Greece

The 14 essential things to do in Santorini

Last update : 26/05/2024 15:43

Santorini, a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, is renowned for its whitewashed houses with blue-domed roofs perched on steep cliffs. The volcanic landscapes feature rugged cliffs and black-sand beaches such as Perissa and Kamari.

The sunsets from Oia are legendary and attract visitors from around the world. Greek cuisine is a must-experience, with Mediterranean specialties and renowned local wines.

Water activities abound, from sailing to scuba diving, while explorers can visit archaeological sites like Akrotiri, an ancient Minoan town buried under volcanic ash.

The island offers a relaxed atmosphere and warm hospitality, making Santorini an unforgettable travel destination.

1 - Explore Oia

Explore Oia, Santorini, Greece

Oia (pronounced "ee-ya") is a picturesque village located on the northwestern tip of Santorini, one of the Cyclades islands in Greece. Known for its stunning sunsets, whitewashed buildings, and blue-domed churches, Oia is a popular destination for tourists seeking quintessential Greek island beauty. Here are some highlights and activities to consider when exploring Oia:

1. Sunset Viewing

Oia is world-renowned for its sunsets. People often gather at the castle ruins or along the cliffs to witness the sun setting over the Aegean Sea, creating breathtaking views that are often described as magical.

2. Ammoudi Bay

Located below Oia, Ammoudi Bay is accessible via a set of around 300 steps. It's a charming fishing harbor with crystal-clear waters, seafood tavernas, and spots for cliff diving and swimming.

3. Architecture and Walking Tours

Oia’s architecture is a blend of traditional Cycladic style with its whitewashed houses and blue-domed churches. Walking through the narrow streets, you’ll find boutique shops, art galleries, and cafes.

4. Castle of Oia (Kastro)

The remnants of this Venetian castle offer one of the best vantage points for sunset watching. The castle itself has historical significance and adds a romantic backdrop to the setting sun.

5. Maritime Museum

Housed in a 19th-century mansion, the Maritime Museum of Oia showcases the island's maritime history with exhibits including old maps, models of ships, and nautical instruments.

6. Art Galleries and Shops

Oia is home to several art galleries that display works by local artists. Unique shops offer handcrafted jewelry, ceramics, and other souvenirs that reflect the island's artistry.

Oia's blend of natural beauty, rich history, and charming ambiance makes it a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Santorini.

2 - Visit Fira

Visit Fira, Santorini, Greece

Visiting Fira is a fantastic idea if you appreciate traditional Cycladic architecture and a lively atmosphere with stunning views. Fira serves as the capital of Santorini, Greece, perched atop the caldera, offering spectacular panoramas of the Aegean Sea and Santorini's famous sunsets.

Here are some highlights not to miss during your visit to Fira:

  1. Santorini Caldera: Enjoy panoramic views of the caldera from the cliffs of Fira. It's one of the most iconic views on the island.

  2. Prehistoric Museum of Thera: This museum features a fascinating collection of artifacts from the Bronze Age found at Akrotiri, an ancient Minoan city buried under volcanic ash.

  3. Churches and Cathedrals: Explore traditional churches with characteristic blue-domed roofs and Orthodox cathedrals scattered throughout the town.

  4. Shopping and Dining: Fira bustles with numerous shops, art galleries, souvenir boutiques, and tavernas where you can enjoy local and international cuisine.

  5. Cliffside Walk: Take a picturesque stroll along Fira's cliffside, with breathtaking views and charming whitewashed alleyways.

  6. Nightlife: Fira is also known for its vibrant nightlife. Bars and clubs offer a festive atmosphere with sea views and refreshing cocktails.

For a more authentic experience, consider visiting early in the morning or in the evening to avoid the heat and crowds. Fira is truly one of Santorini's gems that deserves exploration.

3 - Sunset in Santorini

Sunset in Santorini, Santorini, Greece

Sunset in Santorini is a breathtaking spectacle that captivates visitors from around the world. Picture-perfect scenes unfold as the sun dips below the horizon, casting a warm glow across the iconic whitewashed buildings with their blue domes. The sky transforms into a canvas of vibrant colors—shades of orange, pink, and purple blending seamlessly against the deep blue Aegean Sea.

