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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Before we list the best things to do in Santorini, let us share with you a brief history of this unique island.
History of Santorini
The archaeological site of Akrotiri in Santorini - credits: Dimitris Panas/Shutterstock.com
Santorini or Thira is one of the ten volcanoes to be found in Greece and one of the five still active ones! Perhaps the most frequent and brutal eruptions happened on Thira, resulting in the special formation of the island, its unusual shape, and the creation of its spectacular caldera.
Santorini is included in the Decade Volcanoes, a volcano-group marked by scientists (IAVCEI) as particularly interesting because of their characteristics and history. The island of Thira has always been an important piece of land and a safe port due to its location in the middle of the Aegean archipelago, its close distance to the rest of the Cycladic islands, and its proximity to the island of Crete. Therefore, humans quickly decided to settle on this small island, unaware of the dangers lurking.
Thira was not always a volcanic island. Millions of years ago, at the place where Santorini is today, there used to be a small island similar to the rest of the Cyclades. This 'parent' island is nowadays identified as the mountains of Mesa Vouno and Profitis Ilias.
The volcanic activity on the island started with the subduction of the African tectonic plate under the Eurasian. Then, a series of eruptions and magma flows formed a shield volcano with a slightly conical shape. The very structure of the island and the shift of volcanic activity about 400,000 years ago, set on track a series of brutal eruptions that changed dramatically the morphology of Thira. Geologists suggest that more than twelve massively explosive eruptions gradually formed the caldera and submerged almost the entire central part of the volcano.
Eventually, Santorini was formed into a circular island having a single entrance to an inner sea channel around the still above-the-water tip of the volcano, operating as a welcoming and safe port. During the Minoan Bronze Age, the Minoan civilization was at its peak, controlling the area of the Aegean and setting a sea-trading network, something quite revolutionary for the time.
One of the most important settlements was Akrotiri at the southeast part of the island. The settlement was of great importance, covering quite a significant area with hundreds of houses, public squares, and palace complexes, reflecting a prosperous civilization with high standards of living. Suddenly, another huge explosion sealed the fate of the inhabitants.
Due to the discovery of a carbonized olive tree branch, scientists dated the eruption between 1627 to 1600 BC. The eruption was so brutal that changed once more the morphology of the island by sinking a vast area and creating the islands of Therasia, Kameni, and Aspronisi.
Thira island before the Minoan eruption - credits: www.7reasons.net
The magnitude of this eruption is quite hard to know in detail, but comparisons to others outline a rough picture. It was a colossal eruption, not even close to the famous eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD, and it started a sequence of events noticeable from almost every corner of the world! The energy of the explosion could be roughly measured to 40 atomic bombs exploding simultaneously.
The amount of ash that escaped in the Earth's atmosphere caused an immediate drop in the globe's temperature and even changed the color of the sky. The immediate consequence was the massive tsunamis that swept the lands of the Aegean. The biggest hit was taken by Crete due to the absence of an island in between to reduce the speed of the waves.
The entire north side of Crete was hit by enormous waves, destroying miles of land. This event, along with the deposition of volcanic ash poisoning the ground and burning the crops, signified the end of the mighty Minoan civilization.
Reconstruction of Akrotiri settlement - credits: www.7reasons.net
As mentioned before, the eruption was noticed by almost everyone around the world. Archaeologists digging across the Mediterranean region, always deal with the tephra layer related to Thira's eruption, from the shores of the Black Sea to the lands of Africa and Portugal.
Researchers have found ash layers as far as Iceland, and even have managed to document the extension of the event by studying ice cores drilled from the glaciers of the Arctic and Antarctica! Ancient Chinese literature records the sudden change of the Earth's climate and scholars go as far as associating the eruption with the Plagues of Egypt and the Exodus of the Israelites!
The eruption did not only affect the globe environmentally but also shook the political and social course of humanity. Excavations on the site of Akrotiri unearthed the evidence of the glorious civilization that perished after the eruption. Buried under 60 meters of ash, the settlement of Akrotiri got preserved at an outstanding level, including houses more than two stories high, roads, public facilities, priceless artifacts, and impressive frescoes.
The site of Akrotiri is the Aegean equivalent of Pompeii, capable of time-traveling the visitor back to the Bronze Age!
