click on the Instagram widget below.

Let me know what you think of Santorini or if you have trips planned!

2 thoughts on “Still Dreaming of Santorini

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