Santorini is one of the Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea. It was devastated by a volcanic eruption in the 16th century BC, forever shaping its rugged landscape. If you approach Santorini from the water, it's hard not to be awed by the sheer cliffs that soar above a turquoise sea, by the fact that you're sailing in an immense crater of a drowned volcano and that before you lies an island shaped by an ancient eruption cataclysmic beyond imagining.
High above, the main villages of Fira and Oia are a snow-drift of white Cycladic houses that line the cliff tops and spill like icy cornices down the terraced rock. And then there are the sunsets, with crowds breaking into applause as the sun disappears below the horizon. In peak season, Santorini becomes a playground for the very wealthy, and while this has resulted in some stellar restaurants and superb wineries, the strain on the infrastructure is a concern. Still, there's relative seclusion found at the island's ancient sites, on hiking trails and beneath the waves.
As the ferry manoeuvres into the great caldera of SANTORÍNI (Thíra), the land seems to rise up and clamp around it. Gaunt, sheer cliffs loom hundreds of metres above the deep blue sea, nothing grows or grazes to soften the awesome view, and the only colours are the reddish-brown, black and grey pumice layers on the cliff face of Santoríni, the largest island in this mini-archipelago. The landscape tells of a history so dramatic and turbulent that legend hangs as fact upon it.
These apocalyptic events, though, scarcely concern modern tourists, who come here to take in the spectacular views, stretch out on the island’s dark-sand beaches and absorb the peculiar, infernal geographic features. The tourism industry has changed traditional island life, creating a rather expensive playground. There is one time-honoured local industry, however, that has benefited from all the outside attention: wine. Santoríni is one of Greece’s most important producers, and the fresh, dry white wines it is known for (most from the assýrtiko grape for which the region is known) are the perfect accompaniment to the seafood served in the many restaurants and tavernas that hug the island’s cliffs.
BEST TIME TO VISIT SANTORINI
The best time to visit Santorini is from September to October and April to May when the weather is warm and the crowds are scarce. Like all of the Cyclades, Santorini welcomes the most visitors during the summer, so you'll need to make your reservations months in advance if you plan on visiting anytime from June through August. Looking for a bargain? Try winter, when room rates tend to plummet. Keep in mind that this season's average highs only reach the 50s (not good for sunbathing) and the region sees plenty of precipitation. However, all that rain does make for a very flowery (and warm) spring season. Crowds will be at a low in the spring as well, though tourists will begin invading the islands come May.
(April through May)
The tourist season starts around Easter each year, and predominantly Greek and European visitors begin their island pilgrimages at this time. Keep in mind that Easter itself can be quite busy. The temperatures are mild, hovering between the 60s and 70s for most of the spring months. While it may still be a bit too cold to don a swimsuit, you'll find that the weather is perfect for sightseeing. Be sure to bring a warm jacket for the cool evenings.
(June through August)
The summer marks Santorini's peak season, as well as the best weather for swimming. Visitors flock to the area in search of the perfect beach vacation. If you decide to brave the heavy crowds, make sure to book your hotel at least two months in advance to ensure availability.
(September through October)
The Aegean water is still warm in September and October, most days are sunny, and daytime temperatures typically hover in the 70s and 80s. Much of the tourist infrastructure is still open for business – despite the thinning crowds. And thankfully, fewer crowds cause room rates to drop. Beware, however, that some restaurants, hotels and other establishments begin to close for the season in late October or early November and won't reopen until spring.
(November through March)
This is the least popular time to visit Santorini thanks to temperatures in the 50s – hardly pleasant for sunbathing. The wintertime also sees the most precipitation, which trumpets forth a blossom-filled spring. You can find great deals in the offseason, but consider the downsides of less pleasant weather and many closed tourist hot spots. Not only that, but public transportation schedules are abbreviated.
GETTING TO SANTORINI
There are two ways to access Santorini from Athens, the capital of Greece. You can travel either by plane (Athens International Airport "Eleftherios Venizelos") or by ferryboat (Piraeus Port). There are also links between Santorini and other Greek islands.
By Plane - The flight is the quickest, easiest and most direct way as it lasts more or less 40 minutes and you can book your tickets in advance. It is more expensive, of course, than the ferry. The National Airport of Santorini is situated on the east side of the island, in Kamari village, at a distance of 5 kilometers from the capital Fira. To get to Fira you can take a taxi or a bus from the station outside the airport and from the capital, there are connections to the rest of the settlements. Additionally, there is the option of a charter flight half-yearly and some European airlines provide direct flights to Santorini.