Many gather in Oia, a village known for its stunning sunset views, to witness this daily marvel. The atmosphere is filled with a sense of serenity and wonder as the sun's rays gradually fade, creating a magical moment that leaves a lasting impression. Whether viewed from a cliffside restaurant, a cozy terrace, or the winding streets of Santorini, the sunset here is truly a sight to behold, making it an unforgettable experience for all who visit this enchanting island.

4 - Ancient Thera

Ancient Thera, Santorini, Greece

Ancient Thera, is an archaeological site located on the Greek island of Santorini (Thera). It's situated on a high plateau called Mesa Vouno, which overlooks the stunning Aegean Sea. This site is of significant historical importance as it preserves the remnants of several ancient civilizations that once inhabited the island.

The settlement at Ancient Thera dates back to the 9th century BC and was inhabited successively by Dorians, Phoenicians, Hellenistic Greeks, Romans, and Byzantines. It served as an important center for commerce, culture, and religion throughout its history.

Today, visitors to Ancient Thera can explore the ruins of various structures, including houses, temples, theaters, and public buildings. The site offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape and provides insights into the daily life and architectural achievements of the ancient inhabitants of Santorini. It's a popular destination for tourists and history enthusiasts alike, offering a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the Aegean region.

5 - Red Beach and Black Beach

Red Beach and Black Beach, Santorini, Greece

In Santorini, Red Beach and Black Beach are two of the most iconic beaches on the island due to their distinctive colors

  1. Red Beach (Plage Rouge):

    • Located near the village of Akrotiri, Red Beach gets its name from its reddish cliffs and fine red sand.
    • It's one of Santorini's most photographed beaches due to its unique landscape and crystal-clear waters.
    • Access to the beach requires a short walk from the parking area or a boat from Akrotiri.
  2. Black Beach (Plage Noire):

    • Black Beach is mainly found in Kamari and Perissa on the east coast of the island.
    • It's famous for its distinctive black volcanic sand, formed by Santorini's past volcanic eruptions.
    • The beach is lined with numerous bars, restaurants, and hotels, making it one of the livelier beaches on the island.

These two beaches offer distinct experiences and are popular destinations for visitors to Santorini seeking unique landscapes and relaxation by the Aegean Sea.

6 - Akrotiri archaeological site

Akrotiri archaeological site, Santorini, Greece

The archaeological site of Akrotiri is an ancient Minoan city located on the island of Santorini, Greece. Often compared to Pompeii for its exceptional preservation, it was buried under volcanic ash during the massive eruption of the Thera (or Santorini) volcano around 1600 BC.

Key Features:

  1. History: Akrotiri was a significant Minoan settlement, thriving due to maritime trade and agriculture. Its origins date back to the 4th millennium BC, reaching its peak around 1650-1550 BC.

  2. Architecture: The buildings of Akrotiri are notable for their advanced urban planning and architecture. They were well-constructed with multiple floors, intricate wall frescoes, and a sophisticated drainage system.

  3. Wall Frescoes: Akrotiri's frescoes are among the finest examples of prehistoric Aegean art. They depict scenes of daily life, natural landscapes, animals, and deities.

  4. Destruction: The volcanic eruption buried the city under meters of ash and volcanic rocks, preserving structures and objects in remarkable condition.

  5. Archaeological Discoveries: Excavations at Akrotiri began in 1967, revealing impressive artifacts such as pottery, tools, jewelry, and frescoes. These findings have provided insights into Minoan civilization and its cultural exchanges with other contemporary societies.

The archaeological site of Akrotiri is now a major attraction for tourists and researchers interested in the ancient history of the Eastern Mediterranean.

7 - Prophet Elijah Monastery

Prophet Elijah Monastery, Santorini, Greece

The Monastery of Prophet Elias (Moni Profiti Ilia in Greek) is a monastery located on the island of Santorini, Greece. It sits atop Mount Profitis Ilias, the highest point on the island. Here are some key details about this monastery:

  1. Location: The Monastery of Prophet Elias is situated approximately 3.5 km southeast of Pyrgos, a traditional village in Santorini.

  2. History: It was built in the 18th century and is dedicated to Prophet Elias, a significant figure in both Orthodox Christianity and Judaism.