Despite the series of catastrophic events that occurred throughout the island's history, Santorini nowadays is one of the most majestic places to be around the world! The volcano stands as both a curse and a blessing, contributing to the morphology of the island, so widely admired around the world. The magmatic depositions gradually enriched the soil with nutrients, helping that way the cultivation of specific varieties of crops, giving to the wine of Santorini its exquisite taste and a huge range of local products!
Here, you can find some alluring suggestions about what to do in Santorini:
1. Visit Akrotiri, one of the best Santorini attractions
Akrotiri - credits: cge2010/Shutterstock.com
At the very south of the island, lies the prehistoric site of Ancient Thera. Even though the site is small, its significance and magnitude for European history are out of the question. Excavations on the site revealed that the spot was inhabited even as far back as 4500 BC. The site was continuously inhabited and in the 18th century BC, the settlement had developed into a prosperous and bustling city.
During the 17th century, Akrotiri had a functional and widespread sewerage and irrigation system, buildings of a few stories high, artisan workshops, public spaces, religious centers, private houses of different sizes addressing different social classes, a sophisticated ruling system, and advanced art and culture. Proof to all that stand the ruins of the site.
After the Minoan Eruption, a thick layer of volcanic debris and ash destroyed and covered the ancient site of Akrotiri like Vesuvius did with Pompeii centuries after. The result was the preservation of elaborate wall paintings reflecting a prosperous society, garments, and furniture of thousands of years old and the actual preservation of the urban body of the city with high houses revealing the complicated urban plan of the site. The artifacts collected during the excavations are simply astonishing because of their level of preservation but most importantly because of the reflection of the level of sophistication those people had already achieved during the 17th century BC!
With just a small part of the city excavated, who knows what the future might hold not just for the island of Santorini but for the whole world as well. Waste no more time, and once you find yourselves on the island spare a day to visit this prehistoric Pompeii.
So, if you are wondering what is all the fuss about the island of Santorini, it is an understatement to say that we just scratched the surface of what this iconic Cycladic island has to offer. Dreaming of finding yourselves under the shade of a blossomed bougainvillea and gazing at the blue of the Aegean Sea from your small white balcony? Then, Santorini is definitely the next holiday destination for you! Do not waste more time; browse our Santorini tours page and select the ideal Santorini experience for you!
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
Are you looking for things to do in Oia? You can always begin with catching the sunset!
Oia is one of the most popular spots and of course tourist attractions in Santorini. It 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.
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 that 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. Check out the magnificent Caldera of Thera
Santorini island - credits: turtix/Shutterstock.com
It is no secret that Santorini is an active but thankfully dormant volcano. Its most destructive eruption happened in 1627-1600 BC, which resulted in the annihilation of the settlement of Akrotiri and to a huge tsunami that swept the northern shores of Crete which according to some scholars signified the end of the Minoan civilization.
The magnitude of the eruption was so intense that a whole part of the island sunk into the bottom of the sea, resulting in today’s peculiar shape of Santorini.
Just a small part of the middle of the crater is still visible between the island of Thera and the neighboring island of Therasia. Despite the catastrophic event, nowadays Santorini and the results of this violent event, operate as one of the most iconic landscapes Greece and the whole of the Mediterranean region has to offer.
People continued to inhabit this small piece of land, and after the succession of the centuries succeeded in reforming the landscape to their advance, creating some of the most beautiful traditional islandic settlements.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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!
9. Embark on a Santorini Wine Tour
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 you around 3 hours to complete, however, it is a rather easy one and therefore perfect for taking in the striking landscape of Santorini. No need to mention that this is one of the most unique and fun things to do on Santorini island.
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
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. Must see in Santorini: The Volcano
Santorini's volcano - santorini-view.gr
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. Discover Emporio village
Colorful streets in Santorini - credits: Anilah/Shutterstock.com
Emporio, also known as ‘Nimborio’, located on the south side of Santorini and at about 12km from the central Fira, at the foot of the hill of Prophet Elias, is the largest village on the island and sports a rather impressive population of 1,773. The scenic settlement of Emporio used to be one of the most significant castles in Santorini, where during the medieval times the houses were built right next to each other so that the inhabitants were protected from pirates.
Much has been said about the origin of Emporio’s name, with the prevailing theory claiming that the name comes from the word ‘trade’ –or ‘emporio’ in Greek, either because all goods were traded there or because the area was adjacent to the commercial port. Another theory wants the name to come from the words ‘new’ and ‘bourg’, which in French means ‘medieval fortified village’.
