In the southern part of the Cyclades, lies one of the most renowned islands of Greece. This is no other than Santorini or Santa Irene, which is, in fact, a cluster of islands. Always scoring high in travel rankings but most importantly in the hearts of its visitors, Santorini is labeled as romantic -given its world-famous sunset and the many weddings taking place there every year-, adventurous and timeless.
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Santorini's history goes back thousands of years ago, in Prehistoric times, when the great volcanic eruption caused the submergence of a big part of the initially circular island. Along with its geological spectacles -its active volcano is submarine, which is really rare- its beaches, its iconic architecture, and its local delicacies make Santorini a unique destination. Here, you can find some alluring suggestions about what to do in Santorini!
1. Visit Akrotiri
Akrotiri - credits: cge2010/Shutterstock.com
A site inhabited from Neolithic times but mostly known for its Minoan city, Akrotiri was buried for centuries under thick layers of volcanic ash -much like Pompei- which allowed the high-quality preservation of its findings. As a result, it is now a treasured highlight for visitors and history buffs from across the world.
It is located on the southwest part of the island, with the city being comprised of multi-leveled houses built right next to each other. The urban plan and the sewerage system are surprisingly good considering the time of their construction. Moreover, some of the most astounding frescoes in art history which decorated the internal house walls, like the 'Spring' fresco, have been found here.
Most of the original artworks have been transferred to the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.
2. Discover Thera
Thera, Santorini - credits: WitR/Shutterstock.com
Thera lies on the southeast between Kamari and Perissa, 8,5 km away from the island capital which bears the same name -although slightly changed from Thera to Fira. Following the big volcanic eruption of the 17th century BC, the island remained deserted for a few centuries but was resettled in the 9th century BC. The Spartans founded the city of Thera, which survived until the Byzantine Period, but was especially prosperous during the Hellenistic period when it became a naval base of Ptolemaic Egypt.
On the site, you can gaze at important historical monuments, such as the sanctuary of Apollo Karneios, the Hellenistic theatre -with a breathtaking view to the sea- and the sanctuary of the priest Artemidoros.
3. Catch Santorini's sunset in Oia
Sunset in Oia - credits: Mila Atkovska/Shutterstock.com
One of the most popular spots for catching Santorini's magnificent sunset, Oia, is a coastal town on the northwestern tip of Santorini that looks like it has come straight out of a fairy tale. However, there are plenty of other reasons to visit Oia apart from the sunset views.
The Venetian castle of St. Nicolas, the enchanting mansions that used to belong to ship owners of the 19th and 20th century in the so-called 'Captains’ Neighbourhood', as well as the traditional rock-hewn houses in the 'Crew’s Neighbourhood' are only a few of the reasons why you should put Santorini on your bucket list. You can learn more about the rich naval tradition of the island at the Maritime Museum. Don’t forget to check the windmills and the traditional knitting factory where you can buy one-of-a-kind souvenirs.
4. Discover the Geological Park, Nea and Palaia Kameni
Palaia Kameni - credits: isabela66/Shutterstock.com
Some of the most exciting aspects of Santorini are its intense volcanic past and geological treasures. The two islets which are visible at the center of Caldera, consist of solidified material which emerged from the sea in recent years – especially the islet of Nea Kameni. In both, you can see volcanic craters and hot springs. In Palaia Kameni, you can even apply volcanic mud to your body and enjoy its therapeutic properties. If you’re visiting during summertime, be aware that hiking the uphill path under the scorching sun can be quite strenuous.
5. Explore the gastronomic culture of Santorini
Traditional tomatokeftedes of Santorini - credits: greekgastronomyguide.gr
Based on a long-standing culinary tradition, the traditional dishes of Santorini will astonish you. The fertile volcanic land offers the optimum terrain or the growth of high-quality products, some of which are local and unique. Do try the fava (yellow split peas), the sundried cherry tomatoes, the Greek saffron(crocus) as well as the local Santorinian wine the island is famous for.
Tomatokeftedes (vegetable meatballs with tomato), marinated fish, and garlic pasta are also perfect options for you to satisfy your palate while getting an insight into Santorini's gastronomic culture. Don’t miss the chance to try Santorini’s white eggplants baked in the oven with balsamic vinegar or in an exquisite eggplant salad mixed with fresh red peppers.
