Santorini is one the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, due to its dramatic landscape and legendary sunsets. If you are visiting this beautiful volcanic island belonging to the Cyclades group, you’ll find plenty of activities to occupy your time. Here are some suggestions.
Visit a village
There are several stunning villages scattered in the island, and you are bound to have a few at walking distance from where you are staying. Take the opportunity to discover the beautiful landscape by following the trails that connect the villages between each other. Perhaps the most famous one is Oia (pronounced “Ia”). With its whitewashed buildings perching on a cliff and its atmospheric streets, this village is instantly recognizable as the quintessential image of the Aegean. Firostefani and Imerovigli are located at close distance from the capital Fira, making them the perfect daytrip for even the most out of shape visitor. Pyrgos in turn is located on the highest point in the island, offering magnificient views, and it also boast a picturesque monastery.
Explore the Caldera
The Cycladic islands are volcanic, and this becomes obvious once you set foot on Santorini. In fact, several of the villages are located right on the rim of the caldera, and you can take a peek inside as you walk from Fira to Oia. The basin is nowadays filled with seawater, which could be 400 meters deep in some places. As you take the views, beware of the strong winds that are prevalent in the most exposed part of the island.
Take a donkey ride
Donkeys have been used for centuries by the island’s inhabitants to negotiate its steep paths, and nowadays travelling around the island mounted on a donkey has become very popular with tourists. The best place to catch them is at the old port, from where you can ride up to Fira. Up until 1979, this was actually the only way to do this. Now there is a cable car that cover the same segment, but donkeys continue to be the fun and most authentic means of locomotion, and you should consider riding them as you set out to explore the island’s many charms.
Visit Ancient Thera
No visit to Greece is complete without exploring one of the many classical ruins that are so prevalent. Santorini has an important archaeological heritage, most obviously on display at Ancient Thera. Perched on a rocky promontory known as Mesa Vouna and offering panoramic vistas of the neighboring islands, this is a place worth visiting even if you have little interest in discovering the island’s past. And for those who want to know more, the Archeological Museum in Fira has artifacts from various eras on display, including ceramics, tools, weaponry, marble statues and Minoan frescoes. This makes it a perfect complement to a visit to the ruins.
The crystal clear waters around Santorini make it a perfect spot for snorkelling and SCUBA diving. Although there are not as many fish as you may expect, octopuses are commonly spotted. If you hold a PADI license, you will be able to explore underwater caverns, reefs and even a wreck. Wall diving is also a popular choice among expert divers. If you just want to do snorkelling, Mesa Pigadia beach and Perissa Rock are highly recommended. There are five diving shops in the island from which you can rent equipment as well as hire an excursion to your selected spot.
Enjoy the sunset
The ethereal sunsets of Santorini are one of the most popular reasons to visit the island. Oia offers some of the most spectacular vantage points, making it a Mecca for couples all over the world as well as for professional outdoor photographers. An alternative way to experience the Santorini sunset once you have experienced the views from Oia is by embarking on a sunset cruise. You can hire a traditional Santorini boat for this purpose in any of the the harbors of the island. This should be one of the highlights of your trip, so remember to bring your camera.
Taste the local cuisine
The white aubergine is one of the staples of the island, and so are the dolmades (stuffed vine leaves). Make sure to try the ubiquitous tomato keftedes and the grilled fish, which can be found in any tavern that is close to the sea. The island also has local wineries that produce a very decent light wine, very appropriate to go with the food. Try to get hold of a bottle at some point, and if you like it, you may consider visiting the wineries the villages of Messaria and Vothonas.