Travel guide to the island of Santorini in Greece

An island paradise in the heart of the Cyclades


Santorini, Greece

GPS: 36.397682860898, 25.462158324243

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Santorini is a popular island that is part of the Cyclades group of beautiful islands in the southern Aegean Sea. Crescent-shaped, it is the main island of a picturesque archipelago comprising four other islands of volcanic origin: Aspronisi (the small island), Palea Kameni (in the centre of the caldera), Nea Kameni (the most recently formed) and Therasia (the other inhabited island in the archipelago along with Santorini). One of the most famous and best Greek islands destinations, Santorini is also known as Thera or Thíra. This archipelago of less than 80 km² has some of the most stunning natural scenery in the Aegean Sea which is perfect for a Greek island hopping itinerary including day trips from Santorini to other islands close to Santorini. This is one of the best Greek experiences if you are planning a Greek island itinerary to go island hopping with a boat tour to visit Santorini and many of the Cyclades islands mentioned, which are all accessible by boat from a nearby island. Ferries to and from the mainland can take the form of a trip from Santorini to Ios, trips from Santorini to Folegandros or a day trip from Mykonos to spend a day Santorini island hopping to enjoy beaches on the island and the breathtaking views. Santorini is a great place from which to take a day tour from Santorini to Aegean islands in Greece where visitors can spend the day exploring which is a great way to see the archipelago.

Bordered by high cliffs and surrounded by clear waters, the diverse island Santorini archipelago contains a fearsome volcano whose crater and caldera are engulfed by water. The volcano is still active and last erupted in the mid-twentieth century. Santorini is unique in that it lies on the South Aegean Volcanic Arc, a tectonic system wedged between the Aegean Sea Plate and the African Plate. In the past, the archipelago formed a single territorial entity before undergoing one or more large-scale volcanic explosions during the 2nd millennium BC. From this eruption dating back to the Minoan period, archaeological ruins remain from the Bronze Age, such as the ancient site of Thera or the remarkable place of Akrotiri, testimony to a flourishing ancient civilisation. On land, despite its dry Mediterranean climate in the high season which is perfect for a Greek island hopping itinerary, Santorini’s volcanic soil contains one of the oldest vineyards in the world (it has been cultivated for about 5,000 years). This multi-millennial vine, known as Assyrtiko (or Asyrtiko), produces a sweet white wine called Vinsanto that is part of Greek cuisine and a must-taste for those planning a trip to a traditional Greek winery.

The Santorini archipelago has been administratively attached to Greece since the Convention of London in 1840, which declared the country’s independence from the Ottoman Empire. Its rugged terrain consists of a fabulous steep coastline and the island chain enjoys an exceptional amount of sunshine making it one of the best places in Greece to visit on a Santorini day Greece itinerary. A day Greek island hopping will showcase the bright white villages standing alongside blue-domed churches overlooking the bay and caldera from the archipelago’s heights. Santorini’s memorable sunsets and unique geological environment, through its volcanic beaches, natural heritage and historical treasures, make it a top romantic destination including day trips from Santorini to other islands. It is possible to go on a ferry from Santorini to Mykonos and Santorini to Crete, alongside other options. The boat trip will allow visitors to find the best way to see how a day itinerary around the island or away from Santorini island located in one of the most popular and great Greek destinations will allow them to explore this coveted area.

