Santorini Holidays - Travel Guide
Created from the volcanic eruptions of long ago, Santorini has an exceptional natural environment. Black sandy beaches, towns perched on majestic cliffs and a still active volcano are all there to impress and inspire you to contemplate. Your holidays in Santorini will be a combination of cultural visits, relaxing afternoons on the beach, but also water sports and unforgettable hikes. So, let's fly to Greece and the South-East of the Aegean Sea to discover the most beautiful villages of the region. Here are our practical tips for organising your getaway and booking the best hotels in Santorini.
Travelling to Santorini: which options to choose for a day out on the Greek island
It's name evokes the clear, perfect blue of the Egyptian Sea, the brightness of whitewashed houses, and the Greek hospitality that is known all over the world. Santorini, also known as Thira, is probably one of the most beautiful archipelagos in the Cyclades. Imagine a holiday in a paradisiacal place, rich in fascinating history, and intoxicating landscapes. Here, everything is an invitation to relax and enjoy, from the ideal climate to long walks along the sandy beaches.
A day trip in Santorini: what to look out for
Like Mykonos, Santorini is famous all over the world, not least for its white villages and their margins of blue domes, matching the azure of the horizon. A charming, romantic, and enchanting destination, the archipelago of Santorini seems to have something magical about it that you will remember long after you have seen it. You'll linger on heavenly beaches, go on enchanting cruises, and enjoy traditional gastronomy.
Some of the most beautiful beaches in the world are the ones you'll visit.
Under occupation by the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and then ransacked by the Greece in 1840, Santorini is home to many remnants of its turbulent history. These remains were uncovered in the 1970s, and today they make Santorini a cultural as well as a holiday destination. When you arrive by boat in Santorini, before heading to your hotel, you will first see the volcano, proud and colossal. You will then be surrounded by cliffs, before being amazed by the surrounding white villages.
Staying in a hotel in Oia
When preparing for your trip to Santorini, you will often hear the sweet name of Oia come up. That's probably because this charming village, situated on a ledge in the northwest of the island, is home to a real postcard scene. Perched on the heights of the caldera, it is the embodiment of romance and an invitation to the most poetic daydream. On your adventure through the island, whether you choose to stay at Oia, or just passing through, this place will leave you breathless.
One piece of advice: don't miss the time when the sun says goodbye. Oia is then bathed in a soft light, and the white facades of its houses are drenched in flamboyant tones. A magnificent sight! During the day, you can wander through the narrow streets, covered with art galleries, craft shops and blue-domed Orthodox churches.
Oia is also home to some of Santorini's finest luxury hotels, extraordinary authentic and refined restaurants, offering breathtaking views of the cliffs. A true gem of Santorini, Oia is a haven of peace that will make you spend a few days out of time.
Santorini, an unforgettable day
Enchanting in many ways, the region is a must-see destination in the Cyclades, for the beauty and history it holds. A breathtaking spectacle in the heart of the Mediterranean, this volcanic island is unlike any other, as its lands are born of one of the most violent volcanic eruptions of the last 10,000 years. From your unforgettable arrival on the island, to the cover of your hotel, Santorini, you will be blown away. The entire island seems to plunge into the azure blue of the Egyptian Sea, giving way to a land full of unique black, red and white beaches.
Mysterious and secluded, there is something inexplicable about the place that will put a spell on you, whether you see it with your family, as lovers, or with friends. Sometimes a victim of its own success, Santorini sometimes faces overcrowding in high season. We therefore advise you to visit off-season for more peace and quiet. You will then have plenty of time to discover its secrets, and to be inspired by the incredible power of its volcano. There is no doubt about it: Santorini is one of those mythical places to see at least once in your life.
What to do in Santorini ?
Santorini has more to offer than just stunning scenery and fantastic beaches. The island is also home to ancient archaeological sites and museums that are great tourist attractions. By mountain bike or by car, discover the rugged landscape and hilly roads of this region. It's an ideal setting for a big day in Santorini.
To take full advantage of the best Santorini has to offer, here are the must-see sites on your trip.
The Santorini Caldera
About 3,600 years ago, the centre of the island was destroyed by a massive volcanic explosion. The caldera is the sea-filled volcanic crater that resulted from this event. The volcano is still active. At the centre of the crater, measuring 12 kilometres by seven, are the two Kaiméniqui hot springs.
Various agencies offer day trips to the caldera. You will have time to bathe in the hot springs, then have lunch on Thirassia, a small island on the western side of the Caldera with a breathtaking view of Santorini.
