Santorini is one of the most unique destinations in the world and not just for its stunning sunset. The volcanic island with the multicoloured cliffs crafted by the Greek gods, has a lot to show. Whitewashed villages, breathtaking views, rural vineyards black, red, and white beaches, are some of the highlights. There’s plenty for explorers, foodies and culture lovers to discover.
You finally started making plans, but before packing let’s talk about all points of interest, must-see attractions and activities one should not miss out.
Boat trips are among the best things to do in the island. Do not leave Santorini unless you have experienced a catamaran tour and explore the volcanic sea area.
Enjoy a unique sailing experience, explore the volcanic beaches of Santorini, swim and snorkel to the deep blue waters of the Aegean. Take photos and admire the most spectacular sunset in the world! You will visit spots accessible only by boat such as Red & White beach, Black Mountain, the hot springs at the volcano and Thirassia island.
A 5-hour sailing tour is more than enough, there are plenty of options for a shared or private cruise. The packages include transportation from/to your hotel, a freshly prepared meal on-board with seafood, open bar, towels, and snorkeling gear.
A morning tour starts at 10:30 am and the sunset one at 15:30. In case you prefer a private tour you can spend the whole day on the boat and even walk even walk to the summit of the crater!
As boat tours are very popular during summer season, make sure to book yours in advance.
Whether you are a wine lover or not, a wine Tour & Tasting in Santorini is a must
Vineyards of Santorini are the oldest in Greece and among the oldest in the world. Thanks to the island’s volcanic soil and weather conditions Santorinean wines are considered the finest Greek wines on the international market.
In the island there are more than 18 wineries and vineyards that cultivate nine indigenous grape varieties, including the famous Assyrtiko, Athiri and Vinsanto. About 1200 hectares of land are under vine.
Many of the roots found on the vines on Santorini are centuries old. Santorini uses a bush-training system, known as koulara, to grow the grapes. As the vines grow, they are woven into baskets with the grapes facing toward the inside of the ring. The vine’s leaves and vine provide protection for the grapes from harsh winds and sunlight. The koulara are often grown haphazardly on small plots of land and can be mistaken for wild bushes. harvest takes place in mid-August
Extra tip: Several wineries have their own special wine museum, go discover them!
Hiking from Fira to Oia is one of the most amazing activities in Santorini. The entire route is about 10km (6 miles) and takes 3 to 5 hours, however it is considered quite easy. The path is a mix of paved pedestrian streets and hiking trails.
It is a hilly walk with little shade, so during summer months make sure to start early in the morning or in the afternoon.
You can do the hike either direction, however it would be better to choose Fira to Oia, as it would be an overall downhill walk (although you still have to walk up some hills) and the view of Oia will be in front of you all the time. Furthermore, you will end up in Oia where you can spend the rest of the day or enjoy the famous sunset at the castle of the village.
During the walk, you have the chance to visit Firostefani, Imerovigli, take a detour to Skaros Rock in Imerovigli and end up in Oia.
Extra tip: You can choose a shorter route starting from Firostefani or Imerovigli.
Oia (or “ia”, as pronounced by locals) is famous worldwide for its spectacular sunset and if you are planning to visit Santorini, most likely it is in your to do list. There are two spots to try.
One is at the Castle (probably the most famous and crowded spot in the island), where you can take some really beautiful photos with the whitewashed houses and windmills at the background. As the sun goes down, everything turns into pink and gold, as it disappears below the horizon the crowds start applauding!
For some privacy and If you want to avoid the crowds, another beautiful spot during sunset time is right next to the famous Three Domes (just before Aspaki hotel, this is how you will find on Google maps). During sunset time, the crowds head to the castle, so the spot is all yours. You will take some amazing pictures with the blue domes during sunset and Oia Castle on the background.
Extra tip: Make sure to arrive to Oia several hours before the sunset in order to avoid the quite heavy traffic and find a parking spot (if you are getting around by car).
Ammoudi bay is probably the most picturesque part of Santorini, right underneath Oia. It is a tiny harbor with some fish taverns that serve amazing Mediterranean food. Surrounded by striking red cliffs and dotted with white-washed buildings, the bay is accessible either by descending the 275+ steps from Oia or can be reached via road by ATV, car or taxi but be aware that parking can be tricky. Going back up the steep hill is a serious hike. Access to the area is free and travelers can come and go all day and night.
If you walk down a 10-minute seaside path from the port, you will come across many visitors swimming in its clear blue waters. You can dive directly from the rocks which is really refreshing, especially after descending the steps from Oia. It is also considered a beautiful and peaceful sunset spot.
Extra tip: You can combine your visit with a sunset catamaran tour that starts from Ammoudi bay.
Sitting 220m below Fira – three minutes by cable car, or 587 steps by foot – the Old Port of Fira is another worth visiting part of Santorini. It used to be the main commercial port of the island until some decades ago, however today it is mainly used by cruise ship passengers visiting Fira for the day.
