Combining rich ancient history with significant natural beauty, Santorini is maybe the most visited of the Greek islands. Also known as Thira, it suffered a gigantic volcano eruption in prehistoric times, which is estimated to have contributed to the termination of the Minoan civilization. The eruption created a huge caldera, providing the island with dramatic cliff scenery.
- I Understand
- II Get in
- III Getting around
- IV Popular areas of Santorini
- V Villages
- VI Ancient sites of Santorini
- VII The best beaches of Santorini
- VIII Eat
- IX Drink
- X Where to stay in Santorini
- XI Stay safe in Santorini
- XII Telecommunications in Santorini
- XIII Go next
Clear blue waters and volcanic-sand beaches, complemented with whitewashed Cycladean buildings and picturesque cobblestoned backstreets, make Santorini a popular destination for travellers of any age. Santorini’s remarkable beauty has also been noticed by local and international celebrities, who have purchased privet properties on different parts of the island.
The island features excellent tourist facilities, including hip boutique hotels and luxurious spas. Celebrated chefs cater some of the finest restaurants in the country, while trendy bars and chic clubs add to the lively nightlife.
Santorini (officially Thira) is a volcanic island in the Cyclades group of the Greek islands in the southern Aegean Sea, about 200 km southeast of mainland Greece. It is located between Ios and Anafi islands. Thira is essentially what remained after an enormous volcanic explosion that destroyed the earliest settlements on a formerly single island, and created the current geological caldera.
It is famous for dramatic views, stunning sunsets from Oia town, the strange white aubergine (eggplant), the town of Thira, an active volcano, and its beautiful beaches (e.g., Perissa—possibly the best beach in Thira, the black pebble beach of Kamari, white beach, and red beach).
An alternative name for Santorini is Thira. Santorini is also a name for the family of islands surrounding Thira, once forming a single island prior to a major volcanic event in approximately 1500 B.C.E.
The small island cradles a rich variety of landscapes and villages. Visit traditional architecture in the small village of Mesa Gonia containing a mixture of ruins from the 1956 earthquake and restored villas as well as a winery at the foot of the settlement. Pyrgos is another notable village set inland with its grand old houses, remains of a Venetian castle and several Byzantine churches.
The island has no natural source of fresh water. Prior to the early 1990s, it was necessary for water to be delivered to the island via tanker from Crete. However, most hotels and homes now have access to water provided by a local desalination plant. While this water is potable, it is still rather salty, so most everyone drinks bottled water while visiting Santorini.
Fira is the fiery capital, a marriage of Venetian and Cycladic architecture, whose white cobblestone streets bustle with shops, tavernas, hotels and cafes, while clinging to the rim of the caldera nine hundred feet above its port. If arriving by sea you can take a cable car up from the port or alternatively take a trip on one of the hundreds of mules up the 588 zigzagging steps. You could also attempt to walk up the steps but be warned, they are winding, narrow in parts with only low walls, they are covered in donkey excrement and the donkeys themselves will make no attempt to avoid you.
Walking along a path for about twenty minutes will bring you to Imerovigli where you can take in the magnificent views of the island’s unique scenery from the tiny town, as it is the highest point of the Caldera cliffs.
Just above Fira is the quintessentially Santorininian town of Ia, also sometimes spelled Oia, with its whitewashed walls sunk into the volcanic rock and its blue domes rising above the sterling beauty of the stunning, russet Ammoudi Bay. At dusk, the town attracts crowds of people venturing to see the sunset. Santorini’s sunsets, as viewed from Oia, are reputed to be among the world’s most beautiful.
Due to the spectacular and unique natural beauty of Santorini, many Greek singers have chosen the island as the setting of their videos. Greek and Brazilian TV series have been shot of Santorini, as well as some Hollywood movies (e.g. Tomb Raider II). Generally Santorini is a pole of attraction for Greek and international celebrities. World-famous Greek composer Yanni wrote a song inspired by the beauty of the island, the song, also named “Santorini” is definitely worth checking out, specially the version performed live at the Acropolis with the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra.