By Ferry - From the port of Piraeus in Athens, which is connected to the airport by a bus line, you can take the ferryboat which takes 8 hours or the High-Speed ferry where the trip lasts about 5 hours and is a little more expensive. The departures are frequent and the journey is enjoyable as the ferries have comfortable areas with TVs, restaurants and cafes and decks from where you can relish the Aegean Sea and gaze the breathtaking view of the caldera as you reach Santorini. Athinios is the main port of Santorini and lies approximately 10 kilometers away from Fira. You can always find a bus from the port to the capital or you can take a taxi for a more convenient transfer. Lastly, along with the port, there are some car and motorbike rental services.
GETTING AROUND SANTORINI
The best way to get around Santorini is on foot or by bus. You'll see that it's easy to walk around the tiny seaside towns, but the bus is best to get from one town to another. There are KTEL bus routes from Fira (the capital city) to many different destinations around the main island. KTEL also services the Santorini (Thira) Island National Airport (JTR), but you might find it easier to rely on a cab to get you into town. If you're planning to do a little island hopping, you can catch a ferry from Athinios (about 5 miles south of Fira).
Bus - The KTEL transportation company operates buses from Fira to areas all over the main island, Thira. During peak travel months, most routes are served at least once every hour all day, though bus schedules are notorious for changing frequently. Fares range between the equivalent of $2.10 and $2.81 – depending on your destination. Tickets are purchased on the bus. Keep in mind that there aren't direct KTEL buses to towns other than Fira. If you want to get to Oia from Kamari, you'd have to take the bus back to Fira then hop another bus from Fira to Oia.
On Foot - Santorini's towns are compact with narrow, winding roads, making walking an easy way to get around. Just make sure to keep an eye out for mopeds – these tiny motorized bikes are allowed on both the street and the sidewalk.
Ferry - To get between Thira and Thirassia, you can take a ferry from Athinios (the island's main port) or Ammoudi in Oia. If you want to go beyond Thirassia to other, farther away Greek Isles, stick to Athinios. Service frequency depends on the season, but you can expect at least one trip a day in either direction.
Car, ATV and Moped - Although the KTEL buses are convenient, they may get crowded during the summer and unreliable during the offseason. A car may be convenient if you're not staying in a densely packed town. Some people may prefer a moped (if you have a motorcycle license) or an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) for traversing less-traveled routes. Rental agencies are located at the airport as well as in Fira. You'll have to apply for an international driver's license, which can be done online at the IDL Service website.
Taxi - Taxis are available on both Thira and Thirassia. Major routes, such as those from the ferry ports to Fira, from Oia to Fira, or travel to certain towns from the airports have fixed rates. For these routes, expect to pay anywhere between 10 euros to 20 euros ($11.19 to $22.37), depending on your final destination. But if you're using a taxi to get around town or to one of the less-visited areas, make sure to agree upon a price before getting into the cab. It's also a good idea to write down the address of your final destination.
WHERE TO STAY IN SANTORINI
The dream of a lifetime for many around the world, Santorini is an island situated 200 kilometers southeast of Greece mainland. Located on the Aegean Sea, the island is the most-visited tourist destination in the country. Officially known as Thira, Santorini is characterized by its once-devastating-now-impressive volcanic caldera, and of course, the picture-perfect sunsets. Santorini’s top location also makes it rank among some of the most expensive places to visit, however, with a little research, you could easily find a hotel to suit your budget and style of travel. So, whether you are a luxury vacationer or a budget traveler, take a look below at some of the most popular neighborhoods on the island and decide where to stay in Santorini on your dream vacation.
Uma Ray Suites in Fira provides adults-only accommodation with an outdoor and an indoor heated swimming pool, a bar and a garden. Featuring a concierge service, this property also provides guests with a terrace. The accommodation provides a 24-hour front desk, airport transfers, room service and free WiFi throughout the property. Guest rooms are equipped with air conditioning, a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, a kettle, a hot tub, a hairdryer and a desk. At the hotel each room is fitted with a wardrobe and a private bathroom. Uma Ray Suites offers a continental or gluten-free breakfast. Bike hire and car hire are available at the accommodation and the area is popular for hiking and cycling. Popular points of interest near Uma Ray Suites include Archaeological Museum of Thera, Museum of Prehistoric Thera and Central Bus Station. The nearest airport is Santorini International Airport, 6 km from the hotel.
Elitoz Suites is located in Oia, 5 km from Cape Columbo Beach and 1.2 km from Naval Museum of Oia. Featuring a concierge service, this property also provides guests with a terrace. There is an outdoor pool and guests can make use of free WiFi and free private parking. At the hotel, each room is fitted with a desk, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom. Guest rooms at Elitoz Suites include air conditioning and a wardrobe. The accommodation offers a à la carte or American breakfast. The nearest airport is Santorini International Airport, 16 km from Elitoz Suites.
ity Break is set in the centre of Fira, 100 m from Archaeological Museum of Thera. The property is around 100 m from both Museum of Prehistoric Thera and the Central Bus Station. Every room includes a patio. The rooms in the hotel are equipped with a kettle. The private bathroom is fitted with a shower. At City Break the rooms are equipped with a wardrobe and a flat-screen TV. The Central Bus Station is 100 m away. Santorini International Airport is 6 km from the property.
