Our Santorini travel guide: discover the rare beauty of this tiny volcanic isle

Published

28 January, 2022

Edited

18 August, 2022

If you’re searching for a relaxing getaway in the heart of a sun-kissed paradise then look no further: Santorini is your spot. Arguably one of the most stunning Greek islands, its rugged landscapes, glowing sunsets and idyllic clifftop villages have made the island the darling of newlyweds and the beau monde alike.

However, as beautiful and romantic as it is, there’s much more to Santorini than initially meets the eye. Scratch the surface and you’ll discover the astounding volcanic legacy responsible for the island’s dashing good looks, as well as a fascinating collection of ancient settlements and a string of occupations that resulted in the island’s unique architecture, vibrant culture and delectable food and wine. Touted as being the inspiration for the lost island of Atlantis, Santorini is myth incarnate. A glittering isle of rich history and golden legend floating upon the azure waters of the Aegean Sea. Let us take you on a tour with our Santorini travel guide…

A Santorini travel guide to the island’s best activities

A trip to Santorini isn’t complete without a camera roll full of mesmerising sunset shots. In fact, finding the best spot for sunset is almost a sport on the island.

Soak up magnificent sunsets from the Akrotiri Lighthouse

If you’re feeling up for an adventure, then head out to the Akrotiri Lighthouse. Perched on the southwest edge of the island, this lookout boasts breathtaking views all day long but is especially magical at sundown, when a dusty pink tinge illuminates the sparkling ocean and horizon beyond. It’s worth making the journey with a Santorini tourist guide - they’ll be able to tell you about the island’s best-kept secrets along the way.

Sail the Aegean Sea on a private yacht

While Santorini is gorgeous on terra firma, it is equally as beautiful when viewed from the water. Charter your own yacht for the day and explore the waters of the caldera, before mooring at a secluded spot for sunset views and toasting the end of the day with cold beers and fish fresh from the barbeque.

Discover the rich history of the island

Meanwhile, history aficionados will want to pay Ancient Thera a visit. Perched on a ridge of the towering Messavouno mountain, this historic settlement dates back to 800 BC and offers a fascinating glimpse into the various civilisations which inhabited the island - the ruins of Roman baths sit side by side with Byzantine walls and Hellenistic shops. What’s more, the spectacular views from the top more than make up for the steep walk up.

Taste the full-bodied flavours of Santorini’s wines

Home to some of the oldest vineyards in Europe, oenophiles should not miss the chance to take a wine tasting tour in Santorini. Boasting rich flavours, strongly influenced by the rugged volcanic terrain, the wines on the island are completely unique.

Soothe the soul at a natural hot spring

Venture to the small islet of Palea Kameni and you’ll discover Santorini's soothing hot springs. With temperatures reaching up to 35°C, these steamy volcanic pools are a treat to soak in at any time of the year. It’s said that the spring water works wonders for the skin - just think of it as an all-natural spa treatment, enjoyed right underneath the glorious Cycladic sunshine.

Blue domed towns + clifftop villages

You can’t holiday in Santorini without visiting some of the awe-inspiring clifftop towns for which the island is famed. Firá, Oia and Imerovígli are perhaps the most well known, making up the ‘Caldera’s eyebrow’ and offering breathtaking views of the volcano and surrounding landscape. Wander the quaint stone-flagged streets, past whitewashed houses as pretty as a picture, soaking up the traditional atmosphere and sampling local delicacies in the tavernas.

Exploring the delights of Firá and Oia

Each town and village boasts its own distinct ambience and charm. Firá, the capital, is cosmopolitan and buzzy, filled with an array of restaurants, bars and boutiques. Oia is an exquisitely picturesque village that bursts into life at sunset, the streets lined with love-struck couples searching for a romantic photo spot. Imerovigli is the highest point on the caldera edge and consequently offers astounding views over the landscape and ocean beyond - the photographs in Santorini and Greece travel guides just don’t do it justice.

