Santorini ! On this magical island, your eyes are filled with images of cliffs where white – blue houses are hanging over the sea and the most heavenly sunsets on earth take place.
The volcanic island of Santorini or if you prefer Thira, which is the second name (the ancient official name) is located at the Aegean Sea and is a part of Kyklades islands complex. It is one of the most beautiful and of course most touristy places in Greece. The unique energy of the island originates from the Kolumbo volcano which brings you closer to the myth of Lost Atlantis and the beginning of the creation of today’s Santorini.
The access to the island is made by air or sea. There are cheap flights all year round from Columbus airlines like Aegean, Volotea, Ryanair and more. If you feel more adventurous and have more time you can always take a ferry boat which costs almost the same amount of money but takes about 7 hours, depending on the cruise company, from the harbor of Peireas, the main harbor of Greece.
The caldera view
The caldera (the crater) of the volcano, with a diameter of about 11 kilometers, is one of the most important sights of Santorini. It was created by a series of powerful explosions in the last 200,000 years. The most recent one occurred at the end of the 17th century BC. and is known as the Minoan eruption, known as the most catastrophic one in the world. In the center of the caldera, there are two islets, the Palia and Nea Kameni, which are the newest islands in the Eastern Mediterranean, less than 2000 years old.
The villages of Santorini
When you will step your first time on the island you will witness the Caldera villages, all so beautiful and with their own “personality”.
Fira, the epicenter of the island, gathers most shops, cafes, restaurants, museums, and nightlife.
Firostefani, which is almost united with Fira, offers great views and tranquility.
Imerovigli is situated on the highest point of the Caldera where you will admire the Santorinian sunsets with a view of the Skaros rock, which was many years before used to be the medieval capital of the island. Here you can also enjoy a glass of local vinsanto at the famous Buddha bar.
Pyrgos (means ‘’tower’’) is the most impressive village of the hinterland and offers unbelievable views of the Caldera from Kasteli.
Finikia with houses half-hidden inside the rocks and volcanic matter.
And Oia, the furthest and most luxurious village on the island where thousands of visitors gathering every evening to take photos of the sun which slowly sinks into the sea creating all the orange, red and purple colors.
Local cuisine and shopping
And in the late evening, the magical island is adorned with its lights reaching the sea. In all the settlements it is worth walking and even to get lost in the narrow alleys. In the evening it is nice time to go shopping as it’s not hot as during the day. You will pass across wonderful souvenir shops, lovely cafes, and all kind of restaurants.
Every neighborhood awaits the guests to join them and share the delicious local cuisine. Here you will taste the different flavors of Santorinian kitchen made from fresh local products of the volcanic land. The famous tomato of Santorini with its unique sweet taste and special aroma, our favorite Fava with a velvety texture, the local capers, the goat cheese and the remarkably tasty white aubergines are just some of the local products of the island.
For many years now Santorini is considered a gastronomic destination and a paradise for those who love the nutritious Mediterranean cuisine. Only here you will find the original recipes of traditional cuisine such as tomato meatballs (tomatokeftedes), stuffed pumpkin flowers, authentic ‘Santorinia’ salad, the famous fava salad, local dried tomatoes, soft liver cooked in vinsanto sauce and all these while sitting at the edge of the cliffs facing the magnificent view of caldera.
One of the best places to taste traditional dishes of Santorini without paying a fortune for your lunch or dinner is the taverna – restaurant ‘Kali Kardia’.
This place remains a family-run traditional tavern since 2000 and offers authentic Greek tastes with a warm atmosphere and great view. A visit to the Kali Kardia – Good Heart restaurant is one of the must things you should do before leaving the island. But If you are in Fira and looking for a quick quality lunch by the pool you can also check the restaurant at the Kalisti Hotel. Their new talented chef ‘plays’ with local products delivering simple but delicious results.
The culture and history
But except the amazing sunsets and the five star Michelin restaurants, the island of Santorini is famous for its history. The island has many museums and archeological sites.
The prehistoric settlement of Akrotiri is one of the most important archaeological sites in the Aegean Sea. From the very first moment you enter it, you will feel emotion only in the thought that in this region, the Middle and Early Late Bronze Age (20th-17th century BC) was one of the most important urban centers of the Aegean Sea. Also, ascending to Mesa Vouno, which rises above Kamari and Perissa, you will find yourself in the ancient Thira. It was founded in the 9th century BC. from Dorian settlers, inhabited until the early Byzantine times. The view from there is breathtaking.
