Santorini Destination Guide

Fall in Love with Santorini

Santorini, an enchanting Greek island nestled in the Aegean Sea, is renowned for its breathtaking vistas, picturesque whitewashed buildings adorned with vibrant blue domes, and stunning sunsets that paint the sky in a myriad of colors. It’s no wonder it is considered to be the most sought-after destination for a romantic getaway. There are not many places in the world where you can watch the sunset while perched on the rim of a massive active volcano overlooking the crystal clear waters of the Aegean Sea! Its unique crescent shape, formed by a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago, lends it an otherworldly charm. Visitors flock to its cliffside villages like Oia and Fira to wander through narrow cobblestone streets, indulge in delectable Mediterranean cuisine, and soak in the laid-back atmosphere. There are glorious monasteries that are notable for their size, grand cathedrals with admirable frescoes, simple churches, and tiny chapels sprinkled all over the island. There are also ruins of five castles on the island. These fortified settlements were constructed from the 14th to 18th century as a means of protection from the constant pirate invasions. Their special architecture was purely of defensive nature. With its crystal-clear waters, inviting beaches, and rich history, Santorini continues to captivate travelers from around the globe, offering an unforgettable escape in the heart of the Cyclades.

Where to Stay in Santorini

Santorini offers a wide range of accommodation options, catering to various preferences and budgets. Below is a breakdown of the different areas to stay on the island:

 

Oia

Known for its stunning sunset views and charming cliffside architecture, Oia is a popular choice for luxury accommodations. Boutique hotels and upscale resorts line the cliffs, offering luxurious amenities, private pools, and panoramic views of the caldera.

 

Fira

As the island’s bustling capital, Fira offers a diverse selection of hotels, from luxury resorts to budget-friendly options. Staying in Fira provides convenient access to shops, restaurants, and nightlife, as well as breathtaking views of the caldera and the Aegean Sea.

 

Imerovigli

Often referred to as the “balcony of Santorini,” Imerovigli is perched high on the cliffs, offering some of the most spectacular views on the island. Accommodation options in Imerovigli include luxury boutique hotels and romantic cliffside suites, providing a tranquil retreat with stunning vistas.

 

Firostefani

Located just a short walk from Fira, Firostefani offers a quieter alternative with easy access to the capital’s amenities. The village boasts picturesque alleys, traditional tavernas, and a selection of charming hotels and guesthouses with stunning caldera views.

 

Perissa and Perivolos

Situated on the southeastern coast of Santorini, Perissa and Perivolos offer beautiful black sand beaches and a laid-back atmosphere. Accommodations in this area range from beachfront resorts to budget-friendly guesthouses, making it an ideal choice for beach lovers.

 

 

Below are our favorite places to stay in Santorini:

 

What to Do in Santorini

Fira to Oia Hike 

The Fira to Oia hike is a must-do while visiting the island. It takes you along the Caldera cliff and through the villages of Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli, and Oia. The hike takes between 2 and 4 hours depending on how fast you walk and how often you stop. The total distance is about 6 miles.

Visit Skaros Rock

In Fira, be sure to check out Skaros rock, a giant rock situated in Imerovigli. It is one of the most impressive spots of Santorini. Skaros was one of the five fortified settlements and the most important one. The rock was inhabited in medieval times, because the fortress constructed there offered protection from the pirates. Now, there are ruins that remain to remind of the glorious settlement that Skaros was in the past.

 

Starting at the church of Agios Georgios (Saint George), you will find the path that leads to Skaros. The cement stairs are wide and you will descend easily. After a few minutes of walking, you’ll come across a small chapel Agios Ioannis, Katiforis (Saint John) and to the right you’ll see Oia. Further down, the view gets even better and the stairs lead you along red and black rocks that create wonderful color contrasts with the white and blue of the sea. You’ll pass some ruins attached to the rocks, old houses testifying that Skaros was once inhabited, and when you reach the end of the stairs, you’ll find yourself surrounded by a feast of colors: red rocks, green grass, and bright purple flowers. Once you reach this part, you’ll decide which path to follow: the one sitting in front of you that leads straight up to the rock’s tip, or the path to your left that goes around the rock 20 meters below the tip. You can also do them both if you’re feeling adventurous! On your way up, you’ll witness the remains of the buildings and the cave houses that surrounded it in the past.

