Things to do in Santorini – one of the most idyllic places in the world

No Greek vacation is complete unless you visit the romantic Island of Santorini.

Greece is synonymous with Santorini for many people. Though that is not true but it is also a fact that when in Greece, a visit to this island is a must. Santorini is dreamy and mystical. The Aegean Sea here is surrounded by volcanic islands like Nea Kameni. Landscapes showcase the colors like red, brown or greenish with white houses popping up here and there. The whole experience is very different than the other islands of Greece.

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History

Every place has a history of its own which dates back to thousands of years ago. Santorini is no different. A little we heard, a little we saw in the museums and a little we read about. From whatever we could gather, we figured that the island has a very intriguing history. This island was part of the famous Minoan civilization of Crete which was destroyed in the most devastating Volcanic eruption in the history of Greece back in 1500BC.

Read our account of Exploring Oia in Santorini here

It is believed that after the catastrophe, there was no civilization on the island for a long time. Later a Theban hero “named Thiras” from Sparta is supposed to have settled in Santorini and hence the place took its name Thira from him. It was only later that it has started being called by the name Santorini named after some saint.

Caldera

A caldera is said to be a large depression caused the the eruption of the volcano. As we discussed above that Crete and Santorini were believed to be one huge island in Minoan Civilization. During the volcanic eruptions, lot of massive earthquakes occurred alongwith the Tsunami which caused the center of the circular island to be sunk in the sea creating a huge Caldera. This is supposed to be the largest caldera in the world consisting of the islets of Thirassia, Nea Kameni and others.

“Some scholars believe that the Island of Santorini is the part of Legendary Lost Atlantis”

Just imagine caldera as a huge crater which is filled with water. In the middle of the crater are the few mounts called islets like Nea Kameni and Thirassis etc..The wall of the crater left today is the semi circular island of Santorini. Among the inner edges of that wall, lie the settlements of Imerovigli and Oia. Hence they provide the best Caldera views.

Ports of Thira…

So when we started planning our trip, Santorini was one destination definite to find its place in our itinerary. With such an interesting history to boast of and most picturesque views, it had it all to allure us.

There are 3 ports on the island – the old port of Skala, the new port of Fira (also called Athinios port) and the port of Ammoudi.

New port operates ferries to and from the islands of Greece like Heraklion, Paros, Mykonos etc.

The Ammoudi port connect Thirasia island and Nea Kameni Island with Santorini.

While the old port operates daily private tours to Nea Kameni islet volcano and hot springs.


Travel within island

One can travel within the island of Santorini by few options:

Public transport – Buses scheduled for certain destinations within the island. Fare was 25 EURO one way per ticket.

Taxi or private cab

Self Drive – go to the travel agents available at the port and get a car or a bike or a quad.

Boats and Ferries for visiting nearby islets and other beaches of Santorini.

Choosing either of the above options depends on your plan, itinerary and budget. Most tourists who visit Oia have pre-bookings with either travel agents or their hotels who arrange a pick up service for them. Some like us, who are not with any tour operator have to choose wisely. It all depends on how you plan to spend your time there.

A small tip – These vehicle rental companies try to loot you by not returning the security deposit amount by making an excuse about the scratches on the vehicle which might have been present already before you even rented it out. So as a caution, always make sure you take a full 360 degree snap of the vehicle before you rent it. Security deposit is either taken in cash or blocked on your credit card. Once you return the vehicle, it takes more than a week to get the amount credited back on your card (given the fact that you used the card).

 

Also please make sure to check with your hotel/stay option about the availability of the parking space especially if you have a booking in Oia.

 

Towns and villages…

Main island of Santorini has these towns and villages – Fira, Akrotiri, Imerovigli, Oia, Kamari, Foristefani, Pyrgos, Perissa. Fira is the capital of the island.

You can buy our Digital Prints of Santorini on Etsy


Stay Options…

So while you plan your stay, you can choose from either of these locations. But the most famous ones are Oia, Imerovigli and Fira.

