Apart from its iconic incredible views and sunsets there are many other things to do on Santorini as well. The caldera of the volcano is the epicentre of the island, and its neighbours, and provides an abundance of things to do including sailing, watersports and beaches but there are also world famous Santorini wineries, ancient ruins and villages and a vibrant cafe, bar and shopping scene. There are some incredible places to stay and no lack of things to do on Santorini,and it caters for all ages and all budgets.
Villages and towns of Santorini
The most photographed and iconic village on the island Oia is at the very northern tip and is where everyone wants to get those sunset shots. Especially popular with honeymooners this is also where most of the expensive accomodation is.
To get to Fira you will need a car transfer from both the port and the Airport.
You can access Fira by foot or cable car from the Port or by road from the Aiport.
Imerovigli means “The balcony to the Aegean” and it is built on the highest point of the caldera cliffs, about 300 meters above sea level in between Oia and Fira. Its position provides a magnificent view of the famous volcano, the sparkling Aegean Sea and the sunset.
A notable attraction of the village is the huge rock called Skaros that lies on the seaward side. It is was once one of the five fortresses of Santorini and the most significant one.
Perissa is a coastal village, located on the southeastern edge of the island, 13 kilometers from Fira. Itis lcoated at the base of Mesa Vouno mountain and is believed to be the place where the ancient city of Elefsina used to stand.
Perissa has a popular black sand beach that gets very busy in summer.
It is also the highest point of the island and has amazing views from all sides.
Close to the airport there is a long street with many shops, restaurants, taverns and cafe-bars and often live greek music too. Its is also home to the islands only cinema.
See the highlights of Santorini
Watch the sunset from the pretty village of Oia
Visit the archaeological ruins of Akrotiri, the former capital of Thira,see sugar cube houses and blue-domed churches.
Explore Emporio, one of the oldest and most authentic traditional villages and discover Venetian castles and the remains of Minoan civilizations. Taste Santorini’s distinctive wines and stop off at the highest peak of Santorini before witnessing the gobsmacking sunset in Oial
You dont necessarily come for the beaches. They aren’t the best beaches in Greece but in saying that the best beaches on Santorini are quite unusual and its definately worth looking at one or two.
Probably the best known beach on Santorini lies on the southernmost part of Santorini near Akrotiri village, 12 kilometers south west of Fira.
It is very distinctive and quite unlike any other beach in the world with huge red volcanic cliffs leading right down to the sea where the sand and pebbles are also red/pink. The beach is semi-organized with white sunbeds and umbrellas and there are a couple of small shops to buy supplies at the beginning of the path.
There are no facilities or water sports at Red beach but you can snorkel. Red Beach is sheltered from the wind which makes it very popular all year but that also means it can get very hot in summer.
ps. Red Beach was closed for much of 2019 due to landslides. Check with the locals before visiting. Viewing for the safety of a boat is a great option.
White beach (Akrotiri)
Just around the cove south of Red beach is White beach. It is very similar to the Red beach, with black pebbles on the shore, but the surrounding cliffs are white. This beach is accessible by boat or on foot from Red beach.
It is less popular than the neighbouring cove and therefore much quieter. It doesn’t have facilities, except for some umbrellas and sunbeds along the coast, although the surrounding rocks do provide shade and again it is generally sheltered from wind.
Kamari is the most popular and touristic of the beaches on Santorini and the promenade next to it lined with bars, tavernas, cafes and shops. 10 kilometres southeast of Fira and close to the airport its a very family friendly beach and its possible to stay right in the village at some of the small hotels.
Despite being so popular Kamari is a very clean beach and there are many facilities such as sunbeds, toilets and even a lifeguard. There is also a number of water sports to choose from including a Dive Centre.
You can get to Kamari by either bus or car and there is a large car park near the beach.
Eros is a small beach at the southern end of Santorini that few people know about. Its really one of the islands hidden gems.
To get to it you need to drive down a dirt road to a small car park next to a surprisingly good beachfront Taverna. There are a small number of umberellas and sunbeds for rent and the water is clear and generally safe to swim. There are huge imposing white cliffs around the beach which really make it quite special.
There is a also a unique way of growing the grapes on the Cyclades islands. Due to the wind the vines are shaped into cirular wreaths on the ground instead of on trellises and this, and some low stone walls, protect them from the strong summer winds.
Most people agree some of the best wines in Greece come from Santorini and in fact the often win awards and accolades all over the world today. The indigenous white grape varieties Assyrtiko, Athiri and Aidani are the most popular but there are vines from other areas used as well.
The wines feature a wide variety of native grapes including, Assyrtiko, Athiri, Aidani, Mandilaria and Mavrotragano and ONLY native grapes are used. In fact many are exported to wineries around the world, including Australia.
There is a bus stop right outside the winery but otherwise a private tour is easy and great value.
With incredible views across the island Santos is a fabulous place to not only do some wine tasting but also to enjoy a bite to eat and, if you’re lucky, listen to some live music too.
