If you could stop what you’re doing and travel the world full-time, would you do it? Taking that leap of faith is something many people — avid travelers even — don’t ever truly consider. But Esther Susag did it. She’s devoted her life to travel and capturing her unique experiences along the way.
Originally from Minnesota, Susag is a photographer and content creator who’s spent the past six years living completely abroad. Her adventures began in 2015, when she traveled to 12 countries in a single term with Semester at Sea. After graduating college the following year, she found the perfect opportunity for more exploration — a seasonal job in Guam.
In the years since, there’s been no slowing Susag down. After Guam, she moved to Germany — her home base for further voyages around Europe.
“Living in Europe has been the perfect gateway for so much more than I ever expected,” she says. “It’s also led me to do what I do best, which is intermingle my journeying and content marketing skills.”
Of all the places Susag has lived and visited, Santorini, Greece ranks at the top of her list. Home to breathtaking views of the Aegean Sea, beautiful Cycladic architecture, and just-from-the-ocean seafood, the island is a feast for the senses.
To help you plan your own Agean adventure, we asked the budding travel star to share her favorite spots with us.
There are certain places that I’ve gone to that have this magical quality about them that makes me want to return. Santorini is definitely one of those places. I’ve visited this spectacular Greek island four times now, and each time I’ve gotten to experience it a different way, either due to where I’ve gone or who I’ve gone with.
My first time in Santorini my mind was absolutely blown. When I arrived it was exactly how it was described to me while also being a wonderful surprise with the unique landscape and beauty all around me.
One of the most pleasantly shocking things was probably how kind the locals were for how “touristy” of a location Santorini is! It felt like they wanted me to be able to share in the magical place they were living in.
Probably one of the things I appreciate most about Santorini is the ability for anyone to have a worthwhile time there; from the luxury seeker to the budget traveler — Santorini is extremely accessible for whatever you’re looking for!
What’s one thing that every first-time visitor should see or do in Santorini?
Narrowing it down to just one thing is practically impossible. So I think I’ll give you five (but they’re all easily doable in one trip!):
- Touring the island via ATV. Riding an ATV lets you fully explore the cities at your own pace without having to rely on public transportation. Plus, once you see Fira or Oia you’re going to have a tough time wanting to leave.
- Hiking from Oia to Fira. Like with the ATVs, you get to experience seeing the actual land of the island, but this way you’re much closer to nature and will have more opportunities to take in your beautiful surroundings. It’s only about two to three hours and you don’t even have to do the whole thing to gain a new appreciation for where you are.
- Boat tour! I’m a huge proponent of spending a day on the sea whenever I go to a new place with ocean access. You can go for a full day or just the sunset and you won’t regret it.
- Visit some wineries. Santorini wine is famous for a reason. Not only is it well priced and has a rich history but it also tastes delicious! Hitting a few wineries with friends and learning about the wine culture is something I could never say no to.
- The famous Santorini Sunset. You have to set at least one day aside to experience the sunset in all of its glory. It’s a truly breathtaking experience that I could never be able to fully describe the pure majesty of.
Favorite place to enjoy a glass of wine in Santorini?
Like I mentioned, wineries are an absolute must in Santorini. There are two wineries I find myself returning to every time I travel there: Venetsanos Winery and Santos Winery. They’re both located in the southern half of the island and the breathtaking views, which pair very nicely with some friends to cheers with, and some memories to be had!
If you’re looking to stay more Northern, my top pick is Ambrosia in the city of Oia. The view of the caldera is unbeatable! Then, if you’re not done yet and looking for a nightcap, you can find a great drink at Sphinx or at Karma.
Best spot to indulge in saganaki and fava?
I don’t know if you’ve noticed in my previous answers, but a huge aspect of a good experience for me includes being able to take in the views! So if you’re looking for great food alongside jaw-dropping sights, you have to go out and eat on the terrace at Argo. Reservations are definitely recommended because you want to make sure you get to enjoy a nice romantic evening outside with amazing classic Greek food.
Most fun thing to do on a sunny day in Santorini?
Let’s be honest, if you’re going to an island and you don’t go on a boat at least once you’re missing out. Boat tours are a personal favorite activity for me and Santorini has so many different opportunities on the water: you can go from something shorter like a sunset cruise to an all-day volcano hopping tour!
The most authentic tours I’ve had are when I’ve booked through Airbnb Experiences since you usually get a local guide who truly loves sharing their island with you.
Coolest hotel or place to stay in Santorini?
One of the best parts of Santorini is that you can make it a budget experience or luxury travel and you’ll still have an amazing time. If you’re willing to splurge then you have to stay in Oia, specifically in Canaves Oía Suites and Spa or in Katikies. Staying there will make you feel as spoiled as a Greek Goddess.
If you’re looking to save you can still get an amazing experience in Fira or Imerovigli, my favorite spots being Aria Suites and Petit Palace Suites in Fira and Astra Suites and Hotel San Antonio in Imerovigli.
Where to get the best view in Santorini?
Well, let’s be honest, where isn’t there an amazing view? There’s the classic and iconic view at the Oia Castle during sunset but that is also the most crowded and popular spot by far to go see the sunset. Depending on the season, you will be crammed trying to get there. So definitely go early, if you do decide to go.
My personal favorite views are from the Blue Dome Churches, another place that is very popular but if you go early, around sunrise, you will miss the majority of the crowds. Another favorite of mine is going to Ammoudi Bay and enjoying the views there. So many picturesque spots there and a lot of great restaurant choices as well!
Best time of year to visit Santorini?
Typically, travelers enjoy the most from June to September. This is when the weather is the sunniest and warmest. If you love the beach and relaxing, these months are the absolute best time to go. But unfortunately, the downfall is that this is when prices are the highest and the most crowded. I personally like going during the shoulder seasons in May, June, September, and October.