The season starts April 1, or around Greek Easter. The period from December through March is very much the off-season and marked by colder temperatures, rain and winds. Although the temperature is rarely cold, the poor weather makes for a less than optimal experience on this beautiful island. Most of the businesses, including hotels and guest houses, may be closed. Ideal times to visit, for milder weather, prices and crowds, are April–June and September–October.
Getting in from Athens by air is faster and not prone to sea sickness, compared to ferries. However, in season air tickets sell out well before most of the ferries.
Cheap Flights to Santorini
|Origin||Departure date||Return date||Find Ticket|
With regular flights from Athens by Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines. Flight duration from Athens to Santorini is about 30-45 minutes. During summer, Sky Express connects Santorini with other popular islands such as Crete (Heraklion), Rhodes and Mykonos. During the months of July and August Astra Airlines flies from Thessaloniki.
- From May till October charter airlines fly directly to Santorini from many European airports.
- Condor flies from Düsseldorf (DUS), Stuttgart (STR), Frankfurt (FRA), Munich (MUC), Hamburg (HAM);
- EasyJet flies from London Gatwick (LGW) and Milan Malpensa (MXP);
- Edelweiss Air flies from Zurich (ZRH);
- Eurowings flies from Cologne/Bonn (CGN) and Stuttgart (STR);
- Jetairfly flies from Brussels (BRU);
- Meridiana flies from Milan Malpensa (MXP));
- Norwegian flies from Copenhagen (CPH), Oslo (OSL) and Stockholm (ARN);
- Ryanair flies from Athens (ATH);
- Thompson flies from Manchester (MAN)
- Transavia flies from Amsterdam (AMS).
From the airport there are buses to Fira, where you can change to buses for other towns. Taxis are also usually waiting at the airport, but competition for them can be keen. Many Santorini hotels offer airport transfers, usually for a fee that’s more than a taxi would charge you, but some may find it worth it for the convenience. As the island is very small it’s possible to walk from the airport if you are fit enough (cca 5.5km/90min to the centre of Fira)
Take the ferry from Piraeus- port of Athens – past Paros and Naxos to the new port on Santorini. More details in the Cyclades article. There is also daily connection between Heraklion (Crete) and Santorini during high season.
If you prefer sea, your best bet is high-speed catamarans. The trip from Pireaus to Santorini takes 4.5hrs with a high speed ferry.
Ferries dock at the seaport of Athinios, where buses and taxis meet each arrival to transport passengers to Oia, Fira, and elsewhere. All vehicles climb a very steep, winding road (it makes seven 180 degree turns) to get anywhere from Athinios.
If you arrive by cruise ship, the experience will surely leave you with lasting memories. Cruise ships that reach the island do not anchor near Athinios port, but one or two miles north, also within the caldron, but below Thira (aka Fira). Locals with fishing boats occasionally transfer cruisers to the old port (which seems not to have changed over the last 50 years), and larger, decorated shuttle boats take large-ship cruisers to/from the nearby docks below Thira. From the “Thira docks”, you can use the cable car to reach the town, taking perhaps 5 minutes for the ride. Or if you like small adventures you can ride a donkey, which climbs up a small path on the cliff (weight limits imposed).
- With one or more large cruise ships off-shore, long lines may queue at the bottom of the cable car. Casual Thira walkers/shoppers may meet many others at the top returning after a few hours, and other queues form somewhat before passengers are expected back aboard their ship(s). Plan accordingly.
- The donkey ride will last longer, may have no queues, and is definitely a unique experience for those meeting the weight limits.
- If weight proves a problem and you’re fit, ask if you might walk up along the donkey path (no charge, but no mean feat).
Transport by sea is always dependent on climate. For safety, especially in winter or raining monsoon, cruise ships may delay or cancel shuttles to/from shore, and ferries their departure times to or from the island.
Frequent bus routes serve most places in Santorini. However, most buses stop operating around midnight. For more independence consider hiring a car, or scooter, from one of the island’s many car rental offices. Transportation to Fira includes a cable car, or the more traditional donkey rides.
The island has a public bus service, KTEL Santorini, with buses costing €1.80–2.50, depending on the route. During peak season, buses run up to every 15 minutes on the three highest-volume routes, which are the ones from Fira to Oia, Kamari, and Perissa. Other buses may run anywhere from twice an hour to only a few times per day.. The buses occasionally miss trips, and some drivers are less than friendly. Boats also run between major coastal towns on the island.
