You might think that a visit to the Greek islands is just about relaxing on the beach or drinking cocktails by the pool, but Santorini has a remarkable history as well. Santorini, often known as Thira, was once a single circular island. The island was originally known as Stongili, or round island, until the volcanic eruption around 1600 BC caused part of the island to sink, leaving a group of islands – Thera, Thirasia, Aspronisi, Palea and Nea Kameni. Santorini is famous for dramatic views, stunning sunsets, and of course, the caldera. We spent 5 days on the island which was a perfect amount of time to enjoy the views yet still explore the island.
Beaches & Swimming
We spent a lot of time relaxing by the hotel pool.
We also spent an afternoon doing a sunset sail with Santorini Sailing on one of their catamarans. This was a perfect way to enjoy visiting the hot springs & swimming in the Aegean, as well as enjoying on sunset just off the coast of Akrotiri.
Santorini is not known for its beaches, given its volcanic makeup and large cliff faces. That said, there are a number of good beaches both for relaxing and swimming. We enjoyed grabbing a couple sun loungers and sitting under an umbrella at Perissa, the more party/backpacker beach, and the water was totally clear (and there were fish – it may not be the Caribbean but it still made it fun to snorkel).
For our second beach trip, we were torn between swimming in Amoudi Bay, visiting Kamari beach, and heading over to red beach. They were all different, but as there was a wind from the North that day, we decided to go south to Red Beach as it was shielded from that. We did the 10 minute hike over the beach, and spent a couple hours swimming. It is small and crowded, but the red and black rock against the turquoise blue waters made it worth a few hour visit.
We managed to watch the sunset from Fira, Oia and Imerovigli, as well as from the South while on the sailboat. They all provided different views and experiences, but I’d say the best one is actually in Imerovigli
Fira’s view isn’t the best due to the sun setting behind the volcanic crater in the middle. It is still gorgeous though – on the first night, we booked a front row corner table at V Lounge, which was a great place to enjoy a cocktail while watching the sunset. On the last night, we grabbed a bottle of wine from the hotel and watched the sunset just in front of the main cathedral, with street musicians playing the background.
Oia is the most famous place to watch the sunset, so we booked a table at Kastro’s for a sunset dinner. It was a gorgeous sunset and we were glad to have booked a table as there were hoards of tourists gathered around everywhere else. That said, the food was Kastro’s was mediocre and it is truly the place to visit only if you want an amazing view of sunset while dining.
Imerogivli is the secret town that no one seems to mention, but as it is the highest point on the island, the views are amazing. We walked into the La Maltese hotel with no reservation, and enjoyed sunset cocktails on a front row table with a perfect view.
It wasn’t just sunsets and swimming for us though. We managed to fit in a few worthy sites and activities as well.
On Saturday, we visited Santorini’s Cinema Kamari, which is their outdoor cinema. What a cool venue, and the perfect place to watch Survivor – under the stars and with wine & popcorn in hand. The weather was perfect, the movie was entertaining, and it was a nice way to spend the evening.
Santorini also has a bunch of wineries, and the wine has a unique acidity due to the way the vines are cultivated – in low basket shaped crowns, close the ground in order to protect it from the winds and volcanic ash and dust. We decided against wine tasting, but did make a stop at Aroma Avlis – Food & Wine, for a nice lunch with a great view over the vineyard and the sea.
We also wanted to make sure we got a better understanding of the island’s rich history so we visited the Ancient Akrotiri archeological site and followed that by visiting the Archeological museum in Thira. The island was inhabited around 3000 BC, and the archeological site that was excavated represents about 3% of the Minoan settlement. At this time, the island was circular with a small amount of water in the middle, and theories suggest this settlement is how the legend of Atlantis came about. When the volcano erupted, the island split apart and parts if sunk. The Minoans looked to have fled prior to the major eruption, so there are no valuable items found. That said, the site was well preserved due to the eruption so it provides an understanding of how advanced this early civilization was, and then the visit to the museum adds some depth as it showcases the paintings from the site as well as some of the pottery.