Best Things To See And Do
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Best Things To See And Do On Santorini

Tourists from around the world are increasingly flocking to Santorini (known as Thira in Greek), an island about 120 miles (or roughly 200 kilometers) to the southeast of Greece. It’s the biggest island of an archipelago in the Aegean Sea, and is proving so popular with visitors because of its warm climate, beautiful scenery, and wide-ranging activities on offer.

It’s estimated that more than 2 million tourists visit the island each year, arriving either at one of the island’s two ports or at its international airport — all three with direct connections to Europe. That means no matter where in the world you might be located, you should be able to find a simple journey that can get you to this wonderful island either directly or with one connection.

Whether you’re coming to Santorini Island for fun, relaxation, shopping, dining and drinking, or any other reason, you’ll find something to see or do that will satisfy your desires. Browse the guide below for top tips on the must-visit attractions on this beautiful Greek island, including advice on which activities require booking ahead of time, and other useful information.

1. Take a boat tour to the caldera

One fun and relaxing way to get your bearings on the island is to take a boat tour to the caldera, which is the beautiful, flooded remains of a volcanic crater. It’s a great sight for pictures as well as leisure, because you are able to stroll around the crater itself or go swimming in the warm green hot sulfurous waters that fill the crater. It makes for a fun and unusual day trip.

Boat tours depart from the island’s older port known as Skala, and you can expect the sightseeing journey to take roughly six hours. Your vessel will moor on the island of Nea Kameni, but taking a tour gives you a fantastic chance to see a lot of the land and waters in the area around Santorini, making it a good first activity once you arrive.

2. Stroll around Nea Kameni

You could spend some pleasant time strolling around the island of Nea Kameni, whether it’s as part of a boat tour to the caldera or just as an expedition for any other reason. This uninhabited small island is popular with visitors as a prime spot to get some Instagram-ready pictures.

Nea Kameni is the result of millennia of volcanic lava and ash erupting and creating the land mass that tourists can now visit. The main crater on the island where you’ll find the hot springs rises to a height of about 130 meters (or 0.13 kilometers). Visitors are able to scale the crater and to walk the length of its rim so they can explore this unique sight from every angle. From here you can take fantastic photos of the gorgeous skyline on Santorini.

3. Take a hike from Fira to Oia

Another excellent way to familiarize yourself with the layout of Santorini while enjoying some exceptional views is to walk along what’s called the Fira-Oia Hike. This is a path that passes along the cliffs of Santorini and winds through several picturesque villages. Fira is the capital of the island, and provides a great starting part for a trek with many interesting things to see.

It’s a nice free activity that will get you some exercise and the ability to enjoy the warm weather outdoors, and the hike is suitable for most people although there is some potentially challenging climbing involved so plan ahead if you are traveling with anyone who has mobility problems. The total span of the route is about 6.5 miles (roughly 10.5 kilometers), giving you plenty to explore along the way including villages such as Firostefani and Imerovigli.

4. See how the locals live by exploring Oia

Whether or not you have taken the Fira-Oia Hike, you should try to add a visit to the village of Oia to your itinerary while on the island so that you can see how the locals live.

You can walk the winding stone streets and admire the scenery, in particular the houses that are made from the island’s rock and built in rows on top of each other. There are many local treats to see and enjoy in Oia, include some galleries where you can see art exhibits, a museum dedicated to the area’s maritime history, excellent restaurants, and more.

5. Sip some local beverages at the Gaia winery

Perhaps you’d like to sit back and relax and enjoy some alcoholic beverages under the sun while in Santorini, and if that’s the case you should consider a visit to the Gaia winery. You can spend several hours here sipping local wines and enjoy the lush surroundings.

The winery is based out of a building that was built in the early 20th century and was formerly a factory for pureeing tomatoes. Visitors nowadays can get to see the state-of-the-art wine production equipment while trying Gaia red, white and rose wines. Here you can also buy an exclusive vinegar known as Assyrtiko that is produced each year in very limited amounts.

6. Go for a swim in Ammoudi Bay

If you’re more interested in exerting yourself and enjoying some physical activities during your stay on the island, you should find time to go for a swim in Ammoudi Bay.

This is a small, welcoming and visually pleasing village where you can meet the locals. The main trade here is fishing, but you can enjoy the crystal blue waters as your swim around the bay and explore its several coves.