6. Swim at the Red Beach
Red Beach in Santorini - credits: Lucian BOLCA/Shutterstock.com
The Red Beach of Santorini is one of the most popular on the island and Greece in general. It lies on the southwest coast of the island, at a distance of 12 km from Thira and 23 km from Oia. Its name is self-explanatory as it is surrounded by red volcanic rocks that together with the black pebbles the beach consists of, make up for a rare scene that you cannot miss!
The Red Sand Beach is not organized, although there are a few sets of umbrellas and sunbeds scattered across. The visit to this beautiful beach can be combined with a visit to Akrotiri, where the famous ancient settlement was discovered buried under the volcanic ash. To reach the beach, you can park your car next to the archeological site and continue on foot, about 10 minutes, or by boat from Perissa. Local buses also run.
7. Diving in Santorini
Sailing with a catamaran in Santorini - credits: dancar/Shutterstock.com
Santorini is the perfect place for sports lovers and adventure fans, offering an array of watersports and fun activities. There are diving spots in Caldera and close to the volcano. There is also a shipwreck in Palaia Kameni while many diving centers all over the island can offer you a dive to remember! Don't hesitate to explore the mysterious depths of the Aegean sea and discover for yourself the flora and fauna of the region!
8. Traditional festivities
Greek folklore dance - credits: vverve/Depositphotos.com
Throughout the whole year, but especially during the month of August, many religious festivals take place in Santorini. Folk dance and music accompanied by mouthwatering local food will give you a full taste of what it means to be an islander in the Cyclades. The most popular festival takes place on the 15th of August in the church of Agia Episkopi -an important Byzantine monument- in Mesa Gonia village and the celebrations last till the early morning hours!
9. Santorini Wine Tours
Drinking wine with a view - credits: Littleaom/Shutterstock.com
The cultivation of wine in Santorini goes back almost 5.000 years ago. The volcanic soil in which the varieties of Santorini’s grapes grow is mainly responsible for its unique character of wines. The island offers you a great opportunity to try its most ancient and well–known varieties, Assyrtiko, Athiri, and Aidani (full-bodied, white, dry wines with citrus aromas).
It’s highly recommended that you also try Vinsanto, Santorini’s famous sweet, dessert wine, a combination of the three aforementioned varieties that stay sun-dried for 10-15 days before they get pressed. Grab the chance and take one of the popular wine tours that include wine-tasting followed by an excellent guide presentation of a sommelier and book a seat at one of Santorini’s Wine Roads tour!
10. Hike from Fira to Oia
The city of Fira - credits: turtix/Shutterstock.com
The most popular walking route starts from the square of Fira, crosses the commercial pedestrian street and the catholic district, Firostefani, Imerovigli, and, following the arch of the Caldera, reaches Oia. At the height of Profitis Ilias make sure to not follow the cobblestone that turns to the right, so as not to miss the wonderful view offered by the outside route.
It is a 10.2 km hike, meaning that it will take your around 3 hours to complete, however, it is a rather easy one and therefore perfect for taking in the striking landscape of Santorini.
11. Swim at Ammoudi Bay
Ammoudi bay - credits: ian woolcock/Shutterstock.com
The small pebbled bay of Ammoudi is accessible as the visitor descends more than 200 wide steps. The waters are dazzling blue, but keep in mind that they deepen sharply, which for some is exciting but for others intimidating. The background is imposing, with the steep volcanic rocks "decorating" the port.
From Ammoudi, visitors can also board the boats that take them to Thirasia and Nea Kameni. The beaches of Santorini are unlike any other beaches in Greece and the whole world and swimming in them is a fulfilling and valuable experience!
12. Drink a local beer from Santorini Brewing Company
Santorinian beer - credits: https://www.facebook.com/Santorini-Brewing-Company-259859764068038/photos/?ref=page_internal
Everyone and their mom know that Santorini has one of the best wine productions in Greece. Did you know, however, that the island also produces incredible beers? Santorini Brewing Company combines the water of the volcanic island of Santorini with the carefully selected types of malt, hops, and yeast from all over the world! It is a microbrewery in Santorini with a signature donkey logo that offers incredibly-tasting beers to the locals and visitors of the island. Make sure to take a break from the indigenous wines and try one during your visit!
