From its pristine white buildings to its black sand beaches, Santorini island in Greece is ablaze with sites that cater to all five senses. Here are some of the top things to see and do in this jewel of the Aegean.
1. Take Some Cool Photos at the Akrotiri Lighthouse
Just outside Akrotiri, an unusual square-shaped tower stands 33 feet (ten meters) high, keeping watch over the island. Built in 1892, the lighthouse (faros in Greek) was operated by a keeper until 1988 when it was fully automated. Visitors rave over the sunset views from the tower as well as the two traditional Greek taverns nearby.
2. Join the Crowds at Red Beach
Enclosed by steep red hills in Akrotiri village, Red Beach (also known as Kokkini Beach), is one of the most beautiful beaches of Santorini and a unique site in the world. The beach is known for its small pebbles, red sand, and breathtaking dark blue waters. With impressive rock formations and abundant marine life, Red Beach is the perfect place to spend a day snorkeling.
3. Explore the Venetian Castle of Akrotiri
Akrotiri Castle was constructed in the 13th century, during the Venetian period in the Middle Ages, as shelter and lookout point. Located on the southwest coast of Santorini, it offers some of the best panoramic views in the area.
4. Find “Akro” Hideaway
After a visit to the castle, visitors can stop in at the Akro Beach Bar for a bite to eat, a refreshing cocktail, and live music by the water. Known for its customer service, the bar boasts spectacular local food, drinks, relaxing sunbeds, and beach umbrellas.
5. Travel Back in Time at the Prehistoric Town of Akrotiri
At the southern tip of Santorini, visitors can explore the remains of Prehistoric Akrotiri – a Minoan town that dates back to the second millennium BC. Scientists say that residents fled the settlement when the volcano erupted, covering and preserving the area and its contents.
6. Pay a Visit to Vlychada Old Tomato Factory
The historical tomato factory of D. Nomikos, once a burgeoning center of industry, serves today as a museum to celebrate the history of the island’s tomato production. Inside the museum, visitors experience life in old Santorini, before it became a tourist destination. There is even a café on-site, serving delicious native tomato dishes and local wines.
7. Drink Cocktails on the Verandas of Theros Wave Bar
The cliffs of Vlychada Beach tower over the volcanic sand and crystal waters like sculptures. Nestled in between them is Eros Beach and its famed Theros Wave Bar. With reasonably-priced local dishes and a vast menu of libations, Theros Wave Bar is the perfect place to become immersed in the endless blue of the Aegean Sea after a long day of sightseeing in Vlychada.
8. Chill Out Under the Stars
What could be better than a movie under the stars? The open-air cinema in Kamari Village is the perfect venue to enjoy a film and a drink. The facility even offers free WiFi. Reservations are recommended to get the best seat.
9. Lie on the Beach
Agios Georgios, located on the southern tip of the island, on the east side, is part of a long chain of beaches that starts with Vlychada and continues all the way to Perivolos and Perissa. The beaches, covered in black lava sand, are clean and offer a variety of amenities and water activities.
10. Get an Adrenaline Rush by Galloping on a Horseback
Santorini boasts several riding stables for guided horseback tours. All equipment is provided, and riders can choose from a variety of tours. Whether on a trail or in the ocean, horseback is a unique and memorable way to explore the island.
11. Go Up to the Holy Monastery of Prophet Elias
Built by monks in 1711, the Prophet Elias Monastery is situated about 3 miles (5 kilometers) away from Pyrgos Kallistis village. It has served as a cultural center, a school, and the hub for numerous charitable efforts. In 1956, this stunning example of Cycladic architecture was heavily damaged by an earthquake, but today it is open for visitors to tour.
12. See for Yourselves the Cutest Little Bookstore in the World
The Castle of Agios Nikolaos, located in the picture-perfect village of Oia, is world-renowned as the best place in Santorini to view the spectacular sunsets. While in Oia, visitors can buy rare antiquarian books and collectors’ first editions from Atlantis Books, or sample some of the delectable sweets at Melenio.
13. Enjoy Breathtaking Views From Fira and Imerovigli
Fira, the beautiful capital of the island, and Imerovigli, lying to the north of Fira, boast breathtaking hiking trails with incredible views of the volcano (or Caldera). There is plenty of parking in each village with walking paths for hikers of varying skill levels.
14. Take a Tour of Ancient Thera
Thera was settled by the Dorians in the 9th century BC. The ancient ruins include temples, an outdoor market (agora), a gymnasium, and more. The site is accessible by car, bike, or on foot via a one-hour hike from Perissa.
15. Try Cliff Jumping at Ammoudi Bay
Known for its beautiful beach and daring cliff diving spots, Ammoudi Bay is a hidden gem at the bottom of the cliffs of Oia in Santorini. Locals and visitors alike rave about the fresh-from-the-ocean seafood served in the many waterside restaurants of the area.
16. Sample Locally-Farmed Produce and Wine
The tiny, but succulent Santorini tomato is a longstanding staple of the local farming economy. Capers are also grown and harvested all over the island. For wine aficionados, Santorini boasts some of the most delectable wines in Greece, created from its unique, circular vineyards that offer protection from the strong Aegean winds.
17. Visit SYMPOSION by La Ponta
SYMPOSION by La Ponta is a cultural center for Music and Mythology, built during the turn of the century out of an old vineyard. Today, it offers historical tours and exhibits of native Greek instruments, along with instrument making workshops and performances from a variety of artists.
18. Eat at Briki, Metaxi Mas, Psaraki, or Kantouni
It is no secret that Santorini has one of the most incredible cuisines in the world. Try To Briki for upscale, traditional fare, Metaxi Mas for their locally-sourced menu, or To Psaraki for its fresh seafood. Kantouni is another great option in a traditional setting with couches in the shade of pine trees.
19. Admire the Bougainvillea
Greece is brimming with beautiful bougainvilleas, which are colorful flowers that boast vibrant deep red and purple blossoms. They paint the landscape in Santorini from city streets to secluded trails.
20. Take a Boat to Therasia Island
Therasia, also known as Thirasía, is a small island of only 300 residents. Its serene landscape and the hospitality of the local people make it a welcoming respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. Guided boat tours are available to take visitors to Therasia and the surrounding volcanic islands.