Fira, the capital
The capital of Santorini, Fira or Thira, is made up mostly of typical whitewashed cubic-shaped houses, separated by winding alleys. The town is perched on the cliffs more than 300 metres above the caldera of Santorini. From the small port of Skala, Fira can be reached on foot or on horseback. Take a steep and winding path to reach the capital. From the port of Skala, you can also take the ferry. The capital can also be reached from neighbouring towns via a pathway that leads to Fira de Oia.
During your day at Fira, visit the two main museums in the town: the Archaeological Museum and the Museum of Prehistory. The Archaeological Museum of Fira is located close to the cable car station. The museum presents the discoveries made on the ruins of the ancient city of Thira, covering the Doric, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods. It is also worth noting that it is possible to visit the remains of the ancient city of Thira, located on the south-eastern coast of Santorini. Among the ruins, you can observe religious sites, a theatre, a hall dedicated to military trainees and old administrative buildings dating from the 9th century BC.
The Museum of Prehistory, meanwhile, brings together the discoveries made at the archaeological site of Akrotiri. You can also admire the Blue Monkeys wall fresco.
The town of Oia and its stunning sunset
Oia is known for its famous sunsets attracting travellers from around the world. The sunset in Santorini is a truly special sight. Situated on the northern tip of Santorini, 12 kilometres from Fira, Oia is the emblematic village of Santorini. The houses in Oia are also whitewashed. Some of them have been transformed into hotels with swimming pools overlooking the caldera. Like Fira, Oia relies mainly on tourism, but for a more upmarket clientele.
To get to Fira from Oia on foot, you'll have to go along a steep path that runs alongside the caldera. It takes a minimum of three hours to walk along the cliffs bordering the caldera. Alternatively, you can choose to take a bus from the local company KTEL. The journey will take no more than 30 minutes.
The ancient capital, Pyrgos
Before 1800, Pyrgos was the capital of Santorini. This small village in the middle of Santorini has the same architectural features as Fira and Oia. The village is surrounded by the ruins of a medieval castle perched on a hill. Pyrgos used to be a sleepy town, almost forgotten. But since 2004, it has begun to heed the call of luxury tourism with the opening of several small chic restaurants and high-end hotels.
It is in Pyrgos that one of the best vintages in the whole of Greece can be found. The cooperative Santo Wines, founded in 1947, which is located here, is a veritable institution. It offers a wide range of wines, including white, red, sparkling, oak-aged and unoaked. Enjoy a unique wine tasting experience with SantoWines and a beautiful sunset in the background!
The highest point of Santorini, Profitis Ilias
From Pyrgos, you can take a path that leads to the summit of Mount Profítis Ilias. Situated at 584m above sea level, it is the highest point of Santorini. It offers a panoramic view of the island and the sea. Here stands the very ancient ProfitisIlias Monestary, an 18th century sanctuary that is open to the public and you can visit from Monday to Saturday.
The archaeological site of Akrotiri in Santorini
Near of the new village of Akrotiri, 12 kilometers southwest of Fira, the ancient Minoan settlement of; Akrotiri has been buried under lava as a result of the volcanic eruption that created the caldera. At the archaeological site of Akrotiri, you will walk over the remains of the clay buildings of this once thriving city. This archaeological site is often compared to that of Pompeii. The site contains the remains of buildings on several levels, as well as pottery and the remains of a very ingenious drainage system for the period. This proves that Santorini was a prosperous island that probably made its living from shipping and trade.
The Red Beach
Near the archaeological site of Akrotiri, you will find the famous Red Beach, situated under a spectacular red cliff wall. The beach is accessible along a path from the town of Akrotiri. You can also take a bus from Fira or simply rent a car. From here you can walk to the beach along a rocky path. The beach is also accessible by boat from the ports of Akrotiri, Kamari and Perissa.
The Red Beach is crowded during the summer. So when you travel, make sure you arrive early to find the best spot and to get the best view. Also note that the beach is prone to landslides. In fact, today, some sections of the beach are closed to visitors.
Perissa Beach is the best known and most popular beach in Santorini. It is located on the south-east coast, between the villages of Perissa and Perivolos. Formed by a six-kilometre stretch of fine, black volcanic sand, Perissa beach offers a number of seafood restaurants. Sun loungers and parasols are available for hire, as well as water sports facilities. To get to Perissa from Fira, you will need to travel about 10km on foot or by car.
The bay of Ammoudi
Located at the foot of the cliffs rising towards the town of Oia, Ammoudi Bay is distinguished by its sparkling turquoise waters. All around the bay you will find small Greek taverns serving fresh fish dishes.
It is possible to swim and even go scuba diving here. For those who prefer quieter, but equally exhilarating activities, hire a sailboat to take you to the caldera and take a dip in the crater's hot springs.
If all these destinations leave you wanting more, check out all of our hotels in Greece!