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If you’ve never been to Santorini, chances are, it’s at least on your travel bucket list. The southernmost island in the Cyclades, it hosts those famous whitewashed cave homes and blue-domed churches will spill down the rim of an ancient volcanic crater, creating one of the most striking scenes in the world. During your visit, be sure to enjoy these must-experiences.
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While Santorini may not have endless stretches of powdery white sands for lounging on, it does boast some of the most unique beaches in the world, like Red Beach near the town of Akrotiri. The dramatic fiery-hued cliffs disintegrate into scarlet sands at the bottom, and sit at the edge of brilliant blue waters. The island also boasts exceptional black sand beaches like Perissa and Perivolos, along with a number of white beaches as well.
Oia must be one of the most stunning villages in the world. This is the place you’ve probably seen in postcards and other images featuring Santorini. Oia is famous for its whitewashed houses splashed with blue, set atop a dramatic cliff boasting jaw-dropping vistas over the volcano. Strolling the maze of narrow streets, simply wandering around, popping into the occasional shop or art gallery, and sitting down to sip a drink at one of the many tavernas. The village is also legendary for its sunsets, known as some of the most magical on the planet.
The tiny but visually striking port of Amoudi Bay sits 300 steps below the town of Oia. If you aren’t up to the slightly challenging descent, you can drive around, though the walk is particularly memorable. After you make your way down the steep, winding hill, you’ll be rewarded with this awe-inspiring sight that sits nestled among the rugged cliffs. While there is no beach, the bay is renowned as one of the best places for taking a dip on Santorini.
While visiting Amoudi Bay, be sure to make time for a meal at Ammoudi Fish Tavern. Not only will you be able to enjoy dining on fresh seafood while gazing at those remarkable vistas, but the friendly smiles from the servers are sure to be unforgettable too.
Taking a hike on Santorini is sure to be one of the highlights of your time on the island, particularly the trek between Fira and Oia. While the round trip journey is 15 miles, you can leave your car at one end, take the bus to the other and walk back if you aren’t up to that long task. Along the way, you’ll enjoy practically an endless number of picture-perfect photo-ops, including views of the endless expanse of the glistening turquoise-hued sea, beautiful churches and a gorgeous lagoon.
How about sipping a glass of fine red vino while taking in jaw-dropping vistas of the cerulean sea? While you may not think of the Aegean Islands as a wine destination, Santorini is becoming increasingly popular for its outstanding wine. The island is essentially one large farm, with Greek vino flowing nearly as freely as the hot springs near its volcano. Don’t miss visiting Boutari Winery in Perissa, which dates back to 1879.
Sailing is practically a must when visiting Santorini, and a sunset sail is even better. Cap off your time on the island by embarking on a cruise that brings those striking caldera views while you glide across those sparkling cerulean waters. There are a number of outfitters that offer the experience, and most include visits to hidden beaches for snorkeling or swimming, as well as time at a hot spring, and that legendary Santorini wine. All of this, along with the chance to soak up one of the world’s most awe-inspiring sunsets.
If tourist crowds are something you’d prefer not to immerse yourself in whenever possible, you may want to stay in Akrotiri, one of the quieter areas of the island. And, there may be no better place to stay for tranquility, views and extraordinary service than Kalestesia Suites. Set on a hilltop overlooking the caldera, when you step into this beautiful property you may have to pinch yourself, as it truly looks like a dream. This luxurious hotel oozes opulence, while each and every member of the staff will make you feel as if you’re royalty. When you aren’t out and about exploring the island, you can swim in the gorgeous pool and enjoy dining on freshly-prepared meals made with organic ingredients.
Santorini boasts fascinating ruins too, including the archaeological excavation site that features ruins from the old city of Akrotiri. The site was first discovered in the mid-19th-century, but its buildings date back to sometime before 1700 BC, when it was buried by a volcanic eruption, similar to Pompeii. It was once a thriving town and is considered one of the most important prehistoric settlements of the Aegean Sea. Visitors can stroll the walkways to view multi-level buildings, an abundance of pottery and even drainage systems.
There are many places to view the famous breathtaking sunsets that Santorini offers, from on the water through a sunset sail, from the village of Oia and beyond. Of course, in the most popular spots, you’re likely to find yourself among big crowds. While those are still well-worth experiencing, while you’re here, be sure to watch the sun go down in a more private spot. If you stay at Kalestesia Suites, your view is unlikely to be interrupted as the intimate property houses just 10 rooms. Skaros Rock at Imerovigli, the ruins of a Venetian castle, are also often ideal, with the structure illuminated with red light as the sun dips below the horizon.