Set in Akrotiri, within 650 m of Caldera Beach and 1 km of Akrotiri Beach, Melidonia Suites offers accommodation with a garden and free WiFi throughout the property as well as free private parking for guests who drive. Featuring family rooms, this property also provides guests with a terrace. The accommodation provides a 24-hour front desk and room service for guests. At the hotel, all rooms are fitted with a desk, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom. The units at Melidonia Suites feature air conditioning and a wardrobe. Guests at the accommodation can enjoy a continental or a à la carte breakfast. Red Beach is 1.1 km from Melidonia Suites, while Archaeological Site of Akrotiri is 1.3 km away. The nearest airport is Santorini International, 12 km from the hotel, and the property offers a paid airport shuttle service.
Located in Monolithos, 1.8 km from Karterados Beach, DL Santorini provides accommodation with a restaurant, free private parking, a bar and a garden. Featuring family rooms, this property also provides guests with a terrace. The hotel features an outdoor swimming pool and room service and free WiFi throughout the property. Guest rooms are equipped with air conditioning, a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, a fridge, a kettle, a shower, a hairdryer and a wardrobe. At the hotel each room comes with a private bathroom with free toiletries. Guests at DL Santorini can enjoy a continental or a buffet breakfast. Monolithos Beach is 1.2 km from the accommodation. The nearest airport is Santorini International Airport, 2.6 km from DL Santorini.
Situated 6 km from Cape Columbo Beach, Museo Grand Hotel in Oia features rooms with air conditioning and free WiFi. Attractively set in the Oia Caldera district, this hotel is located 200 m from Naval Museum of Oia. The hotel has family rooms. At the hotel, rooms come with a desk, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom. A à la carte breakfast is available each morning at Museo Grand Hotel. The area is popular for hiking, and bike hire and car hire are available at the accommodation. The nearest airport is Santorini International, 17 km from Museo Grand Hotel, and the property offers a paid airport shuttle service.
Situated in Karterados and with Exo Gialos Beach reachable within 2.3 km, Emerald Collection Suites features express check-in and check-out, rooms, a seasonal outdoor swimming pool, free WiFi throughout the property and a garden. Boasting family rooms, this property also provides guests with a sun terrace. The accommodation offers room service, a concierge service and organising tours for guests. All rooms are fitted with air conditioning, a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, a fridge, a kettle, a shower, a hairdryer and a wardrobe. At the hotel the rooms are fitted with a private bathroom with free toiletries. Guests at Emerald Collection Suites can enjoy a continental breakfast. Karterados Beach is 2.4 km from the accommodation, while Monolithos Beach is 2.5 km from the property. The nearest airport is Santorini International, 5 km from Emerald Collection Suites, and the property offers a paid airport shuttle service.
Abelis Canava Luxury Suites in Vóthon provides adults-only accommodation with a seasonal outdoor swimming pool, a garden and a terrace. Among the facilities at this property are room service and a tour desk, along with free WiFi throughout the property. Free private parking is available and the hotel also offers bike hire for guests who want to explore the surrounding area. The units come with air conditioning, a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, a fridge, a kettle, a hot tub, a hairdryer and a desk. Featuring a private bathroom with a shower and free toiletries, rooms at the hotel also have pool view. At Abelis Canava Luxury Suites, all rooms come with a seating area. Continental and à la carte breakfast options are available every morning at the accommodation. At Abelis Canava Luxury Suites guests are welcome to take advantage of a hot tub.Oia is 16 km from the hotel, while Fira is 5 km away. The nearest airport is Santorini International, 3.3 km from Abelis Canava Luxury Suites, and the property offers a paid airport shuttle service.
Boasting a seasonal outdoor swimming pool, bar, garden and free WiFi, Petri Suites is situated in Perivolos, 300 m from Perivolos Beach. Featuring family rooms, this property also provides guests with a terrace. The accommodation features room service, a concierge service and organising tours for guests. At the hotel, each room is fitted with a wardrobe. At Petri Suites rooms are fitted with a desk, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom. A buffet breakfast is available each morning at the accommodation. At Petri Suites guests are welcome to take advantage of a hot tub. The nearest airport is Santorini International, 13 km from the hotel, and the property offers a paid airport shuttle service.
