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Top 10 Things to do in Santorini

If you are already planning your next summer vacation and still don’t have a clue about where to go then why not put Greece on your list? In 2019 we went on a travel-around-Greece-trip including Santorini, Athens and Zakynthos - ultimately some of the most beautiful places Greece has to offer. But let’s start with a quick introduction of Santorini , followed by a list of the top 10 things to do in Santorini. Santorini is part of an island group in the Aegean Sea called “the cyclades” which includes around 220 islands in total. Amongst the most popular and well-known islands are Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Ios, Milos, Amorgos and of course Santorini. Santorini is a volcanic island which formed today’s caldera around 3600 years ago in one of the largest volcanic eruptions in history, thereby causing the extinction of Santorini’s civilization. Signs of habitation did not reappear until 1600 years later.

Oia is the most famous and beautiful village of them all

1. Oia

Oia is probably the most famous and beautiful village of them all on Santorini. Well, it definitely is the most picturesque village after all. Oia is especially known for its fantastic sunsets and spectacular view, so be prepared for mingling with thousands of other people to watch the famous sunset. Admittingly, there are in fact other places on the caldera to watch a beautiful sunset from, Oia is just the most famous one. In case you like to keep it more intimate and quieter, you might want to search for a different place on the caldera. Oia is quite a charming city with the classic, cycladic buildings attached to the cliff, small, narrow alleys and churches with the characteristic blue domes. It is a surprisingly big town with only one main street going from one end and to the other. You can therefore experience a lot of Oia by only walking the main street.

Fira is a beautiful capitol and simultaneously the most cosmopolitan settlement of Santorini

2. Fira

In Fira, the capital of Santorini, you will find architecture which is very recognizable for Santorini – white-washed houses and blue domes built on the edge of the cliffs hanging 400 meters above the sea. Fira is a beautiful capitol and simultaneously the most cosmopolitan settlement of Santorini which is where you will find the best shopping opportunities. Fira provides one of the most panoramic views of the caldera, going all the way from the southern Akrotiri to the northern Oia, while overlooking the two volcanic islands Palea and Nea Kameni in the center of the sea with the island Thirasia in the background.

The “must-do” hike from Fira to Oia

3. Fira-to-Oia Hike

If you have read about the “must-do” hike from Fira to Oia (or the other way around) I can only confirm it being a “must-do”. When taking the hike be prepared for some immensely breathtaking views as you will have this beautiful view of the caldera on your entire route. The hike took us about 4-5 hours even though Google Maps estimated it to be around 3 hours, but due to many stops which we simply HAD to make to enjoy the view and take lots and lots of pictures, it prolonged the entire hike. This activity is the one hiking tour everyone recommends and swears about and I couldn’t agree more. However, you might consider the time of day when doing the hike as it gets unbearably hot during midday on a summer day. The route also comes with a few tricky parts, but the hike is nonetheless doable. Hiking from Fira to Oia will lead you through towns such as Imerovigli and Firostefani and some enjoyable views from the beginning and until the end.

The most important site on Santorini – the Prehistoric Town of Akrotiri

4. The Prehistoric Town of Akrotiri

Even though you might primarily be searching for relaxation combined with breathtaking views when traveling to Santorini, the island has additionally a lot of history to offer. To begin with, there is one of the most important sites on Santorini – the Prehistoric Town of Akrotiri where A LOT of history has happened. There are many suggestions that this historic event was the inspiration to Plato’s story about Atlantis. It began around 1614 BC with the ashes of the volcanic eruption covering the island and thereby wiping out one of the most sophisticated settlements of the Bronze Age. Today only ruins remain, though remarkably well-preserved. Akrotiri had flourished since the 3rd millennium BC and gradually developed into one of the main ports and urban centers of the Aegean Sea. For its time the town was incredibly elaborated with multi-storied buildings decorated with exquisite wall-paintings, a well-developed drainage system and indoor lavatories.