Experience tranquillity in peaceful Pýrgos

Those searching for a more peaceful spot will adore Pýrgos, which is very similar to Oia but further away from the caldera so without the sunset rush. The pace of life here is slow, the locals relaxed and down to earth. Visit at lunchtime and you’ll be welcomed by bustling bars and cafes serving milky glasses of ouzo and endless plates of meze. History lovers will want to head up from the main square to the Pyrgos Kasteli, the best-preserved Venetian castle on the island. Meanwhile, culture vultures can spend a blissful afternoon browsing the countless local art galleries and boutique shops.

Discover the prehistoric ruins of Akrotiri

A must-see for history buffs, the prehistoric settlement of Akrotiri was one of the most important ports amid the Aegean Sea. Once connecting Santorini to Egypt, this ancient site was covered over by volcanic ash during 17th century BC. It has since been uncovered and visitors can explore this iconic settlement through a series of walkways around the active archaeological site. Often referred to as the ‘Greek Pompeii’, many artefacts and frescoes have been discovered here over the years - with archaeologists still finding more to this day.

Sample wine at the Venetsanos Winery

Take a tour of the island’s first industrial winery at Venetsanos. With over 15 hectares of vineyards boasting a wide variety of juicy, indigenous grapes, the winery produces a whole host of flavoursome whites and reds - perfect for taking back and enjoying alongside a delicious meal at your villa. Set above the port of Athinios, you can take a tour of the grounds while enjoying the most spectacular views across Santorini’s spectacular caldera.

Hike to the top of Skaros Rock

While only a 30-minute hike, the trek to the top of Skaros Rock is well worth it. This rocky headland juts out into the shifting blue of the Aegean Sea and boasts the most gorgeous views from its peak. For over 600 years, it was the home of a mighty castle that was rumoured to have never been conquered until it was ruined by an earthquake in the 19th century - perhaps the panoramic views across the island had something to do with it. You can reach Skaros Rock from Imerovigli, a quaint village with a good selection of fine-dining restaurants and upmarket bars - just what you need after conquering the rock’s many and often steep steps.

The ultimate Santorini beach guide

While Santorini may not be as abundant in silken sand beaches as its lankier cousin, Mykonos, there’s still plenty on the island to satisfy even the most stalwart of sun-seekers. There’s always a good time to visit Santorini, but these gorgeous stretches of coastline are best enjoyed when the sun is shining. During the month of July, the island sees up to 14 hours of daylight - giving you plenty of time to explore the island during your stay in Santorini.

Kamari & Perissa

Those wanting to be in the heart of the action should head to Kamari or Perissa. Lined with bustling beach bars and gorgeous views, these are the perfect spots to while away a sunny afternoon sipping cocktails and basking in the Mediterranean sun. They’re also fantastic for those wanting to get straight into the water - there’s a scuba diving school right on the shore with tours suited to all ages and experience levels.

Cape Colombo

Finally, those seeking seclusion and serenity should make the journey to wild and windy Cape Colombo. 8.5 km from Firá, this heavenly headland hideaway is one of the most isolated beaches on the whole island. Given its location, you’re best off packing a picnic and plenty of supplies as you won’t find any beach bars to quell your thirst nearby.

Red Beach

If you’re searching for a breathtaking beauty spot, then Red Beach is the one. Framed by spectacular red stone cliffs, this beach makes for a picture-perfect setting. Meanwhile, families will want to make tracks for Monolithos. Here you’ll find velvety black sands, shallow crystalline waters and a lovely laidback atmosphere. You might want to pack your walking boots - the walk over to the beach is relatively rocky but well worth it.

Pori Beach

Another tranquil stretch of golden sand, Pori Beach is a favourite among locals. A quiet bay just 10 kilometres outside of Fira, its crystal clear waters are wonderful for taking a refreshing dip in. Afterwards, you can head up to the nearby tavern in Imerovigli to cool off with a cold drink.

Your guide to fine dining in Santorini

Enjoy fine dining in abundance on Santorini. From classic Greek restaurants to those with a touch of French inspiration, the island is packed with an eclectic array of fabulous restaurants.