The moment you step foot in Emporio, you’ll get the strong desire to wander around the whitewashed cobbled streets decorated with colorful, blooming bougainvilleas. Give in to that desire and explore the wonderful setting that unfolds before your eyes. Visit the Tower of Goula, Kastelli, and maybe make a stop to marvel at the pretty churches of the settlement.
Before leaving the village, take a walk on the hill of Gavrilos, where there are eight traditional 19th-century windmills and some Byzantine ruins. Emporio is very much like a travel back in time and will give you the opportunity to witness how the island of Santorini used to be before it became the massive tourist attraction of today.
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
Skaros Rock - credits: en.wikipedia.org
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. Discover the small village of Finikia
Palaia Kameni, Santorini - credits: isabela66/Shutterstock.com
Only a few kilometers outside of the stunning yet busy Oia, the small village of Finikia stands as the perfect example of an incredibly well-preserved village of Santorini that maintains its old-time charm and authenticity. During the time when the city of Oia experienced great prosperity with shipping, Finikia used to be home to the farmers who worked in the lowlands and the vineyards.
Apart from being an absolute pleasure to visit, Finikia is also a great place to stay during your vacations if you don’t want the liveliness of Oia but don’t want to be too far out of the center either.
Once you reach Finikia, you can walk from Baxedon beach to the settlement, and take the road that leads to the valley with the vineyards and the beautiful churches of Agia Kyriaki and Agios Konstantinos. Especially if you’re visiting Santorini for your honeymoon, make sure to enjoy a peaceful sunset from the small church of Kyra Panagia!
On the left side of the road that leads from Baxedon beach to Finikia, you will find the famous winery ‘Sigala’, the only one in this area of the island; if you can, have a sip of one of the indigenous wine varieties and your perception of what a good wine should taste like will change forever!
19. Visit the Tomato Factory Museum
Tomato Factory Museum - credits: greekgastronomyguide.gr
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.
20. Visit the 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.
21. 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 will take you 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!
22. Stroll the cobbled alleys of Imerovigli
Imerovigli - credits: Santorines/Shutterstock.com
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!
23. Εnjoy a Santorini 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! Water activities in Santorini are extremely popular and we are sure you will definitely have a great time.
24. Dive into the hot springs
Santorini's hot springs - credits: greeka.com
One of the "gifts" of the Santorini volcano is 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.
25. Take the Boat to Thirassia
Thirasia - credits: ankor.gr
For those seeking adventures in Santorini island, this is one of the best ideas: 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 Santorini Food Tour
A Greek feast - credits: Nadir Keklik/Shutterstock.com
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. Go off the beaten path: Pyrgos village
Thera, Santorini - credits: WitR/Shutterstock.com
One of the best things to do in Santorini, Greece is to visit some off-the-beaten-path villages of the island.
Pyrgos Kallistis –Kallistis’ Tower in English-, or usually just Pyrgos and formerly 'Kainourgiobourgo', is one of these villages. It reaches the tallest height and is located 10 km southeast of Fira, while it is home to 732 inhabitants. Pyrgos was one of the five castles of the island and was the seat of the municipality of Kallistis from 1835 to 1914 when it was transformed into a community of Pyrgos until the year 1997, which is annexed to the municipality of Thira.
During the Turkish occupation, in the 18th century, the first Thera School was founded in Pyrgos, with the initiative of the local authorities and the abbot of the Monastery of the Prophet Elias. Today, in the place where the old school used to lie, on the old road from Pyrgos to the Monastery of Profitis Ilias, one can find the church of Agios Apostolos, which is the old classroom of the school, while around there are the ruins of the teachers' and students' rooms.
Because of its location, Pyrgos has, in fact, also served as a place of exile during turbulent times. The castle suffered great damage with the 1956 earthquake, but the most damage was done by the army, which demolished parts of the castle during the war.
If you decide to visit the quiet village of Pyrgos, you can visit Kastelli and admire the architecture of the churches of Agia Theodosia, Theotokaki, Agios Georgios, Agios Nikolaos, and Agios Eleftherios. Also, keep in mind that the best time to visit Pyrgos is during Easter, where after the procession of the Epitaph on Good Friday night, fires are lit in tin lamps throughout the village, and the whole area looks like a flaming dragon!
28. Participate in 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. A hands-on cooking activity can definitely be among Santorini's best activities!
29. 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!
