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Visit Santorini

The thought of being able to escape the hustle and bustle and take off to any sun-kissed island is inviting. Santorini in the Greek Islands though is one of the most magical island destinations in Europe and indeed in the world!

Santorini is one of the Cyclades Islands in the Aegean Sea about 200 kilometers to the southeast of the Greek mainland. It is the most southerly of the Cyclades group and the closest to Crete.

Explore Santorini

Greece This Way comments: If you can only visit one Greek island then choose Santorini. If you have time to visit two then pair it up with Mykonos, Paros or Naxos.

Oia

The highlights of Santorini and the reason so many visitors come here every year are the clifftop villages with views over the caldera.

The caldera was created by a huge volcanic eruption in 1939 and now most of the rim is submerged but the island of Santorini sits on one side of the caldera and Therasia and Aspronisi sit on the other. In the centre are the Kameni islands.

The towns and villages of Fira (Thira), Imerovigli and Oia all sit on the cliff edge overlooking the view.

Fira is the capital of the island and is close to the main port if you are arriving by boat to Santorini and also close to Santorini airport. The bus station for the island is at Fira and buses to other parts of the island all travel via Fira.

Fira is a beautiful town with dramatic views, white cube shaped houses, narrow pedestrian streets in its main shopping area and an excellent choice of bars, restaurants, hotels and accommodation. It is not quite as pretty as Oia (where is?) but as a result is cheaper and it is also a bit more of a party town.

Next along the coast is Imerovigli which is the highest of the caldera-facing towns and so arguably has the best views. It also faces Skaros Rock which adds extra interest to the views from here. Imerovigli is very pretty with its white cube buildings most of which are hotels are appartments and many have  small pools or private jacuzzis.

Imerovigli is very quiet with just a few shops and restaurants and is those for looking for great views but more peaceful surroundings than Fira or Oia.

Oia is the highlight of a visit to Santorini. It is a fairytale destinations and really seems to have everything. It has the gorgeous views over the Caldera but it is the view of the white and pastel coloured small cubic houses of Oia spreading out across and down the cliff that makes the view so special.

All of the buildings are small - no highrise flats here- and many started life as cave buildings and have been converted into luxury hotels and appartments. Many have private jacuzzis or swimming pools adding splashes of bright blue throughout the views of the town.

A number of beautiful churches are scattered around the town and one of the iconic views of Oia is of the blue domes of the churches against the blue of the sea. Another is the view of the windmills on the skyline.

Another great thing about Oia is that it looks just as fabulous on a night when you see all the lights of the buildings sparkling throughout the town.

Oia and Fira are the main highlights of a visit to Santorini but whilst you are here there are other places to visit.

The village of Akotiri in the south of Santorini is a Minoan Bronze Age settlement which was destroyed in the 16th century BC by a volcanic eruption which showered the settlement in ash. This preserved many frescoes and artworks which can be visited today. Akotiri is thought to be a possible inspiration for Plato's story of Atlantis.

Fira

Santorini Beaches

Santorini beaches tend to be black sand or pebble and they are far from the best beaches the Greek Islands have to offer. However if you want a day or two at the beach these are the most popular!

Kamari beach has black sand and a good family atmosphere. It is the closest to the caldera and so easy to get to for a day trip though it has plenty of hotels and beach resorts, some are quite upmarket.

Perissa beach has a party vibe and is popular with the backpacker crowd. It has a good range of accommodation and facilities.

Perivolos beach is the quieter end of Perissa beach.

Red beach is perhaps the most famous of the beaches as its sand and cliffs are a fairly dramatic red colour! The sand is pebbly and it is a hike down to the sand. There are no beach facilities.

Red Beach

Monolithos beach is the best family beach for its easy access to the sea and nice soft sand but it is very quiet.

Ammoudi bay is not a beach but is a great swimming spot a couple of hundred steps below Oia. Great if you are lucky enough to be staying at Oia and want a swim.

Santorini Museums

Santorini Archeological Museum in Fira is a small museum with some impressive artefacts from Santorini including a collection of 5th century red and black vases.

The Museum of Prehistoric Thera in Fira is an excellent museum and exhibits include a golden ibex and some beautiful frescoes.

Wine country

Santorini is famous for its wine, particularly its dry white Assyrtico and Nykteri wines. Megalorchi is wine country and vineyards dott the hillside all around this area on the south of the island. Megalorchi village is one of the prettiest on the island though it doesn't have the sea views of Oia and Fira. It does though have white cave houses, neoclassical mansions and lots of bougainvillea. It is also possible to indulge in some wine tasting whilst visiting the village.

You can find more local travel ideas in the guide.

See also:

Photos of Santorini

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Map of Santorini and places to visit

Santorini places to visit

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