Black-sand beaches, blue-domed churches, prehistoric sites, gorgeous sunsets, and gourmet cuisine make Santorini a chart-topping Mediterranean destination.
Fly over the crescent-shaped archipelago rising dramatically from the depths of the brilliant blue Aegean Sea, and you will know what the fuss is all about! The tragic volcanic eruption of 1650 B.C may have ruined one perfect world, but it also sculpted another paradise. Greece's showstopper (one of the most stunning Mediterranean islands) packs a punch into 76 square kilometres of a rugged, red-rocked landscape.
From a massive crater (caldera), black sand beaches and flaming sunsets to awe-inspiring archaeological sites and whitewashed blue-domed villages, Santorini is a dream in every magic millimetre. Every blink is a magical moment gone waste.
Santorini's main island Thira is the port of call for most visitors since the significant towns, including Fira and Oia, are located on it. Head straight to the dreamy hillside town of Oia to fall head over heels in love with the pastel pink perfection of the morning skies. The 15th-century settlement boasts a rich history, mirrored in the ruins of an ancient Venetian castle. But nature trumps history in this picture-postcard destination, where houses seem to tumble down a steep cliffside.
Lap up the sea views through the arched doorways of curvy cave houses, wander in the labyrinthine streets, loiter around the cobblestoned paths and peek into blue-domed churches. For the romantic at heart, surreal spectacles are laid out every inch of the way. Hunt out Agios Theodori Church, one of Santorini's most photographed blue-domed churches, before you end up at Ammoudi Bay in search of divine swimming and even more divine seafood.
Let the ogling odyssey guide you to Fira, the island's capital and nightlife hub. En route, you can look forward to scaling Imerovigli, the highest point of the caldera edge. Expect to be swept away by the eye-catching beauty of Fira white-and-blue Cycladic, cubic-shaped houses, a nod to authentic Santorinian architecture. The workout continues along a scenic 600-step downhill descent to the small port of Fira Skala, a spot made even prettier by dozens of bobbing fishing boats. You can save your breath on the return trip by opting for Santorini Cable Car.
Rewards await history nerds at Akrotiri, the archaeological site of an ancient Minoan town destroyed by the volcanic eruption of 1450 BC. Linger along the abandoned streets, where crumbling walls of houses and shops still showcase stunning frescoes. Seekers of seclusion can take a boat tour to the volcanic islands of Nea Kameni to hike up the active crater and Palia Kameni to swim in hot springs.
Santorini's black-sand beaches, Perissa and Perivolos, located on the southeastern coast, are equally attractive options. And when you feel the need to escape, hop on to a 10-minute ferry to reach the tiny virgin island of Thirassia. Hidden villages, winding cobbled streets, cave-style houses, ancient windmills, secret coves… it's a mini Santorini, minus the hip modernism. Bliss out.
Thira: Santorini's central market is a favourite shopping destination for locals and visitors for many good reasons. Browse for big league designer labels like Versace and Armani or potter around for local artefacts. Splurge on some exquisite handmade jewellery at Ypapantis Street, aka 'Gold Street', one of the biggest gold markets in Greece.
Oia: Whether you are looking for fashion, accessories, footwear, crafts items, antiques, or homeware, you can find something of your choice at Nomikos Street. The precinct is littered with independent boutiques, stores of retail brands as well as artisanal shops.
Fira: The capital of Santorini is a shopper's delight with stylish and quirky boutiques lining its cobbled alleys. Pick up fashionable outfits, spanky accessories or locally handcrafted products. There is no shortage of designer labels either. Think Chanel, Dior, Gucci, Prada and more.
Epilekton: If you are looking for unique souvenirs or gift items, this is a great place to stock up on antiques, folksy artefacts and objets d'art, including paintings, ceramics and curios. Look for unusual jewellery pieces, talismans, vintage maps, postcards, and ancient coins.
Hondos Center: This large department store in Fira is your one-stop destination for everything from clothing, beachwear, cosmetics, accessories, glassware, shoes, bags, toys and much more. Spend an afternoon picking up the latest products from international brands like La Prairie, Shiseido, YSL, Birkenstock and Clarks, among others.
Museums & the Arts
The Museum of Prehistoric Thera: One of the most impressive museums in Greece, located in Fira, takes you on a journey through prehistoric times. There is a wealth of treasures from excavations throughout the archipelago, including Akrotiri and the Ancient Thera. Besides ceramics, marble statues, tools and weaponry, you can see three-dimensional images of frescoes of Akrotiri.
Lost Atlantis Experience: Located in Megalochori village, this unusual museum offers a digital interactive experience related to the myth of the Lost Atlantis. Installations and presentations take visitors into the past with the Greek philosopher Plato. Learn about the topography of Santorini and relive the destruction of Atlantis through an intriguing 9D experience.
