I’m so excited to start my Greece posts in stunning Santorini. Santorini is honestly one of our favourite places in Greece even though it isn’t traditional to the village from where we are from it is still special to us in it’s own way. The views are truly like nothing we have ever seen and this is what most people think of when they think Greece. White buildings on the top of a cliff with the blue rooftops. The second you reach Oia it is nearly impossible to not be blown away by the views. These photos do it absolutely zero justice (yay cell phone pics!). I never had an intention of taking any of these photos to share so they are pretty simple family photos and just random snaps from my phone but I think they’ll do the trick (I used the #jillypresets to edit them).
All of Greece looks SO different that a lot of people are very shocked to know it isn’t all white buildings and blue roof tops but I decided to start these series with the most expected. Santorini is one of those places that is for sure a must see. We have been to Santorini a few times and each time has been so different. We have stayed on the ridge, off the ridge, close to the ridge and not so close to the ridge and they all gave us such a different experience. If I had to personally recommend one I would obviously stay on the ridge if you can.
Our favourite time to go is September/early October. We have been there during high tourism season right at the end of summer and truthfully it is a lot but amazing for the beaches, hot weather, busy nightlife (pre babes!) and swimming. I’m the type of human that likes to go against the grain, I don’t love crowds and I’d rather be able to enjoy it slow than feel overwhelmed with people everywhere which is why I like the islands during slower season but it can be totally personal preference. Santorini does shut down/slow down for the winter so it’s important to go before then which I believe is around the end of November.
How did you get to the islands?
There are two main ways to get to the Greek islands, you can fly or you can take a ferry from the mainland. We live in southern Greece so we in the past we take a ferry out of Athens/Piraeus. We flew this last trip from the mainland to Santorini because we had Harlow with us and we were only going to Santorini this trip but every other time we had taken the ferry and it was really easy. There are pros and cons to each so just depending what you’re looking for. Flying is obviously a little more expensive but the ferry rides were just as easy just took a little bit longer.
Is Greece kid friendly?
We’ve been a lot of places and I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a love for babies as we have felt in Greece. Greek people are very much about family, kids and babies. You will realize quickly that everything is catered to them at restaurants and basically anywhere you go. The Greek kids don’t have bedtimes it seems and it honestly is such a relaxed way of life. One thing to obviously consider when travelling over seas is the adjustment to the time change because this can make a difference in everyones happiness.
We went to our village first so we had a couple days to get adjusted. Harlow was exhausted from flying so she slept through the night the first night we arrived. From then on she got right on her schedule. Lucky us! If you are going for a short amount of time I think it is important to save a couple days for relaxing/adjusting for happy babies unless they are able to sleep on the go (Harlow would sleep in the carrier at this age still) but it does take some time for everyone to adjust.
In North America we might find this overbearing/weird but in the Greek culture men are INFATUATED with babies. Coming through customs they pulled us out of the line and let us go first because we were carrying a baby. Men get up on trains/boats to give you their seats as soon as they see you have a baby, airport lines same thing. They come up (men too!) and sing and laugh and say hello and welcome your baby to their country with the most open arms. We would laugh every time because I’m like if this happened in Canada people would be so confused. I loveeeee different cultures so much and their boundaries and such are just so different! I’m Greek so for myself I was even a little surprised and I’m curious if they do this to all tourists or perhaps they knew I was Greek, anyways, it’s so fun to see this.
I’ll keep these answers to Santorini specifically. Santorini is extremely romantic, like truly the most romantic place I have ever seen in my life and we were worried about this at first. Tim and I, to be courteous to all the couples their on their honeymoon, trips alone etc. tried to plan our dinners a bit earlier than dinnertime to allow them to have a romantic date without a potentially screaming baby. We felt welcomed every where we went no matter what and they were so accommodating to babies. They truly DO NOT CARE and every single place we went they would say come in, bring your baby, make noise, do whatever you want. They always had highchair etc.
Did you bring a stroller?
We did bring a stroller and car seat to Greece but we did NOT bring one to Santorini. When we booked the hotel, they also had a driver and a carseat for Harlow’s size at the time and since we have a place in Greece to leave everything else we just flew really light to Santorini. We knew that this trip was mainly to be in our hotel to relax and enjoy Oia only so we didn’t even rent a car this trip. The owner of the Villa was seriously the kindest human ever and they also worked in partnership with their friends driver company so it was all seamless and easy. In the past when we have gone more on a budget we just rented a car right when we got off of the Ferry.
