As your ferry approaches the port of Santorini and you watch the island getting closer and closer, it’s easy to believe that you’re sailing into the view of one of Alfred Sislay’s idyllic paintings.
On the southernmost border of the Aegean archipelago, Santorini is not only considered to be one of the most beautiful islands of Greece, but one of the most stunning in the world.
Once you set foot on the island, Santorini will take you on a trip into its past: it’s here you’ll come face to face with the ancient Minoan civilization and the magnificent frescoes it left behind, the grand and fearsome eruption of its volcano and the huge caldera that’s still marveled at by thousands of tourists each year, and of course, its beautiful re-birth as one of the most picturesque places of this Earth.
These are the four top places to visit while you’re there.
Four Places Worth Visiting in Santorini
First on the list for its wild, natural beauty, the volcano of Thera erupted some 3,600 years ago, completely destroying one of the most prominent ancient civilizations of Greece.
Today, the caldera is rich with volcanic rocks, while the small islets that formed from the volcanic eruptions (namely Nea Kameni and Aghios Nikolaos) are a popular tourist attraction chiefly due to their hot springs and their therapeutic nature.
If you’re in the mood for a bit of extravagance you can always rent a yacht and enjoy the view of the volcano while BBQing next to it!
Photo CC Pedro Szekely
Only 40 minutes away from Santorini’s capital, Oia is famous for its breath-taking view of the sunset, making the trip worthwhile for thousands of tourists each year.
But the brilliant, fiery sunset is only one of the many reasons you should visit Oia while on the island. Don’t miss out on walking the 214 steps that separate Oia from Ammoudi where you can enjoy the freshest fish.
During this small trip, you’ll have the chance to stroll through this multi-layered and densely built settlement of cave-like houses, bright white churches with blue domes and imposing, traditional houses that once belonged to seamen.
Though one of the less commercial places of Santorini, you can find several first-rate restaurants and café-bars as well as a few boutiques.
Watch the sunset from the hilltop of Oia’s castle which, once upon a time, was built to protect the islanders from pirates!
Photo CC by Nikola Totuhov
Offering the best view of the caldera, Fira, the capital of Santorini, is truly the heart of the island.
Filled with small businesses of all kinds, in Fira, you’ll have the opportunity to do anything: eat, shop, dance, scuba-dive, or ride a donkey to Firostefani which, as its name suggests, ‘crowns’ Fira.
For a more aerial view of the island you can hop on the teleferic (or cable railway) that will take you to Palio Limani and back. Visit Mpoudi and discover the greatest events of Santorini.
First inhabited some 6,500 years ago and excavated during the ‘70s, Akrotiri is perhaps the greatest archaeological discovery of Eastern Europe. A picturesque village today, Akrotiri is only 10km away from Fira and closest to one of the most amazing beaches of the Aegean, called the Red Beach.
Perched over this wild beauty, the Apanemo Hotel and the incredible view beyond its infinity pool is sure to offer you comfort and luxury as well as a long list of amenities for a very affordable price.
When you’re ready to leave the coziness of Apanemo, you can venture to Akrotiri for hiking, trail-running and mountain-biking. Make sure to visit the archaeological site of Akrotiri which is open to the public from April 1st to October 31st!
Photo credit: The Apanemo Hotel
Why Visit Santorini
The list of places worth visiting in Santorini is long and difficult to choose from, with villages like Emporeio and Pyrgos being live tokens of Greek islandish tradition. The island brims with the flavors of Greek gastronomy as well as the Greek spirit: hospitable, heart-warming and all-embracing.
Considered a utopia since ancient times and rumored to have inspired in Plato the legend of Atlantis, Santorini still feels like a utopia today. So if by chance it’s still missing from your bucket list go ahead and make it a top destination!
More than an earthly paradise to visit, Santorini is an experience that will envelope you in its company from the very start.
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I think I would like to see the volcano, I have never seen one up close, before.
Organizing a day out on a yacht is a great way to see the volcano up close :) Hope you have the chance to travel soon!
Ooh, those volcanic therapeutic hot-springs sure do sound enticing, as does hiring a yacht for some caldera spotting! I would love to see the archeological finds at Akrotiri – it is a passion of mine to view these items / sites because it’s like a perfectly preserved snapshot of life. Those blue domes in Oia definitely sum up how I envision Santorini to be – can’t wait to visit!
It sounds like Santorini is the perfect destination for you Hannah! The volcano is fascinating if you’re interested in geology, and such a fabulous way to get up close by taking out a yacht.
And then obviously the unique culture, architecture and archaeology. Have an amazing time!
Santorini is the stuff of my dreams. I’ve heard of the sunsets and seen the pictures of white washed buildings but how wonderful to read about the other villages and archaeological discoveries. One day I’ll return to Greece with my partner in tow, and hopefully avoid some of the crowds while wandering the island. Bookmarking for that itinerary!
It’s such a romantic destination, so definitely a good choice if you’re traveling with your partner. Truly as you’ve described it, the stuff of dreams! Hope you have the chance to visit sometime soon Elaine!
