Destination Bucket List: Santorini
Santorini beckons with its panoramic sunsets, beaches with volcanic sand, white traditional houses dangerously perched on the cliffs and the iconic caldera in the middle of the sea. It was one of the most lethal earthquakes recorded in history that created Santorini’s beautiful crescent shape. Who knew that a Greek island paradise would emerge from the devastation centuries after?
Officially known as Thira, Santorini belongs to a group of islands in the Aegean Sea called Cyclades. The region is ripe with ancient Greek history giving Santorini a mythical atmosphere. Its popularity as a leisure destination has earned the island an iconic status through the years. Nearly 2 million visitors make their way to Santorini every year.
True enough, Santorini has become the epitome of an idyllic Greek island getaway. If you’re already planning your trip, it helps to take note of some unique activities to complete your Santorini vacation.
Top Santorini Experiences
1. Stay on the cliff’s edge
To relish the outstanding views in Santorini, stay in hotels set on the caldera’s edge. These ubiquitous white washed buildings are typical of Cycladic architecture found in the area. The blue doors, window panes and other accents add another level of aesthetic appeal to the traditional buildings. Cliffside accommodations, however, are quite expensive. But if you have ample budget, then go for it!
2. Watch the Santorini sunset from Oia
The sight of the sunset painting Santorini and the Aegean Sea with vibrant colors is one of the reasons why travelers visit the island. Oia provides a strategic point for viewing the sunset. People flock to the ruins of the Byzantine Castle before dusk to catch a glimpse of nature’s handiwork. If Oia gets too crowded, you can always go to the lighthouse in Akrotiri for the same purpose.
3. Discover sights along the caldera trail
Hiking enthusiasts should jump at the chance to take on the walking trail along the caldera’s edge. The route from Fira, Santorini’s main town, to Oia is quite popular because it affords travelers wonderful views of the sea, cliffs and scenic towns along the way. The walk along the rim of the caldera is fascinating and takes at least 4 hours.
4. Sample the local wines
The special climate and the volcanic soil continue to give Santorini wines a unique flavor. Wine-making enjoys a long tradition in the island, dating back to the ancient times. Prominent names such as Volcan and Santo provide tours and tasting for visitors. While you’re in town, join a guided tour of the vineyards and wineries found in the countryside.
5. Explore archaeological digs
Santorini has more to offer beyond the beaches and rugged cliffs. Archaeological diggings in the island have led to the discovery of pre-historic settlements in Akrotiri and ancient Thira. The sites are open to the public for viewing. For a more comprehensive look into Santorini’s history, you can also visit the Archaeological Museum in Fira and the Museum of Prehistoric Thira.
6. Choose from either red or black sandy beaches
Coastal villages provide beach frolickers a different kind of sandy playground. The village of Kamari takes pride in its well-acclaimed black sand beaches complemented by a strip of restaurants, bars and cafés. Just a few steps from the Akrotiri archaeological site, Red Beach is another crowd-drawer in Santorini. Recently, however, the scarlet-hued cliffs near the beach are prone to landslides, posing a threat to visitors in the area.
7. Visit a local microbrewery
The Greek craft beer industry is alive and thriving in Santorini. You can see for yourself when you pay a visit to Santorini Brewing Company, makers of the famous Donkey beers sold in bars and restaurants around the island.
8. See a volcano crater up close
Volcano tours in Santorini bring visitors closer to the natural landscape of the island. Guides will take you through villages set on the caldera, passing by lava formations until you reach the crater in Nea Kameni. The tour usually continues to the Palea Kameni hot springs where you can take a dip in the therapeutic waters.
Best Time to Visit
Tourist arrivals reach a peak in Santorini in July and August, during which sunbathing and swimming remain top priority in the minds of travelers. Hotels and dining establishments are bound to be filled up. Therefore, it’s best to spend your vacation between April to May, or later in the year, from September to October. It’s also worthwhile to spend winter in Santorini because the scenery remains beautiful and the crowds are few.
Best Options for Dining
Coming to Santorini lets you try the rich flavors of Greek cuisine. And this island has plenty of gastronomic experiences to offer!
Selene is located in Pyrgos and maintains a stylish setting for its special menu offerings made with homegrown ingredients. It’s a great option after coming from a visit to nearby Santorini of the Past Museum. Cooking classes are on offer if you want to know more about Greek cooking.
One of the most famous establishments in Oia is 1800, which draws patrons due to its food and impressive rooftop terrace. The restaurant is found inside an old captain’s house from the 1800s, thus the name. Guests can dine on delicious Mediterranean dishes while admiring views of the Aegean Sea from the terrace.
For more rustic options, Krinaki Taverna takes advantage of the island’s rich agricultural landscape. Their menu makes use of fresh and local ingredients that meat-eaters and vegans will both appreciate. The taverna also hosts art exhibits, wine tasting events and poetry readings for the guests.
Nikolas Taverna is another restaurant that attracts food lovers in search of traditional dishes. Tucked away in the busy streets of Fira, the place offers a friendly vibe along with reasonable prices and good food.
But if you really prefer dining with a view, then Santorini’s panoramic restaurants can answer your needs. The choices are aplenty, but Argo stands out from the rest. The stylish setting in Fira boasts a roomy location, as well as romantic views of the caldera. It’s the perfect place for a sunset dinner to cap off your busy day in Santorini.