Located in Pirgos, Pyrgos 1870, A restored Winery offers accommodation with private balconies. Featuring luggage storage space, this property also provides guests with a terrace. The property provides sea views, and free WiFi is available throughout the property. At this property, each unit has a patio with Caldera and volcano views. Studios come with a shared, fully equipped kitchen. With a private bathroom equipped with a bidet and a hairdryer, rooms at Pyrgos 1870, A restored Winery will provide guests with a wardrobe and a kettle. Some units come with a private pool, while the rest feature a mini pool. Thermes Beach is 2.7 km from the accommodation, while Art Space Santorini is 2.4 km away. The nearest airport is Santorini International, 7 km from Pyrgos 1870, A restored Winery, and the property offers a paid airport shuttle service.
Visiting Santorini with Kids
Most visitors are adults – and most aren’t visiting Santorini to hang out with your kids.
Its beaches are black volcanic sand that can be scorching hot in the mid-day sun.
It’s expensive. Many hotels have a boutique feel with smallish trendy rooms.
Wine and food are big draws for Santorini – and neither are top things to do for the typical child.
There are lots of great swimming spots all over the island.
Kids love the boat tour of the caldera and the swim (from the boat) to the volcanic hot spring.
The history of the island and caldera is pretty darn interesting.
PLACES TO GO & THINGS TO DO IN SANTORINI
Santorini is undoubtedly the starlet of the Cyclades. The mesmerising sunset views, chic hotels adorned with infinity pools and a cosmopolitan crowd have made the majestic island well known as Greece’s premier destination for luxury travel. Beyond photographing the iconic whitewashed houses of Fira and Oia, Santorini offers an abundance of activities: watching movies al fresco, relaxing in thermal springs and hiking through stunning scenery.
Set in the village of Kamari, a few miles away from Fira, open-air movie theatre Cine Kamari has been in operation since 1987. A family-run business, the cinema is known for its homely and welcoming vibe. “As you enter the place you will find yourself in an enchanting secret garden, with a wonderful old fashioned quality that harks back to the golden age of cinema,” says Cine Kamari’s Ina Koutroubilis. “There are cinemas you go to just to see a film and there are those, like Cine Kamari Santorini, where you go to for a cinematic experience.” The smell of fresh popcorn lingers in the air, mingled with the sweet scent of night blooming flowers.
Housed in a complex of old winery chambers that date back to 1861, Art Space’s exhibition halls have an undoubtedly mystical feel. Owned by the Argiros family for over a century, this gallery space exhibits distilling equipment and grape-treading basins. Visitors can also see one of the last remaining pre-industrial tomato paste processing plants. Since 1999, when the two wine cellars, the old raki distillery and the large caved space of the old winery started operating as an art space, over 300 Greek and International Artists have exhibited their artworks in the cavernous halls. Antonis Argiros, the present owner of the space, tells Culture Trip that the modern winery produces only 10,000 wine bottles per year – mainly for visitors to Art Space. “All of our wines are organic and we only use wild yeast during the fermentation, producing wines that reflect the terroir,” Argiros explains.
Tomato Industrial Museum
Tomatoes are one of Santorini’s most traditional and well-known products. Located in Vlychada, the Tomato Industrial Museum provides visitors with an interesting way to learn of the culture and traditions of Santorini’s citizens through everything from recordings to written notes. Once a tomato factory owned by D.Nomikos, the museum now exhibits pieces such as machinery dating back to 1890, work tools, the narratives of factory workers and work manuscripts. Exhibits also aim to teach people about Santorini’s history and its people and the museum is home to an art shop which sells jewelry and artwork adorned with Greek design.
Boasting one of the most captivating landscapes, Santorini has been used as a film set in many international productions. Culture Trip asked Grigoris Sarantis, a producer at Central Athens Film Productions, about his favourite filming location on the island. “I’ve had the luck to shoot in Santorini more than 10 times, leaving the island full of emotions each time. I’m still amazed by the view from the caldera, looking across Palia Kameni isle with the cruise ships underneath,” he says. His very favourite spot, however, is Ammoudi – the tranquil fishing harbour set right at the foot of Oia. “You can take a small boat and go out to the sea, looking at the whole island, which offers great photo opportunities.”
The Archaeological Museum of Thera is home to a number of finds from sites such as Akrotini and other Cyclades Islands. The building was erected in 1960 in order to replace the 1902 museum which was destroyed during an earthquake. A number of historic periods are covered, up until the late Roman era. Exhibitions within the museum include the history and geology of Thera as well as treasures from as far back as the Neolithic era. Some noted artifacts include a clay oven and bathing tub and the clay daedalic figure, which dates back to the 7th century and is extremely well preserved.