Cars can be rented from about € 45 a day. An international driving permit is recommended. Without one, many car rental places will rent cars, but travel guides have mentioned tourists having insurance problems in case of accident. Scooters and 4-wheelers (quads or all-terrain-vehicles) are available to rent starting at about €15 or €30 per day, respectively. A drivers license is required to rent these 4-wheelers. Be aware that most of the people in Santorini are tourists. As a result, road conditions are extremely unsafe, with many people driving by the laws and conventions of nearly every country in the world.
A popular method of getting around is to rent ATVs, though the “all-terrain” part is a misnomer, as most ATV riders are tourists riding on the paved road. ATVs share the road with other drivers and are usually all over the island. The island is small enough to travel around on an ATV, and is a cost-effective way to self-explore the further reaches of Santorini. ATV rental shops are all around the island, so it’s best to ask your hotel owner/concierge on the closest/most trusted vendor. You will need your local driver’s license to ride one of these, and a helmet is recommended.
Some hotels advise booking a taxi in advance, as there are not enough available taxis on the island during high season. As is the rule in the Cyclades, taxi fares are typically shared between multiple passengers, so don’t be surprised if your cabbie picks up more passengers during your trip.
It takes about 50 minutes to drive the island from end to end (from Vlichada to Ia).
The island is small enough that it can be thoroughly explored by bicycle, or with a few bus trips, by foot. Bicycle rentals are fairly hard to find—most places advertising bike rentals refer to motorbikes, rather than bicycles. The maps are designed for hikers, however, so the recommended routes are impassable by bicycle.
Santorini is not very bicycle-friendly—there are no dedicated bicycle routes, so you must share roads with vehicular traffic. In addition, the island is very hilly. The traffic was more friendly to bicycles than to pedestrians or other vehicular traffic, however.
Recommended routes by foot include the amazing walk from Fira to Oia (note that this walk is less nice in reverse, it can take less than three hours but can be difficult, for up and downhill climbs, the rocky surface at times, and the proximity to unprotected cliffs that drop sharply into the caldera) along the caldera, as well as the paths over Perissa Rock connecting Perissa, Kamari, and Pyrgos. The walk between Perissa and Kamari is fairly short (via Ancient Thira), while the walk to Pyrgos is somewhat longer, passing through the highest point on the island.
Popular areas of Santorini
There are several villages on Santorini Island.
- Fira – the main stunning cliff-perched town, featuring all that Oia has, but much more overcrowded.
- Kamari – black pebble beach.
- Oia or Ia – for unforgettable sunsets, probably the most charming place on the island.
- Pyrgos – highest point on the island; picturesque monastery and streets, can compete with Oia.
- Perissa – Nice, well-organized beaches and good Greek fish taverns.
- Megalochori -Traditional village with a lot of old white cycladic churches.
- Akrotiri -Visit the archeological site of Akrotiri.
- Monolithos – Nice beach and a few good taverns. Very good for children, as the water is shallow.
- Vlichada – a small village and a beach.
- Vothonas – a small rock village, the church of St. Ann is here. Architecturally it is the strangest village on the island, as all the buildings were cut from the ravine that it is in.
Also there’s Thirasia, a village on the nearby island with the same name—visited by fewer tourists. There are daily excurisions to the Kameni (volcano) Island which also reach Thirasia island.
Build by the caldera’s edge, Fira is Santorini’s main village. Charming whitewashed houses and countless hotels enjoy privileged views of the Aegean Sea. Fira’s scenic backstreets are filled with hip boutiques, souvenir shops, busy restaurants, cocktail bars and cosy cafes.
North from Fira, sits the village of Oia, where flocks of tourists crowd its narrow cliff-side alleys to enjoy its famous sunset. Targeting to more upscale travellers, Oia features some of the best hotels and finest restaurants on the island.
An excursion to the nearby volcanic isles is a popular activity in Santorini. Thirasia, the largest among the isles, was cut off the main island in 236 BC due to another volcano eruption. Manolas, the isle’s main parish, is a typical laid-back Cycladic village. Old Kameni and New Kameni are still volcanically active and therefore not populated. However, visitors come to Old Kameni to enjoy its hot springs. New Kameni is the most recently created piece of land in the Mediterranean Sea, while both Old and New Kameni are included in Natura 2000 Protected Areas.
