Plan Your Perfect Santorini Honeymoon
For years before getting married, I considered the perfect honeymoon destination to be the Greek island of Santorini. I have a love affair with European travel, and Santorini’s mix of beaches, history and adventure make it an ideal match in my mind. Luckily, after getting engaged, my fiancé Christian agreed! Planning a honeymoon while simultaneously preparing for your wedding can seem like a daunting task, so I’m here to help with your perfect Santorini honeymoon itinerary and provide a few additional travel tips you can use for any trip.
*This trip was planned and took place in 2019. Some locations mentioned may be temporarily closed due to COVID-19. I do not support any international travel at the time this post is being written in June 2021.
When to start planning
I began planning our honeymoon in December, about 9 months in advance of our trip the following September. There is no “right” timeline for when you should begin planning, but of course the earlier the better, especially for international trips to give you the most bang for your buck . It varies for each airline, but you can typically book plane tickets about 330 days, or 10-11 months before departure. For smaller, domestic airlines like Southwest and Frontier, this window is much shorter. With most major hotel chains (Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, IHG, etc.), you are able to book around 1 year in advance. This means you are usually able to book hotel reservations before airline tickets, but if you are conscious of budget, I would recommend looking into both at the same time– which I detail more below. If you are interested in staying in an Airbnb for your honeymoon, each host will have a different timeline for when you are available to book.
How I plan travel
With experience in both the travel and lodging industries, I’m a seasoned travel planner. The first thing I do when planning to travel to a new destination is look up the best time of year to travel. High tourist season, storm season, and extreme weather are all things that I take into consideration when planning travel. I wanted to leave on our honeymoon shortly after our September 1st wedding and luckily September was the tail end of tourist season in Greece. This meant that crowds were dying down, but weather was still ideal and most restaurants and attractions were operating, as Santorini can be a very seasonal destination. During winter, flights are limited and many businesses may close. Like I mentioned, I began planning in December, meaning many restaurants and activity companies were closed for the off-season. I was sure to be vigilant about checking back once they reopened in the spring to book reservations.
Once you pick a time frame, do a quick scan of lodging options to make sure there are plenty of choices that line up with your budget during the times you wish to travel. I always utilize the Hopper app to make sure I am booking airfare at the best time for the flights I want. If you know what area you want to stay in, you can go ahead and book your lodging. If you’re unsure, do a bit of research and find the area that best fits your travel needs. There are two main areas to stay in Santorini: Oia (pronounced “ee-yah”) and Fira. Fira has the most shopping and nightlife, which is a great option for backpackers and students. Oia is the picturesque village you think of when you hear “Santorini” and is a popular choice for honeymooners with its dramatic cliffside architecture and legendary sunsets overlooking the caldera. There are also a few quieter areas to stay along the caldera, like Imerovigli or Firostefani. Wherever you choose to stay, the entire island of Santorini is only about 28 square miles, making it easy to visit the entire island.
I plan anything and everything in my life through Google Docs and Sheets. I love being able to start one thing on my computer but later switch to my phone and be able to pull up my documents and workbooks from any device. Starting with an outline of my travel dates and flight info, I begin making a list of activities and restaurants I want to visit after researching travel sites, blogs and YouTube videos. After compiling a lengthy list, I try to work as many options as possible into the itinerary like an intricate jigsaw puzzle, depending on activity length and location.
My favorite Santorini resources
Santorini Dave - Santorini Dave is a popular travel blog featuring Greece and beyond. I referenced his posts on Best Tours & Things to Do and Best Restaurants dozens of times while planning. For any restaurant I could, I made sure to make a reservation.
Get Your Guide - A comprehensive list of tours and organized activities on Santorini with descriptions and direct links to book.
Tripadvisor - While Yelp is superior in the U.S., Tripadvisor was definitely my go-to source for local reviews and business listings for Santorini.
How to get around
Personally, a rental car was the only option for getting around Santorini. ATVs are popular, but can be dangerous. Small, windy European roads cause me major stress and I could not have imagined driving back from Akrotiri to Oia after dinner through the country in the dark on an ATV! Whenever renting a car in Europe, remember to be absolutely positive that you are booking an automatic rental car if no one in your group is comfortable driving a manual transmission.
