Santorini ’s dazzling white buildings, blue skies, and the vivid Aegean Sea is a wonderful wake-up call for the senses.
This idyllic Greek holiday hot spot is known for its beauty – from its cave-like hotels carved into the cliffside to its stunning sunsets – and you could easily retire to your sun lounger, soak up the view and do very little. But there’s plenty to pack into a trip here if you’re the active type.
Santorini is the largest of a group of five islands, which were once joined in a circle until a gigantic volcano eruption 3,600 years ago, and to get a real feel for the archipelago it’s worth signing up for a catamaran cruise.
Lina and Little John on Caldera Yachting’s Gold cruise, which starts at the Vlihada marina on the south of the island and ends at the old port of Ammoudi in UNESCO protected Oia, a small town that’s famous for its fabulous sunset views.
Red Beach – the only one of its kind in Europe, created from oxidised iron – and White Beach, created by oxidised aluminium and can be reached only by boat.
The small volcanic island Nea Kameni (the last eruption here was in 1950) is worth sailing. Thirassia, the second biggest of the islands, famous for secluded cove for a swim, in Oia you may explore the distinctive white churches with their blue domes and 14th-century windmills.
There’s a different view of the caldera at every turn, some small churches with arches framing the horizon, and as you descend into Oia the dappled sun gets closer to the sea and the light changes constantly.
In Oia, there are numerous designer stores, as well as art and souvenir shops to browse. But with so many people arriving for the sunset, it’s important to secure a spot in good time. Down a cobbled alleyway, we found the Sunset Sangria Bar, with a rooftop looking out over the ocean. It’s away from the crowds and serves drinks and Greek tapas.
The Mount Profitis Ilias – the highest point on the island, which has a 18th- century monastery at its summit.
The sea is warm and calm, there are sun loungers aplenty and there is no shortage of excellent restaurants to dine in. Santorini specialties include tomato balls, moussaka, a split-pea fava dish and local fish like Skaros, named after one of the island’s prominent rocks.
The best place to see Santorini’s history come to life is Akrotiri. The archaeological excavations are a short trip from Perivolos.
It’s staggering to see a community so well preserved by volcanic ash, locking a moment in time when life came to an abrupt end after the volcano erupted 3,600 years ago. Modern day Akrotiri is also worth a visit, for lunch or a meander around the town’s Venetian Castle.
Some go to Santorini just for a long weekend, but a week is barely enough time to see all that the island has to offer. It’s a beautiful place with a unique landscape, which can’t fail to etch itself into your memory.
Ten things you must do in Santorini
1 Sign up for the Becoming A Local tour, where you’ll stroll around the ghost village of Mesa Gonia and walk up to the ruins of the highest castle in Pyrgos.
2 Take the kids for a fun day out at the Santorini Water Park in Perissa.
3 Catch a film at the Open Air Cinema in Kamari (from May until October), showing a range of Hollywood movies.
4 Visit Filippo’s Tavern in Perivolos for traditional Greek dancing, music and enthusiastic plate smashing.
5 Go to Santo or Argyros Wineries to sample some of the best wines Santorini has to offer.
6 Sample a traditional Greek souvlaki in north Fira. Order yours to go and find a seat with a view.
7 Walk down the 588 steps to the old port of Fira and get the cable car back up.
8 Go on a Caldera Yachting cruise to see all the islands in the archipelago.
9 See the Akrotiri Minoan Bronze Age settlement, destroyed in 1627 BC.
10 Have dinner at The Seaside in Perivolos, a gourmet dining experience popular with celebrities, which also has a sushi bar.