Selene Restaurant

The flagship restaurant of Yiorgos Hatziyannakis - a pioneer of Santorinian cuisine - Selene Restaurant in Firá is a must-visit for any foodies in the group. Situated in a former monastery, you’ll find the very best of Greek gastronomy here. For that much-awaited date night, Lycabettus has to be one of the most romantic restaurants in town. Perched on the edge of a cliff, the dining terrace here is a thing of dreams, illuminated by the soft glow of lanterns and surrounded by stretching vistas of brilliant blue.

Ammoudi Fish Tavern

Those craving something a little less formal will be charmed by Ammoudi Fish Tavern. Serving some of the best seafood on the island, this is the perfect spot for a relaxed family supper. From big bowls of freshly steamed mussels to juicy plates of saganaki shrimp, it’s a seafood lover’s dream. Vegetarian diners haven’t been forgotten about, either - the Mediterannean risotto is bursting with flavour and of course, plenty of satisfyingly sharp feta.

Le Ciel Restaurant

Often featured in Santorini visitor’s guides as a ‘must-visit’, Le Ciel Restaurant in Imerovigli boasts spectacular views across the Santorini Caldera. A beautiful setting for a romantic dinner or an afternoon brunch with friends and family, this excellent restaurant offers a mouthwatering a la carte menu throughout the day and well into the evening. The fish is caught straight from the Aegean Sea, the vegetables grown in the island’s volcanic soil, and the meat sourced from the neighbouring island of Crete - it doesn’t get any fresher than this.

La Colline Restaurant

Enjoy breathtaking views across the glimmering Aegean Sea from La Colline Restaurant, a wonderful restaurant in Fira blending the best of French and Mediterranean cuisine. It’s well worth booking your table just before sunset - its fiery display is the perfect backdrop for an unforgettable dining experience together. Alongside its fish, meat, and vegetable dishes, the restaurant offers an excellent degustation menu which lets guests sample the complex and rich flavours of each dish.

Our guide to Santorini’s best beach bars

Our Santorini travel guide wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the island’s best bars. Whether you’re a wine aficionado or someone who prefers the zest of a freshly-made mojito, you’ll find plenty of fabulous bars to enjoy Santorini’s sunsets with a well-deserved drink in hand.

Theros Wave Bar

Cradled by a dramatic landscape of towering cliffs and sandy shore, it’s little wonder Theros Wave Bar has been hailed as one of the best beach bars in the whole of the Mediterranean. Characterised by its spectacular surroundings and barefoot chic vibe, you’ll visit for lunch and find yourself still there hours later, sipping on some of the island’s best cocktails and soaking up the lovely ambience.

PK Cocktail Bar

If you’re searching for an excellent spot for sundowners, then PK Cocktail Bar will certainly fit the bill. Offering one of the best views on the island, the bar perches on the edge of the cliff in Firá, boasting a spectacular view of the caldera from the terrace. Owned and run by a local family, the place has been going strong for 43 years - a real classic - and is brimming with authentic Santorinian atmosphere and style.

Buddha Bar

Nestled in one of the highest points on the Caldera, Buddha Bar in Imerovigli serves up a tasty selection of expertly made cocktails - each inspired by the vibrant colours of Santorini’s sunsets which can be enjoyed every evening from the bar’s rooftop terrace. If you feel a little peckish, you can always tuck into some fresh sushi prepared by the restaurant below.

The onefinestay experience

Whether you’re after relaxation, adventure or pure foodie indulgence, here at onefinestay we know exactly what it takes to make your getaway special. With our incredible range of exclusive concierge services, you’ll have a host of sumptuous experiences at your very fingertips. Relax with your very own in-home spa experience, feast in the comfort of your home with your own personal chef or else explore the oceans in style in a gleaming private yacht. What’s more, it can all be booked pre-stay, meaning all you have to do after touching down in Santorini Airport is relax. Pure bliss.

Smitten by Santorini?

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