Visit 3 wineries with a local Sommelier!
Wineries, a cooking class and lunch
Shopping on Santorini
The main villages are filled with small boutiques, souvenir shops and specialty stores and there is a large Hondos Shopping Mall in Fira as well. The island is especially known for its incredible jewelry and Odos Ipapantis (Gold Street) is lined with them. If you are new to Greece you will be amazed by the vast array of evil eye jewelry and trinkets which are believed to ward off evil spirits. Some jewelry is also made from volcanic rock and petrified lava.
Poniros is a family run business and they have two stores at Fira and Oia. They are famous for their exquisite high end pieces particularly their Volcanic Flower and Windmill ranges. Synonomous with luxury and style women from all over the world make sure to visit Poniros when in Santorini.
Take deep pockets!
A book lovers paradise there are books piled to the ceiling in this quirky little shop which is also full of philosophical and literature quotes. Its become one of the most famous bookshops in the world.
Exhibition change regularly but most are free to admire so pop in and have a look. The art work is carefully curated and each piece is very special.
Bloom Greek Design and Deli room
They have a lovely selection of locally designed homewares and fashion items as well.
Arts and Culture
Located at the south of the island near Blychada Marina the Arts Factory was once a tomato canning facility and is now both a museum and a venue for art exhibitions, music and dance performances and other cultural events.
The museum is one of the world’s only tomato museums and features original equipment and goods used in the former factory.
There is a small shop that showcases a the work of a number of Santorini’s artist and produce makers.
The business also offers a number activities such as these ;
- Tour of the Tomato Industrial Museum with D. Nomikos
Learn about the history of Santorini, its culture and
agricultural life through videos of testimonials by workers from the factory. The visit concludes with a tasting of the D. Nomikos tomato paste. After the tour choose one of the old labels from the factory and seal your own can, using the old canning machine that is still operational.
Tour duration: 30’
Movie duration: 30
Seal your can: 10’
- Cooking homemade Tomato Paste
A visit to the Tomato Museum can be combined with an interesting cooking session. Learn how to make homemade tomato paste and sauce.
- Meze Tomato Plate
An enjoyable and delicious break, filled with flavours of tomato. Fresh tomatoes, sun-dried and finely chopped tomatoes, tomato paste dip, combined with olives, capers, caper leaves from Santorini, traditional greek rusk, and local Assyrtiko wine.
Architecture & history
The architecture of the Cyclades islands is famous the world over but Santorini particularly is one of the most recognisable in the world.
There are two reasons all the buildings are white. Once upon a time whitewash was a cheap disinfectant that helped to keep cholera at bay. These days it acts to reflect light keeping the houses cool inside and the blue trims and church domes reflect the colour of the sky and the Aegean see.
All the villages are interesting to see from an architectural perpective and there are several buildings of interest to view.
- Cave houses or yposkafa ( often now hotels)
- Farmers houses – usually with central courtyards
- Agios Nikolaos Marmaritis Chapel at the entrance to Emporio Village
- John the Baptist Catholic Cathedral in Fira
- Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral in Fira
- Profitis Ilias Monastery with its huge steeple
- Agios Nikolaos Monastery near Imergovigli which is still a convent
- all five of the Venetian castles
Santorini unsurprisingly also has a long and colourful history and the museums on the island are all quite fascinating.
- the Archeological Museum
- The wine museum
- the Maritime Museum
- the Museum of Prehistoric Thera
Day trips from Santorini
The capital is the town of Manolas and Agrilia is the largest and oldest village. The island has a population of around 300 people. There are 21 churches and from the monastery of Koimiseos you can see the whole island.
Most of the homes are cave house style, built into the rock. The views are just as spectacular as those on Santorini but of course without the crowds.
You can access Thirassia by boat from Santorini from either Athinios Port or Ammoudi Port in Oia. The boats stop at the main harbour of Riva and at Korfos. If you get off at Korfos, you will only be able to reach Manolas on foot or by donkey.
Most will visit the active hot springs in the middle of the Caldera for a swim and possibly some of the smaller beaches and villages around it as well.
If you go in the afternoon you can enjoy an early BBQ dinner on board and take in the sunset from the water. Not only will you avoid the crowds up in the towns above but the view over the water is absoultely mesmerising and something you will never forget.
Tours often book out in summer so ask you hotel to organise this as soon as you can. If they are fully booked often some of the local fisherman will happily accomodate for a reasonable fee.
” Despite the reports of overtourism and crowds I still think everyone needs to see Santorini at least once. There really is no-where else like it on the planet. The key is to get out and about early, retire to your hotel or villa once the cruise ships arrive and re-emerge when they’ve left late in the afternoon.
And there really is no need to jostle for a sunset view in Oia with the masses. Do a late cruise out on the Caldera and view the sun setting over the water whilst enjoying a BBQ dinner on board. It really is spectacular!”
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