As one of the Greek Cyclades Islands, Santorini sits majestically between Athens on the Greek mainland and the island of Crete, in the beautiful Aegean Sea.
Santorini has a breathtaking landscape, formed after an immense volcanic eruption thousands of years ago. This left the island, which used to be circular, with a sunken centre surrounded by tall cliffs to its east making Santorini somewhat wonky. But don’t let its irregular landscape fool you, Santorini is a spectacular island to visit, with lots of exciting places to explore. Here’s our top ten things to do on Santorini.
1. Explore the Capital Fira
The capital of Santorini, Fira, is dotted with beautiful white and blue houses along narrow, winding streets interspersed by boutique and luxurious hotels. This chic Cycladic town is picture postcard gorgeous with occasional gaps in the buildings where you’ll see spectacular views of the sea.
With museums to nightclubs and restaurants to exclusive shops, there’s something for everyone here. If you’re visiting for the day and you’re driving, all parking is free. But aim to arrive before 10am to make sure you get a parking space, as this town is a hive of fun and activity.
The villages of Firostefani and Imerovigil are within easy reach of Fira on foot (a 10 minute and 30 minute walk respectively) and are really worth seeing. Make sure you bring your camera and allow plenty of time for photography stop offs!
2. Take the Scenic Hike from Fira to Oia
If you fancy something a little more challenging than a walk, then you must try the hike between Fira and Oia. You’ll feel like you’re on the edge of the world (and for all intents and purposes, you are, so bring your steady feet).
Start off early to avoid the midday sun, then settle in Oia for some relaxation or musing before heading back to Fira. If heights make you wobble, it’s probably best not to look down into the ‘caldera’, the huge crater left behind by the landscape altering volcanic eruption many moons ago.
This 9km hike will take around four or five hours, so keep that in mind if you have a dinner reservation later!
3. Watch the Sunset in Oia
Situated in the North of the island, Oia is the glamorous and exclusive Santorini village that has inspired many an Instagram post, and legend has it, even more marriage proposals. The plush hotels here have classically Greek whitewashed walls set against the brilliant blue sky, many with an infinity pool for that extra touch of class.
So, it’s no surprise that sunset watching (with or without an infinity pool and a diamond) is a popular attraction in Oia. A sunset here is said to be one of the most spectacular in the world.
For the best views, head to the ruins of the Byzantine Castle, but make sure you head there early to secure your spot, because this sunset really isn’t a well-kept secret.
4. Visit the Santo Winery
Santorini is well known for its landscape and scenery, but it’s also famed for its wine. So, if you’re a wine lover, then you’ll be right at home here. After its volcanic eruption, the earth was left rich in minerals and pumice stone, which along with a low year round rainfall and humid nights, makes the perfect climate for grape vines.
The Santo Winery is the ideal place for sampling the wines of Santorini, which tend to be white, crisp and dry – the perfect pairing for fish dishes.
Of course, the professionals will discard their wine into a bucket after tasting. But if you fancy a few drinks in beautiful surroundings with some accompanying nibbles, then feel free to drink and be merry!
5. Visit the Picturesque Village of Pyrgos
If spectacular views are your thing, then a visit to the village of Pyrgos is a must. The highest village on Santorini, Pyrgos allows you views stretching far and wide across Santorini and beyond.
Make it to the very top and you’ll be rewarded with the sight of the ruins of the Kasteli, one of the five Venetian castles on Santorini. Built as a hideaway from invading pirates in years gone by, the winding streets and narrow alleyways up to the Kasteli were designed to confuse the presumably intoxicated and possibly even a little bit daft, pirates who might have been on the attack.
Pirate traps aside, take a wander around the traditional houses, taverns and shops selling local goods that dot the streets of this pretty village.
6. Explore the Archaeological Site of Akrotiri
Akrotiri is an ancient city that is now in ruins – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t one to see on your trip to Santorini. Often compared to Italy’s Pompeii, Akrotiri was completely swallowed up by the volcanic eruption.
You can go alone when you’re exploring this piece of history frozen in time, but for the best experience, hire one of the many local guides. Everything from cooking pots and flower pots to bee hives (yes, bee hives!) have been painstakingly recovered here, and in 2012 the perfectly intact but set in stone houses were protected with a roof structure, preserving them for generations of visitors to come.
If you feel sad about the events of Akrotiri, then take peace from knowing that not one body (and only one piece of gold) have been found here. Suggesting that the people of this ancient city were forewarned and were successfully evacuated, taking their treasures with them.
7. See the Akrotiri Lighthouse
Also in the city of Akrotiri is the Akrotiri Lighthouse. Built in 1892, it seems pirates weren’t the only worry these city dwellers had.
Protecting boats from the rugged rocks below, this lighthouse continued to serve right up until the Second World War. After a brief closure, it started doing its job again in 1945 and still protects seafarers to this day.
Public access to the inside of this lighthouse isn’t permitted, but take a seat on its exterior wall and take in the sights around you. It’s also a great vantage point for witnessing a stunning sunset.
8. Hike Santorini’s Volcano
Completed the Fira to Oia hike and hungry for more? Then take a hike to the edge of the crater of the volcano eruption that made Santorini what it is today. Rugged, knobbly underfoot and made up of sharp volcanic rocks, this isn’t a hike to be taken lightly, or in flimsy footwear.
But make it to the edge and peer down, and you’ll be breathless (not just from the hike). This vast crater tells the story of life on Santorini way before tourism.
Marvel at the moon-like landscape with its robust yellow flora (and distinct egg-like sulphur smell) and you’ll definitely deserve that oh-so Greek fish and white wine supper later.
9. Wander Through Ancient Thera
Many, many years after the colossal volcanic eruption on Santorini, ancient settlers made a basic ridge, on the side of Mesa Vouno Mountain, a place to call home. It remained that way for 800 years but is now in ruin.
Mother nature has wound her way through the ancient, ruined buildings, making this place lush and green, yet decorated with settler history.
High up on the mountainside, you’ll wonder at how these buildings were even constructed, let alone what life must’ve been like. But with views as glorious as these, you’ll soon learn why these people decided that this was to be their home.
10. Relax at Amoudi Bay
If after all that sightseeing, you’re craving some relaxation time, then Amoudi Bay is the perfect place for it. Sunsets at Oia might be the worst kept secret, but the cute fishing village of Amoudi Bay is still relatively unknown, and is well worth a visit – if you can manage the 300 steps through the rugged landscape that lead down to the bay from Oia.
Once you’re there, you’ll be met with a delicious array of fish restaurants and beautiful swimming spots set against a backdrop of stunning volcanic cliffs.
So, what do you think? Worth a visit? We certainly think so. Santorini has everything on offer, from ancient history to the most modern of hotels, so whatever you enjoy, you’ll find it here in this little slice of Greek paradise. Enjoy!