Although we are Greeks who love travelling, we havent’ had the chance so far to visit Santorini… until now! This summer we decided to visit and explore it, without our children, just the two of us. There were moments of romance and moments of relaxation while there were also some times that we wanted to learn and see as much as we could about the island so that we could present this information on our blogs and social media. So, today you can read about our trip to Santorini, Dodecanese, accomodation, restaurants, beaches and museus.
Three days in Santorini are enough to see its main attractions, beaches and some museums. But if your goal is at the same time to relax, swim and unwind then you will definitely need more days.
Santorini, Thira or Strongyli (former name) is a Greek Cycladic island in the south of the Aegean Sea. It is known for its still active volcano, whose last volcanic activity was in 1950. Santorini volcano is one of the largest underwater active volcanoes in the world and is located 18 meters below the sea. 3,600 years ago in the great eruption of the volcano, the entire center of the then circular island sank into the sea and the new island of Santorini was created in the shape of a crescent. The powerful eruption of the volcano was so great that it caused a tidal wave (tsunami) and literally destroyed the advanced civilization of Minoan Crete. The whole area of the Medeiterranean was plunged into darkness from the smoke for many days. At that time, the whole destruction inspired the myth of the Lst Atlantis. Santorinis’s caldera is the largest caldera on Earth. Today Santorini consists of the main part of the island and 4 other islands, Aspronisi, Palea and Nea Kameni and Thirasia, which is inhabited. Its face from the side of the volcano is rocky and steep (caldera), in contrast to the other side where the ground is smooth. Additional information about the creation of Santorini but also about the lost Atlantis can be obtained when you visit the Lost Atlantis museum (see below).
The volcano is called Columbus and got its name from the Italian word colombo which means dove, because in the description of the eruption of 1650 it says that the white foam on the surface of the sea seemed like a dove.
Car rental in Santorini
If you want to be independet, we advise you to rent a car. We would not recommend a four-wheeled vehicle or a motorbike because the roads are relatively narrow and winding and the road lines in some places are not visible enough.
“Kronos – Rent a Car” company, which has its offices in the port of Athinios (where the ships from Piraeus arrive) but also at the airport, will totaly satisfy you. Flawless service, new cars, variety of options, very good prices and above all the friendliness of those in charge are a few of the things that characterize it.
We chose a Citroen C1 cabrio, which proved to be the most suitable car for Santorini. As fast as it needed to be, comfortable for two people, cool due to the air conditioning and the sunroof, relaxing thanks to the automatic transmission, small for flexibility in the narrow streets of the island, but also easy parking. Its cleanliness was also important for us, since our company informed us that it follows all the rules of hygiene and safety by disinfecting all its cars.
Tip: In case you want to rent a car in Santorini from Kronos Car Rental, let them know that you are readers of greektravelfamily.com and “anthomeli.com“. A better price is waiting for you!
On a trip, apart from transportation, the accommodation is also very important. In Santorini you will find really great hotels with impeccable services, Airbnb apartments and rooms for rent and you will make your choice according to your badget. If you want our advice, we recommend for your stay a wonderful hotel, Apanemo Hotel, located in the village of Akrotiri and about 15 -20 ′ from the airport.
Even though it is not located on the most touristic side of the island (Oia, Fira) I would not change our choice with anything! It can very easily become your point of departure for your excursions throughout the island. The distance to the most important sights and the famous beaches of Santorini is very short and it is the right place for a peaceful and relaxing vacation with privacy.
The sunset of Santorini
Santorini Sunset is the most famous in the whole world! It is unique and it can not been seen like that anywhere else on the planet. It is really special to see the sun disappear in vast horizon in the Aegean Sea and at the same time to paint in yellow, oragne, pink and red the characteristic white houses of the island which are built on the caldera created by the eruption of the volcano thousands of years ago!
Oia is a picturesque settlement in Santorini and it is famour as the ultimate spot to see the sunset! When you visit the island you should definitely go for a walk either early in the morning or in the evening and enjoy the whole unique atmoshpere.