While Oia and Imerovigli offer the best Caldera views that you won’t find anywhere in Santorini, but they are a bit far off from the port and also on a bit expensive side. Fira offers sea view but misses on the charm of Caldera views and obviously is near to the port and also budget friendly. 

The stays range from hostels to hotels and inns to private cave houses and resorts and taverns. And it can get really confusing to choose from the available options.

The most intriguing option you will find are the Cave Houses of Santorini. These are underground structures designed in a typical Cycladic style of architechture. In the earlier days, these houses were the abode of poverty-stricken sailors where as the merchants lived in the buildings high up on the hill. But these days, the same houses cost you a fortune for a few days stay. These are most beautiful luxury houses with the best of caldera views available with amenities like private jacuzzi, spa and swimming pool.

Things to do in Santorini…

The most important part of any vacation is to plan what to do in a place which you are planning to visit. Santorini offers you a plethora of plans which might confuse you especially if you are there for a short period of time. Here we have listed some of the activities that you can indulge as per your interest.

Main Street of Oia and Imerovigli

This is the most famous part of the whole island, visited by every traveller. You can enjoy the best of views, great cafes and quick shopping in the main street. It also gives you lots of opportunities to capture the pricessless moments. Sunset of Oia is the most famous one. So do plan an evening with some wine by your side to get intoxicated with the colors of the sunset.

Imerovigli is another small village on the island boasting of quintessential views. The village is situated at the highest grounds on Caldera and hence the amazing views. You can go around the village and enjoy a panoramic sunset here as well.

Nea Kameni - Sailing around Santorini

In the middle of the caldera lie the burnt islets of Santorini which are small volcanic islands. While Nea Kameni is home to the active volcano, Pelaia Kameni is home to hotsprings. Both of them can be covered in a one excursion. There are many options for excursion that include – sailboats, cruise and catamarans.
A full day excursion includes – visit to the volcano and swimming near the hot springs, if you are interested. Lunch in Thirassia or on the boat while you admire the breathtaking views of the caldera and its magnificent sunset. One can also attempt to reach the highest point of the islet of Nea Kameni from where the active volcano is visible. Its a 30 min hike. Around the hotsprings lies a small gulf where one can attempt underwater swimming as well.
All in all you need an entire day to sail around the volcanic islets and have an experience to treasure for a lifetime.
Tips –
1) Good hiking shoes and drinking water are a must to carry during the hike. Without these you won’t be allowed.
2) Book this one day tour in advance if you are really interested. We missed it bigtime becuase we did not plan it in advance and by the time we reached out to the tour operators, seats were all full.
3) Cost of the tour ranges from 50EURO for a 4hr tour to 90EURO for sunset tour to 150+ EURO for a catamaran excursion per person. You can choose according to your time and budget.

Please note that the tour starts either from the Old Port of Skala or the Ammoudi port.

Akrotiri - Thira’s frescoes

This is the town situated at the other end of the island and is boasts of the largest excavated site of Santorini. Volcanic eruption that buried the island, in the process ended up preserving unique wall painting and frecoes that were brought to light during the excavations. You can visit ruins of Akrotiri in the archeological site present there. The exacavtions there are still undergoing. Many artefacts from there are housed in many museums across the country.
There are few known beaches around the area –
Akrotiri Beach
Red Beach
White Beach
Black Beach
You can hire a boat to cover all of them and can also swim there. We visited only the Red beach which can be approached by a small hike via Akrotiri beach and were lucky enough to witness a majestic sunset.

Beaches

As all across the Greece, Santorini also has lots of beaches but to be honest the island is much more than the beaches. But if you are interested and want to chill along a beach the few of them can be thought of. Some of them are:

Kamari Beach
Ammoudi Beach
Red Beach
Caldera Beach

Beaches in Santorini are not the usual fine sand beaches. Rather the sand here is more pebbly and either black or red in color.

