Visit Santorini and look the startling sight of the submerged caldera almost encircled by sheer lava-layered cliffs – topped by clifftop towns that look like a dusting of icing sugar – will grab your attention and not let it go. If you turn up in high season, though, be prepared for relentless crowds and commercialism – Santorini survives on tourism
Sights & Activities
Museum of Prehistoric Thera
Opposite the bus station, this well-presented museum houses extraordinary finds excavated from Akrotiri and is all the more impressive when you realise just how old they are. Most remarkable is the glowing gold ibex figurine, dating from the 17th century BC and in amazingly mint condition. Also look for fossilised olive tree leaves from within the caldera from 60,000 BC.
In 1967, excavations began at the site of Akrotiri. What they uncovered was phenomenal: an ancient Minoan city buried deep beneath volcanic ash from the catastrophic eruption of 1613 BC. Today, the site retains a strong sense of place. Housed within a cool, protective structure, wooden walkways allow you to pass through various parts of the city.
Visit Santorini and look that unmissable, atmospheric gallery is just outside Kamari, in Argyros Canava, one of the oldest wineries on the island. The old wine caverns are hung with superb artworks, while sculptures transform lost corners and niches. The collection features some of Greece’s finest modern artists.
Visit Santorini and find the best place to start your wine adventure. The island’s cooperative of grape- growers, it’s a large tourist-focused complex on the caldera edge near the port. It has short tours of the production process and lots of tasting options. There are also superb views, a wine bar with food, and a shop full of choice vintages as well as gourmet local products. tours & tastings from €12.50;h9am-9pm)
Around the Island 🏖
Santorini’s known for its multihued beaches. The black-sand beaches of Perissa, Perivolos, Agios Giorgos and Kamari sizzle – beach mats are essential. Red Beach, near Ancient Akrotiri, has impressive red cliffs and smooth, hand-sized pebbles submerged under clear water.
On a mountain between Perissa and Kamari are the atmospheric ruins of Ancient Thira.
Of the volcanic islets, only Thirasia is inhabited. Visitors can clamber over lava on Nea Kameni then swim in warm springs in the sea at Palia Kameni. Many excursions get you there; small boats are at Fira Skala port.
🏠 Accommodation Santorini
Sleeping options are exorbitant inhigh season, especially anywhere with a caldera view. Many hotels offer free port and airport transfers.
Karterados Caveland Hostel – This fabulous, chilled-out hostel is based in an old winery complex in Karterados about 2km from central Fira (see website for directions). Accommodation is in the big old wine caves, all of them with creative, colourful decor and good facilities. The surrounding garden is relaxing, with weekly barbecues held, and there are yoga classes on offer too.
Villa Soula– Cheerful and spotless, this hotel is a great deal. Rooms aren’t large but are freshly renovated with small, breezy balconies. Colourful public areas and a small, well-maintained undercover pool give you room to spread out a little. It’s a short walk from the town centre.
Mill Houses– Built right into the side of the caldera at Firostefani, down a long flight of steps, these superb studios and suites are chic and plush. Lots of white linen and whitewashed walls fill them with light. King-sized beds, Bulgari toiletries and private patios looking out over the Aegean are just a few of the lavish touches.
Eating and Drinking Santorini
indifferent food geared towards tourists is still an unfortunate feature of summertime Fira. Prices tend to double at spots with caldera views. Cheaper eateries cluster around Fira’s square. Popular bars and clubs line Erythrou Stavrou in Fira. Many diners head to Oia, legendary for its superb sunsets. Good-value tavernas line the waterfronts at Kamari and Perissa. Try Santorini Brewing Company’s offerings like Yellow Donkey beer.
🍽 Assyrtico Wine Restaurant – Settle in on this terrace above the main drag for polished local flavours accompanied by caldera views. Start with, say, the saganaki (fried cheese) wrapped in a pastry crust, and follow with the deconstructed gyros or the mousakas of Santorini white eggplant. Service is relaxed and friendly; the wine list is big.
🍽 Metaxi Mas – The raki flows at this convivial taverna, a favourite among locals and authenticity-seeking travellers. In the central village of Exo Gonia (between Pyrgos and Kamari), park by the large church and walk down some steps to reach it. Prebooking is a good idea. Enjoy sweeping views and a delicious menu of local and Cretan specialities.
More information Santorini – www.santorini.net
Santorini Airport- has flights year-round to/from Athens (from €64, 45 minutes). Seasonal European
connections are plentiful, including easyJet from London, Rome and Milan. There are frequent bus connections between Fira’s bus station and the airport between 7am and 9pm (€1.60, 20 minutes). Most accommodation providers will arrange (paid) transfers.
BOAT– Thira’s main port, Athinios, stands on a cramped shelf of land 10km south of Fira. Buses (and taxis) meet all ferries and then cart passengers up the towering cliffs. Accommodation providers can usually arrange transfers (to Fira per person is around €10). Multiple boats leave daily for Piraeus (€36 to €59, 5 hours), Naxos (€19.50 to €42, 1½ to two hours) and Mykonos (€60, two to three hours). Less frequent sailing service Rethymno, Rhodes and Kos.
BUS– KTEL Santorini Buses
Visit Santorini in summer…In summer buses leave Fira twice-hourly for Oia, with more services presunset (€1.60). There are also numerous daily departures for Akrotiri (€1.80), Kamari (€1.60), Perissa and Perivolos Beach (€2.20), and a few to Monolithos (€1.60). Buses leave Fira, Perissa and Kamari for the port of Athinios (€2.20, 30 minutes) a half-dozen times per day. Buses for Fira meet all ferries, even late at night.
CAR & MOTORCYCLE
A car (from €50 per day) or scooter is good for getting out of town. Outlets