If you are going to be driving in a car then you should 100% bring a car seat if your hotel cannot provide one from pickup or you are renting a car. I would recommend renting a car even for a day to go around the island to see all the things it has to offer. Oia is obviously what Santorini is known for but there is still so much else on the island to see if that interests you.
Because Santorini is on a cliff and there are a lot of stairs/walking so we opted out of a stroller and we brought two different baby carriers. I brought my WildBird as well as our Ergo baby. Harlow was 11 months old when we went and still not walking so it was very easy to get around. Especially amazing because it wasn’t extremely hot so she was comfortable in the carrier. We did see a lot of moms with little umbrella strollers for bigger kids and they just whipped them up and down the stairs. Either way, you will make it work.
What type of clothes should I bring/how should I dress?
This depends what time of year you’re going but the summer you’ll need shorts, dresses, bathing suits etc. Since we went in October this year we dressed a little bit warmer especially for the night because it can be a bit chilly on the cliffs but during the day we would sit in the pool and enjoy the sun. Santorini has a lot of walking so definitely shoes you’re comfortable walking in. When we would do the 300 steps we would wear running shoes and shorts and like comfy lulu tops.
If you’re planning on exploring the night life I would recommend wedges instead of high heels =]. Once upon a time we would go out dancing and Greece is SO fun for this and we had some of our most fun nights in Santorini.
Are there beaches in Santorini?
Yes of course! They are obviously located away from Oia (the main view, white buildings etc.) but we really enjoyed them. This last trip with Harlow we had spent two months in Greece and saw beaches everywhere else so we decided to not rent a car and stay on the cliff to eat, walk, relax and eat some more.
Santorini has gorgeous beaches (though they are not known for their beaches) they are still stunning. They have a red sand beach, black sand beach and white sand beaches and I just think you need to see them all if you have time.
What should we do when we are there?
Just be. Seriously. Enjoy what you see, stumble across the restaurants as they come, walk, enjoy the views.
There are two different main spots in Santorini that are very different. Oia is very traditional to the photos you see. It’s a bit fancier and more romantic and then Thira/Fira is more casual, where you can find more souvlaki on pitas and souvenirs etc. I do like both just depends what you are looking for. You can also stay in Thira on a cliff and it is also gorgeous just a different vibe in my opinion.
We loved going to Ammoudi bay. There are 300 steps to get there (much easier on the way down!) but it is so fun and nice to do/see. At the bottom there are little taverns where you can eat lunch and enjoy the beautiful sea. LOVED doing this as often as we could.
Visit the volcano.
Watch the sunset, it is truly outrageous.
Go to the beach. Red sand beach, black sand beach, and plenty of white sand ones.
Relax at your hotel enjoy the views.
I might answer this a little differently than most because we do spend a lot of time on the mainland so we visit monasteries there and ancient Greece but if you did a google search you’d be able to find these sorts of things there.
Is Santorini vegan friendly?
Greece in general is super vegan friendly diet wise. In the Greek Orthodox religion there is a season of fasting where you are to eat nothing from an animal for a period of time so a lot of traditional dishes are done vegan. I often think if it is easier for me to explain this because I speak the language but honestly everyone speaks English so you’ll be fine. See next question for meal ideas.
Culturally/historically you will see they do incorporate animals into their diet a lot, there is a lot of fishing etc. In Santorini they also have donkey rides (which I obviously do not recommend) but locally they also use them to help get groceries to their homes etc. Now, I personally think it is tourists responsibility to opt out of doing and riding the donkeys because it is very sad to see how it isn’t fair to the donkeys to trek up those stairs in that type of weather for entrainment.
I honestly try not to judge as a vegan and I believe in doing the best I can so I completely disagree with using them for entertainment but I also can imagine how difficult it would be for this man would get groceries to his home so you just have to follow your own beliefs / judgements here.