The most important museum of the island is of Prehistoric Thira. In Fira, it is also worth seeing the Archaeological Museum and the Santozeum art space, with copies of the Akrotiri wall paintings. In Oia, there is the Naval Museum. In Pyrgos village the Ecclesiastical Collection and the Cultural center “The Santorini that Left”. In Kontochori (1 km from Fira) is the Folklore Museum of E. Lignos. In Kamari, the Wine Museum is a natural cave-like construction with labyrinth-like caves where you can learn the process of making santorinian wine and have a taste of them.
The beautiful volcanic beaches
Exceptional beaches are another characteristic that makes this island so unique. The most famous beaches of the island are Kamari, Perivolos and Perissa stretched for miles full of umbrellas, sun loungers, beach bars, and restaurants. But the most beautiful one are the Red beach, the White beach and the Vlychada beach. Every each of them is different and beautiful in their own way. Some are with black sand, others are sandy and others are rocky but the crystal clear water is guaranteed. Of course, there are other less famous beaches, but also very impressive. We recommend renting a car and check all of them day by day. You can also book an excursion from a local travel agency and reach those ones that are approachable only by boat.
The various activities
If you plan to visit this mythical island then you should not miss an organized daily tour to explore the interior of the Caldera, the tiny islands Thirasia and Aspronisi and the two islets, the Palaia and Nea Kameni. Nea Kameni is accessible daily with tourist boats, which connect to the coast of the island. After 20 minutes of walking on the solid lava, you will reach the craters at the top of the island. Be aware of the smell of sulfur which is extremely intense.
Walking on the edge of the Caldera, the old path that connects Fira with Firostefani and Imerovigli and from there continues till Oia, is the most beautiful walk path on the island. Even if you do not have much time, it is worth walking even in a small part of it. It is a unique experience and you will remember it for a long time. You can arrive early in the morning or at sunset.
Scuba diving is also one of the most popular activities here in Santorini. Although we haven’t tried ourselves if you feel into it, Atlantis Dive Centre is a nice company to book with. Of course, don’t expect much fish life (the Aegean Sea is not same with waters in South East Asia) but the clear blue waters and the wrecks will be an enjoyable experience.
Santorini is considered a romantic destination, but except couples, you will also see small groups of friends, especially women, hanging out at the bars and clubs. It is not a party hub like the island of Mykonos but definitely, there is a plethora of bars and clubs. Almost all the night action takes place at the Fira, with fewer options in Perissa and Kamari. The bars serve amazing colorful cocktails and outstanding local wine.
Very nice place to visit for an early drink is the famous Franco’s cocktail bar and the Crystal lounge bar, both with an amazing view. Later at night, the Kira Thira bar is an alternative choice where you can enjoy the friendly atmosphere and listen to jazz and ethnic music. Tango is one of our favorite places on the island with great service, professional friendly staff and Latin and mainstream vibes. For the party animals the choices are not few as there are lot of dancing pubs in Fira like Higlander and big night clubs such as the Koo Club.
When you feel exhausted exploring the island you can just enjoy your sunbed beside the pool overlooking the volcano. The west part of the island is the most scenic one due to the spectacular views of the caldera, the sea and the sunset. Here at the villages Imerovigli, Firostefani and Oia are located some of the best luxury hotels and private villas. You have to take into account that the majority of these hotels have many stairs, which disturbs some tourists and many of these hotels do not accept children because of their dangerous location.
If you ready to live some days in luxury then our personal recommendation would be the ‘Aqua Luxury Suites‘ in Imerovigli. The friendly staff will make you feel so relaxed and welcomed and will escort you to your private suite. The suites are located on the edge of the cliff overlooking the caldera, the Fira and Oia. We loved a lot the interior modern decoration and of course the small private pool. The hotel has a superb rating on Booking.com and we suggest booking in advance due to the high occupancy.
Finally, the best month to enjoy the magical island, in terms of tourism (fewer tourists), economic (less expensive) and weather (not too hot during the day and cool in the evenings), we would say it is September. Also, in that month revives the old customs and festivals such as a parade of horses on the Saint Stavros day (on 14th of September) and the representation of the eruption of the Santorini’s volcano called ‘ta Ifaisteia’.
Whatever you decide and whenever you visit the picturesque Santorini, don’t forget to make your research and book in advance your flights and especially the accommodation otherwise you will end up spending more than you expected.
Find our links to book easily in advance and don’t forget to leave a comment below if you have been in Santorini and what you loved the most.
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