Santorini is the southernmost member of the Cyclades archipelago. It consists of several islands, although this was not the case before. About 3500 years ago a massive volcanic explosion shook the area, centred in Santorini. The volcano erupted, forming the 400 metres deep caldera. So now Santorini, Nea Kameni and Thirasia make up Santorini. The coast is very steep inside the caldera. The villages are hundreds of metres above sea level. Because of its magical surroundings and this ancient catastrophe, many believe that it used to be Atlantis. The picturesque landscape, historic heritage and charming villages attract more and more tourists every year. In this article, we will show you what to do in Santorini!
This article gives you an overview of the following topics:
- What to do in Santorini: Living history
- Things to do in Santorini: 5 tips to experience the magic!
- What to do in Santorini: Extreme ideas for adrenaline addicts
- Things to do in Santorini: Wine and gastronomy
Santorini’s history is slowly lost in oblivion. The decline of Mycenaean culture in Crete was due to the above-mentioned disaster. Even the three-day darkness the Bible describes is attributed to volcanic eruptions according to recent studies. Later Phoenicians and Greeks took possession of the island. Romans conquered the island, but for most of the time, it was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, later joining modern-day Greece. What to do in Santorini if you are interested in history? Read on and we will show you!
Discover the ancient city of Akrotiri!
Santorini’s most important archaeological site is on the southern side of the island, near the red beach. Volcanic ash covered it for thousands of years until it was discovered in the 19th century. Thus, huge palaces, wide streets and multi-storey buildings were found. Walk the ancient streets and admire the murals on the walls! Lava and ash preserved everything in perfect condition. However, locals left long before the eruption, so there were no casualties. Akrotiri had an advanced plumbing and sewage system. The houses used water from geothermal springs for bathing and heating. Their civilisation was so advanced that it would flourish today, too.
Discover the ancient village of Thera!
You can find the ancient ruins of Thera at the top of Mesa Vouno. It used to be the name of the island, it was later named Santorini. The city was built around 3000 years ago. It is on a majestic hill. Steep rock walls embrace it. You can see a marketplace, theatre, houses and ruins of churches here. From the port of Kamari, the steep serpentine leads to the remains. You can go there by bus or by riding a donkey.
Visit the Church of Panagia Katefiani!
On the way to Thera, this small church stands on the slope of Mesa Vouno Mountain. For hundreds of years, locals used it as a shelter against pirate attacks. From the door of the church, a breathtaking panorama unfolds before your eyes. The south coast of the island and the Aegean Sea lie in front of you. Behind the chapel there is a healing spring, give it a try!
Admire the Agios Nikolaos Monastery!
When it comes to Santorini, everyone thinks of the white houses with blue roofs and churches. You can see them on postcards, but they look just like that when you visit the place. The Agios Nikolaos Monastery was built for nuns in the early 1600s. Its whitewashed walls and glowing blue dome attract attention from afar. Inside, there is a very informative ethnographic exhibition.
When it comes to living history, we have to mention the Volcano Festival. Locals find it important to commemorate the volcanic eruption. It takes place every year in August, commemorating the eruption that happened 3500 years ago. There is a fireworks show on the waters of the caldera, followed by music and the festival.
If you cannot choose, listen up! You will have a fantastic time visiting this island. Here are 5 tips on the best things to do in Santorini.
Watch the sunset from Oia’s terraces!
In the northwestern corner of the island, you will see the most beautiful sunsets. The village, built on the mountain, is full of people this time of night. On the stairs, small streets and terraces, people are waiting for this uplifting moment. Everyone turns west and waits for the breathtaking wonder. Watch the sunset over the Aegean Sea! Its bright red disk embraces the landscape with wonderful colours.
Spend the night in a cave!
In Oia not only the sunset is amazing. The former cave dwellings carved into the volcanic tuff have been transformed into cosy apartments. If you want to spend a night on the mainland, try one of them. There are even pools at the bottom of the caves!
Dine on the coast of the caldera!
