10 Highlights from Santorini, Greece
Santorini is a Greek island tucked into the indigo Aegean Sea that captures the hearts of all who visit. It’s easy to understand why so many people fall in love with this legendary spot—its labyrinth towns perched on vertical cliffs that overlook the serene caldera create a dramatic backdrop that cannot be found anywhere else on earth. Throw in austere, blue domed churches set against white cubic architecture, local wineries, gourmet restaurants, art galleries, boutiques, plus pebbly beaches, and you’ve got the perfect formula for a romantic getaway or unforgettable adventure with friends.
Witness a magical sunset by the caldera
Oia is a picturesque town that overlooks the famous cobalt caldera (water-filled crater) where some speculate the lost city of Atlantis stood before sinking into the sea. Oia’s white-washed Cycladic cave buildings and cliff-side location on the northern tip of the island make it the best place to admire the sun set over the Aegean. Visitors not staying on the caldera should arrive early to stake out a prime spot near the fortress or windmill—the crowds can get hectic, but the scenery is magical.
Tackle the winding stairs to Amoudi Bay
Put on some comfortable shoes and get a serious leg workout on the 350 steps that connect Oia to the quaint port at the base of Amoudi Bay. Visitors can grab a drink or calamari at one of the tavernas while watching fishing boats bring in fresh catches. There is a small dirt path that leads around the bend to a beautiful rocky, swimming spot that some fans may recognize from the movie, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. www.santorini360hotels.com/landmarks/oia/amoudi-bay
Get a massage on the black sands of Kamari Beach
Kamari is long black sandy beach on the southeastern side of the island. The busy tourist town is named after a small arch on the end of the beach that was once an ancient sanctuary dedicated to Poseidon. Sun-goers can rent chairs and umbrellas on the beach and flag down one of the many licensed masseuses who offer onsite services for relaxation by the sea.
Book a boat excursion to an active volcanic island
There are numerous boat operators that leave from the Fira’s port for a half-day excursion to the uninhabited island, Nea Kameni, on the other side of the caldera. This site is home to a 130 meter high, active volcanic crater where visitors can hike the circuit around its rim. This is not only a great way to sea volcano up close, but to shoot photos of the white-washed architecture scattered across Santorini’s cliffs. The next stop is usually a soak in Palea Kemini’s thermal springs. Though touted as hot, expect the experience to feel more like a tepid, sulfuric bath. Rates usually range from 15-20€ per person.
Eat fried feta with honey
A trip to Santorini is not complete without a taste of one of its culinary specialties: fried feta. This appetizer consists of sliced fresh feta cheese that is wrapped in delicate phyllo pastry dough and fried until puffed and golden. It is next smothered in local honey and sprinkled with black sesame seeds. The result is an mezze that is both savory and sweet and altogether sinful. The capital of Fira and popular, pedestrian town of Oia have an abundance of restaurants that make them good starting points for the quest for the best.
Find a souvenir at Maria Baba Vida Shop
Maria is a French ex-pat who owns a beautiful gift store in Oia named Baba Vida. The boutique has unique souvenirs – it is full of bohemian, hand-selected treasures and textiles collected from Greece, France, and Asia.The shop is hidden near the bottom of the village stairs on the main walk. Stop in for insider tips or to hear about her fascinating, free-spirited adventures traveling the world before settling in Santorini. www.santorini360hotels.com/shops/oia/maria-baba-vida-shop
View artwork and sip wine in a cave
Art Space is located in Exo Gonia, a village close to the island’s center. Once a former winery, the underground pumice chambers now display contemporary paintings and sculptures by Greek and foreign artist. The property still continues the tradition of winemaking and offers tastings and tours of its fruity wines. www.artspace-santorini.com
Admire panoramic views from the Pyrgos hillside
Pyrgos was the capital of Santorini until 1800. This dense, traditional village is built on a steep hill with a system of narrow winding walkways and vaulted alleys that lead to Agia Theodossia church and castle ruins at the top. Climbers who venture to the summit will find breathtaking 360° views of the island’s landscape.
Relax at Lioyerma Lounge Cafe Pool
At the northern edge of Oia lies a pool lounge overlooking the Aegean Sea. The pool is open to the public and makes its money off the purchase of snacks and drinks from guests who linger to take a refreshing dip or soak in the spectacular views. To find this hidden treasure, walk the northern path along Oia’s caldera, past the far windmill until the walkway ends. See our full review of the pool lounge here.»
Visit the ruins at Akrotiri Archaeological Site
Akrotiri is the site of ancient trading settlement that was abandoned after severe earthquakes and volcanic eruptions hit it in the 17th century BC. The town was rediscovered in the late 19th century and is now an important archeology excavation site with well preserved examples of Minoan frescoes, artifacts, and architecture.
Getting to Santorini
Aegean Air and Olympic Air both go to Santorini and offer 45-minutes flights from Athens. For 20-30 € less, travelers can take the 4-hour express ferry from Athen’s Port of Piraeus or pay budget prices for the full-service, 7-hour ferry. Visit ferries.greeka.com for ferry schedules and bookings.
Getting around Santorini
Santorini has a comfortable public bus system [http://ktel-santorini.gr/ktel/index.php/en/ ] that makes it easy to get to the main sites on the island for a couple of Euros each way. Taxis may be hired from the main parking lots and plazas in town while adventuresome solo and couple travelers may rent moped scooters and ATVs for a daily rate of 15-30 €.
- Google map to En Route Traveler’s highlights
Lara was instilled with the travel bug at an early age and has visited over 25 countries. Her mother’s job as a flight attendant enabled a childhood of exploring the world. In addition to being the founding editor of En Route Traveler, Lara also works as the Art Director for the branding firm, Belmont Inc., in Alexandria, VA. In her spare time, she instructs high-energy Zumba dance classes, contributes as a Local Expert to AFAR, enjoys vegetarian cuisine, dabbles in photography and, of course, travels as much as possible. She fell in love with Santorini during her honeymoon and returned a few year later for a girlfriends’ retreat. (All photos of highlights 1-9 taken by Lara Dalinsky)
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