Santorini is one of the most romantic destinations in the world- a place where couples from all over the globe visit to celebrate weddings and honeymoons. But that didn’t stop 22-year-old journalism graduate and social influencer Ciara Rose from taking a trip to this breathtaking destination alone!
Ciara, who currently resides in California, spoke with IN+SIGHTS GREECE about what it was like exploring this famous Cycladic island solo and shares some great tips on what to do here on your own.
What made you decide to travel solo to Santorini?
While I was studying abroad in Rome, I realised living in Europe was the perfect opportunity to travel to some of my dream destinations. I had always wanted to visit Santorini, so I seized the moment. I chose to travel solo partly so that I could create an itinerary completely to my liking, and also because I hadn’t met any other student at the time who had the same interests. I learned that you simply cannot wait for others to live your best life.
Did you have any hesitation after booking?
To be honest, I didn’t realise how romantic Santorini was until I checked into my hotel as the only partner-less guest. To me, I was simply treating myself to a luxurious experience. I had travelled to Florence and Pisa alone weeks prior, so I felt empowered enough to enjoy my time on the island and gave myself enough activities to combat any feelings of loneliness.
How much did you research before you arrived?
I planned every aspect of my trip down to the hour- from my round-trip flight, my hotel, the shuttle to the hotel and back, restaurants, excursions, and more! While being spontaneous is nice, I find it vital to plan every trip so that you have a backup plan in place.
What was your first impression?
I was immediately in awe! Everything was beautiful – the whitewashed houses carved into the cliffs, the endless Aegean Sea, it was simply breathtaking. I loved the feeling of being there, it was remote and almost empty to the point where I felt as if I had the whole island to myself, as I travelled in the off-peak month of March and I couldn’t wait to explore!
What did you love most about this famous Cycladic island?
I loved the contrast- it felt both large and small, intimate and adventurous, welcoming, and distant. I loved the strong winds, the stray animals, and the incredible views of the sea.
Your favourite experiences?
Even during the off-season, I found many things to do. My favorite experience was booking a photoshoot with Greek photographer, Panos. He took me to the best locations on the island and in the end, I had over 100 amazing shots. I also highly enjoyed horseback riding. It was just me and the instructors, and I got to learn more about their business and Greek history while riding off into the sunset. Finally, I got a fish “pedicure” at a salon that was interesting, to say the least – definitely a must-try.
Did you find the locals friendly and welcoming?
They are gregarious and understand when tourists need assistance. I got lost during a hike to Oia, had no cell reception, and desperately needed a taxi back to my hotel. I knocked on the door of a few locals who were having a gathering, and the ones that spoke English gave me accurate directions for the way to the taxi station. I’m so thankful for that.
Was there a time when you felt alone or unsafe?
The nights in Santorini were the most difficult – it was chilly and quiet, and being so close to the sea alone felt strangely isolating. Also, given that most of the cell reception was spotty and unstable, my anxiety increased, especially during my four-hour hike to Oia and back. During that hike, I was truly alone because I didn’t even have the security of the hotel staff to account for me if anything were to happen. I was also briefly lost there for a moment and had to rely on my instincts to guide me back to safety. However, when I was in the main areas and actually around other people, I felt much better.
Would you recommend Santorini for solo travellers?
I would not let the stigma around Santorini being a “couples only” destination deter any solo travellers from visiting. It is entirely possible to plan an enjoyable trip here completely alone.
If you did it again, what would you do differently?
Initially, I thought, “yes, I would take someone with me on this trip,” but then I changed my answer. I believe that being solo on this trip forced me outside my comfort zone, which allowed me to further grow and mature as a person, I also gained a lot of inspiration. This is essentially one of the most important benefits of solo travel – it teaches you to rely only on yourself. The only thing is I would maybe visit closer to April or May when more shops are open and before the chaos of the summer months.
Will you be heading back to Greece?
I would love to take my mother to Greece to see her experience the massive beauty and culture the country has to offer. If I ever get married, I would also bring my partner here to explore.
Your tips for travelling to Santorini alone?
Plan at least a month in advance of where you wish to stay, how long for, and have an idea of what to do. Also, get your money converted and bring enough cash – many vendors did not take cards and the ATMs charge fees. I would advise setting up an international cellular plan with your mobile so you remain connected to home and can make calls in case of any emergencies. Lastly, I would say to have fun! Enjoy it to the fullest because travelling solo is a luxury, not many have the flexibility, time, or confidence to do so, so take pride in your freedom and find a way to document your time. I recommend journaling, creating a website/portfolio, or starting a blog like I did so that you can reflect on the day and read it back years later.
You can read more about Ciara Rose’s travels here.