After you’re done swimming you should enjoy eating some freshly caught fish at one of the locally owned Greek taverna seafood eateries located by the water.

7. Marvel at the sight of the Red Beach

Many holidaymakers will be familiar with the typical image of a beach, with bright white sand, palm trees, and turquoise-colored oceans. But the island of Santorini has a truly unique tourist attraction for visitors, boasting what’s known as the Red Beach.

It earned this nickname because the volcanos on the island and their eruptions led to deposits that have created a beach that looks more rust-colored than the typical yellow sand of most beaches. Please note that the beach is not considered safe for swimming and it’s often closed to visitors, but you can still get close enough to enjoy the view of the beach and more of the island. It’s also possible to climb the cliffs nearby and look down on this one-of-a-kind beach.

8. Spend an afternoon enjoying the Black Sand Beach

Another unusual must-see destination on Santorini island is the Black Sand Beach, and much like the Red Beach this place is famous because of the unusual black color of its sand. Volcanic eruptions over the years led to deposits of the black sand that makes this beach stand out.

You’ll find the Black Sean Beach to the southeast of the island, spanning the distance between Preivolos Beach and Perissa Beach. Unlike the Red Beach, tourists are welcome to lay out on a deck chair on the stretch of land that forms the Black Sand Beach and swim in the warm water. You can also enjoy various water activities including windsurfing, using jet skis, and parasailing.

For those people that like to party when they are on holiday, the beach features a large number of bars that serve up strong drinks and usually have some DJs playing music to dance to.

8. Spend an afternoon enjoying the Black Sand Beach

Another unusual must-see destination on Santorini island is the Black Sand Beach, and much like the Red Beach this place is famous because of the unusual black color of its sand. Volcanic eruptions over the years led to deposits of the black sand that makes this beach stand out.

You’ll find the Black Sean Beach to the southeast of the island, spanning the distance between Preivolos Beach and Perissa Beach. Unlike the Red Beach, tourists are welcome to lay out on a deck chair on the stretch of land that forms the Black Sand Beach and swim in the warm water. You can also enjoy various water activities including windsurfing, using jet skis, and parasailing.

For those people that like to party when they are on holiday, the beach features a large number of bars that serve up strong drinks and usually have some DJs playing music to dance to.

9. Take a horse ride to the Black Sand Beach

If you’re interested in visiting the Black Sand Beach, a fun and different way to get there is by going on a horse ride. There are locally owned stables in the village of Megalochori where you can pay for you and your travel companions to take a long and leisurely horse ride to the beach.

The route passes by some of the most impressive scenery on the island, with several tops providing the perfect chance to get photographs so that you will always remember your visit to Santorini. The cost of the ride include a photo that you get to take with the horse that you ride.

Prices will vary depending on the size of your group, but should be reasonable for most visitors. And the expense is worth it for the chance to see some unforgettable views along the way.

10. Spend some time in the village of Megalochori

The village of Megalochori, where you can organize your horse ride to the Black Sand Beach, is also a great tourist destination on its own because there is plenty to see and do here.

Here you’ll find the typical bright white houses with vibrant blue rooftops, an image known around the world. One perk of visiting Megalochori is that it’s less-known by tourists than other parts of the island, and so it should be less crowded and more peaceful while you explore it.

Nearby attractions include several vineyards and wineries where you can experience locally produced beverages, as well as several tavernas offering fresh food and drink. The best places to eat are those that you’ll find in and around the village square.

10. Spend some time in the village of Megalochori

The village of Megalochori, where you can organize your horse ride to the Black Sand Beach, is also a great tourist destination on its own because there is plenty to see and do here.

Here you’ll find the typical bright white houses with vibrant blue rooftops, an image known around the world. One perk of visiting Megalochori is that it’s less-known by tourists than other parts of the island, and so it should be less crowded and more peaceful while you explore it.

Nearby attractions include several vineyards and wineries where you can experience locally produced beverages, as well as several tavernas offering fresh food and drink. The best places to eat are those that you’ll find in and around the village square.

11. Find out about the island’s religious history at the Prophet Elias Monastery

History lovers and those interested in religion can visit the Prophet Elias Monastery, one of the most notable and important of all the several churches that you’ll find all over the island.