13. Walk to the Volcano
One of the must-see attractions you need to include in your itinerary for Santorini is its ancient volcano, and a stroll around and inside it should be one of your top priorities. You can reach the crater of the volcano, the huge funnel, within a 30-minute walk from the port of Nea Kameni. Wear your most comfortable yet light attire, trusty sneakers, "sturdy" socks, light clothes, enough sunscreen, and a hat, and discover how a world of colorful waters, a variety of rocks, hot smoke, and soil, as well numerous underwater hot springs are waiting for you.
14. Visit the traditional village of Pyrgos
A village of Santorini that is undoubtedly worth your time is Pyrgos, at a distance of about 10 km from Fira. Having been the capital of the island until, it is located inland, at the highest point of Santorini, in Profitis Ilias. In the heart of Pyrgos is the medieval castle with houses amphitheatrically built around it. It combines the characteristics of the era of Venetian rule, with scattered churches, mansions, and village houses, which is the reason why it has been designated a protected monument. The whole village is a treat to its visitors, who have the opportunity to go up to the castle, stroll the picturesque alleys and enjoy the famous Santorini sunset.
15. Open Air Cinema in Kamari
Open-air cinema - credits: Melanie Lemahieu/Shutterstock.com
It opened its doors in 1987 with the aim of maintaining the strong tradition of the Greeks in the cinema and theater sectors, offering locals and visitors the opportunity to watch movies under the stars, in a magnificent garden that seems to have come out of a fairy tale. It is considered one of the best cinemas in the world by the Guardian and the Travel Channel. Located outside Kamari, it has its own bar with snacks, cocktails, and local wine. It also hosts a variety of cultural events, such as concerts, theatrical performances, and art exhibitions.
16. Eat at a traditional taverna
Dinner in Santorini - credits: Santorines/Shutterstock.com
You cannot possibly expect us not to wax lyrical about Santorini’s cuisine. Much like every other region of Greece, Santorini boasts incredible traditional dishes and eateries that will leave you breathless. From family-run, traditional taverns to high-end, gourmet restaurants, in Santorini, you will get to taste delectable delicacies made with fresh, local ingredients and following time-honored recipes that celebrate simplicity. Don’t skip on trying some of Santorini’s signature dishes such as ‘atherinopita’, a local fish pie, ‘aematia’, intestine stuffed with rice and liver, and the traditional dessert of ‘kopania’, which consist of smashed barley buns that are mixed with raisins, honey, and sesame.
17. Visit Skaros Rock
A steep rock that resists the passage of time to remind of its important history. Skaros was a bustling castle city with 200 houses, cobbled streets, and churches. The most important of the five fortified settlements of Santorini. Today not many parts of the settlement are saved, however, a visit to Skaros Rock is certainly due in order to gain insight into the history and culture of the island.
18. Visit the Tomato Factory Museum
On the beach of Vlychada, in Santorini, in the southern part of the island, with the impressive geological formations, about 10 km from Fira, you can find Santorini’s Industrial Tomato Museum, which was founded in 2014. It is the first museum of its kind in the world and follows the course of cultivation, processing, and production of tomatoes, one of the most traditional and famous products of Santorini.
Its guests will come in contact with the traditional methods followed by the tomato growers of Santorini, getting to know at the same time the history of the place, its inhabitants, and their traditions. The Museum's exhibits include processing machines from 1890, old factory manuscripts, old tools, the first labels, as well as audiovisual material with videotaped stories of people who worked in the factory.
19. Visit the Koutsoyannopoulos Wine Museum
A glass of wine - credits: Alfira/Shutterstock.com
Koutsoyannopoulos wine museum was created by the love and passion of the Koutsogiannopoulos family for tradition and wine and took 21 whole years of hard work to create it. It is the only natural cave wine museum in Greece, at a depth of 6 meters below the earth's surface, and a total length of over 300 meters, with corridors and rooms shaped like a labyrinth.
