The beautiful volcanic Greek island of Santorini has the most stunningly (and geologically interesting) setting in the Mediterranean sea. And although it’s a small island, it’s packed with incredible things to do.
Here are 15 unique experiences that you can have on Santorini:
WATCH THE SUNSET OVER THE CALDERA
The sunsets on Santorini are world famous, and Oia and Fira are the most famous spots on the island to watch the sun go down. There’s no shortage of strategically positioned cocktail bars.
If your budget doesn’t stretch to a caldera hotel with pool and sunset view, the Lioyerma Lounge Cafe and Bar in Oia has a pool that you can use if you buy a drink or snacks. Another great (and less well-known) spot to watch the sunset is the lighthouse in Akrotiri.
Read More: Sunsets and Saltwater: Solo in Santorini
EAT A PERFECT SEAFOOD LUNCH IN AMMOUDI
Ammoudi, the little fishing village at the foot of the cliffs underneath Oia, is worth the long trek down for an immaculately fresh seafood lunch and a break from the crowds in. Keep walking left for the best swimming/cliff jumping spots on Santorini. There are a handful of tavernas in Ammoudi Bay—all of them great—and you can take a taxi back up the hill to Oia if you can’t contemplate the walk uphill after all that food.
Read More: Santorini for Foodies
HIKE THE CALDERA
Don’t miss the gorgeous 10km hike along the caldera if you enjoy the great outdoors. It takes 2-4 hours although allow a bit longer if (like me) you have a tendency to stop frequently for photos and freddo cappuccinos. Best to start from Oia in the morning (to avoid the heat of midday) walk towards Fira via the Imerovigli and Firostefani. No map needed but take plenty of water.
SCUBA DIVE IN A VOLCANO
To see the caldera from a different perspective, you can get your fins on and scuba dive with Aegean Divers or Santorini Dive Center. As well as the intrigue of the volcanic crater, there is also the steel wreck of a submerged tourist boat to discover.
BUY A BOOK FROM ATLANTIS
Atlantis Books is no ordinary bookstore: repeatedly included in ‘best bookstores in the world’-type lists, the cave walls here are covered in poetry, the terrace opens out onto an incredible Oia location, and it’s a treasure-trove of rare finds. The store occasionally hosts bookbinding classes, festivals, and now prints its own books. Basically, book nerd paradise.
VISIT THE POMPEII OF ANCIENT GREECE
Soak up some history at Akrotiri, where you’ll find one of the most important prehistoric sites in Greece. Habitation at this site dates back as far as 4th millennium BC! It later flourished as the copper trade boomed. But the ‘Minoan Pompeii’ was destroyed in the volcanic eruption of 1627BC and buried in a layer of ash. It’s perfectly preserved wall paintings were discovered in excavations in 1967—you can see reproductions at the Santozeum in Fira.
TOUR THE ISLAND ON ELECTRIC BIKE
Scooters and quad bikes are so passe—for something a bit different (and environmentally friendly) try touring the island by electric bike. No license is needed for these environmentally-friendly beauties. Both rental and tours are available from Santorini Adventures. And if you prefer the old-fashioned variety you can always rent a mountain bikes.
STAY IN A CAVE ROOM
Splurge: For the ultimate in modern cave room design, check out the swoon-worthy suites at Peribolas. (in fact, you may already have seen photos floating around on Pinterest). Heaven on earth.
Spend: Luxury caldera experience for a little less; the recently renovated and adults-only Callia Collection offers two Cave Suites in Fira. And the Heliotopos Hotel in Oia offers great value as well as a wine bar in a cave that you can enjoy even if you’re not staying there.
Budget: The good news is that you can find traditional cave rooms across the island, not just on the caldera, and at surprisingly cheap rates. I stayed at Caveland, a gorgeous hostel set in in a converted 16th winery in Karterados. It’s a 30-minute walk to Fira but the trade-off is that there’s plenty of space for poolside BBQs and yoga in the flower-filled courtyard. Private rooms and dorm rooms are available.
If vacation rentals are more your thing, Olyras Cave House in Pyrgos features some lovely design.
TOUR THE VINEYARDS
Santorini’s vineyards will be a highlight if you enjoy a tipple. Taste the island’s renowned Assyrtiko in situ, and learn why the vines here are woven into basket shapes. Most of the wineries are open to the public in some form; head to Pyrgos (the heart of Santorini’s winelands) if you want to DIY, or take an organised tour to include wineries in a few different locations across the island. You can even taste wine that has been cellared underwater at Gaia Winery.
Read More: A Foodie’s Guide to Santorini
EXPLORE TRADITIONAL VILLAGES
If you’ve got your own wheels (or are prepared to take the local buses) don’t miss out on discovering the inland villages such as Pyrgos, Megalochori, Emborio, and Exo Gonia. You’ll find the same traditional Cycladic architecture that you’ll find in the Caldera villages, but less primped up for the tourists. If you’re looking to escape the crowds and experience a more authentic side to Santorini, then these hidden gems will delight you.
WATCH MOVIES UNDER THE STARS
A great way to start a summer evening is with a film showing at Kamari’s Open Air Cinema. One of the most atmosphere open-air cinemas in Europe, if not the world, it’s the perfect follow-up to a day spent relaxing on the nearby black sand beach. Cocktails and ice-cream are available, tickets from €8.
SAIL AROUND THE CALDERA.
Santorini’s scenic caldera is arguably best seen from the sea, which makes it one of the most picturesque ferry approaches that you can take. If you’re not arriving by ferry, you can always push the boat out (ba-boom!) and take a sunset sailing trip around the Caldera. There are boat trips for every budget in Santorini, from private catamaran rentals to budget fishing fun.
HEAD BACK IN TIME ON THIRASIA
Santorini’s sister island—the other side of the original volcanic crater— is Thirasia, now separated by the flooded caldera. Few people visit Thirasia considering its proximity to Santorini. There’s not much to do; it’s truly what Santorini must have been like 30 years ago before the tourist influx. Boats take 20 minutes and leave from Ammoudi Bay.
SWIM IN VOLCANIC HOT SPRINGS
One of the most popular day trips on Santorini is a boat trip to the active volcano. You’ll have time to hike around the active craters on Nea Kameni before swimming in warm thermal waters on Palea Kameni.
TAKE AMAZING PHOTOS
Whether you’re taking snaps on your phone or a top-of-the-range DSLR, you’ll no doubt spend a lot of time pointing and shooting on this extremely attractive isle. For photos to truly do the setting justice (and rock your IG feed), up your game and invest in a specialist Photo Tour with Shotz or even book a session with a professional photographer.
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