Built in 1711, it is located at the peak of Mount Profitis Ilias, offering fantastic views of the entire island below and beyond. The building suffered some major damage from an earthquake in 1956 but the structure is still standing to this day. Inside you’ll be able to explore a belltower and see centuries-old artwork, furniture, books, and other items of interest.

Note that because of the monastery’s location at Mount Profitis Ilias summit, you’ll have to hike uphill to reach this landmark, so it might not be an ideal activity for those with mobility issues. But for those that are able to do the walk, the views alone are worth the effort.

12. Learn about Santorini’s centuries-ago past at Ancient Thira

At the summit of the mountain Messavouno you’ll find an archaeological dig site that many centuries ago was home to the ancient Greeks. There are no fully intact structures still standing, but there are plenty of ruins from several notable eras of history to explore.

Among the buildings for which you can still see some ruins are what used to be places of worship in the 9th century BC, a theater, government buildings, and more.

As with other tourist destinations on the island, getting to Ancient Thira requires a vigorous uphill walk and the route does not have very much shade to guard against the bright sun, so plan accordingly if you want to go. If you do make it to the top of the mountain, you’ll not only get to see the interesting ruins but also another view down to the Aegean Sea.

13. Discover even more about the island’s history at Ancient Akrotiri

Another great historical site is Ancient Akrotiri, a place that was covered by debris from a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago. The eruption was so massive that it buried several houses in the area, so they were discovered in great condition when archaeologists uncovered the site. This is not a macabre site to visit as it’s believed the area was cleared of residents ahead of the eruption.

Tourists who decide to spend some time at Ancient Akrotiri get to see a host of interesting items from the former village, including devices used for cooking, bathing, gardening, and more.

Many of the remains of the houses in the area that was covered more than 3,600 years in the past are now kept safe under a large roof that was built in 2012. Specific historical items of note are currently on display in two museums. The first is the Museum of Prehistoric Thera located on Santorini island, and the other is Athens’ National Archaeological Museum.

14. See the interesting exhibits at the Museum of Prehistoric Thera

If you’ve visited Ancient Akrotiri and it has piqued your interest in the history of Santorini, you can continue to learn more about the island’s past by visiting the Museum of Prehistoric Thera.

Located in the capital of Fira, the museum features an impressive array of exhibits that chronicle the story of the island from prehistoric times through to ancient Greece and beyond. The museum hosts various events throughout the year that offer more insight about the island’s history, as well as some temporary exhibits including its many permanent exhibitions.

The museum is open most of the year, although it is typically closed for about two weeks in early March. General admission tickets cost €6, with a reduced ticket price of €3 also available. There are some days when the museum offers free admission, so you check its website to see if those will coincide with the dates that you’re planning to be on Santorini island.

15. Take a trek up to the village of Pyrgos

A holiday to Santorini island typically involves a lot of walking, because pathways are narrow and there are only limited areas where it makes sense to get around in a car. Among the walkable destinations is the village of Pyrgos, which is the highest settlement on the island.

Exerting the energy to trek to the village is a great idea because it’s good exercise and also provides the very best views of the island in every direction. And once you’re done admiring the far-away sights, you should also explore the village which has its own visual charm.

As you make way along the winding streets of Pyrgos, you’ll see the ruins of a Venetian castle known as the Kasteli, a memorial dedicated to people from the island who died in World War II, the impressive Church of Saint Nicholas, and many other interesting buildings.

And if all that walking makes you want some food and drink, there are plenty of cafes serving traditional Greek dishes and beverages with the benefit of wonderful views all around.

16. Scale to the top of Skaros Rock

As this guide makes clear, one of the top highlights of visiting Santorini is the chance to enjoy some long hikes that culminate with breathtaking views of the island and beyond. And one of the best places to see such sights is at the top of Skaros Rock.

Skaros Rock used to be a settlement many years ago and was once a thriving residential area with many homes. It was considered strongly defended and almost impossible to attack because there are steep cliffs surrounding most of the area. But earthquakes eventually made Skaros Rock unsafe for human habitation and the area was ultimately deserted.

However, it’s perfectly safe for tourists to visit Skaros Rock these days and making the hike to the top can be a great way to get some exercise while admiring the surroundings.

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