Oia Vineyart brings together flavourful local wine and eclectic art. Run by a group of young people from diverse backgrounds, this multi-purpose space in the heart of Oia features a café-restaurant, a gift shop packed exclusively with handmade items and an art space where a variety of exhibitions and performances take place. “Featuring over 180 wine brands from Santorini’s 3,500-year-old vineyard, our aim is to combine the island’s gastronomic wealth and rich wine tradition in a place where Santorini’s culture is presented to visitors through our eyes,” says Fragiskos Markozanes, one of Oia Vineyart’s co-founders.
Santorini’s magical scenery is in large part born of the island’s volcanic activity, which has created beaches in a variety of remarkable colours. The three most stunning among these are the Red, Black and White Beaches. The Red and White Beaches lie next to each other at the southwest coast of the island, around 14 kilometres (8.7 miles) from Fira. However, the White Beach is only accessible via a boat, which departs from the Red Beach. The Black Beach (Perissa) at the southeast of the island, is nestled at the foot of Mesa mountain.
“Those seeking to escape the crowds should head to Vlychada Beach or Koloumbos Beach,” says Pavlos Roulias, a local who, though living in Athens, returns every summer to work at Santorini’s campsite. Both Vlychada and Koloumbos have long been nudist beaches and this tradition is alive and well today. Roulias notes that there’s more to Koloumbos than the sense of freedom it offers: “Koloumbos isn’t just a calm beach of astounding beauty. It’s a place that narrates part of the island’s history, as 18 metres [59 feet] beneath the water surface lies an underwater volcanic crater that was formed in 1650 AD after a volcanic eruption took place,” he explains.
Get traditional at Megalochori village
Megalochori, with its name translating as ‘Big Village’, traces its history back to the 17th century. Here five - star hotels with infinity pools give way to historic mansions and traditional tavernas. On the village square, you’ll see local residents drinking potent Greek coffee and playing backgammon in the morning, while you should visit in the evening to enjoy traditional meze alongside ouzo at the popular Raki restaurant.
Sailing to the small volcanic islands that are scattered around Santorini’s archipelago caldera is an experience not to be missed. There are numerous organised tours to choose from, or you can opt to take the ferry from the island’s old port in Fira and sail to Nea Kameni, from where you can take a guided tour to the volcano. Next stop should be Palia Kameni, where the hot springs – with sulphur- and iron-rich waters – offer the perfect place for a relaxing dip. Keep in mind, though, that reaching the thermal springs requires swimming from the boat to the shore.
Follow the hiking trail from Fira to Oia, the two most beautiful towns on the Island, and on your way enjoy a panoramic view of the caldera from above and explore the small villages of Imerovigli and Firostefani. The mostly cobblestoned trail is around 10 kilometres (6 miles) long, and takes 3-5 hours to complete. Though the trail is relatively easy, it is advisable to set out early during the summer months, in order to avoid hiking in the heat of the day.
One of the most prominent excavation sites within the Aegean Islands, Akrotini has been an active excavation site since 1967. Civilisations from the 4th millennium BC up until the 17th century BC have been discovered here. Some of the most important buildings are ‘Xeste 4’ – a three storey building which is the largest find up until this point – as well as the ‘House of Ladies’ which is named after the fresco of the ladies and Papyrus which was used as an interior design. Many finds from this site are exhibited in the Archeological Museum of Thera.
Mnemossyne Gallery in Oia is home to a collection of contemporary art books, photographs and jewelry. The pieces exhibited are the work of local artists and designers, making this quite a unique and personal experience of the island. Many of the designs are quite unusual, reflecting the unique aesthetic of the island and of Greek art past and present. If you want to make a little piece of the island home with you, these make a some are available for sale as a unique gift or souvenir.
Santorini is famous for its beautiful sunsets and the village of Oia is the most popular spot. The village praised for its beauty and charm and can be enjoyed at any point of the day; however the sunset is its most enchanting feature. It is actually said that it is one of the most beautiful sunsets on earth. It can only be seen from the tip of the island which means the number of visitors waiting to see this wonderful sight can sometimes make it a little hectic.
Located 10 kilometres from Fira, the Island’s capital, this is one of Santorini’s most popular beach resorts with the area undergoing development works after an earthquake in 1956. Awarded with a Blue Flag certification, this beach provides a range of facilities such as showers, sunbeds and umbrellas. One of the main features of this site however, is its volcanic black sand. The beach is also situated under the impressive Mountain of Mesa Vouno. Although a great place to relax, Kamari Beach offers a wide variety of activities with everything from speed boats to scuba diving, and even a little history – in 2002 a sanctuary dedicated to the legendary Achilles was discovered. .
The Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral, also known as the Church of Ypapantis is one of Santorini’s landmarks. It is dedicated to John the Baptist. The original church was built in 1827, however had to be re-built after it was destroyed during the 1956 earthquake. The design of the Cathedral is quite breath-taking with its arches, domes and beautiful steeple. The church also houses a number of wonderful frescos created by local artist Christoforos Assimis. However, the surroundings of the cathedral are equally worth a look. Situated on the top of a cliff towards the bottom of the town, the church offers a wonderful view. Mass in the church convent is regularly attended by the Catholic nuns and visitors are free to join if they so wish.
