Cliffs rising steeply from the deep blue sea, with white villages clinging to them – this is the image that first comes to everyone's mind when we talk about Santorini. In addition then still another sociable dinner in a rustic tavern, Greece must look like that. We introduce you to the island of Santorini in more detail.
Santorini is one of the Cyclades islands, which are arranged in a ring around the holy island of Delos. Originally it formed a circle around a volcanic crater. After part of this crater was flooded by the sea, the distinctive crescent shape that we know today was formed. Strictly speaking, Santorini is an archipelago consisting of five islands. What we know as the vacation destination Santorini is actually the island Thera.
The most important at a glance
- Santorini offers the perfect combination of ancient culture and beaches.
- Authentic flair and dramatic sunsets make the island a place of longing for romantics
General information about Santorini
Small but nice is the right description for this island. This is exactly one of the reasons why it is one of the most beautiful in the world. But before you pack your bags, we have some useful information for you.
How to get there
Theoretically you could even reach Santorini by car. From Piraeus ferries bring you to the island. But that only makes sense if you're planning a longer trip to Greece and want to visit several islands along the way. It's much more convenient to travel by plane, which will get you there from Germany in about three hours. If you book a package deal with a tour operator, a direct flight is usually included. If you plan your trip individually, you may only get flights that require you to change planes in Athens, which will increase the flight time accordingly.
Like most Greek islands, Santorini has hot and dry summers, while winters are mild and rainy. From April the daytime temperatures often reach the 20 degrees mark and even in July and August the maximum temperatures, thanks to a fresh breeze, are usually below 30 degrees. The sea is at bathing temperature from mid-May and you can still refresh yourself in the water at just over 20 degrees until October.
Mobility on the spot
Buses run between all the notable towns on the island, but they can't go very fast on the narrow, winding roads. So you have to bring some time with you if you want to get from A to B. But you are on vacation and you should not be in a hurry. If you want to go from the crater rim to the water, you can take a cable car down in Fira. To explore the island on your own, you also have the possibility to rent a car, a scooter or a quad bike. The traffic on Santorini is quite relaxed and free parking is available almost everywhere.
Santorini – a place of longing – the sights of the island
The Cycladic island has shaped our image of Greece. The white houses with the blue shutters and the equally white churches with the blue domes awaken dreams in us and convey a peaceful image. See here where our favorite places are.
Oia – postcard idyll at the crater rim
In the northwest of the main island the village of Oia nestles picturesquely against the crater rim. In the narrow and winding streets of the most beautiful village of the island you will discover numerous boutiques and galleries in the white houses. In many places the white of the houses is joined by the blue of the church roofs and bougainvilleas with green leaves and bright red flowers.
Santorini's famous churches in Oia
However, Oia is no longer an insider tip and especially when a cruise ship is anchored in the caldera, it becomes very crowded during the day. Therefore, it is recommended to visit the place early in the morning, when it is still quiet. Or you can come in the late afternoon for a stroll, have dinner in one of the rustic taverns and go to the Londsa Castle to enjoy the magic of the sunset.
Hotel tip: The La Perla Villa& Suites is located in the center of Oia and is the perfect place to spend a romantic vacation for two in this unique environment
Fira – the chic island capital
Fira is at least as beautiful as Oia, but it is also much more chic and exclusive. Many small luxury hotels with spectacular infinity pools are hiding in the alleys here. These hotels are often housed in former dwellings, which are dug like caves deep into the soft volcanic rock. In the upper town on the crater you also have spectacular views of the town and the volcano funnel.
Ieros Naos Agiou Ioannou tou Baptistou in Fira
From the harbor of the town the Karavolades staircase leads you over 588 steps in serpentines upwards. There you will find luxurious boutiques, churches worth seeing and more chic taverns. If you don't want to climb the stairs on foot, you can easily take the cable car to the top. But please spare the poor donkeys that are offered to you at the harbor for this tour.
Hotel tip: If sitting in your own infinity pool and enjoying the sunset with a good glass of wine or cocktail is your thing, then you should get one of the pool suites at the Infinity Suites& Book Dana Villas.
