Santorini has been called the most romantic place in the world and I have to say I completely agree! Santorini is stunningly beautiful, full of lovely people, and has delicious food and wine! As I wrote this post I couldn’t help but miss this picturesque island in the Aegean Sea and long to go back. I think visiting Santorini should be on everyone’s bucket list and this post will show you why! Here are the top ten things we loved in Santorini and think you should experience on this magical island.
1. Bask in the sun on a black sand beach
The beaches in Santorini are out of this world! We especially loved the black sand beaches because they were unlike anything we had experienced before. Luckily for us, there are quite a few black sand beaches in Santorini. Kamari Beach is arguably the most famous beach in Santorini because of its location, which is only about 6 miles south east of Fira. Kamari is an upscale touristy beach town that has numerous bars, restaurants and shops. It is also very family friendly.
Perivolos and Perissa Beach are essentially one long beach, and a bit further away from Fira, but also very beautiful. These beaches have sun chairs you can rent for the day and a party atmosphere! You can see many DJ’s play at these beaches and enjoy cocktails as you sun bathe. Make sure to wear your sandals on the beach because the black sand is extremely hot! We ended up liking Perivolos Beach the most because it seemed to have the best party atmosphere, but Perissa Beach was the best for swimming!
2. Swim in Amoudi Bay
Amoudi Bay is one of those places that you can’t believe is real when you see it because it is SO beautiful! Amoudi Bay is located below Oia and has many tavernas, hotels and one of the best places to swim on the island. To get to Amoudi Bay without a car you must walk from Oia down 300 stairs. The views on the hike are stunning! Once you reach the water, with the town behind you, walk towards the left. You’ll eventually see a seafood restaurant that says “Sunset” on it, keep walking past here and you will see a path that will take you to Amoudi Beach. The beach is very rocky and not meant for lying out, but the swimming area here is fantastic! The water is warm and there is a large bolder people hang out on while they are swimming. I would consider wearing water shoes so you don’t cut your feet. After your swim have some seafood at one of the many tavernas on the water! So fresh and so delicious!
Note: You may recognize Amoudi Bay from the “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants!”
3. Sleep in a Cave Room in the Caldera
Caldera Cave Room Yoga
When in Santorini why not splurge and stay in a cave style room in the Caldera? We did, and do not regret it at all! While most people want to stay in Oia while in Santorini, we chose to stay in Firostefani so we could be closer to the party scene at night.
Firostefani is only a ten-minute walk from Fira, which has the best nightlife on the island. Oia is quite beautiful and busy by day but is quiet and has very little nightlife after sunset. It really depends on what you want, but I think staying in the Caldera is a must because the views are what make Santorini so special!
We ended up staying at the Mill Houses Elegant Suites during our time in Santorini and I highly recommend it. The staff was awesome and the breakfast delicious! Oh, and you can’t beat the views!!!
One word of warning, when staying in the Caldera be prepared to walk up and down many steps. There aren’t elevators because you are on a cliff! Stick to flats or sneakers because this is just an example of part of your climb…
Some of the stairs down to Mill Houses Elegant Suites (there’s a lot more!)
4. Find the “Lost City of Atlantis”
While no one really knows if the excavation of Akrotiri could actually be the “Lost City of Atlantis,” everyone can agree that it is one of the most important prehistoric settlements that have been found by the Aegean. Akrotiri is a Minoan Bronze Age settlement that was completely destroyed in the Theran eruption in about 1627 BC. Since it was buried in volcanic ash much of the site was preserved quite well. The excavation of Akrotiri started in 1967 and it is incredible to visit! The city seemed so modern that it blew our minds. They say that there is even evidence that the people of Akrotiri had indoor toilets! This site is a must-see during your stay in Santorini. It can get quite hot during your tour so make sure you drink plenty of water before you go in!
5. Visit the Red Beach
The red beach is about a 5-minute drive from the Akrotiri Ruins. You’ll know you found it when you see a white church built into the red cliffs.
Red Beach is known for the unique color of its sand and the lava cliffs that surround it. The walk down to the red beach is a bit steep, but once you are down here it is well worth the hike. The water at Red Beach is warm and it is easy to swim in. In recent years, visitors have been warned not to go to the Red Beach because of the danger of landslides and falling rocks. Please be careful if you go, and check-in with your hotel for more information. You can always see the beach via boat if the trail down is closed.
