Santorini is an astounding destination, esteemed by travelers around the globe. With its classic white buildings, crystal blue waters and picturesque sunsets – not to mention delectable local cuisine, delightful wines and welcoming locals – it’s easy to see why this island has become so beloved. Officially known as Thira (or Thera), Santorini earned its current name from the Latin Empire in the thirteenth century; a contraction of Santa Irini meaning ‘Saint Irene’.
Centuries ago, the isle of Thera experienced a momentous volcanic eruption. This event happened during the zenith of Minoan civilization – now known as The Minoan Eruption or Thera Eruption – and has since become one of history’s most remembered eruptions.
But aside from its catastrophic effects on ancient civilizations, this particular occurrence led to many mythological stories such as Plato’s literary reference to Atlantis in his celebrated writings. In addition to being mentioned in Greek mythology, this monumental volcanic explosion left lasting impressions on countless other parts of our world today, leaving behind remarkable tales that continue living through time immemorial.
From the volcanic caldera and beaches, to the unique topography of Santorini’s terrain; this stunning island offers a plethora of experiences. Adding to that is its delicious selection of fruits, vegetables, and wine – all boasting flavors distinctive only to Santorini!
Here are the top 11 things to do in Santorini, ranked in no particular order because, let’s be real, they’re all amazing:
1. Visit the island’s famous caldera
Visiting the iconic caldera should be at the top of your list when you go to Santorini. The island’s renowned active volcano can be seen on Nea Kameni island, an isle located in the middle of the stunning caldera. You have a chance to take a boat ride around this small landmass and witness its yellowish seawater that originates from hot springs where sulfur is released undersea – all within 20 minutes! A 450 feet crater awaits those who reach its peak for unparalleled views. As you make your way along the path, keep an eye out for steaming sulfur vents.
Remain on the trail and take caution with each step to ensure a safe journey and maximum enjoyment of nature’s beauty! To get more from this excursion we recommend wearing high socks paired with running shoes. Before continuing on your route, allow yourself time to pause within sight of the volcanic island. That’s not all – indulge in a calming walk through its caldera before taking Instagram worthy shots!
2. Take a boat tour of the island
Embarking on a captivating boat tour around the mesmerizing Santorini caldera should top your list of activities to do. You’ll be delighted as you traverse through breathtaking caves, exquisite black and red sand beaches, and its surrounding picturesque volcano. Immerse yourself into an unforgettable experience with strong winds from the Aegean Sea making it feel like Ulusses himself is navigating his way across! What’s even more striking about this voyage is that at 1300 feet deep below sea level, you’re sure to be in awe every minute of your journey! To experience Santorini to the fullest, why not pair it with a magnificent cruise? We prefer to book our boat tours from GetYourGuide every time we visit Santorini. There are so many options for boat tours and you can book the Best Boat Tours in Santorini from GetYourGuide.
For those who have time to spare, there’s an abundance of nearby Greek islands such as Ios, Folegandros and Anafi or other Greek islands that are worth exploring. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, check out Thirassia island for guaranteed fun in the sun! There is always the option to take a sunset cruise! Don’t forget your sunscreen though—you’ll be spending some quality time on board after all!
3. Explore the archaeological sites
Journey back in time and explore the stunning ancient ruins of Akrotiri, a Minoan Bronze-Age village buried by ash from Santorini’s volcanic eruption dating as far back as 16th century BC. It is one of Greece’s most ancient settlements which remains remarkably intact to this day! In awe, you will be amazed at the architecture and frescoes – it may even remind you of Pompei – leaving you with an unforgettable experience that only history can provide.
Ancient Thera is a 9th century BC archaeological site that was formerly the capital of this Greek island. The ancient city you’ll find here is mesmerizing and can easily take your breath away. For optimal exploration, remember to wear comfortable shoes and bring enough water – it’s an uphill climb but trust us when we say the view at the top will be worth it!
4. Visit the island’s many beautiful beaches
Santorini offers a unique selection of sparkling volcanic beaches, from Perivolos and Perissa beach with their dark black sand to the surreal Red Beach and Vlychada beach. Experience beautiful sunsets at the lively beach bars in Perissa, or take yourself away to an alternate universe by admiring the deep red hues of crushed volcanic rock that adorn Red Beach. Whatever your preference is, Santorini has something for everyone! Visiting Kamari beach, with its many restaurants and unique atmosphere, is a must. But my personal favorite is Red beach and visiting it is one of the amazing things to do in Santorini. The black volcanic sand and rock may be hot during summertime though, so make sure to protect your feet! Don’t forget to bring along your swimsuits and towels too; it’s recommended you come prepared before enjoying this gorgeous destination.