A wine-tasting tour really was one of our highlights throughout our stay on Santorini

5. Wine Tasting Tour

Santorini is quite famous for its wine and wineries and the special method used to produce the grapes. When you visit Santorini you will notice a lot of green circles throughout the island. Those are “natural baskets” where the grapes grow close to the ground, protected from the strong winds and the sun. A wine-tasting tour really was one of our highlights throughout our stay on Santorini. Therefore, I cannot recommend it highly enough especially when thinking about the many benefits we got out of this tour. You gain a lot of knowledge about the method, process and wines, you get to know different wineries, get a tour through their process and of course tasting lots of delicious wines, because let's face it, that’s what you came there for.

Pyrgos - it’s a real gem

6. Pyrgos

A santorinian village not so often mentioned is Pyrgos - it’s a real gem though! What makes it such a unique village is the fact that it’s the highest located village of Santorini, so you can almost imagine how amazing this panoramic view must be, standing on top of the island. It might seem tiring walking to the top but your effort will be rewarded with a beautiful view and the Venetian Castle on top of the fortress. Pyrgos consists of the traditional Cycladic architecture with white houses and blue-domed churches and narrow, winding paths flowing through the city like a maze. Here and there some galleries and small local shops will pop up as you get around the labyrinthine streets, creating a very cozy atmosphere. Due to its size and being least spoiled by tourists the pace here is way more relaxed.

The second most important historic period of Santorini - Ancient Thera

7. Ancient Thera

On top of the Mesa Vouno Mountain you will find excavations of the second most important historic period of Santorini. On top of the mountain lies the ‘Ancient Thera’, an archaeological site dating back to 9th century BC and being inhabited until 726 AD. The site is located 365 meters above the city and provides an excellent view over the island. Its location with steep slopes and a natural observation spot provides for some natural fortification but obviously that’s not our concern as a traveler, it’s rather that hard and long climb we have to make to get there. Therefore, my recommendation to you is not to hike the steep and very long uphill road to ‘Ancient Thera’ as we saw so many people do while fighting their way uphill on a hot summer day. Instead, rent some kind of vehicle which for any occasion is the easiest way to get around the island in general.

One of Santorini’s famous beaches - the Red Beach

8. Red Beach

In need for a break? Close to the archaeological site of the Prehistoric Town of Akrotiri is one of Santorini’s famous beaches, the Red Beach. The reason for its popularity is clear, it’s scenic, it’s a rare sight and it’s red. It is one the most recognizable and unique beaches of Santorini. The contrasting colours of the dominant red combined with the ocean blue colour make for a rare sight. I strongly advise you though to go for some non-slippery, tight foot wear if you arrive from the footpath as it will go steeply downhill, but the sight you get by taking that path is captivating and the place really is showing itself from its best site.

Thirasia is a non-touristic island

9. Thirasia

In the beginning of this post, you were briefly introduced to Santorini’s volcanic history. After the last volcanic eruption around 1600 BC Santorini broke into many pieces creating the small islands you see in close proximity. One of those small islands which emerged is called ‘Thirasia’, the second largest of them. Today Thirasia is a non-touristic island except from those who come for one day or less to quickly review the island, but otherwise it is pretty untouched. There are boat trips which offer a visit to Thirasia which I highly recommend if you want to see something else than Santorini. On the tour you will stop by Nea Kameni, a small island formed in the recent centuries by volcanic activity, all while seeing the main island, Santorini, from a different perspective.

I can highly recommend the Open-Air Cinema in Kamari

10. Kamari

The Santorinian summer nights are warm; warm enough to stay outside at least. If you are looking for a different kind of experience, I can highly recommend the Open-Air Cinema in Kamari. Here, we had a fantastic experience in a calm and romantic atmosphere, relaxing underneath the open sky, with a cocktail in one hand, sitting in a leaned back chair while watching movies on a big screen in what seems to be a backyard; surrounded by trees and tucked away in a fairytale-like garden. It is a rather unique experience and a different kind of entertainment; the cinema is even on the list of the top 10 best Open-Air Cinemas in Europe. And no worries about the language either as all their movies are in English (with Greek subtitles) for everyone tofollow along.


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