  3. Architecture: The monastery follows traditional Cycladic architecture, featuring whitewashed walls and distinctive blue-domed roofs. It is surrounded by a small garden and offers spectacular panoramic views of Santorini and the Aegean Sea.

  4. Accessibility: To reach the monastery, visitors must navigate a winding path through Santorini's hills. However, the effort is rewarded with breathtaking views from the top.

  5. Visit: The monastery is open to visitors, although opening hours may vary. Inside, visitors can explore religious icons and experience a serene atmosphere conducive to contemplation.

Visiting the Monastery of Prophet Elias provides not only a chance to explore a historic place of worship but also an opportunity to enjoy unparalleled views of one of Greece's most famous and picturesque islands.

8 - Hike from Fira to Oia

Hike from Fira to Oia, Santorini, Greece

The hike from Fira to Oia is one of the most iconic experiences on the island of Santorini, Greece. Here's some useful information if you're planning to do this hike:

  1. Distance and Duration: The hike from Fira to Oia is approximately 10 kilometers (6 miles) and usually takes between 2 to 4 hours, depending on your pace and how many stops you make along the way.

  2. Route: The trail starts in Fira, the capital of Santorini, and follows the caldera ridge with stunning views of the Aegean Sea and Santorini's famous sunsets. It passes through several picturesque villages like Firostefani and Imerovigli before reaching Oia.

  3. Difficulty: The hike is not extremely difficult but involves some uphill and downhill sections. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes and bring water, especially in hot weather.

  4. Best Time to Go: Early morning or late afternoon are generally the best times to avoid the midday heat and enjoy spectacular views during sunrise or sunset.

  5. Points of Interest Along the Way: Besides panoramic views, you'll pass by several traditional churches, cave houses, and cafes where you can stop for refreshments.

  6. Practical Tips: Wear a hat and sunscreen as much of the trail is exposed to the sun. Also, check trail conditions with locals or at local tourist offices before heading out.

In summary, hiking from Fira to Oia offers a fantastic way to explore Santorini's natural beauty and unique architecture, while enjoying a rewarding outdoor experience.

9 - Boat trips

Boat trips, Santorini, Greece

Boat excursions in Santorini offer a fantastic way to explore the natural beauty of this spectacular island in the Cyclades, Greece. Here are some key points to know about boat excursions in Santorini:

  1. Caldera and Volcanoes: Santorini's caldera is famous for its stunning cliffs and breathtaking views. Boat excursions allow you to admire these landscapes from the sea, providing a unique perspective.

  2. Visit to Beaches: You can discover Santorini's famous beaches such as the Red Beach or White Beach, often accessible only by boat. These beaches are known for their unique geological formations and crystal-clear waters.

  3. Thira and Oia from the Sea: You'll also have the opportunity to see the cliffside villages of Thira (Fira) and Oia from a different viewpoint, offering incredible photo opportunities of the characteristic white houses and blue domes of the Cyclades.

  4. Additional Activities: Many boat excursions include stops for swimming, snorkeling, or even visiting marine hot springs near Santorini's active volcano.

  5. Types of Excursions: There's a variety of boat excursion options to choose from, ranging from romantic sunset cruises to full-day trips with multiple stops. Some excursions also include meals onboard or at local taverns on nearby islands.

To fully enjoy your Santorini experience, it's recommended to book your boat excursion in advance, especially during the peak summer season, to avoid crowds and secure your spot.

10 - Kamari Beach

Kamari Beach, Santorini, Greece

Kamari Beach is a popular destination on the island of Santorini, Greece. It is renowned for its distinctive black volcanic sand, contrasting with the crystal-clear waters of the Aegean Sea. Kamari offers a lively atmosphere with numerous restaurants, bars, and cafes lining the promenade along the beach. It is a favored spot for both tourists and locals to relax, swim, and soak up the sun. Additionally, the nearby ancient ruins of Thera provide a unique blend of beach and historical culture to explore while visiting Santorini.

11 - Pyrgos

Pyrgos, Santorini, Greece

Pyrgos is a picturesque village located on the island of Santorini, Greece. Situated in the center of the island, Pyrgos offers stunning panoramic views of the Aegean Sea and the surrounding landscape, including the iconic whitewashed buildings and blue-domed churches that Santorini is famous for.

