Santorini rises like a vision from the sea. It’s simply one of the most beautiful places in the world.
A volcanic explosion that happened over 3500 years ago has shaped a dream-like landscape of surreal beauty. There are breathtakingly high cliffs, otherworldly beaches of red sand or black sand, and the deep blue caldera with its tiny islands- Thersia, Aspronisi, Palia kameni, Nea Kameni, and Christiana.
This is one of the main stops for people visiting Greece, especially if it’s their first time in Greece. Visiting Santorini is a thrillingly beautiful life-experience. Santorini has a lot to offer – not just the phenomenal geology, the unique beaches, and the legendary sunsets, but also culture, history, gastronomy. A Santorini vacation package will include essential facets of the Santorini experience, and take care of all the details to leave you free to explore.
Santorini is also a premium destination for a honeymoon in Greece. Whatever your travel style as a new couple, you could not hope to find a more romantic destination.
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The Main Towns of Santorini – Fira, Oia, Imerovogli, and Firostefani
Besides these four main towns, each with its own character, there are enchanting villages throughout Santorini, too.
Fira is the largest town of Santorini and it’s the island’s capital. This is the busiest and most exciting town, with lots of warm Mediterranean energy. There is a fine selection of restaurants, cafes, and exciting night spots.
Built at the edge of the cliff, it has a view of the whole of the caledera. The town is also a dream, with the purity of that classic white-washed Cycladic architecture. There are charming paths and alleys to navigate the unique, unspoiled architectural and natural setting.
The name Firostefani means “The Crown of Fira.” It’s exactly that. Considered a separate town, this settlement at the highest point of Fira has a unique character, calmer and more laid-back than the bustling excitement of Fira. It has the charming mood of a village, with lovely and low-key tavernas and cafes. The views, of course, are stellar. And, speaking of stars, don’t forget to look up at night. The night skies of the Cyclades are bright with stars.
Oia – which also has the name “Pano Meria” – is where you come to see the most famous sunset in the world. This enchanting town is on Santorini’s northwest coast. Oia is possibly the very loveliest town of Santorini, cascading down the slope of the caldera.
Imerovigli is just 3 km north of Fira. This is Santorini’s highest point – 300 meters above the sea. It’s like flying. From here, you can take in the endless views of the caldera, the tiny islands, and the Aegean beyond. While in Imerovigli, you can see the great rock Skaros. This was the most important of the five fortresses that were once essential for protecting the island in the days that the seas were thick with pirates.
The Best Beaches of Santorini
Owing to its phenomenal geology, Santorini has some beaches of unique and exotic beauty. This island has 17 beaches, all of them gorgeous. Some of the beaches are cosmopolitan, perfect for socializing, while others are ideal for families. The most interesting beaches on Santorini are the more remote, wilder beaches. Often challenging to access, they offer a more private adventure.
On the south coast of the island is one of the island’s most popular beaches. Perissa Beach is a long, full service and very comfortable beach, at the base of the Mesa Vouno peak. You’ll find facilities for children here, including a playground and water park.
Black lava from the volcanic eruption has created black sand – together with the deep blue of the sea, it’s a striking picture. This is a blue flag beach, with excellent water.
The next beach south after Perissa is another black sand beach with fabulous waters. Perivolos Beach is the most entertaining and cosmopolitan beach on Santorini, the most popular beach for a younger crowd. There are daily DJ sets, special events, and many lively beach bars. For an active beach day, you’ll find beach volley – including organized tournaments. Additionally, there are of course plenty of water sports: wind-surfing, jet-ski, and diving.
Agios Giorgos Beach
Agios Giorgos Beach is last beach in this one continuous stretch starting from Perissa. This is the most remote of the three beaches, so it’s often much less crowded. But you’ll still find beach bars and loungers. Also, you can enjoy a full variety of water sports here – scuba diving, jet-ski, and windsurfing, as well as paddle boats and banana boats. As at both Perivolos and Perissa, there are also fine waterfront tavernas and cafes.
