Santorini Travel Guide: What to See and Do in Santorini
General Information about Santorini
Santorini is made up of a small group of islands (Thera, Thirasia, Aspronisi, Palea and Nea Kameni (Volcanoes). It has an area of around 100 km2 and is south of the famous Aegean Sea. It is also part of the Cyclades, an archipelago that shares a fascinating history and a particular style of architecture.
Santorini is the southernmost Cycladic island, it is north of Crete and west of Anafi. It is separated by a distance of 65 nautical miles from the port of Heraklion, capital of Crete (the largest island of the Cyclades). In addition, it is located about 200 km southeast of the continent and can be accessed by ferry or plane from Athens.
The capital of Santorini is Fira and has a population of 13,500 people. The main port of this island is Athinios, about 25 minutes away by car from the city. This ferry port connects with the rest of the islands, as well as the group of volcanic islands through private transport services.
Geographical Location of Santorini
Map of Santorini on Google Maps
How to Get to Santorini
Once we are determined to know the jewel of the Cyclades, the first thing that comes to mind is how to get to Santorini. There are 2 ways to get there: by plane or by ferry. Depending on the personal budget and the expectations of the trip to Santorini, it allows us to reach an unforgettable destination.
Taking a flight (connected via Athens) is the fastest way to get there and can take only 45 minutes from the Greek capital. Santorini National Airport also has connections with flights (to and from) Heraklion Island, as well as charter flights (private) from some cities in Europe. The route from the airport to the city of Fira takes around 9 minutes by car.
The option of a sea voyage is more economical, and it also allows you to know some islands near Santorini depending on the route. The ferry travel time can vary between 5 to 9 hours (depending on the type of boat) leaving from the port of Piraeus (Athens) to the port of Santorini (Athinios). The ferries offer a restaurant, cafeteria, and a large terrace where you can admire the Aegean Sea.
When Is the Best Time to Visit Santorini
The island of Santorini offers varied tourist qualities throughout the year. However, the best time to visit Santorini may depend on the expectations.
The high season begins in late June and early September, there is less chance of rain and the average temperature is 26°C, ideal for visiting the beaches of Santorini.
In this season of the year there is more concurrence of visitors, therefore, the price of the lodging tends to rise (it is advisable to book 3 months in advance). However, the commercial area (restaurants, bars, cafes, and shops) is fully available to serve visitors.
Between May and June, as well as the months of September and October, the temperature ranges around 23°C. Although the beaches do not have an optimal temperature for swimming, there are other activities that can be done, taking advantage of the radiant sun. Although it is considered high season, there are more possibilities to get accommodation at a better price. Furthermore, almost all ferry routes are available.
The low season includes the months of November to April, despite the fact that the temperature is lower (around 15°C), it is a time of the year that is gaining popularity for what the city of Fira has to offer.
Some hotels and restaurants are closed, however many are opening as travel increases at this time of year. Visitors have more freedom to appreciate the views from the Caldera, and the towns of Fira and Oia increasingly offer more accommodation and restaurants available.
How the Island of Santorini Was Formed
A large number of scientific studies have agreed that, after 4 volcanic eruptions and several earthquakes (which occurred 3,600 years ago) what is known as one of the most visited tourist sites in the world was formed.
Santorini was created thanks to the huge volcanic eruption, which gave rise to the famous current geological caldera. It is the most active volcanic center in southern Aegean, although what remains today is a caldera full of water.
In its location, one of the largest volcanic eruptions in history occurred, which left a large caldera surrounded by deposits of volcanic ash. Experts in the matter indicate that this fact could be responsible (indirectly through a tsunami) that caused the end of civilization on the island of Crete.
The current volcano (on the island of Nea Kameni) is in the center of the caldera, despite remaining active, there is a low risk of erupting (the last occurred 60 years ago).
Major Cities of Santorini
It is the capital of the island, for this reason, it is the town with the largest and most diverse commercial area. The city is built on the edge of the caldera, at its bottom is where the ancient port of Santorini. Access is possible by cable car or a traditional donkey ride. Furthermore, the city offers a mix of tradition, nightlife, and natural attractions.
The town of Oia is located northwest of the island and is known for offering an extraordinary sunset, and it is undoubtedly one of the most visited places in Santorini. It stands out for preserving the traditional architecture, houses and churches built near the caldera (they have white walls with doors and windows in deep blue, some with a dome-shaped ceilings).
It offers one of the most visited seaside resorts in the high season, it is close to the national airport (just 9 minutes by car). It has a promenade that is famous for having shops, restaurants and cafes. It also offers the opportunity to visit various archaeological sites, one of them known as "Ancient Thera".
It is located north of Fira (about 2.5 km), and it is known as "The Balcony of the Aegean" for being 300 meters above sea level. The location allows a view of the volcano, the Aegean Sea, and traditional sunsets. One of its biggest attractions is the Skaros rock, one of the 5 old fortresses of the island and a strategic observation point against piracy of the time.