Built in 1888, Argyros Mansion was home to George Argyros, a wealthy and famous wine manufacturer. The mansion is currently under the ownership Manolis Argyros who is the fourth generation of the family. The mansion is well-known for its beautiful neo-classical style architecture which includes Bavarian design as was the fashion during this period. From the living room with its Austrian styled furniture to the dining room whose Venetian dining table could accommodate eighteen people, this house breathes elegance and sophistication. The first floor is home to a museum which houses a number of Greek artifacts for visitors to ponder along with a number of paintings which date back to the 19th century. The house is open to the public and includes guided tours for both individuals and groups.
Explore the seabed of this great Greek island, with or without a tank, and get lost in the extraordinaryunderwater world of Santorini with your first ever dive lesson or a full training course. Venture down to 18m in depth to the volcanic sea floor, or, if you prefer the shallower waters, then guided snorkeling trips are available. Just grab a mask, snorkel and a pair of fins and enjoy the hidden beauties of the depths, with a surprise around every rock. Make the most of a chance to dive into these crystal-clear waters, swim through volcanic rock formations and observe the unique marine life, home to fish, octopus, eels, squid and flourishing vegetation.
If you’re a seasoned surfer looking for big waves and barrels, then keep on rolling, but if you want to enjoy the calm and glassy surface of the Aegean Sea on a board then let yourself be tempted by an SUP session. Stylishly cruise on Santorini’s small waves standing on a board, using only pure man-power and a paddle to direct you, discover a truly unique way to enjoy the jaw-dropping views of the islands, while, at the same time, getting in an all-over body workout. Santorini is known for its small paradise beaches, but Saint George’s beach is one of the widest, making it the perfect place to relax and paddle around in the flat water, and if you feel like it, there’s also yoga classes on the paddle boards. SUP'ing is an unmissable activity to test your balance and paddle power, and is especially magical if you manage to catch one of the fabulous sunsets in the villages of Oia, Fira and Imerovigli.
Defy gravity several metres above sea level and. step into Iron Man’s shoes for a few minutes with a Flyboard and hoverboard session, these new futuristic activities invented by Franky Zapata. Take to the air and hover over the water with the possibility of reaching a whopping 14 meters in height. With the help of your instructor, learn to fly over the warm waters of Santorini, powered by the powerful turbines of the Flyboard. It obviously takes a lot of balance to stay upright but after a few minutes of training, you can master this crazy invention.
Seakayaking is an unforgettable way to discover the shores of Santorini. With this guided tour along the south coast, you can enjoy an alternative point of view of the caldera and volcano while admiring the landscape of whitewashed houses and rock formations in the light of day or to wait for the evening and enjoy the sunset with its sublime red colour on the surface of the sea. Get the hang of it in a flash with a small introductory course teaching you how to paddle effortlessly, you can row around the south coast and enjoy swimming and diving in the crystal-clear waters of Santorini. A beautiful program in perspective.
If you’re looking for a bit of an extra buzz to get your adrenaline pumping then it’s time to take to the skies and check out Santorini from a different perspective. Safely fly over the blue waters of the Aegean Sea with a panoramic view of Santorini from 100 meters up, take photos from the skies and, if you’re lucky, have a front row seat to a famous sunset. The parachute can accommodate up to 3 people and is towed by a specially designed rigger, so buckle up and speedily soar around this picturesque island in style.
It’s time to find your sea legs – it’s difficult to imagine a better spot for watching a Santorini sunset than on a sailing coat cruising across the Aegean Sea! Sail just below the caldera as the highlight of your trip around the volcano island, then sit back and relax with a drink while you soak in the view. By sail boat or catamaran, this experience is not the most extreme of our selection but by far the most relaxing. A first stop at the hot springs for a mud bath that is a unique and therapeutic way to relax. Then via Apronisi and the famous lighthouse of the village, you will make a second stop at the red beach to swim and dive in the crystalline waters of Santorini. You will continue sailing to White Beach to swim and have a barbecue and after dinner, you will sail quietly to the village of Oia to enjoy the sunset with its gradations of pink, purple, orange and red that you will not see nowhere else.
When it’s speed in the water you’re looking for all lovers of speed on the water, this sport is for you. Feel the buzz of the engine vibrate and sail along the shores of Santorini at full speed, admiring the beauty of this island from the sea. You can go around the islands or stop for a small excursion to the National Natural Geological Park of Nea Kameni with its famous volcano. The departure is generally from the beach of St George, the most beautiful of Santorini then direction Vlychada and the red beach for your jet-ski trip. Choosing between a solo voyage or a cruise with friends, it’s a good opportunity to enjoy the beautiful landscapes with a few thrills in passing.