Its beauty is hidden everywhere. In its alleys, shops, galleries, houses, hotels and restaurants and cafes which look like they are hooked on the caldera, in the chapels with the blue domes and their bell towers. I could spend hours exploring its picturesque narrow alleys and photographing its colorful houses.
The best spot to see Sunset in Oia
The best place to see the sunset in Oia is the castle of Oia (Kasteli of Agios Nikolaos). Two hours before sunset people gather at the castle to find the best spot. The crowd is so much that just before sunset there is no free spot on the castle, alley, wall, church or terrace near it. Everyone is waiting anxiously for the sun to set.
I do not promise that it is easy! The summer sun in Greece is still hot at that time and it will not be easy to wait an hour or two until sunset. And no, I’m not going to spoil your idyllic image, but it ‘s the reality. Some who find a place in a cafe or restaurant facing west may be luckier. Otherwise I would suggest comfortable light clothes and water or a cool drink in hand and enough patience not to lose the magic!
In Oiayou can find is one of the five Kastelia (castles) of the island. Oia was one of the five castles of Santorini, during the 13th -16th century AD. and was called Kastelli of Agios Nikolaos. The castle of Oia, Kastelli Agios Nikolaos, dates back in 1480, when the island was under the Venetian rule. Unfortunately, the earthquake of 1956 caused a lot of damage and a large part of the settlement and the castle fell into the sea. Today only a small part of the tower has survived.
Εμείς μετά από το πέρασμά μας από το κάστρο και μην αντέχοντας τη ζέστη σταθήκαμε τυχεροί και απολαύσαμε το ηλιοβασίλεμα από το καφέ Sun Spirit, ενώ μπροστά μας ήταν ένας ανεμόμυλος που δημιουργούσε ένα υπέροχο πλάνο για τις φωτογραφίες μας. Μισή ώρα πριν το ηλιοβασίλεμα η θερμοκρασία ήταν ποιο ανεκτή κι εμείς απολαύσαμε το δροσερό μοχίτο μας. Ρομαντικό ή όχι έτσι κάπως ζήσαμε εμείς το ηλιοβασίλεμα από την Οία.
After we found the castle and realised that it was already full, we were lucky to find seats at the Sun Spirit cafe. In fornt of us, there was a windmill that created a wonderful shot for our photos. Half an hour before sunset the temperature was more tolerable and we enjoyed our cool mojito. Romantic or not, this is how we somehow experienced the sunset from Oia.
However, if you want to create a more romantic atmosphere and it is not your goal to see the sunset from Oia or you have several days of vacations, there are other restaurants or cafes where you can see the sun fading (but not the sunset itself). One day we enjoyed it from Alali restaurant, while another suggestion that is… inexpensive is to see the sunset from the Lighthouse of Akrotiri in the south of the island very close to the village of Akrotiri!
Another suggestion is to book a sailboat ride which duirng sunset will lead you down to Oia. I think it will be the ultimate and most romantic sunset you have ever experienced because you will have a 360o degree view. On the one hand you will see the sun diving in the sea while on the other you will see and you can photograph Oia and the islands in front of the caldera. Just magical!
There are many organized group or private tours and we suggest only some of them which you can book through the GYG platform. Check our suggestions:
Ammoudi, the picturesque port
Under the castle of Oia you can find Ammoudi, a small picturesque port with many fish taverns. During the 19th and 20th c. it was the main port of Oia and all trade was done from there. There are two ways to reach it: go down the 214 steps that start near the castle or go by car. If you prefer the stairs I will prepare you that the ascent will be difficult, while if you go by car maybe in the summer with a lot of people you will have a hard time findng a parking space.
Read also on greektravelfamily.com:
Fira, the capital of Santorini island
Fira or Thira is the capital of the island. Nowadays it is united with Firostefani and Imerovigli and it is built on the eyebrow of the caldera. It is also the seat of the Orthodox, but also of the Catholic Metropolis (Cathedral). The Orthodox church is called Ypapanti, while the Catholic is located in the district of the Catholics and it is dedicated to Saint Baptist John.
