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Where We Stayed (For FREE!): Santorini Edition

If you missed the eye candy of the Santorini photo recap, check it out here.

We had planned on going to Santorini for a week to celebrate our five year anniversary, and had been saving since our first anniversary! We had an idea of what flights would cost & what our hotel budget could be. What we didn’t know, was we would luck out in every way.

For starters, last Thanksgiving, there was some sort of glitch in the airlines and we scored flights from Nashville to Athens for less than $400 per person. That’s not a typo! We still had to get flights from Athens to Santorini, but those are typically around $100 and not a big deal. We couldn’t believe our luck, as we’d saved/budgeted $1500/person for flights, because the general price trend was $1200-1300ish, and you always want to have a bit of a cushion. With us scoring flights for 1/3 our budget, we had a nice chunk leftover, so we decided to be a little bougie and spring for a nicer hotel.

If you know me, you know I’m CHEAP. I come from a long line of cheapskates (my mom is the queen of a good deal!) However, Matt is even cheaper than I am. People are under the impression that we must spend a lot on traveling, and it’s simply not the case, because we are always looking for ways to save five bucks. So deciding to go for a nicer hotel was a HUGE leap for us – one I struggled with. But I kept telling myself it’s ok, we’ve saved over and above, and this vacation will still come in UNDER budget, even with a nicer hotel!

Anyway, we found 2 hotels we loved – they were both right at the top of the budget, one being about $30/night less than the other. However, the more expensive hotel had a private pool on your balcony, and was right in the middle of the action in Oia. It had so many more perks, and wasn’t much more, so we decided to go for it. After searching all the hotel sites for the best deal, we were about to click purchase – when Matt says “I wonder if our US Bank points would cover a few nights of this?”

We absolutely love our US Bank Flex Perks Travel Rewards Visa. It has amazing points and value for money, plus it uses Travelocity so you can select any hotel or flight, you aren’t boxed into one brand or company. So, we searched. Not only was our hotel available through the portal, we literally had just enough points (truly, only a couple hundred more than we needed) to cover the ENTIRE STAY.


Completely free.

I honestly couldn’t believe the luck we’d had so far on booking this trip!

I should note that we hadn’t touched our credit card points in over two years – so they were definitely racking up! We also put everything on that card (work and personal!) and pay it off each month.

Now, let me introduce you to the Oia Mare Villas. In my opinion, one of the nicest hotels in Santorini (there are more luxurious hotels, but they were all THOUSANDS per night, which is just so unfathomable to me)

The hotel is in the city of Oia, which is at the top of the crescent shaped island. Oia is mostly pedestrian only, so there aren’t really any streets or addresses – it can be a little confusing at first, because even looking at it on a map doesn’t really express the location properly. Here are a few different maps that hopefully make a little more sense!

The hotel is at the very tip of the island – which makes it one of the BEST places to see the sunset each night! You can see the pink circle above, the hotel is located between the dots of Amoudi Bay & the Byzantine Castle ruins. The Castle is where people stake out spots for HOURS before sunset to get that perfect view. But we were lucky and didn’t have to brave the crowds because our hotel offered an amazing view!

The hotel is built into the side of the cliff, and there’s nothing below it until the restaurants on the bay. To get to the hotel from all the shops in Oia, you actually have to wander through other “hotels” and residences. All the walkways are private property in a way, but there’s no way to stop people from getting from one place to the next! So we were often walking right by patios for restaurants and other hotel rooms. We were also about a 10 minutes walk right down all of those steps to the Bay.

The Property Itself
Oia Mare Villas is right in Oia, and built right into a cliff. It’s truly a magical place.

View of the caldera from Oia Mare
^ the pool at the bottom left was the hotel’s pool. All the rooms lead to each other, so although the balcony areas are “private”, people may walk through to get to their room if its above yours. This is in the evening, and below is earlier in the day.


^the entrance to the hotel!

^ The beautiful pool area!

There were a bunch of cute local cats who lived on the cliffs. I was constantly trying to befriend them, of course!

The property in the day! You can see the blue pool almost right in the middle. Our room was the red door on the right side, about 2/3 of the way to the top.


^there was a part of the roof above the offices that were common areas – the perfect place to watch the sunset!

Our Balcony/Patio
The patio was the winning element of this hotel room! We had this little area that had some sun and some shade. AKA, perfect for Matt and I because I want all of the sun and he’s always trying to avoid it. Plus it had a little hot tub for the evenings. WINNING. I read three books on this trip and I’m certain at least 2.5 were read while laying in the sun on this balcony drinking some Greek white wine!

^ not a great photo, but this was what our evenings looked like after dinner.


The Room Itself
The room was SO nice! It had two little sitting areas, which we didn’t use much, other than to leave our totes and backpacks on. If I was sitting, I was probably outside 🙂 The bed was at the back. All the walls were carved out of stucco or stone, but everything was so naturally cool.

^the bedroom at the back of the room. Below is the view from the back of the room (see the bed to the right).

^here is the view from the front door and window. It was pure joy to open those doors every morning!

This place was honestly so wonderful. I couldn’t suggest it more. We feel so lucky to have stayed here, and being able to use our credit card miles for the entire stay made it feel even more special! I’d highly recommend for anyone coming to Greece. Here’s the link to the website if you’d like to check it out for yourself!