There are a lot of stray animals in Greece and this is where my passion for a rescue of some sort really surfaced. We are so privileged to have a government and community that helps animals as much as possible in Canada (still some work on reserves etc.) because it is the hardest part about going to Greece for myself. The stray cats eating food in the photo above were entirely fed by someone else and in Santorini the stray animals are really well cared for (aka chubby:)). Whether it is tourists or the locals it is nice to see they are not hungry.
In the other photo, I am playing with a stray puppy because all the diseases are worth it to me. I usually use my judgement which I know is entirely insufficient but love is love.
What should I eat as a vegan in Santorini? Any specific recommendations?
Oia Gefsis was our favourite place to eat in Santorini. Nick, the sweetest guy ever who owned the villa we stayed in, recommended it and he was right. It was gorgeous inside, the food was good (and so vegan friendly!) and the rooftop view was outrageous. You have to go there for a sunset dinner–so stunning! Once the sun went down we would move inside because it was a bit cool for Harlow and they were just so accommodating all the time.
I’ll answer this to Santorini specifically again.
There was a juice bar as soon as you walk into Oia on the right hand side and we could get fresh juice and smoothies everyday. (If I knew I’d ever be sharing this I would have gotten the name–apologies but the photo with the bike outside of it is the juice bar.)
Greek salad- no feta cheese
Fava (traditional to Santorini) is like a hummus done with fava beans and it is so good.
All the bread. Pita, loaves etc. Eat with olive oil and balsamic and it is so good.
Horta. This is a green cooked and then drizzled with olive oil and lemon. So good.
Gemista and greek potatoes. This is a traditional dish that is just a stuffed pepper or tomato with rice and a lot of the times there is no meat, just double check.
Risotto is really common in Santorini just make sure they use olive oil and not butter.
In Fira/Thira you can get souvlaki on pita which we survive on in Greece (so cheap too!). Ask for no Tzatziki and hummus instead. I also get olive oil on mine.
Pasta, no dairy or cheese. Usually a tomato or garlic and olive oil sauce.
Dolmades (stuffed vine leaves)
Halva is vegan too and some places had this (personally not a huge fan though).
We also had our own kitchen so we just went to a little store on the corner and got bread, peanut butter, soy milk for coffee, fruit, etc so we could eat snack and breakfast at home.
Where did you stay in Santorini?
We stayed in a Cave Villa in Imerovigli on the cliff which is just a walk from Oia. Oia is the tip of the cliff, where the stunning sunsets and all the little shops and restaurants are. Tim and I are known for booking our trips the night before / couple days before we leave so we couldn’t find any spots there as they can book up months in advance. We are so grateful to have landed on the spot we did. It was a splurge but one we will remember for the rest of our lives. I’m trying to find the name of the Villa and I text the owner so hopefully he responds soon and I can update this post. It was outrageous. These are photos from our cave house, the views and the patio. We always just book online using Expedia, VRBO or Airbnb and it has worked everywhere we have ever gone.
That hallway lead to an extra bed, the kitchen and an eating area and then back where I’m standing taking the photo was a main room, a bathroom and then another room at the back. It was so lovely and spacious and apparently I took zero photos inside or I deleted them somewhere along the way.
Where did Harlow sleep? How did you manage naps?
We brought a light travel playpen to Greece (that we bring everywhere we travel to) and she sleeps in it as she does her crib. The hotel in Santorini had a playpen for us and she had her own room so we just used that one since we didn’t want to lug everything with us.
A huge reason why we chose this cave house is because Tim and I wanted to still be able to enjoy our selves while she was napping. Once we put her down we just sat on the patio, sunbathed, hung out in the hot tub (more like a pool) and relaxed. It was the perfect opportunity to be able to get to enjoy each other in the most beautiful place ever. This was a huge motivation to splurging and being able to actually enjoy the views this time. In the past we would have been going/moving a lot seeing all the beaches, tourist spots, and so on. We also stayed a lot longer this trip so we were able to relax and truly take it all in.
I am obviously a huge believer in seeing the villages on the mainland, the history (the Acropolis, Ancient Greece etc) but I also really love the islands (Mykonos is so much fun too but we didn’t go there this last trip). There are so many differences within such a small country and I’ll be sharing all the other wonderful stops we made while in Greece in my next post.
Hope you found this helpful and please remember this was a year ago, I am managing two babies while getting this up so please ask me any questions I may have missed below.
Biggest hugs, E.