The exhibits of the museum date from 1660 to 1950. All tools, utensils, and machines are authentic and rare pieces, machines that have worked for previous generations. All stages of wine production as well as all machines are exhibited in chronological order. The museum’s main goal is to educate people on wine production and offer them a ‘historical route of the local wine’, which has resulted in the museum becoming an important attraction for visitors of Santorini.
20. Snap photos of the trademark blue-domed roofs
Oia - credits: Maridav/Shutterstock.com
The trademark Cycladic architecture and aesthetic is a feast for the eyes and a big contributing factor to the popularity of the Greek islands that belong to the complex. Which every cobblestone street you choose to follow it will take to striking mansions with luscious gardens and emblematic orthodox churches, all featuring the contrasting colors of white and blue.
Don’t miss the opportunity to snap a photo of the blue-domed roofs of the churches Santorini is known for and create the perfect background for your vacation photos!
21. Stroll the cobbled alleys of Imerovigli
Imerovigli is a village of Santorini, just 3 km from Fira, the capital of the island. It is the highest point of the Caldera with stunning views of the sea and the volcano. It is believed that there used to stand an observation tower for the arrival of pirates. The ideal time for a stroll around its scenic streets is early in the morning or late afternoon.
Whichever time you choose to visit it, it’ll be worth it as the stunning view it offers is more than rewarding. Imerovigli has a special architectural interest and has been characterized as a traditional settlement. All-white houses with colorful flowers in the courtyards and windows, hotels, cafes, and restaurants, built on the edge and below the sea, make up a heavenly picture you need to admire for yourself!
22. Εnjoy a sailing tour
Sailing across Santorini - credits: Heracles Kritikos/Shutterstock.com
It is no rocket science that the best way to experience Santorini is enveloped in luxury. For that reason, we highly suggest you add to your Santorini bucket at least a day of sailing, where you will get the opportunity to enjoy the bright sun on your skin and dive into water you would never otherwise get to experience. Our Santorini Semi-private Cruise: Day or Sunset Experience with meal & drinks offers the best opportunity to treat yourself to a sailing adventure while also promising a delicious meal that will refuel you and make you feel pampered and well taken care of!
23. Dive into the hot springs
One of the "gifts" of the Santorini volcano is the geothermal energy, which enriches its water with healing properties. The gushing sulfur water, the fumes we inhale, or the mud have a positive effect not only on the musculoskeletal but also on the nervous, respiratory, gastrointestinal, and hematological systems. Pleasantly non-commercial, at the northeast side of the island of Palia Kameni, the homonymous beach catches the eye. Although access is only by boat, hundreds of visitors run there for a swim.
The whole island is the result of the eruption of the volcano, which is distinguished by the black rocks, the gray sand, and the yellow-green waters. The region’s hot springs are extremely popular, reminding everyone that the volcano is alive and well! A visit to the hot springs of Nea Kameni is imperative.
24. Visit the village of Emporio
The village of Emporio is found at a distance of 12 km from Fira, in the southern part of the island. In the mast, Emporio or Nimborios was referred to as the commercial center of Santorini. Here stands the most well-preserved castle of the island, with its houses impressively built next to each other in such a way that their walls create, at the same time, the castle walls. Picturesque, puppet alleys, narrow passages, arches and "tunnels", small courtyards and colored doors compose the wonderful images of Emporio.
The church of Palia Panagia inside the castle impresses with the imposing bell tower, the old wood-carved iconostasis, and the pebble floor. Among the things worth seeing in the village is the Tower of Goulas, outside Kasteli. A rectangular defensive tower of the 15th century believed to have been built by the monks of the Monastery of Agios Ioannis the Theologian in Patmos. Also, the church of Agios Nikolaos of Marmaritis and the windmills on the Hill of Gavrilos opposite the Goulas Tower.