Wine Museum Koutsoyannopoulos: Built in a cave 8 metres below the ground, this excellent museum was set up by the Koutsogiannopoulos family, who own the winery that produces Volcan Wines. If you are up for a capsule course on the tradition of winemaking in Santorini starting from 1500 BC, add this pitstop to your agenda.
Archeological Museum of Fira: Go to gawp at a small but fascinating collection of sculptures, inscriptions, clay figurines and painted vases from ancient Thira, Dorian colonization and late Roman times. The exhibits from the Minoan and Byzantine eras are remarkable.
Maritime Museum in Oia: Located in a 19th-century shipowner's manor house, this museum is a treasure trove of maps, photos, trunks, sailing equipment, anchors, and ship models. Get familiar with the story of Santorini's bygone glory as a maritime trade centre.
Hiking: Outdoor enthusiasts will be thrilled with the endless hiking opportunities in Santorini, with scenic panoramas as the cherry on the top. Make sure you bookmark the epic trail that runs from Oia to the village of Imerovigli and ends in Fira. Another equally popular hike with a sublime view of the island follows the route to the archaeological site of Thira.
Diving: Thanks to its volcanic formations, Santorini offers an exciting underground landscape that notches up the diving experience in the Aegean sea. Glorious warm temperatures and constant sunshine add to the appeal. Whether you pick a shore dive or a boat trip, many sites are available, including the Lava Caves and the Adiavatos Reef.
Fishing: If you prefer a more relaxed activity, consider a fishing excursion on a traditional Greek caique. Learn how to bait fishing lines, remove fish from nets, descale and clean your fresh catch. Later, enjoy the spoils on board, along with some splendid Santorinian wines.
Restaurants & Bars
1800: This award-winning restaurant, housed in a restored 19th-century captain's mansion in Oia, offers creative Greek cuisine. Order the delectable lamb chops or the fresh white grouper. Spectacular seascapes from the rooftop terrace will keep you hooked all through.
La Maison Restaurant: Located in the village of Imerovigli, this fine diner with views of the caldera is another excellent choice to root for. The menu is dressed with Mediterranean fusion cuisine using fresh local ingredients. Recommended dishes include baked monkfish with beetroot puree and urchin risotto.
To Psaraki: Head to this waterfront taverna at Vlychada Marina for simple yet impeccably styled seafood. Locally loved favourites include stuffed vine leaves, Greek mussels and a variety of grilled seafood.
Lycabettus Restaurant: Go on a gastronomic journey with flawless Greek and Mediterranean fare in this restaurant with fabulous sunset views. The rotating nine-course tasting menu will tempt you with inventive presentations like grouper with capers fricassée & fennel.
Selene: Locals travel to this fine-dining restaurant in Pygros to savour traditional recipes with a contemporary twist. Seafood lovers will be floored by dishes like Cycladic Spinialo with octopus, bottarga, sea urchin and shellfish. The red mullet with wild fennel pesto and pistachios is to die for.
Redefine exhilaration and extravagance with a day cruise on a luxurious private yacht in Santorini. Glide over the deep blue waters of the Aegean Sea while a team of professional staff wait over you, indulging your every wish. Allow yourself to be pampered with fine wines, delicious barbecues and tempting desserts. Snorkel in secret coves, swim in the hot springs, soak up the Greek sunshine and sail into the caldera to gloat over incredible views. Idyllic would be a gross understatement to describe the day.
A hamper of natural, organic Greek cosmetics made with nourishing vitamins and oils is the ultimate elixir your skin needs. Donkey milk products, known for skin regeneration and anti-ageing qualities, olive oil cosmetics with antioxidant and deeply moisturizing qualities, and volcanic cosmetics offering detoxification, cell renewal, and collagen production stimulation are your go-to for skin care. How can you resist?
Head 9 kilometres inland from Fira to the traditional village of Megalochori. A sight for sore eyes with pretty houses and winding streets, it is also known for its rich vineyards churning out some of the most famous wines on Santorini. Follow the wine route to discover the charming family wineries of the region and spoil yourself with wine tasting sessions. If you plan a trip in August, you may have the chance to participate in the traditional foot-stomping of fresh-picked grapes.
Capturing Santorini's iconic sunsets is on every wish list, but finding a spot free of crowds can be a challenge in the famous viewpoints of Oia. An equally attractive alternative is Pyrgos, the highest village in Santorini with 360-degree island views. Enjoy sundowners at an atmospheric cafe as you witness the show of nature light up the skies.
Every hotel on Santorini is unique, special and offers views that no other island in the world can boast. Santorini is the kind of place that you will want to visit every year – its beauty is quite delicious.
The BusinessClass.com guide to the best luxury hotels in Santorini
Hailing a taxi is the easiest way to commute from Santorini (Thira) Island National Airport into town. Walking is the best way to navigate the narrow uphill streets of Oia, Fira and other towns. Hiring a car or moped is a good idea if you plan to stay in a remote area. For island hopping, rely on the regular ferry service.
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