a VirtualTourist member from Seattle
I am going to Italy and Greece in May. I am travelling by myself. I have booked my airplane ticket, but nothing else! I am going for 16 days, and have not yet decided where/how I will divide my time.
What I am sure of is that I want to go to Santorini. Here are my 2 questions:
1. How many days should I spend there? I enjoy nightlife, eating out, sightseeing, lounging by the pool at my hotel. Is 3 days enough? Should I stay for 5-6? Is there enough to do on the island that I won't be bored if I stay for 5-6 days?
2. How do I get there from either Rome, or Athens? Is it better to take a plane, or a boat? And I don't speak the language. If I do take a boat, will it be confusing?
First of all, don't worry about the language barrier. You'll be just fine speaking English because Santorini is very used to English-speaking tourists. As for getting there, I highly recommend flying because it's a long ferry ride from Athens, and flights don't cost that much. For the best deals, book your flight on the web site for Aegean Airlines because the rates on sites like Expedia and Travelocity are almost higher than on their webs site. The other carrier that flies that route is Olympic, but its prices are typically higher. You may even be able to book a direct flight from somewhere in Italy because Santorini is such a popular destination. A ferry from Italy would be a very long and arduous process. I would not recommend it at all. If you fly, you need to book your flights in advance because they tend to fill up several months in advance. Absolutely do not show up assuming there will be seats available. That would be a very bad idea.
As far as the amount of time you should spend on Santorini, it's a very small island and can be seen in its entirety in about three days, but that would not leave much time for just relaxing. The must-do activities there (in my opinion, anyway) are to visit Oia (especially to see a sunset), Ancient Akrotiri (an archeological site on the south side of the island), Perissa and Kamari (black gravel beaches on the southeast part), Fira, Firostefani, and Imirovigli (villages that are on the rim of the volcano within walking distance of each other), and the archeological museum in Fira.
5-6 days is plenty of time to do all this and still have a lot of time left over to just relax. I did all that in three days and didn't feel too rushed, though I did not get much beach time at Perissa or Kamari.
When are you going in May?
I have been to Italy and Greece two years ago. I have done a 21 days travel: Athens - Naxos - Santorini - Thessaloniki - Meteora - Ioaninna - Igoumenitsa - Corfu - Rome - Florence - Venice. We did Lisbon-Athens by plane, then a bus till our hostel. We payed 18,50€ between Athens and Naxos, but it was a very slow boat. This island has probably the best beaches, it is very quiet and secluded. We payed 51€ and stayed in a nice 3 bed apartment next to the beach.
From Naxos to Santorini we payed about the same for the ferry. Santorini is a beautiful island but it doesn't have that much to offer. I stayed there 4 days and it was more than enough. The beaches are bad, the island is beautiful but very small. Place of interest are reduced. And guided trips are expensive. Yet a must do.Then we picked an Aegean airplane and went to Thessaloniki. The aegean plane was pretty bad. Thessaloniki is an uninteristing place to go, if you want my opinion.From there we went by rail 8,5€ to Meteora. Meteora is beautiful. Huge mountains coronated by lovely monasteries. I stayed in a wonderful place, a small pension called koka roka runned by a family with a tavern with home made caring food. The old lady and the son were extremely nice. Not luxourious but lovely. 50€/night per triple room. Then we picked a bus to Ioaninna. Ioaninna is very weird. No tourism at all. You've got to use signs to be understood, it has a very nice oriental look, and a nice place to buy valuable souvenirs for low price. Then we went to Igoumenitsa by bus (about 12€), where we picked a ferry (8€) to Corfu. Corfu is very nice, lovely beaches, very green and beautiful towns. From Corfu we got a Aegean plane to Rome. Then it was a hurry, 1 day for Rome, 1 for Florence and 1 for Venice. We travelled in trains, but they some were full (one of the trips i was sitting on the floor next to the bathroom door with my bags). Please be aware that Greece is much cheaper than Italy. Italian cities are much, much beautiful (some people say Athens is ugly, I would say different...).
Boats are cheaper than plains, but they are not that confortable since they take lots of time and the cheaper tickets are in a windy and cold or in a sunny and extremely hot deck. Tickets for ferries can be bought in local agencies (in these sites you can check prices, schedules and stuff: http://www.ferries.gr/ http://www.gtp.gr/RoutesForm.asp), please bare in mind that Athens harbour is Piraeus and Santorini is Thira for the booking engines purpose. The only moment where you might have problems while using the boat is to find it in the harbour, since there are many departure areas in Piraeus harbour. Ask for directions in the travel agency, but you'll survive. Greece is very safe and people are friendly (I wouldn't say the same about italy).
If you need any extra info, please let me know. i could tell you lots of stuff, but don't know which path to follow.
Have a nice trip,