Santorini in a Nutshell: The Must-see Guide
Planning your holidays can sometimes be tough for the uninitiated, especially when it comes to getting everything in order for a trip to Greece. Chances are that you’ve already checked out some places and you’ve found the ideal destination: Santorini.
Located in the southern Aegean Sea, part of the Cyclades island complex, Santorini is the ideal destination for those looking for a getaway of a lifetime. One of its most unique characteristics is its terrain morphology, the volcanic caldera, which adds to the beauty of the island, the magnificent landscape and the picturesque scenery.
Santorini has many places to visit and plenty of things to do, day and night. A quick internet search would bring about different, countless results of where to stay and where to eat, what activities to do, which beaches to go to, which museums and archaeological sites to visit, which wineries to tour; results that could easily overwhelm you in an instant and could probably lead to a disappointing trip to Santorini, when all this can utterly be avoided, if you know where to look.
Where to stay
The options here are endless and can satisfy every preference, whether this has to do with taste or with budget. From all-inclusive and boutique hotels to suites and camping opportunities, Santorini is a destination for any traveler that wishes to have an unforgettable experience, even with a low budget, depending on which village you decide to spend your holidays in.
You can choose to stay in the island’s capital, Fira, where you will find everything you were hoping for. Located in the western part of Santorini, Fira is the largest and most cosmopolitan settlement to make the most out of your trip in terms of nightlife, shopping experience, social life, and indescribable beauty. Here you can stay in one of the most prestigious and luxurious hotels of the area, such as the Kamares Apartments or the Keti hotel, or something within your budget, such as the Santorini Hostel.
If Fira isn’t your favorite option, you can then choose to stay in the villages of Oia, Perissa, Imerovigli or Kamari, the next most scenic settlements of the island for those who want to find something less crowded (especially during high season). Some hotel options here are Kapari Natural Resort, Katikies Hotel, Bellonias Villas, and Santorini Crystal Blue.
Things to see
Like all over Greece, the island of Santorini brims with museums, archaeological sites and other spots of historical and cultural importance. This gives visitors the opportunity to explore the island’s history through the artifacts, finds and exhibits representing the rich tradition of Santorini.
You should visit the Archaeological Museum and the Museum of Prehistoric Thera, in order to learn more about the island and its people, the Folklore Museum, located in Kontochori village, where you can travel through time and get a glimpse of the culture and tradition of Santorini, and the archaeological site of Akrotiri. If you are interested in learning more about the naval history of the island, then you should definitely plan a visit to the Naval Maritime Museum.
However, if you want to get more familiar with the wine tradition of Santorini, then this is a great opportunity for you to organize a tour at the Wine Museum, where you can learn more about the wines produced by the locals and get to taste the exquisite products of the island. Of course, when it comes to wine tasting, a wine tour is a must and the greatest opportunity to taste some of the best local wine and to explore the local vineyards and wineries.
Explore Santorini and Indulge in a Wine Tasting Tour
Things to do
Santorini is undeniably full of attractions, but one of the most important things to do during your stay on the island is to visit the extraordinary beaches found all around Santorini. Apart from enjoying the crystal blue and turquoise waters of beaches such as Red beach, Perivolos beach, Perissa beach, Monolithos beach, Vlychada beach or Kamari beach, this is a great chance to take some time and watch the sunset from Oia, where the breathtaking view will make you fall even more in love with Santorini, or book a sunset boat tour to make the experience unforgettable. If I were you, looking for something more relaxing, but trying to get the full essence of Santorini, I would choose a full-day tour fitting all your needs to explore the island to the fullest.
Speaking of tours, you can always book a boat trip to the volcano of Santorini, the magnificent jewel of the island, where you can swim in the thermal waters of the hot springs of the volcano and see another side of Santorini, or you can take a luxurious tour that combines both a tour of the land in the morning and a catamaran tour in the afternoon, experiencing Santorini to the fullest.
Where to eat and drink
As a genuine food lover, I couldn’t but dedicate a different section of the ideal places to grab a bite, whether you are the all-about-the-food traveler types or the kind that enjoys the more luxurious side of eating. So, either way, next on your to-do list is to taste the local cuisine at traditional taverns or gourmet restaurants. Here you can enjoy local dishes, such as fava, Greek salad, tzatziki and eggplant salad (or melitzanosalata), fresh fish and seafood, accompanied with a locally-produced wine. I guarantee you that you’re in for a treat!
Say you wake up hungry from last night’s drinking and partying and a simple breakfast won’t satisfy your unbearable hunger. Well, it is time to head out to the streets of Santorini to search for that awesome brunch place, you happened to have heard the locals talking about. That would probably be Agaze Santorini Restaurant Bistro, where you have a wide range of dishes to choose from, offering also breakfast and dinner options, being ideal for every hour of the day; or it could be Skiza Café, where you won’t necessarily find a brunch menu (per se), but you can create your own from the homemade food options offered, from pizzas and pitas to salads, crepes and pasta.
If you, however, can stay hungry and make it until lunch time, then your options here are limitless and, as a matter of fact, exquisite. Try Metaxi mas with its menu based on the cuisines of Santorini and Crete, bringing together unparalleled meat, fish and seafood dishes, or Fistikies, which offers great food of the Mediterranean cuisine prepared with fresh, high-quality ingredients. You should also try Krinaki, especially if you’re looking for a more traditional tavern bringing you the most mouthwatering mezedes and dishes, or Lefkes for great food and for something with a modern twist. Some other good places to eat at: Oia Vineyart, Selene, Assyrtico, 1800, and to psaraki.
Visit 3 of the Best Santorini Wineries in an Afternoon Private Wine Tour
And now that you’ve had some lunch, you should look for some dessert. The best option is to go with some good ol’ ice cream at the Lolita’s Gelato or Mr Scoop, or you can always relax at one of the local cafés, such as To Kafenedaki toy Emporiou or Melenio Café, well-known for its galatopita (milk pie in phyllo), and, of course, take some time to browse through the shelves of Atlantis Books, if you are into reading and you’ve probably already read the dozen books you brought with you for the holidays.
The day is almost over and, as the sun sets, all you can think about is dinner. Most of the places suggested above have also a great dinner menu, but, if you want something fancy and with a spectacular view, then don’t miss the opportunity to dine at Galini Hotel Santorini or Hotel Porto Carra, taking the chance to enjoy some gourmet option with a one-of-a-kind rooftop view.
Santorini is the perfect destination for families, friends and couples that want to explore the best the island has to offer, a combination of tradition and modernity, of unparalleled beauty and unique terrain morphology. This is, after all, why Santorini is among the best travel destinations worldwide, chosen every year by many tourists for their summer holidays!
To fully explore every inch of the island, make sure to rent a car (e.g. from Global Car Rental, at Santorini Airport, +30 22860 30501) and make the most out of your trip!
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What did you like the most from your visit to Santorini? If you haven’t been already, are you planning to do so in the near future? Let us know in the Comments section below!
Text: Spyros Balesias