Each year the island of Santorini plays host to Red Bull Art of Motion, an international parkour competition with the best free-runners in the world who compete on top of these exceptional houses. Bringing together 18 athletes from every corner ready to compete in this unique contest dramatically set in the middle of a volcanic landscape overlooking the sea. An unexpected yet ideal place for this urban discipline, showcasing the best of the best gliding from rooftop to rooftop while performing flips and seemingly defying gravity with every step; truly a spectacle you don’t want to miss.
WHERE TO EAT IN SANTORINI
Undeniably one of the most picturesque islands in Europe, Santorini is one of Greece’s most beautiful destinations. Its traditional architecture, breath-taking beaches and the rich-flavored Greek cuisine combine to create an unforgettable setting. Enjoy Santorini’s best cultural restaurant of the island’s top gastronomic locations, from classic tavernas to simple beach bars, all with a unique touch of local authenticity.
As one of the best choices for those holidaying in Fira, the capital of Santorini, Argo is a high-class location and has won TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence more than once. With its large open-air location that offers scenic panoramic views of the caldera, Argo is a perfect place for a memorable sunset meal. It’s also a great destination for the eco-conscious, as the restaurant has an environmentally friendly kitchen. The menu is tempting with a variation of Greek and international dishes, prepared with fresh local ingredients taking you on a ‘culinary tour in many corners of the world’. Among the highlights are the Santorini fava and Argo’s specialty patatina.
Established in 1968, Selene is a stylish restaurant from the village of Pyrgos that has always remained faithful to its mission of using local ingredients and recipes to help visitors understand the culture of Santorini. The restaurant also offers cooking classes and enjoys a great location in the vicinity of the Santorini of the Museum. Selene operates a small meze and wine tavern, providing the complete Greek tasting experience. Its menu features delicacies like squid in seaweed, rabbit marinated in red wine, dorada with wild greens and caper cream or grilled lamb with eggplant puree.
Opened more than 90 years ago, Aktaion is a traditional Greek taverna that has witnessed almost a century of Santorini’s history and change. Now run by the third generation of its founding family, Aktaion is a reference point on the culinary scene of the island. The restaurant enjoys a great location in one of the most beautiful villages near Santorini’s capital and treats guest to a splendid display of the owner’s artworks. The menu is solely based on raw local ingredients with delicious dishes like zucchini pie, marinated anchovies with garlic, grilled and marinated mains or shrimps in basil pesto.
Situated in an authentic captain’s house from 1845, this restaurant is the perfect destination for those seeking Santorini’s nostalgic spirit. Still preserving the original colors, furnishing and even the captain’s wooden travel chest, 1800 offers a memorable escape. One of the most popular restaurants in Oia, a small but historical village situated on the northern coast of the island, 1800 offers great Mediterranean recipes and an impressive view over the Aegean Sea from its rooftop terrace. The restaurant’s menu is completed by a handpicked Greek wine list.
With almost 30 years of experience going back to when Andrew the donkey was the main means of transportation that supplied the taverna, Sunset by Paraskevas is a must for those who reach Oia during their stay in Santorini. Founded by a fisherman and his wife, this typical Greek restaurant is famous for its fresh fish, handpicked daily by the owner himself from local markets. Enjoying a unique location in Ammoudi Harbor, Sunset tempts its guest with its excellent quality and special dishes like its top-secret lobster pasta recipe.
Atlantis Island is the perfect choice for those who enjoy refined service and delicious dishes while taking in a view of the blue sea on one of the most beautiful beaches of Santorini. The restaurant allows its guests to handpick – from two local farms – the ingredients used to prepare their preferred recipes. Focusing predominantly on Mediterranean food, the menu changes every year. What stays constant, however, is an abundant presence of natural, local ingredients such as fava beans, tomatoes and white eggplant.
The first sushi lounge in Santorini, this restaurant is unquestionably a must-try location for those with an appetite for fresh hamachi or hot sake while relaxing in the colorful village of Firostefani. Opened in 2008, Ginger Sushi prides itself on its use of fresh ingredients, culinary creativity and a personal touch. Offering the complete package of sushi, customized rolls, chopsticks, wasabi and ginger, the lounge also has a special tasting menu ‘created to match even the most experienced culinary adventurers’.
Situated in the tranquil village of Finikia, Krinaki is a traditional Greek taverna hosted in an 1832 wine production warehouse. Deeply rooted in the agricultural rhythm of rural Santorini, Krinaki uses only local and Greek ingredients to build a menu all vegetarians will love: roasted eggplants with tomatoes and cheese, omelets with asparagus, and fried mushroom or tomato fritters with fresh spearmint. The restaurant also has excellent meat dishes, including fried pork in wine, lamb on the spit or grilled lamb chops. At Krinaki Taverna you can also enjoy wine tasting, poetry readings and art exhibitions.