Whatever you do, please do not utilize donkeys as transportation. No matter how tired you get on the hike from Fira to Oia, or the long stairway down to Amoudi Bay, resist the urge to take a donkey ride the remainder of the way. The donkeys have a poor quality of life and patronizing the companies operating these rides perpetuates their demand. (I know this may be part of your Santorini dream due to your memories of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, but in reality, riding a donkey is much less glamorous than Alexis Bledel and Blake Lively make it look! There’s also a lot of donkey poop.)
We chose to spend all 9 nights of our honeymoon on the island of Santorini. Cruises and island hopping are popular in Greece, but I prefer to stay in one place and not waste any time in transit. This also meant we were able to do just about everything the island had to offer! Here’s a day by day breakdown of our trip:
Day 1- Travel
Our trip itinerary from LAX to Santorini (JTR) lasted 20 hours and 15 minutes. Greece is far. Whenever locals would find out we were American and ask where we were from, they were astonished we said California! Most American travelers we met while in Santorini were in fact from the east coast. We had two layovers, the first at Dallas Fortworth and the second at London Heathrow. I had never in my life flown first or business class, but thanks to status and points gained by my husband through work, we were able to upgrade to business class on our flight from DFW to LHR. As cheesy and tacky as it may sound, I never felt fancier and it is something I’ll never forget being able to fly business class to our honeymoon! I decided to only book a rental car for a few days of our trip that we needed, so I booked a shuttle through our hotel to pick us up from the airport.
Our hotel- Hotel Anemomilos, Oia
One of our wants from a hotel was to have our own pool or hot tub. I looked around for quite awhile to find the best deal and landed on Hotel Anemomilos. Our room didn’t have a caldera view, which made it a lot less expensive while still being in a prime location (it did have a view of the ocean on the other side of the island though). We absolutely loved the manager and the daily breakfast was delicious. The restaurant adjoining our hotel served complimentary breakfast, including classic European breakfast items like deli meats and cheeses, along with pastries and breads with an assortment of fruit spreads and Nutella, dried fruit and cereals, and of course, Greek yogurt and local honey. The restaurant’s patio adorned with beautiful bougainvillea was the perfect place to enjoy breakfast each morning. As with many islands, Santorini’s stray dog and cat population is extreme. Stray cats and dogs are everywhere, but they were all very friendly and looked quite clean and well fed. There were two little kittens living in the area who were the most adorable breakfast companions.
For dinner, we went to Candouni restaurant in Oia. The great thing about Santorini is that you
can walk anywhere within town. Candouni is a family owned restaurant with the cutest patio filled with candles and lined with bougainvillea. I found this recommendation on Santorini Dave.
Day 2- Hike Fira to Oia trail
The hike between Fira and Oia is one of the most recommended things to do in Santorini. The 6.5 mile stretch between the two main cities on the island takes place for the most part– right along the caldera, with impressive cliffside views. It is recommended to start early in the morning because it gets quite hot by midday in summer and it can take between 2-5 hours depending on your speed and how many stops you make. We took the bus from Oia to Fira, then started from there. It was a bit confusing finding our way from the transit station to where we were supposed to begin the trail, but once we found it, it was pretty easy to navigate. There are very few shops along the trail once you leave Fira, so be sure to pack plenty of water and snacks if needed. I wanted to do this at the very beginning of our trip to get acquainted with the island and take in the incredible views.
At the end of the trail in Oia, was the light at the end of the tunnel, aka lunch. Mes Amis was a great little lunch spot with a view located right across from our hotel. My husband tried Greek coffee and surprisingly, this was one of our favorite meals. We ordered the club sandwich, which may have only tasted so amazing because of the 6.5 mile hike we just completed, but the tzatziki and pita bread was out of this world. It was hands-down the best tzatziki we had in Greece!
After some rest, it was time for dinner. I made reservations at Ambrosia, one of the most romantic restaurants in Santorini with sweeping caldera views. It is regularly named one of the most romantic restaurants in Europe, and even the world. There are two seatings per night, and reservations are needed well in advance.