Ancient sites of Santorini
Ancient Acrotiri is a prehistoric city which dates back to 16th century BC. Archaeologists count it as a Minoan colony and have come to believe that it had been evacuated before the big volcano eruption. Most the site’s fascinating findings are now exhibited in the Museum of Prehistoric Thira in Fira. The museum’s collections include outstanding frescos, ceramics and an impressive golden figurine featuring a wild goat. One ticket covers the entrance to both the archeological site and the museum.
Santorini’s other ancient site, Ancient Thira, consists of a combination of Hellenic, Roman and Byzantine remains. Quite large, it includes a theatre, agora, some temples and a few ancient residences with interesting floor mosaics.
The best beaches of Santorini
Accessible by car or boat, Santorini’s Red Beach is surrounded by red and dark volcanic cliffs. Featuring red sand, it is popular with both locals and tourists; therefore it can be quite crowded in August. For a less hectic choice, try the nearby White Beach, a smaller and quieter cove paved with white pebble.
Surrounded by lunar rocky landscape, Vlichada Beach offers soft black sand and dozens of minor caves to explore. Nudism is acceptable one the side of the beach, once you pass Theros Wave Bar. Perivolos Beach, on the south-eastern side of the island, stretches for about 7 kilometers, boasting crystal clear waters and numerous beach bars and restaurants.
Santorini is one of the great natural wonders of the world, and its main attraction is the landscape and seascape of the island itself. The configuration of the present, roughly semicircular island is the result of an enormous volcanic explosion which occurred probably around 1630 bce, literally blowing the top off the island and changing what had been a typical half-submerged mountain of an Aegean island into a flooded crescent caldera, in the middle of which a few small smoking islands still bear witness to volcanic activity. Some have speculated that this event was the inspiration for the myth of Atlantis. The towns of Fira, Ia (also known as Oia) and Thirasis cling to the steep cliffs facing into the caldera bay. Tours to the central “smoking” islands are readily available and one can see and feel steam vents and recent (1950s) lava flows.
Another popular reason for coming to Santorini are the legendary sunsets, some of the most spectacular in the world. Ia is one of the few places on the island which is both close to a sea and offers a good view to a sunset over the sea: in other towns, the sun disappears behind the volcano.
Additionally the town of Fira is stunning.
Be sure to explore the areas outside of the towns. There is beautiful countryside where tradition still survives. Cave houses (both abandoned and occupied), gardens, vineyards, small family business, and tiny churches are there to be discovered.
Santorini ranks among top destinations for wedding celebrations for at least 4 years—primarily for sunset and peace, like those in Oia. Couples often arrive with few friends, stay in Ia (places like Fanari Villas). Groups often arrive in the beginning of the week—judging by demand for cabrios and number of corteges seen on Mondays compared to weekends.
While the island is full of medium- and top-cost hotels and villas, there are still lots of abandoned caves and modest private houses where no one seems to live for a long time—even in western Oia where every inch seems to be occupied by some villa.
- Thirassia: small island near Santorini; place with more authentic villages, buildings and even churches. Take a look at hymnasia: in the yard, pupil painted children on the walls.
- Boat excursions: volcano island (Nea Kameni) – hot springs (Palia Kameni) – Thirassia
- From Ia: departure from Ammoudi bay at 10:50AM (starting and end point); a bit later from Armeni bay. 1hr 30min at volcano island; 45min for hot springs; 2hrs for Thirassia (incl. time for lunch). Meals are not included, normally the guide advises you to visit Captain Jack’s tavern, which is self service if you arrive with a big group or operates with waiters if you don’t. This restaurant serves amazing fresh seafood at the cheapest prices. Testament to how good it is, is the fact you will notice that none of the adjacent restaurants are ever busy. Only this one.
Santorini specials include: the white aubergine (eggplant); fava caper ; a variety of tomato keftedes, with whole slices of tomatoes fried in batter; dolmades, stuffed vine leaves. Another must-try is fresh fish grilled in tavernas, esp. those close to a sea.