30. Visit Monolithos village
Monolithos beach - credits: Claudio306/Shutterstock.com
Monolithos is a coastal village of Santorini, on the east side of the island, 8 km east of Fira. Home to only 405 people, this offbeat village got its name from the big homonymous rock on which the church of Agios Ioannis has been built. Although small and quiet, Monolithos hosts the Santorini State Airport, as well as the only tomato factory that operates today on the island and belongs to the Union of Thera Products Cooperatives.
On the striking beach of Monolithos, you will find the well-known black sand of Santorini, remnants of the island’s volcanic past. The black sand is so fine, in fact, that during winter it fills the whole area and the road. The beach of Monolithos was very popular at the time when the only beach bar in Santorini lied in its premises.
Now, despite still being –partly- organized and having a section of sunbeds and umbrellas, it doesn’t attract the younger crowds it used to but is instead considered as an ideal beach for those visiting Santorini with kids. In the left part of the beach of Monolithos called ‘Agria’ –or ‘Wild’ in English-, the rawness of landscape will take your breath away.
It is the part of the beach that is most affected by the weather and the one that has not been turned into an organized beach, giving its visitors the freedom to choose a more hippy-ish beach Santorini experience.
31. Visit the Charming Prophet Elias Monastery
The Prophet Ilias Monastery - credits: theculturetrip.com
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.
32. Visit the Mnemosyne Gallery
Mnemosyne Gallery - credits: tripadvisor.com
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.
33. Explore 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!
34. Taste the local delicacies at Ammoudi Bay's seafood restaurants
Enjoying delicious food - credits: monkeybusinnes/Depositphotos.com
The local cuisine is the highlight of every trip to Greece, no matter which destination you choose to visit. Santorini is no exception to the rule. The island may be famous for its atmosphere and view, but it has a wide variety of local products, which give restaurants and cooks endless inspiration. Traditional and Greek fusion cuisine can be found in dozens of restaurants and taverns on the island. Cherry tomatoes, sun-dried vegetables, and white aubergines are some of the flavors that you will savor during your trip. The top local dishes include delicious fava beans, fluffy tomato and pumpkin meatballs, spicy eggplant salad, and 'lountza' sausage cooked in Visanto wine with sugar and fennel seeds.
To taste the above and much more, we highly suggest you pay a visit to Taverna Katina, Barbounaki Santorini, Sunset Ammoudi, Ammoudi Fish Tavern, Dimitris Ammoudi Taverna, Fanari Restaurant, and Charisma Restaurant. They all serve mouthwatering creations of Santorinian cuisine and will steal your heart both with their food and their service.
35. Discover Thirasia
Oia, Santorini - credits: Mila Atkovska/Shutterstock.com
Last but definitely not least on the list of unexplored regions of Santorini, comes the place that is not exactly on Santorini, but actually straight across from it: the small island of Thirasia. Until the eruption of Santorini’s volcano in Minoan times, around 1600 BC, which created the stunning Caldera we enjoy today, Thirasia was part of the island of Strongyli, which today completes the circular outline along with the islands of Thira (Santorini) and Aspronisi.
The islet of Thirasia is located in the west part of Santorini, a little over a kilometer away from Oia. According to Greek mythology, the island was named after the youngest daughter of King Thira, Thirasia, to whom he had gifted the area in order to build there a regal palace.
Apart from its striking natural beauty, the settlement of Thirasia carries significant historic value in regard to not only Santorinian but also Greek history and heritage in general. Dating back to the Late Bronze Age, over the years, various excavations around the area have brought to light findings that have interested scientists from all over the world, and have contributed in revealing to us what we know about the culture that flourished there in ancient times.
Additionally, the excavations of Thirasia were the reason why other parts of Santorini were later also investigated thoroughly for ancient findings, resulting in the resurfacing of remnants of past civilizations, valuable for the deeper understanding of the region’s history.
Korfos, which is the island's port, is connected to Manolas, the capital of Thirasia, by a winding yet absolutely stunning path. There are a total of 21 churches and chapels on the island, often in privileged locations, while in addition to Korfos and Manolas, there are three other settlements: Agia Irini, Agrilia, and Potamos. Stroll the walking trails of the island, swim in the turquoise waters, and eat fresh fish and seafood in one of the picturesque taverns, by the sea; the best things in life are usually the simplest ones!
We hope you enjoyed our extended list of top things to do on Santorini island. If you look for more inspiration, you can always check out our Santorini blog.
Santorini will amaze you; it is not a coincidence that this island is considered amongst the most beautiful islands in the world. However, there is only one way to discover it yourself, right?