5. Go for a hike
Santorini is paradise for hikers! Whether you want a leisurely stroll or an intense trek, this beautiful place has something to offer. Grab your bottle of water and hat and traverse the hiking trails – my favorite walk being from Fira to Oia; it’s breathtaking! You get stunning views of steep cliffs along with picturesque scenes of whitewashed buildings in Imerovigli, Fira, and Oia spread across them. The hiking trail is 6 miles and can take up to 2 hours but would be well worth it – especially if you have a drone handy as strong winds are common during summertime here at Cyclades islands.
6. Visit the island’s many traditional villages
Explore the gorgeous towns of Oia, Firostefani, and Imerovigli with all its winding paths, cobblestone alleys and stairways. Get lost in a maze of narrow streets – it’s half the fun! Or if you’re apprehensive about getting lost on your own, take a small group tour that are available throughout Santorini that can show you what each town has to offer. You’ll be inspired to move into one instantly and live like a local!
Capture the picturesque whitewashed buildings and blue dome churches, which are a hallmark of Santorini. Don’t forget to visit Emporio, an age-old traditional village that will surely be one for the memory books.
7.Watch the sunset
The sunsets here in Santorini are simply breathtaking! Oia and Imerovigli are places you can watch the sunset, yet they tend to be crowded. For something more extraordinary, board a boat and sail around the caldera while indulging in local wine – this is what I personally do every time I visit Santorini. Another spot that’s perfect for admiring an unforgettable picturesque scene at twilight is Akrotiri Lighthouse.
Take a few hours out of your day to visit the Akrotiri lighthouse. With your camera and tripod in tow, this is an ideal spot for some breathtaking timelapse footage. Not only will you be rewarded with breathtaking views of the entire island and caldera – but it’s sure to be a lasting memory that you won’t ever forget!
8. Visit the island’s wineries
If you are looking for the perfect wine experience, Santorini is your destination of choice. Here, grapes such as Assyrtiko, Athiri, Aidini and Mandilaria come together to create an exquisite flavor that can only be attributed to the island’s volcanic soil and wind protection techniques. Not forgetting Vinsanto which draws its influence from Italy!
There are numerous wineries across the island offering guided tours – a must on any visit here. So why not take advantage of tasting all these unique wines Santorini has in store? Book your wine tour and let the guide take you on a remarkable expedition that will remain in your memory forever.
9. Visit the island’s many museums
Explore the awe-inspiring Museum of Prehistoric Thera, immerse yourself in the fascinating artifacts of the Archaeological Museum, and learn about Santorini’s rich culture at the Folklore Museum. But don’t forget to stop by two special museums – firstly, try some delicious and aromatic tomatoes from Santorini itself at a tomato museum; then explore why Santorinian wine is so renowned with an excursion through its dedicated wine museum! Let yourself linger for a few hours as you discover more about this spectacular island.
10. Take an air view
Santorini is renowned for its hot air balloon rides, with many visitors eager to experience the magical sight of the islands from a whole new angle. Early morning starts are essential if you want to witness Santorini’s sunrise and marvel at its beauty! If budget isn’t an issue, then why not take it one step further? A helicopter tour will give you more flexibility in exploring nearby locations such as Mykonos or Anafi. Either way, don’t miss out on this unique opportunity!
11. Enjoy some delicious greek food
Santorini is a volcanic island, whose ground and atmosphere make it an organic paradise for farming tomatoes, eggplants, and other crops. Be sure to try the cherry tomatoes here – they are divine! Additionally, there’s even a museum totally devoted to this extraordinary fruit-vegetable hybrid on Santorini. Greek cuisine has earned its fame as one of the best in the world; be sure not to miss out on such culinary experiences like Greek salad (slices of tomato, cucumber, onion with feta cheese or without if you’re vegan) and favas! Don’t wait any longer – enjoy traditional Greek food right away at Santorini! Fava is a delectable dish of pureed split peas mixed with onion and olive oil, an ingredient appreciated throughout Greece. When in Santorini don’t forget to accompany your meal with the local vino for the complete experience! It’s always my favorite pastime when I visit one of its stunning beaches: indulging in both delicious food and spectacular views at the same time.