If you are looking for solitude and a more contemplative Santorini experience, leave the crowds behind at Perissa and Perivolos, and head over to Imerovigli. Here, by car or motorbike, then some stairs, you’ll reach beautiful Pori Beach. Bring everything you need, as this beach is completely natural, with no bars, loungers, or other services. Red cliffs surround you at this sandy beach with its excellent waters. Dine like a local too, on fresh fish and local specialties at the taverna over the beach.
Another beach to escape the crowds and enjoy the majesty of the setting in peace is the lovely Mesa Pigadia Beach. Mesa Pigadi Beach is near the lighthouse of Akrotiri. You can reach it by boats that leave from Acrotiri. Or, you can drive there along a dirt road to reach this secluded and wonderful beach. Great volcanic cliffs shelter the beach from the wind. Along the base of the cliffs are syrmata with their colorful doors. Syrmata are caves in the rock that fisherman use to protect their boats in winter.
There are some sun loungers and umbrellas available at Mesa Pigadia, and there’s also a taverna with local specialties right at the beach.
White Beach, Santorini
A challenge to access and worth the effort, White Beach will reward you with gleaming high white cliffs that form a tiny cove. And you’ll be enjoying it in relative solitude, as not everyone takes the trouble to access White beach.
But the trouble is part of the fun. You either take a boat, from Akrotiti or Red Beach – which you will definitely want to see. Or you can hike here through an incredible landscape.
Red Beach, Santorini
Everyone talks about Red Beach. The bold red cliffs against the Cycladic sky, the colorful beach, the deep blue of the sea make a mesmerizing image. It is a bit of a challenge to get here, too – and signs warn against the danger of landslides. Keep to a safe path, and bring whatever you need to enjoy this wild beach, including water. This sheltered spot can get quite hot in the middle of the day.
A Catamaran cruise can include snorkeling, and a festive BBQ on board. This is a great way to experience Red Beach
Activities Not to Miss on Santorini
Fantastic as the beaches are, Santorini is more than a beautiful geological phenomenon. This is an exciting destination by any measure – for adventure, gastronomy, wine, culture, and history. A well-tailored Santorini vacation package, like these from Antelope Travel, takes care of the details. This lets you focus on having the complete Santorini experience: not just the beaches and the famously gorgeous towns, but also whatever speaks to you.
To enjoy the quintessential Santorini experience, you’ll definitely want to get out on the water. We have been focusing on the dreamy views from the cliffs of Santorini, But the view of Santorini itself from the bay caldera is quite a sight. The aforementioned cruise does just that, and also gives you a different kind of Santorini sunset.
For a completely different way to experience the volcano, sink into the volcanic mud baths and hot springs on the small island Palea Kammeni.
Santorini’s volcanic soil produces some delicious wines with a crisp mineral tang. The indigenous grape Assyrtiko is the most famous, but all of the wines communicate the character of Santorini’s unique geology. A winery tour will introduce you to another aspect of Santorini’s culture and magnificent landscapes.
Visit Akrotiri, The Bronze Age Site of Santorini
The Eruption of Thera that shaped Santorini wiped out the sophisticated Bronze Age culture of the island. This fascinating culture is thought perhaps to be the inspiration for Plato’s allegorical Atlantis.
The volcano that destroyed the culture of Akrotiri – associated with the Minoans – also preserved it. There are some magnificent frescoes and artifacts in that were covered in ash. Visit the excavations at Akrotiri and the Archaeological museum to gain insight into Santorini’s rich and ancient past.
There is no better way to get to know the true Santorini than through its gastronomic traditions. You could take a food tour or a cooking class. Or just visit a family style taverna and let them guide you and introduce you to the local specialties. Santorini has elegant, resourceful cuisine, based on produce of unusually intense flavor, thanks to the volcanic soil. Taste the elemental essence of Santorini, and interact with the people of the island for a more authentic experience.