Day 3- Private Fishing Tour with Private Pirate
Then it was time for our fishing boat tour. This activity was the highlight of our trip! A truly unique Santorini experience that really allowed us to experience local culture. Private Pirate offers a private boat tour with local fisherman and captain, Makis. We got to snorkel around the inaccessible beaches of the island of Thirasia, a small island off the coast of Santorini where Captain Makis’ family has been living and fishing for generations. All the while, we were fishing with different techniques, and anything we caught, we got to eat! While we were swimming in the hot springs, the fish was being barbecued along with local favorites that Makis’ wife prepared that morning. Since we chose the sunset tour, we were able to experience a Santorini sunset from the water on our way back to port, a truly magical experience.
Day 4- Explore Fira and the Greek Wedding Show
On day 4, we took the bus to Fira again and spent a few hours exploring the city and its many shops and attractions. Some of my favorites were the Orthodox Metropolitan Church, St. John the Baptist Cathedral and this cute cave shop. Most stores sold souvenirs, jewelry, art, or other trinkets, perfect for souvenir shopping. We also picked up our rental car, which was quite the adventure in itself. Addresses all over the island are very general, and store hours are also flexible. Be sure to call in advance of when you plan to pick up and drop off.
For dinner, we went to Cacio e Pepe, another Santorini Dave recommendation for authentic Italian food. We were able to enjoy dinner on the patio before heading over to the White Door Theater to see The Greek Wedding Show. This is definitely a big tourist trap, but we really loved it. It’s an interactive show centered around a wedding in a “traditional” Greek family. The show includes dinner and wine, and you even get to break plates!
Day 5- Ancient Akrotiri and Red Beach
Now that we had a rental car, it was time to explore the rest of the island. We started out by having lunch at Avocado in Imerovigli, then continued on to Ancient Akrotiri. The Akrotiri archaeological site is a prehistoric settlement preserved by volcanic ash, much like the city of Pompeii. The volcanic eruption took place sometime in the 16th century, making it much older than Pompeii.
We wanted to make time for one historic activity on our trip, and Akrotiri is said to be the most important site on the island, with the eruption being the most destructive known to mankind.
Afterwards, we went down to nearby Red Beach, named for the color of the sand and the surrounding volcanic landscape. It’s a bit of a precarious hike down, so be prepared with sturdy walking shoes. There are boats that frequently pull up to shore that can take you over to White Beach, which is only accessible by water. While it was one of the top attractions listed while researching what to do in Santorini, I probably would not do it again if I ever had the chance to go back. Following the beach, we went for dinner at The Good Heart, also in Akrotiri. It is very much a family-owned restaurant, and the food used is all grown locally!
Day 6- Kamari Beach and Open Air Cinema
This was my very favorite day of our honeymoon! Whenever I travel internationally, I tend to start missing American food after a while. We found a burger place for lunch called Juicy Burger in Kamari. A lot of the menu items were named after American cities, and it was actually quite adorable seeing the namings and décor. Overall, we gave it a thumbs up (and they had ketchup for the fries!!).
After lunch, we headed down to the beach. Kamari Beach is one of the black beaches on Santorini, named for the black sand or pebbles along the long stretch of beach. It is one of the main beaches on the island, and is filled with beachside shops and restaurants, with chairs and umbrellas along the sand. Most were free for use if you ordered from the nearby restaurant. I loved sitting on the beach with cold smoothies and drinks in hand! The beach is rocky and a lot of the beach is exclusively pebbles, so water shoes are a good idea if you want to walk along the beach or go in the water.
For dinner, we drove to the nearby village of Exo Gonia and ate at Metaxi Mas. This was the BEST meal and restaurant experience we had. The view and the entire ambiance of the restaurant is absolutely amazing. The menu is based on Cretan and Santorinian cuisine, with house raki served complimentary. We ordered the oven-baked asparagus after the couple next to us recommended it, as it was mostly a delicious melty graviera cheese sauce, with a few pieces of asparagus. I tried veal for the first time for my main course, and a complementary piece of cheesecake was served for dessert. One of my favorite things was the neighborhood cat that frequented the restaurant and was super cuddly with guests!