The village is characterized by its traditional Cycladic architecture, with narrow winding streets, labyrinthine alleyways, and charming white houses built into the cliffside. At the highest point of Pyrgos stands the ruins of a Venetian castle, offering visitors breathtaking vistas of the island and its stunning sunset.

Pyrgos is known for its peaceful and tranquil atmosphere, making it a perfect destination for those seeking a more relaxed and authentic Santorini experience away from the crowds. Visitors can explore its quaint shops, tavernas serving delicious local cuisine, and historical landmarks, making it a delightful stop during a visit to Santorini.

12 - Cuisine locale

Cuisine locale, Santorini, Greece

In Santorini, Greece, local cuisine is rich in Mediterranean flavors and offers a variety of delicious dishes to discover. Here are some typical dishes and specialties of the island:

  1. Santorini Tomatoes (Domates): Tomatoes grown on the island are famous for their sweet taste and juicy texture. They are often used in salads, main dishes, and sauces.

  2. Fava: This dish is made from local yellow split peas, cooked and mashed into a smooth puree. It's a highly appreciated specialty in Santorini.

  3. White Eggplants: A specific variety of white eggplants is grown on the island. They are often used in dishes like moussaka and other local specialties.

  4. Fresh Fish and Seafood: Being an island, Santorini offers abundant fresh fish and seafood. Popular dishes include grilled octopus, sun-dried octopus (chochlioi boubouristi), and stuffed calamari.

  5. Santorini Salads: Local salads often feature fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, and local capers, drizzled with regional olive oil and topped with feta cheese.

  6. Santorini Wine: The island is also famous for its wine, especially dry white wine made from the Assyrtiko grape. Santorini's unique terroir, with vines grown in low baskets to protect from wind, gives the wine a distinctive flavor.

  7. Dolmades: Vine leaves stuffed with a mixture of rice, onions, and herbs, often served as an appetizer.

  8. Koulourakia: Greek small cookies, often flavored with anise, traditionally served with coffee or tea.

These dishes provide a delightful glimpse into Santorini's local cuisine, showcasing fresh ingredients and culinary traditions of the island.

13 - Excursion à Nea Kameni

Excursion à Nea Kameni, Santorini, Greece

An excursion to Nea Kameni from Santorini offers a captivating experience for those interested in geology and volcanic history. Here’s what you can expect on this excursion:

  1. Departure from Santorini: Excursions to Nea Kameni typically depart from the old port of Fira or Athinios, depending on the tour operator.

  2. Boat ride: You'll travel by boat to Nea Kameni, a small volcanic island located in the center of Santorini's caldera.

  3. Guided hike: Upon arrival, you'll be guided on a hike to the summit of the volcano. The trails are well-maintained but can be rocky, so comfortable shoes are recommended.

  4. Geological insights: During the ascent, guides provide information about the island's geological history and past eruptions that have shaped the region.

  5. Main crater: At the summit, you'll see the main crater of the volcano. You can observe fumaroles and smell sulfur emissions, adding to the unique ambiance of the place.

  6. Free time: After the guided tour, you'll usually have some free time to further explore on your own or take panoramic photos of the caldera and surrounding islands.

  7. Return to Santorini: Once the visit is complete, you'll return by boat to Santorini, where you can continue exploring or relax in one of the island's charming villages.

Make sure to check specific details with your local tour operator as schedules and itineraries may vary depending on weather conditions and other factors.

14 - Excursion à Thirassía

Excursion à Thirassía, Santorini, Greece

An excursion to Thirassia from Santorini offers a tranquil and authentic getaway to a less-visited neighboring island. Here's what you can expect on this excursion:

  1. Departure from Santorini: Departures to Thirassia typically occur from the old port of Fira or Athinios, depending on the tour operator.

  2. Boat ride: You'll cross the Santorini caldera by boat to reach Thirassia. It's usually a short journey of about 20 to 30 minutes.

  3. Thirassia port: Upon arrival at Thirassia's port, you'll encounter a quieter and less touristy atmosphere compared to Santorini.

  4. Explore the main village: You'll have free time to explore the main village of Thirassia, often called Manolas. It's a traditional village with whitewashed houses, narrow streets, and family-run tavernas.