Churches and Monasteries

The magnificent churches of Santorini mostly have white-washed walls and blue domes. But some of them like Aegios Geargios have yellow base as well. The town of Oia itself has more than 70 churches. Some of the most famous Churches worth visiting are – Aegios Georgios, Panagia Episkopi and
Prophet Elias monastery which is the oldest of them all. It is located between Pyrgos and Kamari villages.

Wineries

Given the fact Dionysus was worshipped as the God of wine, wine making goes a long way in Greece. Some of the oldest vineyards and wineries are found in Santorini. Most of famous of them are:

Artemis, Karamolegos Winery
Canava, Roussos (Oldest Winery of the island)
Estate, Argyros Winery
Santo Wines Winery: You get to see an impressive sunset view of Aegean Sea from this winery.

These wineries offer a guided tour, wine tasting, wine bar wherein you can enjoy your bottle of wine.

Museums

There are many museum worth visiting in Thira, especially if you are a history buff. While some of the museums enlighten on the history of the island, some of them are more about the excavation and archaelogical findings, while some can make interesting stories connecting Atlantis and Santorini. Some of them being

Archaeological museum in Fira that contains artefacts from islands excavations (entry fee of 2 EURO),
Lost Atlantis museum (enroute your drive to Akrotiri), that creates a factual connection between the legendary lost island of Atlantis and Santorini (entry fee of 12 EURO)
Akrotiri Archaeological Site that witnesses historic importance of Santorini (12 Euro)

Tip: the timetable for these sites varies according to the seasons. Kindly check the timings before paying a visit.

WALK FROM OIA TO FIRA

There is a 13 km long trail between Oia and Fira that can be hiked if you are a trekker or someone looking for some walking activity. The route is quite beautiful with sea on one side which keeps you the company for more of the way. It takes around 3 hrs to complete the trail at a leisurely pace. So if you are someone looking for a quick adventure and has with ample amount of time at hand in Oia then this can be for you. We did a quick morning walk of around 4 KM on that route becuase we did not have enough time to complete it as we had to leave the island that day.

Port of Armeni

This is very small detour that you can take while strolling along the main street of Oia. Mostly you see shops and cafe and some view points along the scenic street, but if you are looking for something different then you can attempt to go all the way down to the port of Armeni. There are around 290 steps for it one way. There are signs put up on the street which help you take that route.

Diving and Water activities

Santorini also offers you a divers marine life that can be explored with diving and snorkelling. You can dive into the shallow bay and explore beautiful settings and celebrated views of underwater rock formations and mavellous reefs, caverns and small caves alongwith underwater canyons. There are 4-5 diving sites with professional diving schools and clubs at the spot. These activities mostly happen around Nea Kameni, Akrotiri, Kamari and Thirasia.

Shopping

Along the street of Oia you find art collections, sculptures, ceramic, souvenirs, handmade traditional artefacts, jewellery – basically all sorts of tourist stuff with a touch of traditional greek art. Oia and Imerovigli are the major shopping hubs.
It gets quite during summers considering it is their main tourist season. By October the things might ease up a little on your pocket owing to the fact that its end of season there.
Tip – Bargaining goes a long way 🙂

Some tips and guide

  • Tap water is not safe to drink anywhere on the island of Santorini.
  • Buy water from supermarket/stores – it will be cheaper. A bottle of 1.5 ltr costs 0.80€.
  • Smoking is banned in the public places.
  • Summers are hot, winters are mild. Rainy season is November to February.
  • Major tourist season is between June and September.
  • International driving licence is mandatory to drive in the whole of Greece.
  • Hat and goggles are a good buy to wade of the ferocity of the sun.
  • Bargain can get you good deals.
  • Follow traffic signs when driving.
  • Shops are open till 9PM. But some family owned stores can be found open till 10PM.
  • Electric current in whole of Greece is 230V AC. Appliances need an adapter.

Santorini is an unworldly place that fills you with awe on your rendezvous with her.

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