If you are reading this article, you already know what Santorini is and why it makes our minds go crazy. For this reason, we will not bore you with another laudatory description of its dramatic caldera, romantic sunsets and the magical moments you can spend there (all these facts are true but let`s not dig in it right now). Instead, we have prepared a compilation of the best 10 things you can do while you are on Santorini, so you can plan the most exciting stay on the island.
1. Caldera walk
Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli and Oia are the four caldera villages which make up the face of Santorini, or at least the face you know from photos. Any of them offers a breath-taking view as you walk along the alleys dotted with dazzling white houses, churches, cafes and restaurants on the edge of the caldera rock. The four villages are connected via a hiking trail with a total length of approximately 10 km, but since not many of you have a whole day to spend walking or neither they want to do it, at least you can use the path to go from Fira to Firostefani. You will be so hypnotized to admire the view and the small details left here and there from the locals, and you will not realize when you are in the neighbor village. After that the distances to Imerovigli and Oia are longer and you can go by car or bus. Oia is always connected with the sunset but actually walking around it is not less charming, as you can play the labyrinth game. We have a simple task for you - try to find the blue-domed church that you see on every second photo of the island without ending up in private properties or on the rooftops of neighbor buildings. Fun, isn`t it?
2. The sunset performace
Talking about Oia, we cannot miss the sunset, it is the main reason for the crowds after all. Watching the sunset from Oia is like a real artistic performance, like a one-person show which the sun plays every evening. Spend one evening to enjoy it, trying not to take into consideration the human multitude which embrace you from all sides, and do not forget to take your position in advance (because the seats are limited - in space, not in number). In the next evenings of your stay, you can see the sunset from any of the rest caldera villages or Cape Akrotiri and you can even like it more. On the other side, the group or private sunset tours offer a great option to watch the sunset in a more intimate atmosphere, as some of them include also a dinner or drinks on board.
3. Sunbath at a colorful beach
The volcanic past of the island has blessed it not only with the caldera but also with a set of colorful beaches which attract visitors to the east coast. Red beach is the most picturesque, with vertical red cliffs hanging over a strip of small reddish pebbles. Part of the sea bottom is also covered with these pebbles and when the sun is high, the color of the sea is quite intriguing. Probably you also know there is a black beach on Santorini and fortunately, not only one - the longest and widest beaches of the island are covered with coarse black volcanic sand, as the darkest are Perissa and Perivolos.
4. Trip to Nea Kameni and the hot springs
Santorini is a volcano but when you are on the island you don`t really feel it. But if you visit the islet of Nea Kameni in the middle of the caldera and see the crater, then you can get a whole idea of the place. Trips to the volcano lead by experienced guides are organized daily and they may be combined with swimming in the thermal springs of Palea Kameni, the smaller islet just next to Nea Kameni. Here are a few tips which may be of use for this trip: 1) Avoid wearing swimming suits in light colors - they will be colored by the rusty-colored thermal water if you decide to swim, 2) Bring yourself comfortable shoes for the volcano visit because the path to the crater is uneven, and 3) Do not go off the marked paths on Nea Kameni and do not touch any stones with naked hands even if they don`t seem hot. This trip to the volcano may sometimes include also a visit of Thirasia, but the stay is short and most people are tired after Nea Kameni and prefer to spend this time in the seafront tavernas rather than to climb up the winding cobbled path which goes to the only village of the island. So, if you are curious to see Thirasia and have more time, you`d better visit it for a day as you use a boat taxi.
5. Ancient Thira visit
The remnants of Ancient Thira occupy the massive rock Messa Vouno which separates Kamari and Perissa. The ancient town dates back to 8 century BC and earlier and it shows ruins of temples, public buildings, sanctuaries, amphitheater and more. In case you are not so keen on old stones, go because of the view: from one side you see Kamari with the entire coast north of it and from the other you see Perrisa, the long black beach and the south coast. Hikers, attention please: there is a hiking trail which starts from the feet of Messa Vouno in Kamari, climbs up to the parking lot of Ancient Thira and then slopes down to Perissa (1.5-3 hours walk, depending on your pace).
6. Dinner with a view
No matter where you are accommodated on the island, spend some time to dine at the caldera. No need to be exactly in the evening because the view is more exciting during the day but on the other side, the illumination of Fira and Firostefani at night is not less romantic. Contrary to expectations, not all caldera restaurants are expensive and you can find places with decent prices (and almost all of them have their menus exhibited out so you can check the prices in advance). A drink at any of the cafes with open-air terraces would also do, as what makes the point is the view.
7. Local dishes degustation
As we are still on the eating topic, let`s check out the local meals. Even though Santorini looks barren and rocky, its soil gives life to some sort of vegetables (to be more specific, cherry tomatoes and a sort of white eggplant) аnd to grapes from which local wine is produced, as the most famous is Vinsanto. Local wine is offered in almost all restaurants and tavernas on the island but you can also visit a winery or take part in a winery tour organized by agencies. Notable dishes for Santorini are the ntomatokeftedes (tomato fritters), fava dip, saganaki cheese with honey (where the cheese is wrapped in filo pastry and fried) and recipes with white eggplant (like the aubergine dip and a more complicated meal called "hunkar begendi").
8. Skaros castle
Skaros castle is not among the popular sights and actually, not many know about its existence. Skaros is the giant promontory right in front of Imerovigli - you can see it from any point of the caldera as it "sticks out". In the past it used to be a solid fortress with a village but today there are hardly any ruins left. Looking at Skaros from Imerovigli, you will see stairs leading to the top (where parts of some stone walls are still visible) and a path which goes to the front side of the rock. Follow the path and it will take you to the church of Theoskepasti - a small temple in white and blue, with marvelous view over all caldera villages and the islands of Thirasia and Nea Kameni.
9. Island view from Profitis Ilias
The highest point of Santorini is not the caldera ridge but the hill on which the Monastery of Profitis Ilias is built. It lies in the south part of the island, close to the village of Emborio, and since there are no other elevations to restrict the view, it offers a perfect 360 degrees panorama. You can see all caldera villages, cape Akrotiri, the airport behind Kamari, the entire east coast plus Nea Kameni and Thirasia. The monastery dates back from 18 century and is maintained by the monks who live there. Visitors are free to walk around the outer space of the monastery (where some benches are also provided to enjoy the view) and to visit the church of Agios Nektarios. A selection of local products made by the monks is exhibited daily.
10. Walk to Ammoudi bay
Ammoudi is the picturesque harbor of Oia, with a line of seafront tavernas and villas behind them. The harbor is distinguished by the high red cliffs on the top of which Oia hotels and restaurants are positioned. It can be also reached by car but if you do not have any walking difficulties, use the steps which start near the castle ruins and connect Oia with the harbor. The number of steps is over 200 and the route is a bit slippery but the final destination is worth the efforts. The fish tavernas of Ammoudi are famous for the best fresh fish and seafood you can eat on the island while you gaze at the pristine water and the boats around. Another thing you must do in Ammoudi is swimming - follow the narrow path after the last taverna and you will end up at a small spot surrounded by rocks just opposite the islet of Agios Nikolaos. There is no beach strip and you need to jump into the sea directly from the cliffs. People say that the water around is warm due to the underwater volcanic activity.
The things you can do on Santorini depend on the time you plan to spend on the island and your personal rhythm of exploration. If you have 5-7 days, you can do (almost) all of the above list but in case you decide to pay a 2-3 days visit, skip the boat tours and keep to the caldera villages + one or few of the most colorful beaches.