  5. Activity options: You can choose from various activities such as visiting the main church, sampling local specialties in tavernas, or simply strolling to soak in the island's everyday life.

  6. Panoramic views: Many viewpoints on Thirassia offer stunning vistas of the Santorini caldera and its famous cliffs.

  7. Return to Santorini: After your free time on the island, you'll return to Santorini by boat, where you can continue your exploration or relax.

This excursion is ideal for those seeking to experience a quieter, more traditional side of the Cyclades archipelago while enjoying spectacular views and a relaxed atmosphere. Make sure to check schedules and specific details with your local tour operator before departure.

Santorini - Where to Stay?

When visiting Santorini, there are several accommodation options to consider depending on your travel style and budget:

  1. Oia: Famous for its spectacular sunsets, Oia offers hotels with stunning views of the caldera. It's known for its picturesque alleys and traditional cave houses.

  2. Fira: The capital of Santorini situated atop the caldera rim, offering breathtaking views of the Aegean Sea. Here, you'll find a variety of hotels, restaurants, and shops.

  3. Imerovigli: Located between Oia and Fira, this village is renowned for its incredible panoramic views. It's a great choice if you seek tranquility while still being close to major attractions.

  4. Firostefani: Another picturesque village just north of Fira, offering magnificent views and a quieter atmosphere compared to the capital.

  5. Kamari and Perissa: If you prefer staying near the beach, these villages provide affordable accommodation options and are well-connected to other parts of the island.

  6. Pyrgos: Located inland, this traditional village offers a more authentic and peaceful Santorini experience away from the tourist crowds.

Each area of the island has its own unique charms and benefits. Your choice of accommodation will depend on your personal preferences, whether it's for views, proximity to attractions, tranquility, or beach access.

Santorini - How to get around?

To get around Santorini and explore the island, you have several options:

  1. Car or ATV: Renting a car or ATV is the most flexible way to explore Santorini at your own pace. There are numerous rental agencies across the island. Make sure you have a valid driver's license and familiarize yourself with the sometimes narrow and winding roads.

  2. Scooter or Motorcycle: Another popular option for getting around Santorini is renting a scooter or motorcycle. This is ideal for navigating through narrow village streets and accessing places where cars might struggle.

  3. Bus: Santorini has a well-organized public bus network that connects major towns such as Fira, Oia, Kamari, and other villages. Bus schedules can be regular, but it's advisable to check timetables in advance as they may vary depending on the season.

  4. Taxis: Taxis are available on Santorini, typically found at key points like the airport, port, and major villages. Taxi fares can be higher than bus fares, so negotiate the fare with the driver before getting in.

  5. Walking: If you're staying in major villages like Oia, Fira, or Imerovigli, exploring on foot can be enjoyable. You can wander through picturesque alleys, visit local shops, and enjoy panoramic views.

  6. Boat Excursions: For exploring maritime attractions like neighboring islands or the caldera, boat excursions depart from various ports around the island.

Choose the transportation option that best suits your needs and travel style. Each mode of transport offers its own advantages for discovering Santorini's unique beauty.

Santorini - Best period

The best time to visit Santorini depends on your preferences and what you want to experience:

  1. High Season (Summer): From June to September is high season in Santorini. Temperatures are high, often above 30°C (86°F), and there is plenty of sunshine. It's ideal for enjoying the beaches, water activities, and famous sunsets. However, accommodation prices can be higher, and the island can be crowded with tourists.

  2. Shoulder Season (Spring and Fall): April, May, and October can be excellent times to visit Santorini. Temperatures are milder, typically between 20°C to 25°C (68°F to 77°F), and there are fewer crowds compared to summer. You can enjoy pleasant weather for exploring the island, hiking, and visiting historical sites without the intense summer heat.

  3. Low Season (Winter): From November to March is low season in Santorini. Temperatures are cooler, usually between 10°C to 15°C (50°F to 59°F), and the island is much quieter with fewer tourists. It's ideal for those seeking a more authentic and tranquil experience. Many establishments may have reduced hours or be closed, but you can find lower accommodation rates.

In summary, the best time to visit Santorini depends on your preferences regarding weather, crowd levels, and activities. For most visitors, spring and fall offer a good balance with pleasant temperatures and fewer tourists compared to the peak summer season.

Last update : 26/05/2024 15:43

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