Santorini truly is a sight to behold. When you first lay eyes on this island you will feel overwhelmed by such beauty, no matter how high your expectations are. Its cliff-top villages scattered around the island made of white washed houses and blue domed churches are magical. Great cuisine and wine combined with breathtaking views of the Caldera and the rich blue Mediterranean sea make Santorini a very romantic destination.
Below you will find 10 things you MUST do in Santorini in no particular order:
1. Watch the sunset from Oia
Oia is known for having one of the most beautiful and famous sunset in the world, so you cannot miss it! But be aware: you will not be alone. In fact, hundreds or even thousands of people gather in Oia in every alley, balcony and restaurant with a view to watch the sun dive into the Aegean Sea. Securing a good spot will make all the difference, so I recommend wandering around Oia earlier in the afternoon to find a good spot in a less crowded alley. Another good option is to go to the most famous sunset viewpoint on the island: the Oia Castle. During the high season, people start to secure their spots 2 hours earlier so trust me when I say go early. Take a bottle of wine and some cheese with you and relax while waiting for the show! A round of applause will erupt from the crowds once the sun makes its final descent beneath the ocean. It’s unforgettable!
2. Stay in a hotel with a view of the Caldera
A visit to Santorini is not complete without staying in a hotel with a view of the Caldera. If there is one place on this world where investing in accommodation is worth every penny, this is it. The famous cave hotels in Oia are pure luxury and offer breathtaking views. If your budget don’t allow for a splurge in Oia, you can find several options with amazing views in Imeroglivi. To be honest, you can find hotels just as luxurious as the ones in Oia for a fraction of the price in Imerovigli as well as ones even more budget-friendly! After experiencing the crowded yet unforgettable sunset from Oia, nothing like watching another sunset from your own hotel room or pool. Trust me – you will not regret the investment!
3. Explore traditional villages – Emporio and Pyrgos
One of my favorite things when travelling is exploring more traditional and less touristic places. With no cars or motorcycles allowed inside, well-preserved houses and a strong medieval feeling, Emporio is my absolute favorite traditional village in Santorini. I loved wandering through its picturesque alleys, taking hundreds of pictures of its charming houses and greeting the locals! Another beautiful traditional village to visit is Pyrgos, where you can visit a well-preserved ancient castle, Kasteli. Pyrgos is located at the highest point of Santorini, with panoramic views of the entire island! Similarly to Emporio, at Pyrgos you will find traditional architecture, small white washed houses, churches and narrow winding paths that are truly magical.
4. Go wine tasting
Another must do in Santorini is to taste the outstanding wines from the oldest vineyards in Europe. There are several wineries spread all over the central and south part of the island, which you can visit individually or book a wine tour to see more than one. Santorini produces blended and rose wine, as well as the famous dessert wine Vin Santo made from grapes dried in the sun after harvest. Choose a winery with a view and enjoy the afternoon learning more about the interesting way they make it possible to produce wine in a volcanic soil and super dry weather.
5. Take a Sunset Boat Tour around the island
Some of the most interesting places to go in Santorini are only reachable by boat, not to mention the amazing views of the island you can get from the water. Book a half day sunset boat tour to see the hot springs, the red beach, the white beach, the volcano and top it all off with an unforgettable sunset at the boat with cocktails. The view of the white washed houses and churches of Oia covered in the golden light of the sunset is spectacular!
6. Hike the trail from Fira to Oia right before Sunset
This hike is a must if you want some of the best photograph opportunities Santorini has to offer. If you do the hike at Sunset, not only you will get amazing pictures during the golden hour but you will also enjoy cooler temperatures. Wear a hat, comfortable shoes and bring some water! It sounds long and difficult, but I promise you it’s a very easy hike and the view will compensate the effort. You will pass through beautiful villages and cute churches built at the cliff of Santorini with views of the Caldera. The route takes 3 hours at a leisurely pace stopping for pictures, so I recommend leaving early afternoon to arrive in Oia at sunset!
7. Spend a day at the beach
Santorini has very unique beaches – with colorful sand going from red to black and everything else in between, you have plenty of options! The most famous ones are Perissa, Perivolos and the Red Sand beach. Perissa is considered the best beach on the island and has dark smooth sand, crystal clear waters and is protected from the wind. It also has lots of beach bars, young people and water activities. The Red Sand beach is arguably the most famous beach in Santorini and is well known for its red coloured volcanic rock and red sand. Last but not least, Perivolos is an endless dark gray sand beach full of beach bars and restaurants. With so many unique beaches on the island, spending at least a day on the beach is a must!
8. Take a photo with the famous blue domes
No trip to Santorini is complete without a picture with the famous blue domes. The most photographed spot is where you can see 3 blue domes together, but half of the fun is searching for other blue domes that dot the island. To find the famous 3 blue domes, walk along the main marble street of Oia towards the castle and look for a ritzy looking jewelry store on your left. Walk down the alley towards the water and you’ll see the domes!
9. Get lost in Oia
With white washed houses, marble streets, blue domed churches and windmills, Oia is not only the most photographed village in Santorini but in all Greece. The beautiful cliff-top village of Oia is the perfect place to get lost: stroll around the narrow streets, visit galleries, shops, restaurants and take lots of pictures. Make sure to visit both during the day and evening – seeing the lights turn on right after sunset is an incredible experience too!
10. Explore the island on a quad bike
There’s no better way to explore the island then cruising down the roads with the wind blowing on your hair. Rent a 4 wheeler, also known as ATV or quad bike so you can ride around the island and explore from one tip to the other, visiting beaches, churches, archaeological sites, wineries and more. It’s cheap and your hotel can help you arrange that. The rental shop will give you the basic instructions and safety equipment. There’s a generous storage area with a locker to keep your belongings safe and it can fit 2 people comfortably. If going during very high season, contact your hotel to book early as they can be sold out.
I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!