The Greek islands are known throughout the world for their stunning beauty, rich history and undeniable charm, and perhaps none more so than Santorini. Lying 200 miles southeast of Athens and surrounded by the cerulean waters of the Aegean Sea, Santorini features a group of three rugged islands arrayed in a broad crescent shape born from ancient volcanic eruptions. With a variety of stunning beaches, fascinating archaeological sites and a seemingly endless variety of things to do, it’s little wonder that Santorini is frequently hailed as one of the best island vacation destinations in the world. If you’re considering a trip to the Aegean, don’t forget to check out these Santorini travel tips!
Is This Atlantis?
Nearly five thousand years ago, Santorini was home to one of the world’s most advanced civilizations. The Minoans, based in the settlement of Akrotiri on Santorini’s southern tip, were a prosperous seafaring people who thrived on trade across the Aegean and the wider Mediterranean world. In the mid-second millennium B.C., however, that came to a sudden and violent end. One of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history blasted apart the center of the island, leaving the Minoan civilization in ruins. So great was the cataclysm, in fact, that some historians believe it may have formed the basis for the legend of Atlantis.
While Santorini’s volcanic heart continues beating beneath the island, it is the remnants of this disaster that provides some of Santorini’s most stunning vistas. Towering, craggy cliffs trace out the rim of the caldera left behind by the ancient paroxysm, atop which several of the island’s cities and towns precariously cling. Take a leisurely tour around the slumbering volcanic crater, take a challenging hike around the steep and unforgiving terrain or even take a plunge off the sun-baked cliffs at Amoudi Bay. No matter what you do, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience.
A Day at The Beach
One of Santorini’s greatest appeals is its diverse collection of uniquely beautiful beaches. While the western coast of the island is largely home to great cliffs and rugged landscapes, the eastern coast slopes more gently toward the sea, creating a number of delightful volcanic-sand beaches. Resort destinations like Kamari and Perissa are well-known for their luxurious accommodations, family-friendly atmospheres and access to water sports such as jet skis and kayaks.
On the south coast of the island, the beaches are generally less crowded and more unique. Perhaps the most famous of these beaches is Red Beach, which is located near the southwest tip of the island. The small, red-hued beach is carved into a looming, rough-hewn headland that features striking seams of deep black and ruddy red soil. The beach offers excellent swimming, but be sure to keep your wits about you. The cliffs behind the beach have become unstable in recent years, creating a minor risk of falling rocks and collapses.
Enjoy The Epicurean Side of Santorini
The rich volcanic soils on Santorini have created beautiful beaches, but they also serve as an ideal medium for growing grapes for wine. The island is highly regarded for its native wines, which include a uniquely dry and mineral-infused white and a Tuscan sweet wine called Vinsanto. Many local vineyards host wine tastings, making for a great opportunity to sample the local fare and mingle with the warm and welcoming locals who call the island home.
That volcanic soil also feeds an abundance of local produce, and while Santorini may not be well-known for its fine dining, you should certainly plan to bring your appetite along with you. The Athenian House, located north of Fira, is a popular spot for upscale dining, and Lauda Restaurant at Andronis Boutique Hotel offers some of the finest food in Greece. However, you may find the most enjoyment from venturing off the beaten path in search of more humble fare. Santorini is littered with taverna, or small local restaurants, that offer an authentic taste of Greece in a more relaxed and intimate environment.
Step Into Santorini’s Past
The great eruption of Santorini may have devastated its long-lost inhabitants, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a glimpse of the past. In the city of Fira, the Museum of Prehistoric Thera offers a fascinating overview of the peoples who once called Santorini home. If you prefer a more tangible history lesson, the ancient city of Akrotiri lies at the southern end of the island. Once preserved under a thick blanket of volcanic ash, archaeologists have worked for years to peel back the layers of history.
The result is an unforgettable window into life on the Greek island, circa 1613 B.C. Take a guided stroll through a labyrinthine jumble of buildings, streets and sewer channels. Explore unique paintings, pottery and other artifacts, or check out a surprisingly sophisticated toilet and plumbing system that’s been preserved for thousands of years. Even if you aren’t a hardcore history buff, the ancient city of Akrotiri is an experience to remember.