25. Take the Boat to Thirassia
The islet of Thirasia is located within a 7-minute boat ride from Ammoudi. It is one of the most popular destinations in the world and yet it is one of the least developed tourist islands in the whole country. The island doesn’t have a single hotel, except for a few rentals located in Manolas, the island town that grows linearly at the eye of the caldera and has a unique panoramic view of Santorini. Manolas is one of the most beautiful towns in the Cyclades; incredibly old Cycladic houses, traditional taverns, an old-time charm, and a laid-back atmosphere, give us a picture of what Santorini was like in the olden days.
It is necessary to visit the ruined settlement of Agrilia with the cave houses and the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin, one of the most special churches in Greece with the characteristic use of color in the decoration of its facade. The walk from Manolas to the monastery of Profitis Ilias in Kera and from there to the monastery of the Assumption of the Virgin built in 1851 at the cape of Tripiti at the southern tip of the island is also worth your time. The only beach with easy access to the island is the beach of Riva, in the port of the same name.
26. Join a walking food tour
What better way to get to know a place than through its cuisine? And when the place in question is an island of Greece, getting to know the culinary tradition becomes an urgent necessity. Stroll the picturesque streets of Santorini and get introduced to the riches of its gastronomy by joining our Semi-Private Santorini Walking Food Tour that will take you around the island’s best food offerings; getting to know an island never tasted so good!
27. Join a cooking class
Cooking lesson - credits: Dragon Images/Shutterstock.com
If you have a love for cooking and are intrigued by the idea of learning how to cook up traditional dishes of Santorinian and Greek cuisine, then our Santorini Semi-Private Cooking Class and Wine Tasting is exactly what you’re looking for. Learn how to use the fresh local produce to create delectable dishes of local cuisine by an expert professional, and taste the fruits of your labor accompanied by luscious wine in a friendly atmosphere that will make you feel at ease.
28. Experience the vibrant nightlife
Dance club - credits: bbernard/Shutterstock.com
Santorini is famous for its vibrant nightlife; for as long you’re on the island, the fun never stops! As soon as the night falls, the magnificent beaches, traditional taverns, and archaeological sites give way to the bars and clubs that promise hours of drinking, dancing, and unadulterated joy.
There is a world of choice in regard to the music you can enjoy in Santorini’s nighttime offerings, while the countless bars and clubs frequent mainly the streets of Oia, Fira, but also the streets of Kamari, Perissa, and Perivolos. ‘PK Cocktail Bar’, ‘Erotokritos’, ‘Love Boat Bar’, ‘Two Brothers Bar’, ‘Kira Thira Jazz Bar’, ‘Night Flight’, and ‘Secret Bar’, are only some of the island’s top-rated options for your night entertainment. Wherever you choose to go, one thing is for sure: the nightlife of Santorini is -for lack of a better word- explosive!
29. Visit the Charming Prophet Elias Monastery
Near the village of Pyrgos, at the top of the mountain of Profitis Ilias, is the monastery of Profitis Ilias. Its imposing facade with the large stone wall resembles a fortress. The monastery dates back to around 1711. In earlier times, the monastery had a large fortune; it even owned a ship, which was traded for the benefit of the monastery.
At the same time, it was a spiritual center with great patriotic influence. From 1806 until 1845 it also functioned as a school where Greek language and literature were taught. The decline of the monastery began in 1860, while the buildings suffered severe damage during the catastrophic earthquake of 1956. Today the monastery has a museum with an important collection of ecclesiastical items, books, and ethnographic material. There is also a collection of local and Cretan portable icons, wooden statues, metal works of art, and embroidery dating from the early 17th and 18th centuries.
30. Visit the Mnemosyne Gallery
With such a vast history, it comes as no surprise the Santorini is a cultured place, where you can admire art in all of its forms. If you want to discover a side of Santorini that is not advertised nearly as much as its beaches and nightlife, then exploring its art galleries is a wonderful way to do so. Mnemosyne Gallery is a prime example of that. It is the ultimate artistic haven in Santorini that hosts valuable works of art, crafted by Greek artists.
A visit to Mnemosyne Gallery will be the perfect gift to your better half that will create memories that will stick with you forever. The gallery is housed in an impressive space that is minimally decorated and features the stark white color the Cyclades are known for. There, you can admire, among others, black and white photos from the island, as well as wonderful handmade jewelry that showcase the flawless taste of the locals.