The view on this island is impressive from every angle. Wherever you look, the mountains and the sea are in front of you. From the terraces of the tavernas, you can be a part of this beautiful experience. Have dinner at one of these tavernas, and make sure to try the Vinsanto wine!
Climb a volcano!
Nea Kameni is a small island on the other side of the caldera. It is actually the centre of an erupted volcano. Visit this island by boat and climb the mountain covered with black and red cliffs! At the top you can see the crater, where the temperature is still much higher than the average in this region.
Go on a photo tour!
In addition, you can go on organised photo tours on the island. An experienced guide will take you to the most beautiful places where you can take the best photos of your life. You will see the blue domes in Fira, the sunset in Oia, and many other interesting things. Get ready and take pictures like a true professional!
If you like excitement and you are longing for the unknown. You will not be bored here! Santorini offers many opportunities for adventurers. In the following paragraphs, we will show you what to do in Santorini if you are an adrenaline addict!
Jump in the water of the caldera!
If you are brave enough, this tip is for you! Set out on foot from Fira towards Oia. Near the Amoudi Bay, you will find a small white church built-into the cliff. Next, to the church there is a narrow path, ending in a popular jumping point. The water is deep enough. After the tour, jump into the refreshing water of the bay!
Fly above the island!
In Fira, you can go on a helicopter tour. An experienced pilot can take you over the caldera. You can admire the geological diversity of the island from a bird’s eye view. Take breathtaking photos of the villages below you! See the Nea Kameni volcano from above! Do not pass up this opportunity because Santorini is one of a kind from this perspective!
Swim in the underwater hot springs!
Due to the post volcanic activity, there are many hot water springs on the island and in the sea. Moreover, in the Agios Nikolaos, you can go swimming in winter. Thanks to the underwater hot springs the water in the bay is between 30-35°C all year.
Discover the underwater world!
Santorini’s underwater world has many surprises for you. Snorkel with an experienced instructor and discover some amazing rock formations! Admire the diverse fauna flourishing underwater! If you are a little braver, you can go diving here. Look for the lost city of Atlantis 12 metres deep!
Santorini is a famous wine-growing region thanks to the volcanic ash. The grapes are quite unique due to the minerals of the tuff. The typically Mediterranean dishes are combined with unique flavours. Things to do in Santorini if you are obsessed with culinary delights? Read on and we will show you!
The Drink of the Gods, Wine
There are typical wines produced on the island thanks to the volcanic tuff, microclimate and abundant sunshine. The Assyrtiko Santorini is the only indigenous grape that is resistant to most diseases. They make an acidic, full-bodied wine from it. In addition, nykteri is a white wine made from three types of grapes. Its fruity, refreshing taste is perfect with seafood dishes.
The vinsanto is a dessert wine, popular in the whole Mediterranean region. The name means ‘sacred wine’ since it was used during Catholic ceremonies. The taste varies, it can be sweet or it can be quite dry. The Santorini vinsanto is sweeter. It is one of the most popular wines among locals. This wine is aged in oak barrels with a large wooden cross on them.
There is very little timber available on the island, and the electrical system was only established in the 60s. Therefore, the most important feature of the food was that it could be cooked quickly. They eat a lot of fresh vegetables. There is a cherry tomato which grows on Santorini, exported all over the world. Capers, eggplants, zucchini and cucumbers are their main vegetables. Fava is a type of bean that grows quickly, is undemanding and has a high carbohydrate and protein content. It has been cultivated in Santorini for over 4000 years for its excellent nutritional value.
The antzouri is an elongated melon they consume grilled or pickled. The meat was typically air-dried, not smoked. You can try ham, sausage and blood sausage here. Moreover, the market offers salted fish and matured cheeses. Of course, you will not have to miss out on fresh seafood either. Cod, octopus, mussels and lobster are included on every menu.
In this article, we have shown you what to do in Santorini. To summarise, this island holds thousands of wonders for visitors. Its charm lies in its simplicity. The locals preserve their traditions while adapting to the whims of nature. Get on the road and discover the boundless opportunities this volcanic island has to offer! Read more if you plan Santorini sailing or yacht charter in Santorini.