Plenty of people visit Santorini during its warmer months, but in January last week, I visited this beautiful paradise and was taken aback by the lack of crowds. For a solo traveller in Greece for the first time and being a classic Introvert, this low season actually made my trip rather perfect and definitely much more stress-free than otherwise.
Should you plan holidays to Santorini during its low season? Is it safe to travel solo to Santorini?
Here’s a quick guide which might help you get some answers.
Is Santorini safe for female solo travellers?
Generally speaking, yes. I’d asked my hotel people whether there are snatch-thieves, pickpockets or robbers, they answered no. I also didn’t meet dodgy people (except for a man who had his car parked outside my hotel one night and tried to get my attention. I didn’t respond and quickened my steps).
At Santorini, houses, hostels and hotels are along the roads. There might be gates or there might not be. My hotel did not have any form of security gate as well, so technically, anyone can walk in and knock on the rooms. This doesn’t mean danger lurks anywhere and everywhere. On the contrary, it reflects the kind of safety level at Santorini.
I also noticed solo travellers in Santorini, both male and female and even elderly ladies. Solo-travelling to Santorini is not as uncommon as perceived.
Venturing out alone
You will not be harassed as a tourist. On this island, the locals greet one another because they’re all acquainted. Restaurant owners are warm and hospitable, making sure you’re comfortable and the food is ok, etc.
On another afternoon when the weather looked fine, I walked from Fira to Imerovigli. Most times (20-30min walk each way), I was the only person walking on the road, with my camera and a bag slung across my shoulders. Vehicles will pass by but that will be all they do: drive by.
In Fira, at the main square which is where all the restaurants, taxi station, and bus terminal are at, there are few people on the streets.
When you venture to various places in Fira, you might find yourself to be the only person there. This quietness was bliss to me.
Supposed to be very crowded in summer, Oia (pronounced ee-ya) is a peaceful place to be at in winter. It’s so quiet over there in the afternoon that you might not even dare to gasp out loud in order to not break the perfection in front of your eyes. If you’re blessed with sunny weather, the amazing views are all for yourself. Most shops here are also closed until summer.
Most people that you need to communicate with can speak English.
Cold, cloudy and windy. Do wrap up thick enough to stay warm. On some days, it rains. I had only 1.5 days of sunny weather out of the 4 that I was in Santorini.
There are plenty of options available for staying at Santorini. Fira is a good choice during winter for many reasons such as the proximity of bus terminal and food options. I stayed at Dream Island Hotel, for €85 a night with breakfast and daily housekeeping included.
There are between 11,400 (according to SantoriniGreece.net) to 24,000 (according to my hotel staff) people living in Santorini, so it is not exactly a desolate island even during winter.
Most eateries at Oia are closed. I only came across one restaurant that was open for lunch. If you’re there for the sunset, there should be a bus (last bus) that leaves Oia around 6.20pm (refer to “Getting Around” below). In comparison, there are more eateries open at Fira at the main square.
Is Santorini expensive in winter? Here’s a sampling of the food I ate:
Nick the Grill – a casual eatery at Fira main square – €6.50 for a set of fries, two sticks of pork souvlakia (meat skewers) and a Coke. They have various selections of food. You may eat here or take away.
Grilled chicken set at Gyroland, also at Fira main square. This set of delicious grilled chicken (which took half an hour to be prepared), came with fries, rice and salad and cost €13. It was too much for me, I couldn’t finish!Pork gyro at an eatery somewhere near Imerovigli – €3. It tasted great! And was very filling too.The only restaurant at Oia I came across that was open for lunch – Lotza Restaurant. A huge plate of marinara pasta at €16. The view comes free! It was completely relaxing to savour lunch slowly, enjoying the cold winter air.
The Bone. I met up with with a solo traveller acquainted in Santorini, and we ordered a full rack of ribs, one starter, one appetizer, a soup and some wine and total bill did not exceed €60.
As you can see, eating at restaurants in off-peak Santorini is actually pretty affordable.
Cars / Motor-bikes / ATVs
There are many car rental shops around, as well as ATVs. I only saw the occasional ATV rider on the road. Roads in Santorini are bi-directional without marked arrows on the road. Because sometimes the lanes are shared, cars give way to one another, especially to buses due to their sheer size.
The buses (big, air-conditioned coaches) are cheap and convenient methods to get around Santorini, mostly costing between €1.80 – €2.30 per trip. In winter, bus frequency is on average once an hour, sometimes once every two hours. Time-tables are updated regularly, so check at the bus terminal to plan your day’s schedule. Just board the bus and sit down. A conductor will either collect your fare and issue you a ticket on the bus, or the driver/conductor will do it before you alight.
The buses start and end at the bus terminal at the Main Square at Fira. Say, you would like to go Oia and Kamari in a day, which are two different directions starting from Fira. You’ll have to take a bus to Oia, back to Fira, and from Fira, take a bus to Kamari and back to Fira. Beyond Fira, the buses don’t go directly from one side of the island to another side. Fira to Oia is about 20 minutes, with fantastic views in the day.
I didn’t take a cab so can’t advise on that. However, there was a day I tried to grab a cab from the road but no taxis passed by at all, due to the low tourist season. Your best bet would be to take the taxi directly from the taxi-station at Fira’s main square, or arrange for a taxi in advanced.
The roads in Santorini wind around a lot and there are also plenty of slopes everywhere. For safety reasons, it is advised to not commute around on bicycles.
Fira and Imerovigli are walking distance (20-30 minutes) from each other. I wouldn’t recommend walking after dark though because there are very few people around and the roads aren’t exactly well-lit. The bus between Fira and Oia cuts through Imerovigli, so you may board wherever there’s a bus-stop sign.
Drivers will keep a decent distance from people walking on the road.
There is a popular hiking trail from Fira to Oia but the hike will take you 3 hours at least, which I didn’t do.
Getting to Santorini
I took Aegean Airlines from Athens international airport. Return air-tickets were about €96. You will reach Santorini airport in 30-45 minutes. There are also other methods to reach Santorini, namely by ferry, but it will take 5-8 hours as mentioned on this site.