Santorini is one of the most iconic Greek Islands to visit. Its gleaming white Cycladic houses, multi-coloured crumbly cliffs, cave-like hotels and gorgeous sunset from Oia – you will be spoilt for choices as soon as you land on the island. Both rugged and romantic, Santorini is a fount of legends and a ravishingly beautiful destination.
How to Get to Santorini
To get to Santorini, choose a flight via Athens, Rome, Naples, or Venice. However, it is most recommended to take a flight to Santorini via Athens. As there are so many amazing things to do in Athens, it is worthwhile to visit the capital city of Greece before heading off to Santorini.
Once you land in Athens, book a ferry ticket online, you can also buy at a travel agent in Athens or at the ferry port. Reach the Piraeus ferry port in the morning.
If you take the metro, it will take you 20 to 30 minutes, and if you take a taxi, it will not take you more than 30 to 40 minutes to reach the ferry port. As most ferries leave in the morning, it is best to arrive at least 1 hour in advance.
The trip from Athens to Santorini takes not more than 5 hours on a high-speed ferry and almost 8 hours on a conventional ferry. Enjoy the ride to Santorini. You will get a number of Instagram opportunities during the ride. Views are wonderful as soon as you enter the caldera.
Where to Stay in Santorini
Here is a quick look-up map of the Santorini island. Use the map to decide where to stay in Santorini.
Staying on top of the Santorini cliff will give you an amazing view of the Caldera, Volcano and the lovely orange sunset. Hence, it is best to stay in one of the four towns of Santorini – Oia, Fira, Firostafani and Imerovigli.
If you want to stay in Santorini on a budget, it is best to stay at places back from the caldera edge. There are a number of cheap hotels in Santorini, but they do not have volcano views.
Things to Do in Santorini
Watching the sunset from the iconic island of Oia to discovering the lost city of Atlantis, there are endless things to do in Santorini. Find out the must-visit attractions that you cannot miss while visiting Santorini.
Hike from Fira to Oia Island, Santorini
A hiking trail from Fira to Oia is one of the best things to do in Santorini. The views are incredibly amazing. Depending on your speed and how many pictures you take along the way, it takes somewhere between 2 and 5 hours to reach Oia from Fira.
When you start from Fira and move through Firostefani and Imerovigli, you will find beautiful paths and rural areas. From Imerovigli to Oia, it is mostly rural with only a handful of restaurants and shops along the way. If you are hiking in the months of July or August, try to start before 8 am.
Watch the Sunset in Oia Island
Oia gets incredibly busy around sunset as it is one of the best things to do in Santorini. Bring out a bottle of wine and hang out on the cliffs of Oia while watching the sunset. To get the best view of the sunset, you can either find a spot in the town itself or book a table in one of the restaurants that overlook the town.
If you are worried about your returning to Fira or Imerovigli, do not wait for a taxi. You will find lots of extra buses waiting for the crowds after the sunset. So, you may not need to wait at all to get the bus. Oia’s Elinikon is one of the best restaurants to see the sunset and it is also famous for good food and heavenly desserts.
See the Real Atlantis in Akrotiri, Greece
A catastrophic volcanic eruption consumed Santorini around 2,000 years ago. It was one of the biggest volcanic eruptions in the world. This event around 1600 BC caused the middle of the island to disappear into the ocean below. Not only a vast majority of Thera island sank beneath the ocean, but it also left a huge crater that eventually formed the massive cliffs on Santorini. Hence, for a long time, this part under the sea was assumed to be the home of the legend of Atlantis.
In 1967, archaeologists began excavating a site on the southwestern tip of the island and found a place called the Akrotiri Archaeological Site where you can see a glimpse into the past.
Visit this place to learn more about the dramatic past of the island as well as discover some of the ancient settlements. The opening hour of this undercover site is between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Visit the World’s Oldest Wineries at Santorini
The Greeks introduced wine to the rest of the Mediterranean. Explore some of the oldest, if not the oldest, vineyards in Santorini.
According to the Archaeologists, winemaking in Greece goes back at least 2700 years.
Santorini wine is great, the wineries are beautiful, and the people super friendly. It’s a fun and easy way to see the island away from the caldera. A tour is the best way of exploring more than one winery.
The Greeks brought wine to the rest of the Mediterranean, and Santorini can boast some of the oldest—if not the oldest—vineyards in the world. Archaeologists have found evidence of winemaking going back at least 3700 years. After the great Volcanic eruption of 1613 BC, the island turned into a barren land with very harsh weather. When the Phoenicians colonised the island around 1200 BC, they brought their own plants. However, only the woody grape vines survived the barren soil and the harsh condition of the Island.
One of those old vineyards is still producing wine grapes and has been in continuous cultivation for the last 3,200 years. However, there are at least 10 wineries now and you can visit them along with a wine museum. If you want to taste a variety of local wines, a visit to the wine cooperative is a must.
There are a few unusual wineries that you must visit. Those include Art Space winery, Boutari Winery and Gaia Wines. You can book for a guided tour to the Santorini wineries for a richer experience.
Explore Pyrogros Village – A Hidden Gem in Santorini
Visit the quaint little village of Pyrogros, away from the edge of the Caldera. The population of the village is less than 1000 people. It is a typical fortress settlement of the Cyclades. Walk up to the hilltop and you will find the ruins of Kasteli Castle, which was one of the 5 glorious castles of Santorini.