If you decide to eat or drink in a taverna overlooking the caldera or having a good view to a sunset, expect higher prices than a similar establishment in one of the many side-streets as you are charged extra for the view –- but what a view!
For those who enjoy the Mediterranean diet—fresh fish, vegetables, and meat dishes can be found at several moderately priced restaurants (average 40 Euros for two) in Imerovigli, Oia, and Fira. To save money, stay away from places that are overtly commercial and go to the family run fish taverns located nearby the smaller beaches and communities.
Gyros places are everywhere.
Don’t miss the traditional fried tomato balls of tomato keftedes and be sure to ask for local tomatoes in your salad. They may be the best tasting you have ever had. Santorini is particularly well known for its cherry tomatoes which are very sweet.
Tour local wineries and enjoy the local wines, well thought of, if not world famous. A combination of climatic factors and the tastes of those who have occupied and lived on the island have formed an eclectic cuisine.
Where to stay in Santorini
Hotels Santorini Island: Popularity
|Hotel||Stars||Discount||Price per night, from||Choose dates|
Black Rose Beach Suites
Santorini island could be divided into two parts, the western side and the eastern. Santorini mainly owes its popularity to the western side. This is where the caldera is, and the villages, like Fira and Oia, that are built on the cliff. On this side most hotels have terrific views of the caldera, volcano, the sea and sunsets. There is of course a drawback that you have to keep in mind before making your reservation: majority of the hotels built on the caldera have many stairs, which is usually annoying for tourists not willing to climb up and down all the time. Some of the hotels do not accept children under 13, because they do not offer any children’s facilities, due to their dangerous location on the cliff. There are hotels that are specially oriented to couples and honeymooners. Most of Santorini luxury resorts can be found on the western side of the island. Note that not all hotels which are on the western side of the island offer views, as some of them are in town.
The eastern side of Santorini resembles the rest of the Greek islands in the Cyclades. There are many beach hotels, especially in Kamari, that also attract a lot of tourists, mainly youngsters and families. These hotels usually offer larger rooms and pools than those on the other side of the island.
Keep in mind that the room rates are often set according to the view of the room, which makes the hotels on eastern side much cheaper than those on the western side.
Moreover keep in mind that booking your accommodation in advance would be very helpful, as most hotels have few rooms (usually not more than 20) and quickly fill.
Most of the island’s hotels are closed during winter. They open during or after Greek Orthodox Easter (April or May) and usually close by the end of October. As in other Greek Islands, July, August and September are considered high season.
Be aware of rental scams, especially with agencies working only with motorbikes and ATVs. Using these types of vehicles is very common on Santorini and there are a lot of rental agencies. Some of them are ready to cheat. They will offer faulty motorbikes or ATVs for a lower price, but in case of accident they will demand that the customer pay for the whole cost of damage. They are offering only basic insurance but will present it like full insurance. Also, there is a big possibility of serious injuries.
It is possible to recognize these rental agencies by observing them aggressively attracting tourists and offering lower prices than others. Employees in front of these type of agencies will be loud and ready to promise everything until the contract is signed. It is necessary to check the vehicle before making any decision. Their vehicles are in most of the cases dusty, dirty and look old.
Santoríni is relatively crime free: you are quite unlikely to be pickpocketed. On the other hand you may feel you have been ripped off by some restaurant or bar bills. In particular:
- Bring sunscreen. A bottle of SPF30 sunscreen will run about 20 Euro, with higher SPF sunscreen costing appropriately more.
- While this is obvious, remember not to shop at stores or order at restaurants without posted prices.
Physically the cliffs and low walls guarding large drops pose a danger to children while the elderly may encounter problems with the many steps. Cave exploring can be fun too but it is not recommended to deviate from the paths because of the unstable rocks made of tufa.
Telecommunications in Santorini
There are some local radio stations in Santorini, mainly in Greek language. When in Santorini, turn your radio at: Volcano Radio at 106.4 MHz and Top Melody Fm Radio at 104.9 MHz.
Internet Cafe’s in Santorini
You can find internet cafes in Kamari, Perissa, Thira (wireless access also available) and in Oia.