The little port has restaurants, tavernas and small shops, and presents a stunning view from the foot of the caldera cliffs. Excursion boats to Oia and to the islands of Nea Kameni, Palea Kameni, and Thirasia also set off from this harbor.
You can reach the harbor by foot and go back to Fira by the cable car (tickets cost 6 euro for adults and 3 euro for children). The system of the cable car was built by Evangelos Nomikos, a shipowner in 1979 who paid all the expenses. The cable car now belongs to the Municipality of Santorini. It carries about 1200 people every hour.
Beaches in Santorini are composed of volcanic sand and pebbles, full of rugged charm and often striking landscapes. But they are not at all like the great, white sand beaches Greece is known for. The best ones accessible by car, are located at Kamari, Perissa, and Perivolos.
In the southern part of the island you will find Perissa, Perivolos and Aghios Georgios, large black sand beaches with plenty of beach bars and taverns. In the east coast of Santorini you will find Kamari beach another large black sand beach full of cafes, restaurants and hotels. Awarded with a Blue Flag certification, this beach provides a range of facilities such as showers, sunbeds and umbrellas. The beach is also situated under the impressive Mountain of Mesa Vouno.
In Kamari and Perissa one can experience a wide variety of activities such as scuba-diving, jet ski and speed boats.
Some worth visiting beaches are: Vlihada Beach and its white rocks, Monilithos Beach, ideal with children with its shallow waters, Kolumbo Beach, only accessible by foot, and frequented by nudists.
Let’s talk about history! The archaeological site of Akrotiri is one of the main attractions of Santorini. It is a fascinating site and opens the door to a terrific understanding of ancient civilizations. Akrotiri is compared to Pompeii, in Italy.
Akrotiri is an ancient Minoan city that was destroyed by the huge volcanic eruption in 1613 B.C. This was the most important eruption in the world for the last 10.000 years and the tsunami waves that raised also destroyed the Minoan town of Knossos in Crete.
The city was rediscovered in 1967 during an archaeological excavation. The site is one of the most important in the Aegean Sea. Archaeological excavations are still on going and many remains are probably still undiscovered. There, you will admire the ancient buildings, the streets and ceramics.
Unlike Pompeii, the city of Akrotiri was uninhabited when the eruption occurred, as no human remains or valuable objects were found on the site.
Pyrgos, Megalochori and Emporeio are some of the hidden gems in Santorini, less touristic and totally worth visiting.
The village of Pyrgos (the former capital of Santorini) is the best preserved medieval settlement on the island, just 7.5km south of Fira.
Here the pace of life is more relaxed, you will see many locals living almost unaffected from touristic life, cats stroll in the alleys and kids playing in the main square, with it’s pine trees and 2 small restaurants where one can enjoy a glass of fine local wine and a Greek “meze”.
Don’t miss visiting the upper square and the church of Aghios Nickolaos, near the entrance of Kasteli. There you can find small gift and coffee shops. Reach the top where you will find the ruins of medieval Kasteli (castle) and one of the best spots to experience santorinean sunset!
Still untouched by tourism, Megalochori (9.5 km from Fira) is one of the most picturesque villages on the island. Home to historical mansions, old traditional houses, pirate hideaways and wine canavas, it has a history of merchants and wealthy land barons exporting Vinsanto wine that the island still produces. A prominent feature of the historical homes and mansions are the high walls, inner courtyards, and solid wooden door entrances, built for privacy and for safety against marauding pirates. There is one main road crossing the village and you will find some nice traditional restaurants at the main square.
Emporio (“trade” or “commerce” in Greek) is another traditional village in Santorini, located 12km south of Fira. It is the largest village on the island with 3,000 residents. It is worth visiting to admire the medieval architecture of the village and the castle. The main attraction of Emporio is its castle “Kasteli” and the Tower of Nimporio “Goulas”.
As soon as you enter the village you will notice the narrow alleys leading up to the castle. Two people can barely fit in them at one time. Walking around makes you feel like you are in a maze and it really is very easy to get lost.
Therasia or Thirasía, is located just in front of Oia, in the northern part of Santorini. Actually, it used to be a part of Santorini until 1500 B.C, when a volcanic eruption broke Santorini into many pieces and Thirassia emerged as one of those. The island is way quieter than Santorini, it is considered a virgin island, untouched by tourism and modern lifestyle. It is 9 sq. km in size and has only 300 permanent inhabitants
During your visit, you will enjoy the charming village of Manolas and its good taverns, and enjoy a splendid view of Santorini.
How to get there: The easiest way to visit Thrasia is from Ammoudi bay in Oia, there are boats that can take you there. You can also rent a private boat or book a shared day cruise that will take you to Thirasia and the caldera of Santorini.