We drove back down to Kamari to go to the Open Air Cinema. The Open Air Cinema features popular movies in English with Greek subtitles. Movies start at 9:30 PM and doors open an hour before, but we arrived around 8:00 PM to ensure we would get a good seat as tickets sell out regularly. Inside, you can purchase popcorn, candy, snacks, and beverages. You can check out the movie schedule on their website, and tickets are 8 euro each at the door. It was such a fun, unique experience that I would definitely recommend.
Day 7- Wine Tasting Tour
When visiting Santorini, of course you have to experience the wine! There is literally more wine than water produced on the island, and locals are extremely proud of the Santorini wine. The wine produced on the island is mostly white and dessert wines, which was great for me. We booked through Santorini Day Tours and had a great group, guide, and driver! We visited three wineries, learned about Santorini vineyards and winemaking, and enjoyed local cheeses and other food pairings. It finished at sunset with an amazing caldera view at Santos Winery. If you drink alcohol, I think doing a wine tasting or tour is a must! Wine is not usually my drink of choice and I really don’t drink all that often. With white wine being the specialty of Santorini, it’s great for a wine novice like me. I also LOVE all things sweet and sugary, so I also liked the dessert wine, or vinsanto.
Day 8- Cave Massages and Relaxing
On our last day, I actually didn’t plan anything out. I had a few more things on my list to do in Oia that didn’t fit into the schedule, so I wanted to take the day to do anything else we wanted to do before leaving. We shopped for souvenirs and had lunch at Lotza where we had amazing baked feta and I tried the classic Greek dish of moussaka. Later in the day, I booked us for a couples massage at Caldera Massage Studio. It was a super unique experience with the studio and spa having the classic cave house architecture, making it both a cozy and mindful experience. For our last dinner, we went out by the Lioyerma windmill to Elinkon Restaurant. The rooftop terrace is the perfect place to view the sunset over Ammoudi Bay with a view of the windmill. Since we departed for the airport early in the morning, we were able to pick up breakfast to go from our hotel the night before.
Day 9 - Travel
Our return journey was a very different route than the one we took to Greece. We flew from Santorini to Helsinki, and then a direct flight from Helsinki to LAX. Originally, our layover in Helsinki was only to be a couple hours, but the airline actually changed our first leg to departing much earlier, resulting in a very early morning trip to the airport and a four hour layover in Finland. I was pretty annoyed with this at first, but it turned out to be an amazing experience! Helsinki was the coolest airport we have ever been in. It was extremely clean and modern with technology we had not yet experienced (like escalators that aren’t running unless there is someone on them, that made for a funny view to any onlookers), some of the cleanest tap water in the world and very friendly people. We were also able to access a lounge to get a good meal in and rest a bit. The Finnair Airbus A380 was also super cool to fly in. It was obviously a long flight, but was quite comfortable and the food (and signature blueberry juice!) was also great.
Although planning such a detailed itinerary took hours and hours of research and at times headache, it helps me relax and have the best time on vacation when I have set plans in place. So how was it? Everything I could have imagined and more. I would recommend anyone who wants to visit Santorini do it once in their life. Although Santorini is practically halfway around the globe from Los Angeles, going back to Greece is definitely in the cards in my lifetime. Many locals recommend visiting Crete for the food, and many tourists say you can skip Athens unless you have a layover there.
Questions? Planning a trip to Santorini? I want to hear all about it! Let me know in the comments or send me a DM on Insta.
Sarah Soldau is a Southern California based wedding coordinator, specializing in wedding management (also known as day-of coordination). Her goal is to educate and empower couples to be confident and in control of planning their own dream wedding day, and then actually enjoy it! As a “bridal cheerleader,” she is her couples’ biggest advocate on their wedding day and leaves no detail unnoticed. By sharing her own experiences in wedding planning, as well as her love of makeup and fashion on The Blushing Blog, she hopes to leave the world with a little more love and beauty. Head to the Contact page to learn more about services and pricing.