It comes as no surprise that Santorini has steadily been a top summer destination for many decades, with thousands of people flying from the corners of the earth every year to get a taste of its incredible allure and magnetism. Be it the unique volcanic landscape, the romantic sunset views, the charming whitewashed architecture, the volcanic sand shoreline, the amazing contrast between the chalky-white houses and the blue-domed chapels and the azure of the Mediterranean sky and sea? Nobody can really put a finger on it. It’s probably an inviting mix of all these and many more that make Santorini so beloved, especially among honeymooners and couples.
And, although you are guaranteed a heart-filling time, however you plan your vacation, here are some tips to make the overall experience even more exciting and gratifying.
Do you need a rental car?
Not really, as Santorini is a rather small island. At the same time, though, it is a bit difficult to traverse all of it on foot, given that you will need at least a couple of hours to cross the distance between the charming villages and towns or to get from one landmark to another (on foot). The most convenient way to navigate Santorini is by motorbike or bicycle.
Renting a car is also okay, provided that you are ready to drive dirt roads and a road infrastructure that is not so good. Of course, you may opt for a private transfer option, which is usually available when renting a luxury villa or suite at a top-tier Santorini luxury hotel like Kivotos Hotels.
What are the must-visit Santorini attractions?
The prehistoric Akrotiri settlement dating back to the Bronze Age on the southern side of Santorini is a stop worth making. Take some time and listen to its narrative, and you will start realising how thriving and extraordinary the civilisation that once lived there really was. The superbly advanced settlement was miles ahead from the rest of the world with pioneering things like sophisticated multi-storey buildings, indoor baths, underground heating systems, a complex drainage system, intricate furniture, incredible wall paintings, mosaic floors, and a prosperous community with impressive organisation.
Besides Akrotiri, ancient Thira or Thera or Fira, is a scenic mountain top spot that will pamper you with its 7th-century BC rock carvings and the well-preserved ruins of ancient cemeteries, the Sanctuary of Artemidoros, baths, markets, temples, and theatre. Plus, stunning views of the island and the majestic archipelago. Be prepared, though, as the road is a bit challenging.
Along the way, you will pass by other local attraction worthy of your time, including Profitis Ilias Monastery, Pyrgos village, Kamari (the beach is amazing), Mesa Vouno (a rocky mountain that separates two beaches, creating a wonderful scenery), and Exo Gonia village. Of course, the lighthouse, Skaros Rock, the Maritime Museum, and the Museum of Prehistoric Thira are also worth checking out.
Which are the best spots for sunset watching?
The most popular spot among tourists for sunset-watching is Oia, with the infamous blue-domed churches starring in every Santorini sunset picture. However, if you want to skip the large crowds, we suggest walking towards the 15th-century Byzantine Castle ruins at the ends of the Caldera cliff and take in the unbeatable natural beauty of the light show about to begin. Other that this, you could also reach Profitis Ilias, the highest point in Santorini, as well as the Lighthouse, the Fira promenade (near the Cathedral), Santo Winery, and Thirassia island, as well as rooftop terraces and outdoor dining spaces overlooking the Mediterranean.
What experiences should be included in a Santorini vacation?
Besides visiting the amazing beaches (the Red Beach is a natural marvel on its own) and taking a tour around Santorini (it could be a walking tour, helicopter ride, or sailing cruise) that will lead you to the Caldera, the Hot Springs, Thirassia, and other key local attractions, you should definitely not miss a horseback riding venture at Eros Beach (or other quaint locations) along with a wine-tasting adventure.
With exquisite, internationally acclaimed local wines, it would be a shame not to taste a few, while spoiling your palate with delicious local flavours (also enjoy sweeping Caldera views, depending on which winery you visit). You may even add a cooking class, watersports activities, such as scuba diving and snorkelling, and a visit to the whitewashed monasteries and chapels with the adorable blue domes and important byzantine icons and religious artefacts.
And, if you love food, then don’t miss out the opportunity to spoil your taste buds with tastes like Fava mousse, local cheeses, grilled beef tagliata, sea bass fillet, Vinsanto chicken, and other traditional Santorini dishes made with Santorini-grown, unique ingredients, such as the Santorini cherry tomatoes and the white eggplant.
At the end of the day…
Whether for a weekend getaway or longer vacations, Santorini will carve indelible moments in your heart – of these that will probably make you want to come back year after year!