A place that truly lives up to expectations, and probably exceeds them !
I agree that sailing on the Caldera is a fantastic activity and preferable for sunset so you can avoid the crowds jostling for the best vantage spots in Oia.
One of the rare ones! But yes, the crowds can get pretty overwhelming at sunset in Oia, so a little bit of pre-planning for a vantage point which is away from the main tourist hot spot will go a long way to making the experience magical :)
Santorini has to be most beautiful city in Greece. So pristine. I was there about 8 years ago and I definitely need to do return trip and visit the volcano. I had no idea of the volcano Thera.
Totally agree with you! So glad you enjoyed your first trip; definitely check out the volcano when you have the chance to head back again!
I didn’t realise there were so many places on the island of Santorini. Having never visited Europe, let alone Greece, I think I had it in my head that Santorini was a small town, rather than an entire island. I like the sound of Akrotiri the most. How is tourism in Santorini? Is it as crowded as I imagine, or only in high season?
There are indeed! Can highly recommend Greece when you do eventually plan a Europe trip. Glad we could give you an overview of Santorini :)
The island can get very crowded as it’s one of the most popular tourist spots. Especially lining up to watch the sunset – there are usually huge crowds. But this definitely dies down after peak season, so I would recommend visiting during off-peak which is from April to early June, or from September to November.
You can also do things like go for sunrise instead of sunset (equally as spectacular but you’ll have no-one in your photos!) and visit villages more inland, as a lot of the mass tourism is concentrated in the main hot spots.
Hope that helps! Feel free to reach out with any questions if you start planning a trip X
This is why I thought about a trip to Greece. Now, to stop thinking and start doing…
Make 2018 your year :D
Santorini is one of our favorite Greek islands, and we’ve visited twice. Actually I first heard of Santorini in my class about Prehistoric Aegean, and was so glad that I got to visit Akrotiri years later. Back in 2010, we swore to ourselves that we would celebrate our wedding in Santorini once the law for same-sex marriage would pass. But since we didn’t get to turn that dream into reality, we celebrated our 2 years wedding anniversary there last summer instead. It was way more crowded and touristy than 7 years ago, but it is still a paradise! The sunsets are just breathtaking and despite the crowd we loved strolling through the little cobbled streets of Oia! Thank you for this lovely post, you’re taking us back to our sweet memories! :)
Awesome Mei! Maybe a third trip in 2018? :D
Definitely a beautiful place to have celebrated your wedding anniversary, and maybe you could head back at some point in the future to renew your vows since you didn’t get the chance to have your wedding itself there.
It would have been so interesting having the perspective on how the island has changed over 7 years; yes I can imagine that it’s definitely become more touristy than it used to be. I agree though, despite the increased tourism, it’s still paradise!
Santorini looks so beautiful, it has been on my bucketlist for a while. I didn’t realise there was a huge volcano there, I’d love to rent a yacht there and have a BBQ with a view! I’ve heard Oia is absolutely stunning but I’m not sure I could handle all the crowds of tourists for sunset there!
One tip I recommend to Kate above re avoiding the sunset crowds is to go for sunrise instead; it’s equally as spectacular but you’ll have no-one in your photos and won’t have to deal with the crazy crowds.
It’s absolutely stunning despite there being a lot of tourism though. Hope you do have the chance to travel at some point!
Great suggestions!! We absolutely loved Santorini and had so much fun at all of these stops. Oia is such a beautiful town and the history at Akrotiri is fascinating. We really enjoyed hiking the volcano too—it’s crazy that it erupted 3,600 years ago! The the Apanemo Hotel sounds like a really great place to stay—will have to look into that next time we are on the island!
Thanks Jenna, glad to hear you had a fabulous time in Santorini, and got to hike the volcano too! It really is insane to think how long ago it was that the eruption occurred!
If you head back definitely check out the Apanemo Hotel, it’s a fabulous choice :)
These are some really beautiful and great options for Santorini. Many are spots I’ve never heard of – I haven’t been before, but I’d love to make a trip there this year. I had no idea that there’s a volcano there! That’s way cool and would top my list. Plus, if it’s amazing enough to inspire Plato, I’m sure it’ll inspire me as well! ;)
Glad we could introduce you to parts of Santorini you hadn’t heard of – hope you do have the chance to visit soon! The volcano is very cool, and if you’re looking for adventure you can hike it too :D
that white landscape always amazing…
Isn’t it just! Totally agree :)
What a beautiful place this is … very beautiful. Seeing these photos gave me strong desire to make a pass through this region. Beautiful buildings and this view of the sea is breathtaking :)
Glad we could inspire you to consider Santorini Raiane! It really is such a beautiful place, and truly unique. Hope you have the chance to visit at some stage :)
Totally agree with this list! I unfortunately didn’t make it out to the volcano, but I’ve heard great things. Akrotiri is super unique and more low-key than the other areas, which is great!
Glad you had a great time! Perfect excuse for a return trip to get back for the volcano :)