Santorini is one of them most magical islands you will find in the Aegean Sea! The stunning white cave houses, with their famous blue domes, are even more beautiful when sipping Ouzo and watching the sun set over the neighboring volcano! Now that you are convinced on going, what should you do and see while you are there?
Fira to Oia Hike
One of the best experiences we had while staying on the island was taking the walk from Fira to Oia. This walk is long, and can be grueling if you go in the afternoon’s hot sun, but it gives you the best views of the island and it’s also free! Depending on where you are staying, you can start in either Fira or Oia. We started from Fira and the first hour you spend winding through the cliffside sidewalks. During this time you get amazing views of the cliffside hotels and restaurants of Firostefani and Imerovigli. There are plenty of stops in this section of the walk if you need to grab some food, water, or a Yellow Donkey beer. You will also pass Skaros Rock. We did not walk all the way out to the rock because of the extra length of time it would add on, but it would definitely be worth coming back to on another day.
After you pass through Imerovigli you start hiking through the more secluded areas. The rest of your hike, until you reach Oia, is very sandy, hilly, and will take a little more effort. There are not many businesses on this stretch, so make sure to pack water! Once you have trekked up and over the mountain, you will come upon a small blue dome church, which will mark your decent into Oia! Oia is known for the most beautiful cliffside cave houses and amazing sunsets.
Once you descend into Oia, you will be in the home stretch. Here you can take your time walking through the city and enjoy the shops, restaurants, and views. Make sure to walk all the way to the end of the city, where you will see the windmill hotels and you can embark on yet another journey down the winding cliff side path to Ammoudi Bay.
Ammoudi Bay is a great location to journey to. This small port brings you right to the seas edge and allows you to take in the beautiful red cliffsides. If you love seafood, this would be the place to get it. We had the most amazing seafood dishes when visiting Ammoudi Fish Taverna…to die! If you are up for a little more hiking, you can walk around the base of the cliffside to a swimming hole, where you are able to cliff jump! One thing to remember when going to Ammoudi Bay is that it becomes very crowded come evening due to sunset excursions docking after their tours. Be sure to get there a few hours before the sunset if you want to get a table for dinner.
Another amazing feature of the island is the variety of beaches. On Santorini you will find black sand beaches, red sand beaches, and even a few pebble stone beaches. The best way to get around the island to view the beaches is by ATV or scooter. These can be rented in multiple locations in each city.
Red Beach is a smaller stretch of beach. It is nestled down a cliff side and takes a little navigating to get down to but is definitely a site to see. If you are looking for more of a lounge day, Kamari, Parissa, and Perivolos are larger stretches of black sand beaches that are lined with bars, restaurants and shops. Just remember, black beaches with the hot sun make for some sauna like conditions when laying out!
While traveling along the east coast line from Fira to Oia, we did run across a very secluded pebble beach that had the cutest little lounge chairs, a very small hut where they served cold drinks and the most breathtaking views. If you’re up for an adventure, start turning down small off road paths that say “beach ahead,” you won’t regret it!
Volcano & Hot Springs
Not many people realize that Santorini was once imploded by one of the largest volcanic eruptions. We can thank the eruption for blessing the island with its amazing rock colors and formations. Right off the main island lays two small islands made of black volcanic rock. One of the small islands contains a large amount of sulfur creating a hot springs that can be visited and relaxed in! It is said to have true healing powers, but beware…the rock and sulfur leave the water with a reddish tone leaving any white swim suites ORANGE!
The larger of the two islands, considered the volcano, is quite the site to see. You can take one of the local tours from town over to the volcano and walk along it’s, out of this world, lava rock formations. Once you reach the top, you will find craters and areas that still release sulfur. You can even place your hand near the sulfur and feel the heat rising! Make sure to bring lots of water and sunscreen because there is no shade out on the volcano!
If you are leaving from the old port in Fira to venture out the volcanic islands, you will be able to enjoy the winding path lined with donkeys! Heck, if you don’t want to hike down, you can take one of the donkeys for a spin. Not a fan of the A**, you can also experience the cable car that runs up and down the cliff side. This gives you a great opportunity to see both the cliff side and the volcano from the sky!
Even with a very dry climate, Santorini is still a great location for wineries. If you are a fan of wine tasting, sign yourself up for one of the offered wine tours. Both full day, half day, and sunset tours are offered. Most trips offer two to three winery stops and you are served traditional Greek foods to pair with your wines! This is a great experience, to not only learn more about the Greek life style and culture, but this was one of the first tours where I actually came away with great tips on ordering wine, pairing wine, and how to properly describe flavors!
One of the must have foods on this island is the Gyro. If you are traveling anywhere in Greece, this is a must. Luckily for you, Fira has one of the best Gyro shops in town, Lucky’s! You can you get two gyros, two beers, and a side of fries for 12 euros and they are truly the best street food around. It is a perfect stop for a quick lunch or dinner. Keep in mind that this isn’t your typical sit down restaurant, it’s literally a hole in the wall, small in and out restaurant. It’s the Subway of Santorini!
There are tons of restaurants throughout each city. You will never go hungry. If you are traveling through the summer months, it is a good idea to make reservations at the nicer restaurants that are right on the Caldera. Stop by during the day to place your reservation or have your hotel call over for you. Nothing beats a great Greek meal with a view!
Of course, I cannot forget to mention the famous Santorini sunset! I know there are many beautiful places in the world to view the sunset, but this definitely is high up on my list! You will read tons of blogs and reviews that say, “You have to watch the sunset from Oia.” In my opinion, if you are there during high season, this is the worst advice ever. Seeing you and thousands of other visitors are trying to experience the same thing, Oia is always shoulder to shoulder packed with other travelers at sunset. Your magical pictures of the sunset are most likely going to be invaded by the fanny pack wearing tourist in front of you! Watching the sunset from any of the cities on the Caldera side will leave you with the same beautiful view. My husband and I chose to make reservations at a restaurant in Fira that overlooked the Caldera and we were able to watch the sunset right from our table and I was able to get pictures of the actual sunset, not fanny packs!
Santorini was my husband and my honeymoon location and it will always hold a special place in my heart! I loved the views, the people and of course the FOOD! I hope others get to enjoy the island the same way we did!