The list of Santorini’s top cultural restaurants would not be complete without a sunny beach venue. Our pick is Aegialos, located a stone’s throw from Fira, accessible by car, foot or water. With a nautical-inspired design featuring a boat for a sofa, and fishing nets surrounded by omnipresent green and blue nuances, this small beach restaurant delivers its guests an unforgettable Santorini experience. Highly popular among tourists, Aegialos offers local dishes made only with fresh ingredients cultivated on the island and a variety of seafood and fish recipes.
Considered one of the best tavernas in Santorini, Nichteri is a popular gastronomic venue with an established reputation for serving its guests the best of the island’s traditional cuisine. Run by Vasilis Zaharakis, a local-born chef who has participated in a number of international competitions, Nichteri aspires to connect the visitors of Santorini to the ‘authentic taste’ of the island. The menu offers an excellent selection of Greek delicacies from sun-dried tomato salad, Kefalotyri cheese with lemon marmalade, steamed mussels to decadent, honey-based desserts.
WHERE TO SHOP IN SANTORINI
As one of the cosmopolitan islands in Greece, Santorini has a plethora of shopping options to offer. The shops, ranging from clothing apparel to shoes, jewelry, and books, are located in Fira (Thira) and Oia, and you should combine your retail sessions with a stop at one of the many terraces offering a splendid view over the blue sea. Here is our selection of the best boutiques in Santorini.
Well located on the main street, Bazaar, with its youthful collections of clothes, is a must-see in Fira. Score some pieces from Miss Sixty, handmade bags from Georgina Skalidi, or a summer dress by Veloudakis. Men are not forgotten as the shop also sells various menswear brands. With one visit to Bazaar, you are going to be hooked.
For jewelry designer IIias Lalaounis, every piece of jewelry has a message in it and a story to tell. This is probably why every piece of jewelry is exquisitely made, emanating Greek history. If you haven’t visited the IIias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum in Athens, then head to the store in Fira. With influences from the Byzantine era, the Neolithic age, or Mycenaean art, the pieces are simply a work of art. And even if you don’t buy anything, a visit to the Lalaounis store is a treat for the eyes.
You can find international and famous Greek brands at Drakkar. The shop has two posts, one near the cathedral and one on the main street of the city. That’s right – you are spoiled with options at Drakkar. And who knows, you may find that evening outfit for a romantic night out in Fira.
A few steps away from the castle, Ecru is housed in a former captain’s house. Offering an array of men’s and women’s clothing and accessories, including shoes, Ecru is where you can find elegant apparel to bring home. While you’re visiting, don’t forget to admire the architectural style of a traditional Santorinian house.
In a former bakery on the main street of Oia, Silk Shop is your ultimate stop for anything silk, along with other fabrics. Scarves, other accessories, and clothing made of silk, cashmere, and other noble textiles will help you upgrade your summer look with a subtle ethnic touch. That’s right – there’s no need to travel far to find the finest silk in Santorini.
With the motto ‘Life is an island,’ The white Santorini is a luxury fashion brand with pieces hand-sewn in Greece by skilled craftsmen and designed by Sophia hatzigeorgiou. The White Santorini collections take you on an inviting journey into island fashion. Delicate fabrics and materials with clean lines create elegant and durable items, which are at the core of her work. Visit the shop in the Caldera in Fira, across from the Fanari tavern, or in Kamari, opposite the AMALTHEIA tavern.
With two locations, both offering astonishing views over the caldera, this gem of a store has a variety of collections from mainly Greek designers. A lovely way of getting acquainted with the local fashion scene, you might have to buy a second suitcase to carry all your new additions home.
Andrea Mitsakos, aka Wanderlista, specializes in creating luxury boutiques. With her expert eye, she handpicks the brands based on the location. You can find her selection of stylish accessories and clothes at Mystique Hotel in Oia or Vedema in Megalochori. She also set up an e-shop, should you be unable to find yourself in a store.
Ammos is the largest fashion chain in Santorini. With its two shops in Fira, one at Kamari Beach, and one in Oia on the main pedestrian street, the store doesn’t need to prove its worth. Find stylish items from Mes Demoiselles, Moncler, Ash, and American Vintage, as well as creations from Greek designers.
Located in the heart of Fira on the main street, Milo is another fashion stop you ought to visit. It features carefully selected pieces from Celyn b, Marc by Marc Jacobs, and Patrizia Pepe plus a diverse assortment of shoes and accessories (we fell in love with a pair of United Nude pumps).