The locals of the Pyrogros village are quite friendly. The village is full of charm and you can find plenty of photo opportunity around every corner. Narrow winding paths, small white houses, remains of neo-classical mansions, vineyards, beautiful churches and breathtaking sunsets make this unique village of Pyrogros truly magical.
Ride a Donkey up the Steep Streets of Santorini
While in Santorini, you cannot miss the traditional donkey ride. The locals of the Greek island have been using donkeys or mules as a mode of transportation for hundreds of years. Take a donkey ride either from Amoudi Bay up to Oia or from the Old Port up to Fira. You can ride a donkey on the hiking route from Fira to Oia. However, if you have spinal injuries or pain, it is better to avoid the donkey ride, especially on the steep streets.
Swim at the Rainbow Beaches of Santorini
The beaches of Santorini line up along the east and south coasts of the Island. Red and Black volcanic pebbles occupy the shares of Santorini and steep cliffs provide a picturesque view.
Most of the famous Santorini beaches including Kamari, Perissa and Perivolos have dramatic black volcanic sand but a few, like Kokkini Ammos Cove, near the excavations at Akrotiri, have brilliant scarlet sands too.
Red beach is located just down the road from the Akrotiri ruins. It is the most spectacular and picturesque of any Santorini beach. It is about 15 minutes walk from the car park or the bus stop to the beach.
Vlychada beach, also known as the Moon beach of the Greek Island is a must-visit attraction for its sheer strangeness- yellow rocks, strange cliffs and the wind-shaped and volcanic tufa formulation creating a supernatural ambience.
Explore the Crater of an Active Volcano in Santorini
The Greek island is a dormant, but still active, Volcano. Neo Kameni and Palea Kameni are the two islands in the Caldera of Santorini where the lava actually flows from occasional eruptions. The last major eruption on New Kameni occurred in 1950.
Book a tour boat from the old port of Fira and visit the uninhibited New Kameni. You can hike the volcanic island and go uphill for about 20 to 30 minutes and enjoy the desolate landscape dotted with strange formations. Take the path to the top and reach the crater. It still smokes and reeks off sulphur. Your guide will dig a shallow hole and you will be able to feel the heat of the Island. It doesn’t take more than 2 hours to complete the volcanic island tour.
Sail around the Caldera of Santorini
A trip to Santorini remains incomplete without a little jaunt on a boat. Sailing around the Caldera is one of the most exciting things to do in Santorini.
If you see the map above, you will see a part of Santorini seems to stretch out its arm. This part with its cliffs wrapping around a giant nearly circular bay is the Caldera, The half-moon-shaped bay of Santorini is the centre of the Caldera. This cauldron-like volcanic depression occurred during the Minoan civilisation, eventually leading to their decline. Scientists think that it was the largest volcanic eruption in the last 10,000 years.
While sailing around the Caldera, explore the dramatic parts of the bay, the volcanic island and also have some little time to dive into the deep blue sea for an amazing experience.
Take a Boat to Thirassia Island from Santorini
Thirassia is on the western side of the Caldera. Earlier, both Thirassia and Santorini were connected to each other. However, the catastrophic Volcanic Eruption separated the Island from Santorini. Now, Thirassia is a small village with some good cafes and tavernas.
Take a boat from Ammoudi or the Old Fort Port. Boats are available from these two places everyday till 5 pm. The boat ride is only 1€ and it takes only 10 minutes to reach the small island village. Last boat back from the island is usually around 5 pm so plan wisely if you don’t want to spend the night on Thirassia island.
The island has mostly remained unspoilt and less crowded because of its obscurity compared to the world-renown popularity of Santorini. Visit the splendour of the private black stone beach near Riva, the stunning monasteries, and the incomparable hiking trails on Thirassia.
What to Eat in Santorini? – Try Local Food!
Santorini has several local specialities that are worth tasting during your stay on the island.
The basic pulse on the island is fava. Fava is cultivated in Santorini in abundance. They puree fava and serve it as a side dish to the main course. The pureed form of the yellow dried peas resembles smooth hummus. However, fava cooks far more quickly than beans or chickpeas. Fava is best enjoyed as a dip with lemon juice, olive oil and chopped onion.
Capers is another local speciality of Santorini. The farmers gather wild capers from the Caldera and vineyards. Sun-dried pickled capers are used with sun-dried tomatoes and give the typical Greek Salad a unique Santorini flavour.
Atherinopita is must try in Santorini. Atherinopita is like a pie, which is made by frying tiny fish with onions and flours.
Tomatokeftedes are one of Santorini’s signature dishes. It is basically tomato fitters. They pick thick-skinned, fleshy tomatoes, grate and chop them finely to mix it with herbs, spices and flour that they roll into small balls and deep fry. Considered a poor man’s meatball, this dish is a must-try in Santorini.
Another must-try Santorini speciality is Visanto. It is a very sweet dessert wine made from dried raisins from the vines.
Lastly, try Santorini pudding. A dessert made of Semolina and milk. This pudding is served with a sauce using Visanto wine.
Here’s Your Takeaway!
There are endless things to do in Santorini. A trip to Santorini can be one of the most amazing experiences in your life. Hence, you really need to get well prepared for the trip way in advance. Santorini can be a little costly if not planned properly. Book your flights, your ferries, your accommodation and even the things you want to do on the island online. It is highly advisable to book everything before you arrive on the island as Santorini has been highly popular among tourists in the last 10 years and it will keep on being like this forever because of the marvellous beauty of the Greek island.