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  • Santorini experienced a huge volcanic eruption followed by a major tidal wave in 1620 BC, one of the greatest cataclysms in history. This event was the cause of the fall of the brilliant Minoan civilisation on Crete. They were a culturally advanced seafaring people that spread throughout the Aegean Sea. On the other hand, this natural disaster could have favoured the expansion of the Mycenaean civilisation, which originated in the south of mainland Greece.
  • Recent research in the seabed of the Santorini islands shows that the volcano’s 1620 BC explosion appears to have been much larger than that of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD (leading to the sudden destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum). In the moments following the Santorini eruption, the archipelago was covered by several metres of ash, suffered rock sprays and endured 30 kilometre long pyroclastic flows and tsunamis through 20 metre high waves. But unlike the ruins of Pompeii, no human remains were found on the archaeological site of Akrotiri. The site was perfectly preserved, however, as it was buried under metres of pumice and ash when it was discovered in 1967 by the Greek archaeologist Spyrídon Marinátos. An earthquake that heralded a great catastrophe would probably have prompted its inhabitants to flee and leave the site by sea. Other researchers believe that the collapse of the central part of the archipelago occurred long before the devastating eruption that engulfed Akrotiri. According to archaeologist Julien Beck, this question is still under debate. It is still very difficult to know whether the history of Santorini was disrupted by a single disaster event or by a series of appalling natural episodes.
  • For Julien Beck, Akrotiri is an exceptional and unique example of a Bronze Age city (between the Middle Bronze Age and Late Bronze Age). Its perfectly preserved ruins are the result of an ancient civilisation strongly influenced by the Minoans at a time when writing did not exist. Its remains include houses with cellars in the basement, workshops or storage areas on the ground floor and stairways, rooms and living areas on different floors. Remarkable frescoes (depicting human figures, maritime scenes with ships…) adorned rooms with stone slabs on the floor.
  • A mural fresco at the archaeological site of Akrotiri refers to grey and blue monkeys characteristic of the Indus Valley (the equivalent of present-day Pakistan). Some specialists suggest that the Minoans may have travelled to Asia Minor as early as the Bronze Age (between 2,700 and 1,200 BC), well before the majority of the Mediterranean peoples. This fresco suggests that trade between the European and Asian continents may have begun 1,500 years earlier than researchers had previously suggested.
  • Some historians have speculated that the Santorini archipelago may hold the secrets of the mythical city of Atlantis, buried under the sea. The Greek philosopher Plato was the first to make reference to this almost 2,500 years ago (these texts are known as the Dialogues of Plato). He described a flourishing civilisation that predated the Greeks, the Atlanteans, which experienced a series of major earthquakes, cataclysms and eruptions before being submerged 3,500 years ago. This story shares many similarities with the Minoan eruption in Santorini.
  • The last earthquake to hit the Santorini archipelago occurred in 1956. Of magnitude 7.8, it caused enormous damage, including the destruction of part of the village of Imerovigli.
  • The volcanic soil of Santorini is composed of pumice. It is very porous in nature and helps to retain moisture from the atmosphere to cope with the lack of rainfall in summer. This arid soil favours viticulture, requires little maintenance and limits the spread of diseases on the vines (such as phylloxera, mildew, powdery mildew and botrytis, which are very present in other regions of the world). The vines are woven into baskets on the ground and resemble large salads. This feature protects them from both wind and drought.
  • For several years, the tourist destination of Santorini has been a victim of its own success. Inhabited by only 15,000 people year-round, it receives an estimated 70,000 visitors per day in July and August, including many cruise ships. The local authorities are trying to regulate this massive influx of tourists to preserve the archipelago’s ecosystem.
  • If possible, avoid Santorini in July and August, the busiest time of the year. Fira and Oia are the two main villages on the island where most visitors are concentrated.
  • An efficient local bus service serves all destinations on the archipelago (renting a quad or a two-wheeler can also be an excellent alternative for getting around the island).
  • Take advantage of your stay in Santorini to explore its culinary world in the many restaurants (taverns) using mainly local products.
  • If you are looking for peace and quiet not far from Santorini in the high season, you can reach the small island of Anafi by boat (it is located in the extreme southeast of the archipelago).
  • Avoid as much as possible using donkeys and mules to move around or carry heavy loads on the islands. These animals are often mistreated by their owners and forced to work in very difficult conditions: they walk under a blazing sun in uneven and steep terrain, without any time or load limit and without being properly watered.
  • The natural beauty and geological wealth of Santorini; the clear and warm waters of the Cyclades; the panoramic view of the archipelago; the fabulous remains of an ancient crater floating above the waves; the complex and tormented geological history of the archipelago, source of many myths and legends
  • The whitewashed houses on the slopes and cliff tops of the archipelago; the blue domes of the Orthodox churches; the ancient troglodytic dwellings (called scaftas) perched on the cliffs; the narrow streets and steep staircases on the rock faces
  • The fumaroles, thermal waters and hot springs of the Santorini volcano on the island of Nea Kameni (accessible by boat); the sulphurous waters in the bay of the island of Palea Kameni; the volcanic beaches of Perissa and Kamari (black sand), Red Beach, White Beach, Perivolos and Vlihada
  • The archaeological sites of Akrotiri (ruins of an ancient city resulting from a massive volcanic eruption 3,500 years ago) and its ancient Venetian castle (its 13th century tower displays ancient Greek musical instruments such as the tsabouna or Apollo’s lyre); the remains of Thera (an ancient Doric city); Minoan frescoes and wall paintings; the historic town of Manolas on the island of Therasia; the charming village of Emporio (home to an ancient 15th century fortress known as Goulas); the quiet and less crowded villages of Pyrgos (the highest in Santorini) and Megalochori (close to the vineyards); the small fishing port of Ammoudi (with tavernas for dining)
  • The Catholic Monastery of Dominican Nuns (which dates back to the 16th century), the old port of Ormos (accessible via a 600-step stone staircase), the Cultural Center Megaro Gyzi (exhibition of historical documents in a 17th century building) and the small Archaeological Museum (collection of ancient artefacts) all located in Fira
  • The picturesque village of Oia on the northern tip of Santorini (one of the best places in the archipelago to see the sunset)
  • The calderas (volcanic depressions) visible in Fira, Oia, Imerovigli, Firostefani and Megalochori
  • Scuba diving, boat trips and water activities in the Aegean Sea; sea connections with other Cyclades Islands, the Port of Piraeus in Athens or the island of Crete and its capital Heraklion (Santorini also has a small airport north of Kamari village)
  • The archipelago’s art of living; the freshness of local products; the ancient variety of vineyards and the local wine culture (vinsanto and mezzo); an inspiring place for artists; the Gyzi Megaron Festival in August (music, art, painting, theatre); the open-air cinema in Kamari (open from May to October)

Where to eat

  • Pitogyros
    (gyros are delicious)
  • Captain's Corner Taverna
    (typical Greek tavern)
  • To Psaraki
    (excellent seafood products)

Where to go

  • Hiking between Fira and Oia
    (spectacular trail)
  • Museum of Prehistoric Thera
    (ancient objects and frescoes)
  • Venetsanos Winery
    (tasting of local wines)

Where to stay

  • Antonia Hotel Santorini
    (ideal for small budgets)
  • Remezzo Villas Santorini
    (peaceful and romantic setting)
  • Angel Studios
    (with remarkable hospitality)