The volcanic landscape of Santorini is a sight to behold! With so many astounding attractions and activities, boredom will never have the chance to set in. Don’t wait any longer – gather your belongings and book that flight for an unforgettable experience on this paradisiacal Greek island!
Traveling to 🇬🇷 Greece soon?
I recommend these travel resources for Greece that I personally use:
🏨 Hotels: I have found that Expedia and Booking.com consistently have the best deals on hotels and resorts in Greece. If you prefer to stay at a vacation rental, check VRBO that is usually cheaper than AirBnB’s added fees!
✈️ Flights: To find the best flight deals to Greece, I always use Kayak. Remember to subscribe to their price alerts for the travel dates you want. Another great alternative for flight deals is Expedia.
🚗 Rental Cars: I always use and highly recommend Discover Cars because it allows me to compare several car rental companies and view ratings on various factors such as overall value, pick-up procedure, agent efficiency, car condition, and total time taken.
🚙 Airport Transportation: For the fastest and easiest way to travel, I suggest arranging a private transfer from the airport and beetween destinations with Welcome Pickups. Honestly, no better way to travel from the airport to your hotel or resort.
🤿 Tours & Activities: For tours and activities in Greece, I highly recommend using either Viator or GetYourGuide. These websites offer a full refund if you cancel your booking 24 hours before the start of the tour, and they also provide excellent customer service in case of any issues.
🚨 Travel Insurance: I always suggest purchasing travel insurance as a precaution before traveling, especially after a recent accident in a taxi in Greece. For short trips, I recommend Travel Insurance Master, whereas for digital nomads, Safety Wing is a better option.
📷 Best Camera for your trip: I always carry with me a GoPro, It’s light, compact, takes great video and pictures, and most importantly, it’s waterproof! You just can’t go wrong with one. If you are interested in higher quality video and photography, I always carry with me on my trips and highly recommend the Sony A7IV which I think is the best travel DSLR Camera out there.
☀️ Biodegradable Sunscreen: Remember to include a good sunscreen to protect yourself from the summer sun. I always use and suggest Sun Bum Sunscreen, which is vegan, reef-friendly, and cruelty-free.
Santorini is famous for its fava. While Fava might sound like it contains fava beans (broad beans), in reality, it is actually made from yellow split peas. Nevertheless, you can also spice things up by using Santorini Fava beans! These special legumes add a unique flavor to the dish and make for an extra-special meal.
Santorini Fava is a Protected Designation of Origin, or PDO. This designation demonstrates how the particular beans that have been exclusively grown on this island in its nutrient-rich volcanic soil for 3,500 years cannot be reproduced elsewhere to still go by the name Santorini Fava! Not only do these legumes boast an unbeatable velvety texture and sweet taste compared to their fellow fava beans, but they also provide unique health benefits due to their terroir!
During the off-season, from September to March, savvy travelers can save a bundle at hotels and even reap additional discounts as crowds are virtually nonexistent. Although certain restaurants and stores may be closed during this period of time, there is still plenty to do – just make sure you bring your coat! You’ll also avoid sweltering heat while still having access to unique beaches for an unforgettable holiday experience.
When people envision a “Greek summer vacation,” they instantly have Oia in mind. Although it is widely renowned for its iconic sunset, there are so many other captivating elements that this town has to offer – from the bright laneways and astounding views to the exquisite food and wine, excellent shopping opportunities and exciting excursions! In particular, Santorini’s most stunning city of Santoritori will not disappoint.
Featuring a stunning caldera, an awe-inspiring volcano, and breathtaking sunsets that illuminate the illustrious Red beach and black sand beaches, Santorini is undisputedly among the most extraordinary tourist spots on earth.
The famed Greek white wine, Assyrtiko, is born from the island of Santorini yet crafted throughout Greece. With its exquisite fruity taste and a hint of citrus, it is truly an indulgent pleasure for your palate.
To effectively keep their buildings cool during the intense heat, residents employed traditional design techniques to best reflect the sun’s bright light. This was achieved by painting all homes white – a hue that would ensure maximum containment of warmth inside each dwelling.
Santorini is a paradise for those who enjoy soaking up the sun, with its warmest weather occurring from June to September. August stands out as particularly hot, due to daily highs of 30 degrees Celsius; conversely January offers an average high of just 14 degrees Celsius – perfect for escaping winter’s chill in style!
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