Imerovigli – the insider tip
About two kilometers north of Fira is this very original place. The village is the highest village on the crater rim and therefore the main attraction is of course the really spectacular view. The best you can enjoy here from Skaros Rock. This lies on a ridge that juts a bit into the crater. On the way up to this rock you can admire the remains of a Byzantine castle.
A unique view offers itself on the Skaros Rock
In the village itself you stroll again through narrow streets past whitewashed houses. But here you are far away from the tourist hustle and bustle and get a very authentic picture of Santorini. In the taverns you will also meet some locals.
Hotel tip: The Rocabella Santorini is located in the tranquil village of Imerovigli in a quiet location, but still with spectacular views over the caldera.
Akrotiri – the Pompeii of Greece
In the southwest of the island of Thera, a peninsula juts out into the sea and separates the caldera from the open sea. Several sights await you here. On the one hand, there is a lighthouse at the westernmost point, from which you can enjoy another of those spectacular views that make this island so special. In the village of Akrotiri you can visit the ruins of a Venetian castle.
But the most famous sight is the excavation site, which is the most important ancient site in Greece after the Acropolis in Athens. Here you can see the remains of a Minoan city, which disappeared under a thick layer of ash during a volcanic eruption in 1613 B.C. and was not discovered until the 20th century. Rediscovered in the twentieth century. It is believed that only a fraction of the city has been excavated so far. Similar to Pompeii in Italy, impressive wall paintings and mosaics have been found here as well.
Ancient artifacts in Akrotiri, Santorini
Wednesday to Monday from 08:30 to 15:30
Adults ca. 12,00 Euro
Children ca. 6,00 Euro
Hotel tip: The Hotel Mathios Village is not only very charming and traditionally designed, but also very family-friendly. With its moderate prices here also the vacation budget is not strained excessively.
Old-Thera – the ancient city on the mountain
Like Akrotiri, this city was also buried by a volcanic eruption and was only rebuilt in the 19th century. Archaeologists have unearthed. Since this city existed from 900 B.C. to 800 A.D., you will find not only Minoan, but also Greek and Roman remains. This makes the visit even more interesting. Especially since the drive up the mountain alone is a real experience.
The ruins of Old-Thera
In the excavation site you can marvel at the ruins of a Dionysus temple and the agora, which was the marketplace and meeting place in ancient cities. There is also a colonnade, an amphitheater and roman villas. Since the area is very extensive – the city must have been very large for that time – you should plan enough time for your tour.
November to March: Wednesday to Monday from 08:30 to 15:30
April to October: Thursday to Tuesday from 08:30 a.m. to 15:30 p.m
Adults: ca. 6,00 Euro
Children ca. 3,00 Euro
Our tip: If you want to visit both Akrotiri and Old Thera, you can buy a combined ticket valid for 3 days for 15,00 Euro. With this you can also visit the Prehistoric Museum in Fira.
Profitis Ilias – the highest mountain of the island
With a height of 586 meters, this mountain is the highest elevation of the island. To get there you have to go to Pyrgos. This is not only the oldest, but also the highest village of Santorini. During a stroll you will see some of the typical churches with the blue domes, rustic taverns and wine cellars. You can also admire a Venetian castle here.
Monastery of the Prophet Elias on Santorini's highest mountain Profitis Ilias
Afterwards you have the choice whether you want to hike up the mountain from the village, or rather drive by car to the parking lot just below the summit. On the top there is a monastery, but it is empty and cannot be visited. Santorini has many points with spectacular views, but from Profitis Ilias on a clear day you not only look over Santorini, but you can even see the mountains of Crete on the horizon.
Emporio – the village of windmills
A little further south is Emporio. At the entrance of the village you will find another typical sight of the Cyclades on Santorini. On a hill there are several white windmills with their typical pointed round roofs. You can find windmills like this in other places on the island.
Traditional Santorini windmills on a hill near Emporio
Also in Emporio itself you can expect sights worth seeing. The Venetian castle of Goulas was considered a marvel of architecture at the time of its construction. The origins of the fortress lie in the Ottoman period. Even if there is not much left of the actual castle, it is worth to visit the interior of the complex, where people still live in the narrow alleys and you will discover a beautiful and authentic Greek village.