Quad-Bike Rental or Tour

One of the most popular methods for exploring the island is by renting a quad-bike. It’s perfect for exploring the lesser known villages and gives you the freedom to stop when and where you want to. It’s also more fun than a car and easier to park. For those who aren’t comfortable exporing by ATV on their own, we recommend a guided ATV Tour or E-Bike tour.

Below are some other curated experiences in Santorini:

Wine Tasting

Wine holds a significant place in the cultural and culinary landscape of Santorini. The island’s volcanic soil, coupled with its unique microclimate, creates an ideal environment for viticulture. Wine tasting in Santorini is a sensory journey through the island’s rich viticultural heritage and stunning landscapes. Visitors have the opportunity to explore a variety of wineries, many of which are nestled amidst the island’s picturesque villages or perched atop cliffs overlooking the Aegean Sea.

 

One of Santorini’s most famous grape varieties is Assyrtiko, known for its crisp acidity and citrusy flavors, which thrives in the island’s volcanic ash-rich soil. Wineries dot the landscape, offering visitors the opportunity to sample a wide range of wines, from bone-dry whites to sweet dessert wines. The traditional method of grape cultivation, known as “kouloura,” involves training the vines into a basket shape to protect them from the strong winds and intense sun, resulting in wines that reflect the island’s terroir. Santorini’s winemaking tradition dates back thousands of years, and today, its wines are celebrated both locally and internationally for their quality and distinct character. A visit to Santorini isn’t complete without experiencing its vibrant wine culture firsthand.

 

Below are some curated food and wine tours in Santorini:

Places to Visit in Santorini

Akrotiri Archaeological Site

Located near the village of Akrotiri, 12km southwest of Fira, the ancient Minoan settlement of Akrotiri was buried below lava following the 16th-century BC volcanic explosion that created the caldera. The site is well preserved and has remnants of multi-level buildings, pottery, and drainage systems proving that Santorini was a flourishing and prosperous island well before the eruption.

 

Santorini Brewing Company

The island’s only craft brewery is known for its high-quality, artisanal beers that reflect the unique flavors and character of the island. The brewery produces a range of beers, including its flagship brand, Yellow Donkey, known for its refreshing taste and distinctive label featuring a donkey against a backdrop of the island’s iconic whitewashed buildings and blue-domed churches. The donkey beers can only be found on the island, making it a must-visit for beer enthusiasts. 

Red Beach

Near the Akrotiri site, you will find the famous Red Beach below a spectacular red cliff wall. The small beach gets crowded in the summer, so be sure to get there early to snag a prime spot. Also, note that the beach is prone to landslides, so some sections might be roped off from visitors.

White Beach

The White Beach in Santorini, called by the locals Lefki Ammos (white sand) or Lefki Paralia (white beach), is a small beach located under high cliffs made of white rocks. It is a true paradise for lovers of sunbathing.

Beach at Perissa

Santorini’s best-known and most popular beach lies on the southeast coast, between the villages of Perissa and Perivolos. It is a 6 km-long stretch of fine, black volcanic sand, backed by tamarisk trees and overlooked by a string of seafood tavernas and cafes.

Perivolos Beach

Perivolos is located on the south-eastern coast of Santorini and is situated between two other well-known beaches Perissa Beach and Agios Georgis. This area is very popular among tourists visiting the island. None of the aforementioned beaches have clearly defined borders, you can go for a long walk along the seashore and admire beautiful views of the coast.

Ancient Thera site

Located between Perissa and Kamari Beach, the ruins of Hellenistic temples and foundations of Roman and early-Byzantine buildings can be found at Ancient Thera, which dates back to the ninth century BC. Among the ruins, you’ll find religious sites, a theater, a gym for military trainees, and old administrative buildings.

Ammoudi Bay

At the base of the cliffs near Sunset Beach, there is a beautiful swimming hole with sparkling turquoise waters. It is the perfect place to relax at the end of an adventurous day. For the crazy ones, cliff diving is also popular in this area.