The visitor can get lost in its cobbled alleys, buy local products to taste local flavors and drink local wine, shop and go out for an evening drink and enjoy the view. Fira is a place to walk as long as you have a hat and water with you. Get to know the beauty of Fira and take the best photos overlooking the Aegean.
When you are in Fira, dare to go down the 600 steps to Gialos, the small port. The stairs are wide and stone made, which makes the descent even more difficult but it’s worth it. In the port you will find souvenir shops in a small closed market and taverns. From there, you can take a boat or book a day cruise.
To return to Fira you have two options (unless you want to climb the 600 steps)! One is the donkeys which can take you up the stairs in a more traditional way and the other is the cable car. A short route lasting 2′ and more relaxing. The price for both options is the same, 6 € per person.
Day trips by boat or sailboat
For a different experience, we suggest going to Thirasia by boat or sailboat to explore the pristine beaches of the small island or a day trip for a tour of the Caldera islands.
In Nea Kameni you can walk to the crater of the volcano on a path of moderate difficulty. In Palea Kameni you can lie down in the thermal mud and enjoy some hot springs, while in Thirasia you can dive in crystal clear waters.
More information about the tour can be found here on the new daytrips4u platform.
Hiking in Santorini
In many parts of the island there are signs which suggest hiking trails. One of them is the path from Fira to Oia, parallel to the caldera. Its length is 9 km and the journey takes 3 hours. We wanted so much to hike the trail, but the few days and the high temperature did not help us! If you stay in Santorini for days, you can wake up very early and enjoy the route. Be careful not to be late because the temperature in summer, even in the morning, is high.
Read also on greektravelfamily.com:
- Day trip to Aegina with kids
- Family Holidays in Hydra, Greece, with kids
- Vacations in Thassos, a green greek island
- The best islands you can visit during your trip to Greece
Beaches in Santorini
To be honest, Santorini is not as famous for its beaches as other greek islands. But you should definitely visit them because they are unique in the world! Each has its own beauty and its own colors. Whether you swim or relax on a sunbed, it is worth seeing them in your own eyes and walk on their unique sandy beaches.
All the beaches are located on the east coast of the island, since the whole west side consists of the steep cliffs, the caldera. Their waters in summer are cold and relatively deep, while the sand is dark, due to the volcanic soil of Santorini.
The most famous beach of Santorini is Kokkini Paralia (Red Beach). It is characterized by the red soil, hence its name. You will be impressed by the combination of red sand and rocks with the blue of the sea, but also the blue of the sky. Seductive and at the same time eerie.
Access to the Red Beach by car is easy. There is a car parking lot next to the church of St. Nikolas where you can also get water or a snack or buy some souvenirs.
In 1-2 minutes walking distance you can find a post where you can photograph the whole area while for the beach you will need about 10 more minutes. Normally it is forbidden to enter the beach, due to landslides and your access to it is at your own risk. However on the beach there are umbrellas and sunbeds and minimal space for those who want to use their own equipment (umbrellas etc). We were satisfied with a few videos and photos from the photo point since swimming was not the purpose of our visit there.
Alternatively you can visit the Red Beach by boat booking with an organized tour.
The most visible characteristic of Vlychada beach is the dark black sand and the high rocks with holes which give it an extraterrestrial appearance. Vlychada beach is organized. There are sunbeds with umberllas and cafes.
On the left of the beach there is the port from where the sailing boats start their day trips. There is also a quite big parking lot.
Tip: If you use a GPS, instead of wirting”Vlychada beach”, set as destination the “Industrial Tomato Museum” located just behind the rocks of the beach.
Other beaches in Santorini
Other well-known beaches in Santorini, which we did not manage to visit, are the White beach (accessible only by sea), Perissa, but also the beaches of Kamari and Monolithos which are suitable for families with children.
Horse riding in Santorini
In Santorini you can also choose another alternative activity…horseback riding (click on the link to close). Horse riding along Vlychada beach, horseback riding enoying sunset and many other concepts that you can of course find on our partner getyourguide platform.