6. Swim in the hot Springs of a Volcano
Santorini is basically what is left from a massive volcanic eruption about 3,600 years ago. This eruption created the beautiful caldera that you see today. The active volcano is located on Nea Kameni so you will need a boat to reach it. Once in Nea Kameni you can hike the volcano and swim in the hot springs. It’s not everyday that you get the opportunity to hike around an active volcano so it’s definitely worth the trip! We took a small sailboat to Nea Kameni and one of my favorite things about the trip was swimming in the hot springs. As we swam from the boat towards the volcano the water got warmer and warmer. It’s pretty cool to realize the volcano is what is causing the temperature change. Don’t worry, the water is never so hot that it can burn you! At the hottest it was about 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
7. See Santorini by Boat!
Our favorite thing we did in Santorini was explore the island by boat so we highly recommend you do this as well. We booked our boat through Santorini Sailing and they were absolutely wonderful to deal with! Santorini Sailing offers many different sailing tours.
We chose to do the Sunset tour, which left about 3.5 hours before the sun actually set. On the tour we went to the red and white beaches and were allowed to swim at both locations. We also sailed past the Volcano, swam in the hot springs, saw the Venetian Light House, and the Caldera, which is incredible to see from the water!
About to dive in at the Red Beach!
You can’t really appreciate the size of the cliffs when you are on top of them! Dinner is served right before the sunsets and drinks are provided throughout the day. It was such a fabulous day that looking at these photos is making me want to go back! Our tour cost about $119USD/person. This is a must do while in Santorini!
8. Enjoy Local Beer & Wine
If you like wine you should definitely visit one of the many vineyards in Santorini. The volcanic soil and climate in Santorini give the wines their own unique taste.
While there are many different vineyards in Santorini I highly recommend visiting Santo Winery. Santo Winery not only has a wonderful wine selection but the view from their vineyard is breathtaking! Try the Assyrtiko, a dry white wine, it was our favorite!
While in Santorini you must sample the local beer and wine! In 2011, the Santorini Brewing Company was opened and their famous donkey beer was created. Donkeys are a symbol of the island because so many people ride the donkeys up the caldera when they arrive in Santorini. Santorini Brewing Company is currently open Monday-Saturday from 12pm-5pm and visitors are welcome to stop by and taste their different beers. My favorite beer is the Yellow Donkey beer, but make sure you try Crazy Donkey too, as it is Greece’s first IPA.
9. Watch the Sunset in Oia
When in Santorini you must watch the Sunset from Oia! (pronounced ee-aa) Oia is the iconic town you see in all of the pictures of Santorini and the view of the sunset over the caldera is one of the best in the world!
Oia gets extremely crowded around the time the sun starts to set so make sure you get here early to find a spot. Or, reserve a table on the roof of Pelekanos, the restaurant has fantastic views of the caldera and amazing food! If you don’t have a car, getting a taxi home after the sunset is pretty impossible since there are very few on the island. There are many buses that will take you back to Fira though! Oia is better explored during the day because at night there isn’t much nightlife in this part of the island.
10. Party in Fira!
The streets of Fira
Fira is the capitol of Santorini and was founded in the 18th century. Fira is known for its party scene but is worth checking out during the day because it has anything and everything you could want from shopping, to dining, to many bars! Make sure you try a Gyro from one of the many stands. They are so delicious and a great way to save money on a meal! Speaking of saving money, typically your dollar will go much further in Fira than it will in Oia!
The food trucks are sooooo good!
Gyros in Fira- YUM!
At night partygoers from all over the island come to Fira to dance the night away! The entire city feels like a party and there are many options of nightlife to explore. Some of the bars we suggest trying are Murphy’s Irish Pub for a more low key night, Casablanca to hear Soul Music, and Two Brother’s if you want to take a shot while wearing a helmet and then have the bartender hit you with a stick. Yep, that happens. Pretty weird but funny!
If you are in the mood to dance check out the oldest club in Fira, Koo Club, or Enigma, which is across the street and also a dance club. Enigma is pretty cool because it looks like a Greek Palace inside and has a large outdoor patio!
If you want a relaxing night you can also get a bottle of wine and play chess at various bars throughout Fira- we did!
I’m sure after reading this post you will understand why Santorini stole our hearts. We truly think Santorini is one of the most beautiful places in the world and hope everyone gets the opportunity to visit this magical island!
Lindsay & Christopher