The churches of Santorini – more than just dreamlike photo motifs
Many postcards of Santorini show one of the whitewashed churches with the blue domes. But these motifs are also beautiful. Especially when you can see the blue sea and the rocks of the caldera in the background. The most famous of the churches is the church of the Holy Virgin in Firostefani with its distinctive bell tower, in which three bells hang in their own arches.
Postcard picture – the churches in Oia
Another church you should visit is Panagia Episkopi. The former bishop's church is the oldest church of the island. It is located at the foothills of Profitis Ilias and besides the almost thousand-year-old icon paintings inside, you can enjoy a great view here again. Very impressive is also the orthodox Metropolis Cathedral in Fira. From the outside it shines in purest white, but the inside is decorated with a variety of colorful icons.
Sunsets – romantic and also dramatic
Santorini offers already during the day really impressive landscape motives. The rock faces of the crater, which drop steeply into the blue sea and are crowned by the white villages, leave no one untouched. But when the sun sinks into the sea in the evening, the view becomes even more dramatic and not only the romantics among you will be thrilled.
Breathtaking sunset at Agios Nikolaos
Especially beautiful is this spectacle in Oia. If there are too many people, you can walk along the crater rim to Fira and look for a quieter place there. Also in Imerovigli there are cozy places for a romantic sunset. It becomes really dramatic on the Skaros Rock. It is best to find a taverna with a view of the caldera and then enjoy a glass of wine with a view of the orange sky.
Beaches on Santorini – colorful and with a dreamlike scenery
The fact that Santorini is an island of volcanic origin can also be seen on the beaches. Most of them are covered with black sand or rocks. If you want to admire the caldera at the beach, the way there is sometimes a bit difficult, because the paths to the water lead through the steep rock face. Some beaches can only be reached by boat.
At Perivolos Beach you can clearly see that you are on a volcanic island
On the eastern side of the island, that is the side facing away from the caldera, you will find beaches that are more easily accessible and offer a wide range of sports. These beaches on Santorini are also better suited for families with children. But what you will find at almost all bathing places are rustic taverns, which will serve you a delicious snack. In addition, there are also some sections where you can sunbathe and swim textile-free.
Hotel tip: The Veggera Hotel is located in Perissa and is very close to one of the best beaches of Santorini and is perfect for an active beach vacation.
Excursions around Santorini
Always lying on the beach is too boring for you? If you want to experience something on vacation, exciting excursions are offered to you on and around Santorini. Around the island there are some smaller islands, which are worth seeing.
Hike from Fira to Oia
The two pretty villages are connected by a footpath. It winds along the crater rim for more than ten kilometers. For the whole route you need about 3.5 hours. However, you will have to stop again and again on the way to take pictures or to have a quick refreshment in one of the taverns. But don't forget to take enough sunscreen and also a headgear with you.
Nea Kameni and Palea Kameni – the rocks in the caldera
In the middle of the flooded caldera two uninhabited islands rise out of the water. Nea Kameni is the bigger one and forms the top of a still active volcano. With a boat tour you can have a look at the island with its craters. And you have a great view to the rock faces of the main island. On the smaller island Palea Kameni most of the excursion boats make a stop, so that you can take a bath in the hot springs. This is said to be very good for your skin.
Palea Kameni island and hot mineral springs
Thirassia – the smaller rest of the crater
Before the crater was flooded, Thirassia was a part of Santorini. Today it is a small, sleepy island, where you can experience a very original Greece. In the small harbor of Korfos you can go for a swim and there are still many visitors here. If you are looking for peace and quiet, you should make the climb to Manolas. In the village there are two taverns and you have a great view of the opposite main island of Santorini. To get to Thirassia you can either take an excursion boat or, if you want to stay there longer, take the ferry from Oia.