Ferries are available to Anafi, Chalki, Folegandros, Heraklion (Crete), Ios, Karpathos, Kasos, Katapola, Kos, Koufonissi, Milos, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Piraeus, Rafina, Rhodes, Serifos, Sifnos, Sikinos, Sitia, Syros, Thirasia, and Tinos.
Rhodes Covid-19 Tip : The Best Corona Free Beaches on the Greek Island of Rhodes
The only legal nudist beach on the island which has excellent facilities including sunbed hire, toilets and food and drink...
Travel Safe to Rhodes during the Covid-19 Pandemic in Europe
Most of all current Covid-19 infections have been imported from Serbia and the Border to Bulgaria is close. Rhodes is...
An Introduction to the Greek Island of Corfu
Corfu is not the place to go if you look for an authentic Greek experience. The satisfactory infrastructure and the...
Best Places to Stay during your Trip to Corfu
Corfu has countless options for accommodation – from 5 star hotels in Corfu town to spare rooms you will only...
What to see and Do on Corfu Island
Old Corfu town, a world heritage site. There is a good variety of beaches on Corfu. On the West side...
How to Travel around Corfu Island during Corona
There are two types of buses in Corfu – Blue buses serve Corfu town and the environs, Green buses serve...
Explore the Towns and Villages of Corfu Island
Corfu Town – known in modern Greek as Kerkira or Kerkyra, is the largest and most important town on the island. This is where...
Athens Coronavirus Covid-19 Holidays 2020 in Greece
Named after Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, Athens is the oldest, and maybe liveliest, capital in Europe. The urban...
Corfu Coronavirus Covid-19 Holidays 2020 in Greece
Set in Adriatic Sea, Corfu, or Kerkira as the Greeks call it, was picked by Homer to be Odysseus’s semi-final...
Rhodes Coronavirus COVID-19 Update in Greece
Rhodes (Greek: Ρόδος, Ródos) is one of the largest and most fertile of the Greek Islands, and is one of the most...
Santorini Coronavirus Covid-19 Holidays 2020 in Greece
Combining rich ancient history with significant natural beauty, Santorini is maybe the most visited of the Greek islands. Also known...
European Union Borders / Schengen to Shut due to Coronavirus Covid-19
The European Union’s external borders will be closed to non-essential travel for 30 days as of Tuesday to fight the spread of the coronavirus, while France...
Paros Coronavirus Covid-19 Holidays 2020 in Greece
Among the most popular Cycladic islands, Paros attracts local and foreign tourists of any age and background during the summer...
Visit Greece Summer 2020 Vacation Begins today
After weeks of restrictions due to the Corona pandemic, Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has declared the holiday season open. “Greek...
Νaxos Coronavirus Covid-19 Holidays 2020 in Greece
The largest Cycladic Island, Naxos is known in Greek mythology as the place where ungracious Theseus abandoned Ariadne after she...
Komotini Coronavirus Covid-19 Holidays 2020 in Greece
Capital of Thrace, Komotini is located at the north-eastern part of Greece and close to the border with Turkey. Featuring...
Holidays on the Mediterranean Sea are getting closer for Europeans again
After much skepticism, the European Foreign Ministers are seeing a vacation in numerous countries as possible. The travel industry is...
Thessaloniki Coronavirus Covid-19 Holidays 2020 in Greece
Greece’s second city, Thessaloniki features most of the capital’s advantages, such as a wide market and vast choices in cultural...
Ioannina Coronavirus Covid-19 Holidays 2020 in Greece
Capital of Epirus, Ioannina has a population of a bit more than 100,000 people, including 20,000 college students. Spread around...
Heraklion Coronavirus Covid-19 Holidays 2020 in Greece
Crete’s largest city and capital, Heraklion is an urban maze with little greenery and sometimes hectic traffic; however, hidden treasures...
- Coronavirus13 hours ago
Iran Shutters Newspaper After Expert Questions Coronavirus Numbers
- Coronavirus8 hours ago
Business Lobby Raises Concerns Over Trump Payroll Tax Break
- Coronavirus10 hours ago
US Skeptical about Russian Claim of Effective COVID-19 Vaccine
- Coronavirus14 hours ago
Thai King Welcomes New Officials as Protests Rage