What to do in Santorini

Santorini needs no introduction as its one of the most famous islands in the world, on the bucket lists of countless travelers and a top island for romance-seekers. A 16th-century BC volcanic eruption forever shaped the landscape, with the whitewashed cubist homes in Oia and Fira clinging to cliffs that rise above the underwater caldera, overlooking the glistening expanse of the sapphire sea, small neighboring islands, and beaches that range from black and white to red.

It’s the kind of place where you could easily just sit back, relax, and enjoy the scenery – something you’ll be in awe of from the moment you first gaze up the precipitous caldera cliffs when stepping off the ferry. But you’ll also be spoiled for choice when it comes to things to do, making it a must to do a little planning before you go.

Hiking on Santorini

Hike the Path Between Fira and Oia

Hiking the path between Fira and Oia, which follows the rim of the caldera, is one of the top experiences on Santorini. The entire route is a little over six miles, a mix of dirt trails and paved, pedestrian streets. Along the way you’ll pass countless photo-ops, including breathtaking views of the sea, lovely churches and a stunning lagoon.

It can be hiked in either direction, but if you start from Fira, it will be more of a downhill walk and you’ll enjoy a magnificent view of Oia in front of you rather than having to look back. Once in Oia, most return by taxi or bus rather than tackling it round-trip. If you time it right you can be there to enjoy the island’s most popular vantage point for a sunset too, which brings us to our next thing to do.

Sunset on Santorini

Marvel at a Legendary Sunset

Watching a sunset from Oia village is one of the most iconic things to do in Santorini, so awe-inspiring that the crowds gathering here at the end of the day clap at this grand finale. Of course, unless you’re here during the off season (November through March), you’re unlikely to enjoy it entirely interrupted with so many other visitors here.

While it’s worth enjoying from Oia once you might also watch the sun go down in one of the more private spots. Skaros Rock, a rocky headland protruding into the sea in front of Imerovigli village with its medieval castle ruins can be ideal. You’ll be hypnotized as red light casts a glow, illuminating the structure as the sun melts below the horizon.

Akrotiri, Santorini

Explore Akrotiri

In Akrotiri you can tour the archaeological excavation site that holds the ruins of the prehistoric settlement of Akrotiri, covered under 200 feet of ash in 1646 BC during the massive volcanic eruption. Similar to Pompeii all that ash preserved the once thriving town. The difference is that it was home to the ancient Minoans, more than 4,000 years before Pompeii was established, providing a glimpse at life on the island nearly 3,700 years ago.

People lived in two- and three-story homes that had balconies, hot and cold running water, underfloor heating, and some of the first indoor toilets. You’ll be able to wander the walkways to see elaborate drainage systems, lots of pottery, multilevel buildings, and more.

Sailing, Greece

Sunset Sailing

Another must-do on Santorini is to join a sunset sailing cruise that concludes by watching the island’s iconic sunset from the water. Before that magical hour brings a colorful sky just as the sun dips below the Aegean, you’ll take in numerous sights while cruising along the caldera cliffs and enjoy several stops too.

Typically, excursions visit both the Red and White beaches so that you can relax on the sand and swim in the sea, as well as stopping at the warm volcanic springs for an unforgettable soak. A meal and drinks are usually included too, often a BBQ lunch, before capping it off with a sunset near Oia village. You’ll definitely want to be sure your camera is ready.

Greece Wine Tour

Take a Wine Tour

Santorini is famous for its high-quality wines and if you any interest in tasting and learning about how it’s made, you’ll want to join a wine tour. There are many options available, including private tours led by a local sommelier guide. Typically, you’ll visit multiple traditional wineries where you can sample as many as a dozen different varieties of award-winning volcanic vintages.

Tastings including perfectly paired snacks and local cheeses, enjoyed while learning about Santorini’s centuries-old winemaking history and its famous Assyrtiko grape. There are options that include sightseeing too, often with a visit to Prophet Elias, a monastery that sits atop the summit of Mount Prophet Elias. You’ll hear the chants of the monks and enjoy tastings of wine, olive oil and honey as well as visit a traditional winery.

Ammoudi Bay

Enjoy a Meal and a Swim in Ammoudi Bay

Nestled in the lower part of Oia village, accessed by descending some 300 steps, Ammoudi Bay is a tiny harbour with glistening water ranging from deep sapphire to brilliant turquoise, looking as if it was made for postcards. It’s one of the best places for dining on deliciously fresh seafood with several traditional tavernas like Ammoudi Fish Taverna where the tables are just inches from the sea.

The views are breathtaking any time of the day, but it’s pure magic when the sunlight bathes it in a golden glow just before the stars begin to shine. The craggy coves are also one of the best places to enjoy a swim on the island.

Pyrgos Village, Santorini

Get an Authentic Look at Daily Life

By visiting Pyrgos, one of the most charming villages in the interior of the island, you’ll get an authentic look at daily life here. A whitewashed hilltop village with churches and homes built in and around a Venetian castle, few tourists visit, which means you’re more likely to encounter locals as you stroll the meandering footpaths.

You’ll find plenty of enticing cafes for sipping coffee as you watch the world go by along with some of the most magnificent views of the island from its highest point.

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