What to do in Santorini? Many of you wonder if there is actually anything else to see than a beautiful caldera view. Of course! We had a chance to drive across the whole island several times and we found our favorite things to do in Santorini. There is probably nothing more rewarding than discovering some unusual places on your own, which you haven’t seen 1000 times before on the Instagram feed ;). All the necessary practical tips about planning holidays in Santorini, you’ll find here. So, let’s explore the island with us!
7 BEST THINGS TO DO IN SANTORINI
BREATHTAKING OIA SUNSETS
Yes, yes, this is number one when it comes to Santorini attractions. However, if you are looking for romantic moments, it may be tough. After 5 pm, crowds of tourists flock to Oia to see the world-famous sunset. If you want a really good view, you should come to Oia even 2 hours before the sun goes down to pick the right place… Otherwise, you will end up watching the spectacle in the crowd, standing in narrow streets, not really seeing the sunset itself through thousands of selfie sticks… Frankly speaking, I have another spot in Santorini, which I found better for sunset watching – keep reading!
It’s here in Oia, where you can see the devastating effects of the last volcanic eruption and earthquake that hit the island in 1956. Many of the old cave houses are still ruined. However, nowadays these old traditional buildings are bought cheaply, refurbished and converted into posh suites or hotels like these.
|Tip: Looking for a romantic restaurant, where you could enjoy the sunset with a drink in your hand? You should try one of these spots: Pelekanos, Strogili or Kastro Restaurant.|
WANDERING AROUND FIRA, FIROSTEFANI AND IMEROVIGLI
Fira is the island’s main city, offering breathtaking views of the caldera. Here you will find the highest density of these white & blue houses and turquoise infinity pools in Greece. Spend a few hours simply meandering through the endless maze of intriguing alleyways, quaint shopfronts, cozy cafes and souvlaki spots. You will never run out of things to photograph. Take a walk before 10 am to avoid the crowds. For me, discovering tiny shops with local handicrafts and jewelry is definitely one of the best things to do in Santorini. The wooden donkeys from one of the photos below are the result of one of these morning walks. They actually mean a lot to me as I bought them on the first day after our wedding.
Fira is located next to Firostefani and Imerovigli (30 minutes walk), all of these towns are equally picturesque. If you make it to Imerovigli, don’t forget to slip a little off the road and head for Skaros, a rock overlooking the sea with a tiny, lovely (obviously, white-and-blue) church.
|Tip: By the way, why all these houses are white? This tradition dates back to the 30th century when buildings were whitewashed to prevent from cholera raging in Greece. In the 70s, dictator Papadopulous ordered to maintain white and blue colors of buildings as a tribute to the Greek flag. All subsequent governments upheld the decree when they noticed how many tourists go to Greece to admire an idyllic view of white and blue houses on the rocks surrounded by the sea.|
There is also a cable car in Fira, which will easily transport you to the so-called Old Port (Fira Scale). The alternative for the fit freaks – walking over 600 steps up and down the cliff. Some choose to travel with a donkey – I sincerely advise you not to, I have seen many times how they are treated 🙁 The cable car is exactly the same price (about 5 EUR one way). In the Old Port, you will board the another thrilling attraction meaning…
I feel that the caldera cruise isn’t something super popular when it comes to things to do in Santorini. This should definitely make it to your ‘best things to in Santorini’ list. Cruise takes you to nearby 3 islands. Nea Kameni is a volcanic island that was formed after the eruption in the 16th century BC and you can see the volcanic crater here (and smell the sulfur fumes!). Next to the island of Palia Kameni you’ll stop for a moment to jump straight from the boat into the hot springs (ok, you have to swim 100 meters to get there…). Watch out for your bikini – sulfur may change its color!
Thirassia is the last stop – contrary to the previous two islands, this one is not inhabited, about 160 people live here. Although walking the stairs from the port to the city may seem a bit heroic considering the heat, I still recommend you to do this. Prize? A spectacular view of the white houses of Fira and Oia on the other edge of the caldera. When deciding on a cruise, choose the one which finishes with sunset watching!
|Tip: Once upon a time, Santorini was one big island. However, the volcanic eruption around 1600 BC caused quite a mess in the geography. One of the largest calderas in the world was formed thanks to this eruption (approx. 10 km). Nowadays, the only remains of this big island are the sides of the caldera also known as islands of Thira, Thirassia, Nea Kameni, Palea Kameni and Aspro (the tiny pile of stones, which you pass while heading New Port in Thira).|
Okay, let’s go back to the main island for some wine testing. Yay! As you already know (even from this post), we are big fans of this beverage and visiting wineries is one of our favourite things to do in Santorini. We have two favorite vineyards that we can recommend to you – Boutari and Santo Winery. Both are great, but each one in something different. Boutari has the best dessert wine you will drink in your life. It’s the famous vinsanto, which tastes exactly like chocolate raisins. Yummy! Santo Winer specializes in white wines made from Assyrtiko grapes. This wine is extremely refreshing, with a hint of citrus aroma – a perfect match for a summer day. In both wineries, you have to pay for testing, approx. 5 EUR per 5 wines, winery tour included.
|Tip: Assyrtiko is an unusual variety of grapes, which basically grows only in Santorini. Branches are not hanging freely like in eg. France, but are specially formed in “nest” to be as close as possible to the ground. It protects the plant from the strong winds that hit the island in the winter. The vine grows also on a specific, volcanic soil. During the day, it gives plants back the water collected from the air during the night. Thanks to this unique soil, Assyrtiko wine has also a specific, mineral aftertaste.|
AMAZING SANTORINI BEACHES
This is probably the only place in Greece where you can see beaches in such unusual colors – black and red. The Black Beach extends between Perissa, Perivolos and Agios Georgios, and you will also find it in the most popular resort on this side of the island, Kamari. Do not expect the fine sand – the beach is full of pebbles and stones. The Red Beach of Kokkini owes its name to a spectacular bloody cliff, surrounding a small strip of sand.
|Tip: If you are ancient history lovers, don’t miss the excavations in Akrotiri. Here archeologists discovered a complete Minoan village, covered with volcanic ashes of the infamous eruption in 1613 BC. Interestingly, the Minoans themselves must have left this place just before the eruption. No human remains were found. So far, this is unknown where they actually went. Have they left Santorini and sailed to Crete? Or are they buried somewhere else on the island?|
PROFITIS ILIAS – BEST PANORAMIC VIEW
On the south-eastern side of the island, there is Profitis Ilias Mountain, which offers an incredible panoramic view of Santorini. The island seen from this perspective makes an amazing impression. The whole effect is slightly damaged by the NATO radars at the top of the mountain… In contrast, there is a small Greek Catholic church next to them.
|Tip: Stuffing yourself with delicious Greek food is also one of the best things to do in Santorini. On your way to Profitis Ilias, stop by Pyrgos, a small, non-commercial village away from the crowds. Pyrgos Restaurant is highly recommended – bird’s eye view over the whole island is simply breathtaking! Metaxi Mas is considered by many as the best restaurant in Santorini, it is located in the nearby village of Exo Gonia. You must try a typical Santorini dish called fava, made from yellow peas.|
At the southwestern end of the island, there is a lighthouse. It isn’t particularly beautiful, but … yes, here you will find probably the best (not crowded!) place to admire the famous sunset 🙂
|Tip: Find ou our recommendations about best things to do in Crete, Mykonos and Ios!|
Which are your favourite things to do in Santorini?
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