Things to Do & See While on Santorini
Santorini's volcanic activity plays a role in many of island's popular activities, from swimming and sunbathing at the molten-dyed beaches (such as Kamari Beach) to exploring ancient ruins once buried in ash (Ancient Akrotiri). Even the flavor of wine here is affected by the island's volcanic terrain, making a trip to one of Santorini's many wineries a must-do activity for foodies. Outdoorsy types will enjoy hiking along the caldera from Fira, where the city of Atlantis was said to have once stood. Whatever you choose to do in Santorini, you can't miss a sunset from Oia, or while dining alfresco in Amoudi Bay.
Santorini's volcanic history has led to the formation of some of the more unique beaches in the Greek Isles, and Kamari is no exception. Sitting about 4 miles southeast of Fira on the island's east coast, this stretch of black sand is one of the largest in Santorini. The beach is backed by the town of its namesake, a popular resort area where you'll find numerous hotels, restaurants, beachside bars and shops. On the beach, visitors can take advantage of the available lounge chairs and umbrellas.
Travelers enjoyed the clear blue waters of Kamari and suggested planting your feet towards the southern portion of the shore. That's because the views of the imposing Mesa Vouno hill, where you can find Ancient Thira, makes for a picture-perfect Greek beach setting. No matter where you decide to kick back on Kamari Beach, travelers strongly suggest bringing protective footwear. The sand and pebbly terrain can get quite hot with the sun beating down on it, especially after a couple hours, so bring sandals if you're hoping to spend the day on the beach. Some visitors even suggested bringing water shoes, commenting that the underwater terrain at the shore quickly goes from sand to slippery solid rock.
Wineries can be found all over the island, but most are concentrated in central Santorini. Santo Wines in Pyrgos is the largest winery on the island and considered one of the most popular in Santorini. Other choice spots among travelers include Venetsanos Winery in Megalochori (about a half-mile south of Santo Wines) and Domaine Sigalas in Oia. Travelers also enjoyed the Wine Museum Koutsogiannopoulos, found in Fira. Located in a cave, the museum showcases Santorini's history as a wine producer and offers visitors a tasting with their ticket. When visiting a winery, patrons tend to receive a complimentary snack, such as bread and cheese, along with their tasting. For those who may not have the time to make a day out of visiting wineries, many of Santorini's wines are featured in the island's restaurants. Ask your server about local wines or keep an eye out for Vinsanto (a dessert wine), Nychteri, or Assyrtiko, both of which are white wines.
For beautiful views of the caldera, descend the 300 steps from the northern city of Oia to the charming port of Amoudi Bay. Surrounded by striking red cliffs and dotted with white-washed buildings typical to Santorini, this little village features several quaint tavernas serving up the catch of the day. Aside from digging in the bounty of the sea, visitors can enjoy some swimming here, though the beach is rocky so you should bring appropriate footwear, especially if you plan on cliff diving (a popular activity in Amoudi Bay). On the small island of Saint Nicholas, seen from Amoudi Bay's beach, visitors can climb up stairs from the water onto the small, rocky island and jump from a designated point.
You can reach Amoudi Bay on foot or by car. Travelers say the walk down to Amoudi Bay from Oia is pretty scenic (just watch out for donkeys) but going back up the steep hill is a serious hike. Access to the area is free and travelers can come and go all day and night. Individual business however have their own hours.
Located less than a mile southwest of Ancient Akrotiri, this beach earns its name from its towering red cliffs and dark sand. Travelers say the scenery is stunning – be sure to bring a camera to take photos of the stark contrast between the brick red cliffs and the aquamarine water. While the water may look tempting to dip your toes in, travelers strongly suggest choosing a different shoreline as the site of your beach day. Some even suggest skipping this spot entirely for a number of reasons. Travelers have said that there is no paved path to get to the beach. Visitors must park at a parking lot nearby then traverse a rocky pathway to the beach. Some said they didn't know how rugged the path would be prior to visiting and had great trouble making it to the beach without sneakers.
Fira to Oia Hike
The best way to take in Santorini is to walk, and there is no better route than the one from Fira to Oia. This hike is 6 miles one-way and passes through four towns, including Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli and Oia. It's important to know that there is no marked trail or pathway for this hike (aside from a couple signs, according to recent travelers), but a matter of following the roads closest to the caldera. Along the way, travelers will find numerous sites worth stopping for, in addition to spectacular ocean views and picturesque towns. One of these is Skaros Rock. Today, this headland is a popular vantage point for watching sunsets, but in yesteryears it housed a castle that served as the prime meeting place for Christians during the 1800s. There's also numerous churches dotted throughout, including the blue-domed St. Gerasimos Church, which offers excellent views of the volcano. Once you hit Oia, you'll find Byzantine castle ruins open for exploration.
This fascinating archaeological site was first discovered in the late 1860s but its buildings date back to earlier than 17th century B.C. This former Minoan outpost, which, according to the Greek Ministry of Culture, is considered one of the most important prehistoric settlements of the Aegean Sea, was once a thriving port town. The city was later destroyed by a massive volcanic eruption, the same one that made Santorini look like it is today. Thanks to years of excavation, enough of the site has been uncovered (only one-third of the site is said to have been excavated) to allow visitors to explore. Here, travelers can look at multi-level buildings, loads of pottery and even drainage systems. What is absent, however, is any sign of its former residences. This has led scientists to believe that Akrotiri's previous inhabitants knew of the eruption and fled the island accordingly.
Separating Kamari from Perissa on top of Mesa Vouna is Ancient Thira. This archaeological site, which was first claimed by the Dorians (ancient Greeks) in the 9th century B.C., is home to ruins from the Hellenistic (Greek empire built by Alexander the Great), Roman and Byzantine (eastern Roman empire) eras. Stroll through Ancient Thira and you'll find ruins of ancient religious sites, a theater, old city administrative buildings and even a gym for military trainees.
Museum of Prehistoric Thera
Taking a trip to the Museum of Prehistoric Thera is a great way to finish exploring the ruins of Santorini's ancient cities. This tiny museum in the heart of Thira houses frescoes and other archaeological treasures found during the excavation of Ancient Akrotiri, which was destroyed by the volcanic eruption that made Santorini look like it does today. Some of the pieces here date back several thousand years (some of the pottery on display is leftover from 3,000 BC) and offer insight into early human life on the Greek Islands, making this an interesting place to check out if you're keen to learning more about the island's history.