In almost every magazine or travel site, anyone can easily identify the beautiful island of Santorini. I don’t think my vocabulary is rich enough to describe this place with its enormous cliffs topped with charming towns with their complex of traditional cave houses and blue domed churches. Cafes, houses, hotels and restaurants are built along the cliff on the seaward side with narrow passageways and countless steps interconnecting them. Little did I know that behind this beauty is a history dating back to its settlements in the middle of the 5th millennium BC. The beauty of Santorini or Thera is a natural marvel created by what remains of an exploded volcano known to be one of the largest volcanic eruptions in history. Here are some of the things I recommend doing when in Santorini.
Explore Fira and Oia
Both Fira and Oia are great places to stay in Santorini. Sunsets and views of the caldera are beautiful from both perspectives. They both offer great places to eat and scenic walkways to get lost in. But there are a couple of differences I noticed between the two which made me decide that being closer to Fira was the better choice for me. Fira has more night life and shopping while Oia is more on the quiet and romantic side. Having no rental car, it was much easier to get around the island by bus from Fira as it is a hub for all bus routes and it is also closer to the beaches. It was also near the cable car and the Old Port where most cruises and tours depart.
Fira, Oia, Imerovigli, and Firostefani are the four popular towns located on the Santorini cliff which affords visitors great views of the caldera and the sunset.
Take a Sunset Cruise and Explore the Caldera
There are several tours and cruises offered throughout the island. I highly suggest doing a sunset cruise with a tour of the caldera but be prepared for a bit of hike up and down Nea Kameni to view the volcanic crater and do stay hydrated as it can get very hot especially in the summer. Included in the tour was a quick stop at the islet of Palea Kameni for a quick dip in the hot springs for those who are good swimmers. I’m not a swimmer and so I passed up on this but those who did try said that swimming was a bit of a struggle probably due to the mud that’s mixed in the hot spring.
Visit the Archaeological Site of Akrotiri and Take a Peek at the Red Beach
The Akrotiri excavation site is of a Minoan settlement that was buried by the massive Theran eruption. The Red Beach is another natural marvel the volcano created. I wouldn’t advise laying out here due to the risk of landslides and rocks falling but it is definitely worth checking out to admire from up the hill.
Relax at one of the Beaches
Santorini is definitely NOT known for their beaches. Being composed of volcanic sand and pebbles they are quite uncomfortable to the feet. It is best to bring water shoes with you if you plan on taking a dip in the water. Kamari and Perissa are the 2 popular beaches in Santorini. There’s also Perivolos Beach and Monolithos Beach which are on the more quiet end.
Experience the Santorini night life
There are several bars and nightclubs to enjoy the nightlife in Santorini. Most of the bars are located in Fira and close til the wee hours of the morning… I heard til 7 or even 8am? I can’t confirm but it’s definitely worth checking out!
Try the local wines.
I highly recommend trying or taking home a bottle of Vinsanto. One of my favorite dessert wines since coming here! This type of wine is an ancient tradition of Santorini and is an important part of the island’s history. Cheers!