It is a small town located in the southwest of the island (11 km from the port of Athinios). It is one of the sites of the island with greater historical importance and has a prehistoric city where you can see the architecture and various objects of the time. There is also a 13th-century castle known as “La Ponta”, currently there are musical concerts and exhibitions. In addition, it is close to the famous Red Beach (about 6 minutes by car).
Best Beaches in Santorini
Santorini's beaches are known for offering very particular shapes and colors. Perissa is one of the longest black sand beaches in Santorini. Located at the foot of the imposing Mesa Vouno Mountain, it offers a variety of water activities, from windsurfing to canoeing. In addition, it has diving centers, as well as a water park for the entertainment of the smallest of the family.
Red Beach is close to the historic town of Akrotiri and a 23-minute drive from Fira. It is a bay surrounded by an impressive reddish rock formation, the combination with the blue of the sea is unique. The journey to the beach takes a few minutes from the parking lot, it is important to have supplies (snacks) since there are no restaurants.
Kamari beach is at the base of the Mesa Vouno mountain, the proximity to the national airport allows excellent access. It offers 5 km of volcanic sand and has been recognized as one of the cleanest beaches in Santorini (Blue Flag by the European Foundation for Environmental Education).
You will find it in the south-west of the island, an 18-minute drive from the city of Fira. It offers a more relaxed atmosphere, you can have a cafeteria, as well as parasols and sun loungers. Vlychada beach is also known as "Playa Blanca" for its pale cliffs.
What to Do in Santorini?
Hiking Trails on the Island of Santorini
Santorini is more than stunning accommodations and beautiful sunsets, as it offers a variety of trails that thrill thousands of hikers every year. Have the opportunity to visit places like "The Heart of Santorini", a rock formation that is only 5 minutes walk from the coastal town of Megalochori. In addition, one of the most famous routes is from the Church of the Prophet Elias to the town of Oia, it offers many places to photograph the landscape.
Archaeological sites in Santorini
The island of Santorini has a history as impressive as its geography: it has prehistoric antecedents supported by evidence found in the Akrotiri excavations. Even the ancient Greek civilization was present on the Mesa Vouno mountain (360 meters above sea level).
Try the Local Dishes
Many tourists claim that a trip is totally rewarding if it is able to awaken all your senses. Santorini's gastronomy achieves this without a doubt, as you can find the best of Greek and Mediterranean cuisine that includes agricultural products from the island. The volcanic soil has nourished them in such a way that they offer a unique flavor. It also has an internationally recognized wine production.
Where to Eat in Santorini?
The island has restaurants recognized for their excellence in regional cuisine, one of the most popular places is in Amoudi Bay (Oia). After observing the sunset in the coastal town, many visitors delight in the specialties of Greek cuisine offered in the bay.
The Taverna Dimitri, a traditional-style restaurant where you can enjoy Mediterranean flavors. You'll have the opportunity to try a Shrimp Saganaki or Seafood Linguini, both suitably paired with local wine.
If you want to try Greek food in Cretan style, you should definitely visit Metaxy Mas, a restaurant that is in the town of Exo Goniá (just a 13-minute drive from Fira). It offers Apaki (cured pork), stamnagathi vegetables (sweet prickly chicory), and traditional dishes like bulgur wheat topped with lamb in a yogurt sauce.
Visiting Santorini is undoubtedly a unique experience, it is almost a ritual to enjoy its exquisite gastronomy and the views from the Caldera. There is a restaurant in Fira where you can do it, the Fanari, which offers a dining room with views of the cliff, you can find it a few meters from Theotokopulu Square. One of its specialties: white aubergines cooked on the grill and served with Greek cheeses.
How Many Days to Stay in Santorini?
For many travelers it is not a simple question, especially if they want to enjoy the most experiences that the island has to offer. First of all, it is important to highlight 2 variables: the season of the visit and the activities you want to do. Generally, it takes 5 to 6 days (in high season) to enjoy the beaches and tourist attractions. While in low season, it requires an average of 4 days at least.
Santorini or Mykonos?
They are two of the most popular and visited Cycladic Islands in the Greek archipelago, each offering historical, natural and tourist attractions. Deciding to visit a particular one may be more oriented to the expectations of the traveler, for example, if you want to enjoy the best beaches, Mykonos is a wise choice. In the case of enjoying a romantic experience, full of beautiful landscapes and elegant restaurants, the answer then is Santorini.
The island of Santorini offers a diverse experience, as it has museums, a wine industry with more than 16 wineries, historical places, and an impressive geography. Mykonos is an island that offers more than 20 sandy beaches with crystal clear waters, arranged for the occasion or the type of traveler (family, with nightlife, solitary and gay friendly). In case you do not want to choose, visit the 2 islands and experience the trip of a lifetime!
At Greca Travel you can find Santorini travel packages at the best price and modify them to suit you!