Where to Eat in Santorini

A visit to Santorini is the ultimate gastronomic experience, as the island is a true culinary paradise!  Here are five of our favorite restaurants that are often regarded as among the finest on the island:

 

Selene Restaurant

Located in the heart of Fira, Selene is renowned for its innovative take on traditional Greek cuisine, using locally sourced ingredients and creative cooking techniques to craft dishes that delight the palate. The restaurant offers a sophisticated dining experience with a menu that highlights the flavors of Santorini.

 

La Maison Restaurant

Nestled in the charming village of Imerovigli, La Maison offers breathtaking views of the caldera along with exquisite Mediterranean cuisine. Diners can enjoy fresh seafood, grilled meats, and seasonal dishes, all expertly prepared and presented in a stylish setting.

 

1800 Restaurant

Housed in a beautifully restored mansion in Oia, 1800 Restaurant combines elegant surroundings with exceptional gastronomy. The menu features a blend of Greek and international flavors, with an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients and expertly crafted dishes.

 

Metaxi Mas

Tucked away in the village of Exo Gonia, Metaxi Mas offers a more rustic and traditional dining experience. This family-run taverna is beloved for its authentic Greek cuisine, including grilled meats, homemade bread, and hearty stews, all served in a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

 

Ambrosia Restaurant

Situated in Oia with stunning views of the caldera, Ambrosia Restaurant is celebrated for its romantic ambiance and gourmet cuisine. The menu showcases a fusion of Greek and Mediterranean flavors, with dishes that are both visually stunning and delicious.

 

These restaurants represent just a sampling of the culinary delights that Santorini has to offer, and exploring the island’s dining scene is sure to be a memorable experience for any food lover.

Best Time to Visit Santorini

The best time to visit Santorini depends on your preferences and what you want to experience on the island.

 

Peak Season (June to August): This period is the peak tourist season in Santorini, characterized by warm weather and clear skies. The island is bustling with tourists, and attractions can be crowded. However, this is also the best time for beachgoers and sun seekers, as the weather is ideal for swimming and sunbathing.

 

Shoulder Season (April to May, September to October): The shoulder seasons offer milder weather and fewer crowds compared to the peak summer months. April to May and September to October are excellent times to visit Santorini if you want to avoid the peak tourist crowds while still enjoying pleasant weather and relatively warm temperatures. Additionally, accommodation prices may be lower during these months.

 

Off-Season (November to March): The winter months in Santorini are considered the off-season. While temperatures are cooler and rainfall is more frequent during this time, the island retains its charm and beauty. Visitors can explore Santorini without the crowds, enjoy lower accommodation rates, and experience a more authentic side of the island’s culture and daily life.

 

Ultimately, the best time to visit Santorini depends on your preferences for weather, crowds, and activities. If you prefer warm weather and vibrant nightlife, the summer months may be ideal for you. However, if you prefer quieter surroundings and lower prices, consider visiting during the shoulder or off-season.

 

Below is a temperature guide for all months of the year:

Best Place to Watch the Sunset in Santorini

One of the most iconic and breathtaking places to watch the sunset in Santorini is in the village of Oia. The cliffside location offers panoramic views of the caldera and the Aegean Sea, providing a stunning backdrop for the evening spectacle. The sunset views from Oia are renowned worldwide for their beauty and are often described as magical as the sun dips below the horizon, painting the sky in hues of orange, pink, and purple. We recommend making an early dinner reservation at Ambrosia Restaurant in order to have the prime viewing spot to avoid the crowds in Oia, but make sure you book well in advance.

 

The Oia Castle ruins, also known as Kastro, are particularly popular for sunset viewing, as they offer unobstructed vistas of the caldera and the surrounding islands. Visitors often gather along the castle walls or at nearby cafes and restaurants to witness the mesmerizing display of colors as the sun sets over the sea.

 

Another fantastic spot for sunset viewing in Santorini is the village of Fira. Perched atop the cliffs, Fira offers stunning views of the caldera and the volcanic islands, making it an ideal location to watch the sun sink into the horizon.

 

Whether in Oia, Fira, or another cliffside location on the island, watching the sunset in Santorini is an unforgettable experience that captures the essence of the island’s natural beauty and charm.

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