Great view of Thirassia island
Tour Santorini by boat
For a change, don't look at the water from the crater rim, but enjoy the view from the sea to the rocks. There are several providers who will take you around the island in different boats. During the trip you can not only relax on board, but you will also be taken to hidden bays where you can take a dive into the cool water. Usually this tour lasts about five hours and also includes snacks on board. A romantic highlight will be if you book the sunset tour.
Mediterranean delicacies – food and drink on Santorini
Greek cuisine is known for its delicious dishes, most of which are also healthy. One of the most important ingredients is olive oil, and Greece has some of the best oils in the world. In addition, there are lots of vegetables, fresh fish and fragrant herbs.
A typical Greek meal starts with a selection of appetizers. Especially if you are traveling with friends, it is worth to order several of these delicacies to be able to try so many different dishes. You can choose between the classic farmer's salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, onions and lots of feta cheese or stuffed vine leaves. For the main course there is fish or meat, often grilled on the open fire and of course with tons of tzatziki.
Culinary Santorini has a lot to offer, the great view is included
There is no special dish that exists only on Santorini. Since the island is quite small, fish is traditionally eaten very much. However, Santorini is known for its excellent wines. The most famous is the white Assyrtiko and the sweet dessert wine Vinsanto. The wine lovers among you should take the time to visit some wineries. There they will explain to you why the vines on the island are not tied up with wires, but woven like baskets on the ground.
Shopping on Santorini – exclusive and unique
You will not find the big shopping malls with mega bargains on Santorini. On the other hand, during your walks through the villages you will always discover small boutiques that sell you things that are not available anywhere else.
Especially Fira offers you a huge selection of such stores. Along the alley of Ipapanti there is one boutique after another. Besides clothes you will also find many jewelers who sell you high quality costume jewelry from their own production. There you will find pretty unique items that not everyone has. A typical Greek ornament is the blue eye, also known as the evil eye. According to a legend it should bring bad luck to the one who stares at it. You don't have to believe it, because it is just a beautiful jewel.
Numerous boutiques and stores await you in Fira
Otherwise, there are the usual souvenir stores, although the ones on Santorini sell somewhat higher quality goods. You will also find a lot of art and traditional handicrafts here. You can buy the special souvenir directly from the producers on the island. Greece is known for olive oil, honey and also very good wine.
Frequently asked questions about Santorini
Each of us has at least once heard of Santorini. Those who are thinking about a vacation on this island, however, usually still have questions. We would like to answer the most frequently asked questions.
Where to find the right hotel?
It depends on what kind of vacation you are planning. For a beach vacation we recommend the places Kamari and Perissa. There you will find appealing hotels and have the beach at your doorstep. If you are looking for a romantic vacation for two with a lot of flair, you should look for a hotel in Oia. There you often have a sensational view of the caldera from your room. All those who want to indulge in some luxury will book themselves into one of the chic hotels in Fira.
How long should you stay in Santorini?
Santorini is such a beautiful island. It would be a shame to just spend a long weekend here. You should take a week to explore the island and also have a day or two to relax on the beach. An important point for the duration of your stay is the question of your travel budget, as Santorini is not a particularly cheap destination.
Is Santorini and Santorini the same??
According to the dictionary the archipelago is called Santorini. Internationally, however, the name Santorini is more common. Considering that the Venetians founded the island in the 12th century, this is a great place to stay. Since the island was named after Saint Irene in the 19th century, Santorini sounds somehow more fitting. To make the confusion perfect, we could mention that the main island was named after the Spartan prince Theras and is therefore also known by the Greeks as Thera or Thira.
Conclusion: Unique and full of charm
Santorini is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful islands in the world. The spectacular crater walls, where the white villages shine on the horizon from afar, are truly unique. Even though many visitors come to the island every year, it has been avoided to spoil the landscape with big hotel castles. So you can still enjoy the Mediterranean charm and the proverbial hospitality of Greece to the fullest on Santorini. To a successful vacation at the Mediterranean Sea belongs of course also the one or other bath day, which you can use for it, in order to fill up sun and new energy. It is therefore a good thing that Santorini has a few highlights to offer in this respect as well. Look forward to the cheerful yassass (hello) of the locals!
Are you already packing your suitcase?? Then take a look at our offers for Santorini.