Tomato Industrial Museum in Santorini
Behind the high rocks of Vlychada beach thereis the Industrial Tomato Museum. And no, don’t be intimidated by the word industrial! It is a museum that presents the history and evolution of the first tomato factory in Santorini, while it also functions as an event venue.
The dry Santorini tomato is one of the most famous and traditional products of the island. The product is of Italian origin and was brought to Santorini during the Venetian occupation. It is very tasty and its sweetness is due to the arid soil, which is cooled by the night and morning humidity.
The old tomato factory D. Nomikos in Vlychada was transformed into a modern industrial museum, in order to offer its visitors a flashback to the past. In the factory you will see many old machines and you will learn about the course of the cultivation, processing and production of tomatoes.
The audio guide included in the ticket price, guides you in the area giving you a lot of interesting information. The price also includes a vdeo showing, tasting of the traditional tomato pulp made in the factory and a souvenir can in which you can place a small souvenir to offer as a gift.
- Adults 10 €
- Children 0 – 12 years old free of charge
- Children 12 – 18 years 6 €
Lost Atlantis Experience
Another museum you can visit in Santorini is the Lost Atlantis. It is a modern museum which opened in 2019 and it is worth your visit and not only if you have children with you. In the museum you will “meet” Plato, the Greek philosopher, and you will briefly learn about his work and life. Plato claimed that Santorini was Atlantis before it was destroyed by the eruption of the Santorini volcano.
In the museum you can watch a 9D projection/screening for the destruction of Santorini by the deadly eruption of the volcano. You will learn about the changes that the island has undergone due to earthquakes and continuous volcanic eruptions over the last 3,000 years and it will make you love this special island even more!
- 12 € / person
- 6 € children 7-12 years old
- Children under 7 enter for free
Book your skip the line tickets from here. The process is very simple, the ticket does not need printing and you can book even at the last minute. However, I do not recommend it because the museum has a lot of people who visit it.
Check also this combo tour with tickets for Atlantis Museum . It includes:
- Transfers from/to meeting points
- Guided tour in Akrotiri with a licensed English-speaking guide
- Entrance fee to the Lost Atlantis Museum
- Entrance fees to the Santorini volcano
In Santorini you can also visit other interesting museums and archaelogical sites.
Click on the links to book your skips the line tickets.
- Prehestoric Settlement of Akrotiri (Akrotiri)
- Museum of Prehistoric Fira (Fira)
- Archaelogical Museum (Fira)
- Nautical Museum (Oia)
- “Old Santorini” (Pyrgos)
- Folkrole Museum (Kontohori – Fira)
- Exhibition of Minerals and Fossils
Suggestion for food
If you want to give a more romantic note to your trip we have a great suggestion. Alali restaurant is located in Akrotiri. It is an excellent restaurant with stunning view and very good reviews! Personally, we were speechless by the flavors but also the view to the caldera and the volcano.
Wine tasting in Santorini – Wine varieties
The soil of Santorini is fertile and favors the cultivation of vines. If you have a closer look at the vines in the fields of Santorini, you will see that they are low almost touching the ground. The reason is that the growers have adopted a unique low pruning shape, which looks like a basket, to protect the grapes from the wind and high temperatures of summer.
In Santorini, there are fifty grape varieties and some of them are really rare. The main variety of the island is Assyrtiko… the best, according to many, white variety in the whole Mediterranean! Assyrtiko is accompanied by the other two basic white varieties, Athiri and Aidani. As far as the red varieties, the most important is the Aegean Mantilaria. You can try them at a winery by booking a tasting tour or at an island restaurant.
Check these wine tours:
Best season to visit Santorini
Although in summer the island is full of tourists, we recommend April and October as the best months to visit Santorini. In April, nature in Santorini is wonderful and the whole scenery has nothing to do with the dry place we meet in summer. The ground is green full of flowers and poppies. Greek Easter is celebrated in excitement and following all the traditional customs. On the other hand, in October the island is quieter and its seas are much warmer… and all this information according to the advice of the locals!
More special tours and activities in Santorini
Check our suggestions:
We hope that with this post we have helped you organize your trip to Santorini.