Santorini is truly a magical destination. It’s no wonder it is considered to be the most sought after place for a romantic getaway. There’s 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!
The island is known for its distinctive architecture with its typical whitewashed houses, blue-domed churches and paved paths. Two basic architectural characteristics of the island are the domes and the cave houses, whose construction is easy and inexpensive, since they use building materials made of what nature provides: volcanic dust, black igneous rock, red rock and pumice stone.
Some settlements of Santorini are built on the edge of the caldera cliff, while others extend outside the fortified castle-towns, known as kastelia. There are five castles and their ruins that are among the attractions of the island. These fortified settlements were constructed from the 14th to 18th century as a means of protection from the incessant pirate invasions. Their special architecture was purely of defensive nature.
There are glorious monasteries that are notable for their size, grand cathedrals with admirable frescoes, simple churches and tiny chapels. Only a small number are built into rock. The majority of them are square, white edifices with white or blue domes.
The sunsets in Santorini can be truly spectacular and the multi-colored beaches are simply the icing on the cake. When visiting the island, it’s a must to visit the volcanic beaches with white, red or black sand or volcanic pebbles, spectacular rock formations and impressive lunar landscapes.
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 just under 10km (6.2 miles).
Also, 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.
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. However, many people have gotten into ATV accidents on the island, so be extremely cautious if you decide to rent one. Stay as close to the shoulder as possible to allow cars to pass and take corners slowly.
A visit to Santorini is the ultimate gastronomic experience, as the island is a true culinary paradise! It’s also well-known for it’s wineries since there is a rich tradition in wince making and its wine varieties are famed worldwide. This is due to the rich volcanic soil and hence there are canavas and vineyards all over the island. The island also has their own micro-brewery called Santorini Brewing Company that features their crazy white, red, and yellow donkey beers that can only be found on the island.