Before I hop on along and start sharing other travel tales, I wanted to sum up some of my favorite things to do, eat, and see in Santorini! Truth be told, we were only on the island for five days, and while I could have easily spent two weeks exploring the island’s rugged shoreline and gorging on tzatziki, five days was just the right amount of time to discover many of Santorni’s gems. The following list features a few superlatives I’d recommend checking out if you’re ever on the dazzling island of Santorini.
1. Enjoy an 18-flight wine tasting at Santo Winery.
Santo Winery offers spectacular ocean views and boasts of an amazing wine list. The 18 flight wine tasting can easily be shared between two people and will only set you back around €35. They also have great nibbles if you’d like some Greek delicatessen to accompany your flight. Call or email ahead of time to reserve a table outdoors or a comfortable seat inside. Prepare to spend a full afternoon sipping wine in the sun, and don’t forget to check out the gift shop before you leave!
2. Catch an open air movie at Volkan Cinema in Fira
If you’re looking for a fun, low-key evening activity, consider catching a flick at Volkan On The Rocks Cafe. Each night, after the sun goes down, Volkan offers a one of a kind movie viewing experience. Set along the edge of the caldera and boasting of beautiful ocean views, you wont know which way to look as Mama Mia plays on a screen in front of you and sailboats twinkle off on the horizon. In addition to a nightly movie screening, the cafe offers a delicious selection of food and drinks, so you can enjoy a late dinner or a glass of cool vino along with your movie! Check the website for movie times and titles.
Pro Tip: If you’re not staying in Fira, consider doubling up your movie night up with a sunset boat ride. The majority of the sunset boat rides leave from the harbor in Fira, so you can sail along the caldera at sunset, and then when you return to the harbor in Fira, make your way up to Volkan for dinner and a movie!3. Walk 1,000 steps down to Amoudi Bay.
On our third night in Santorini, Kai and I wound up with a surprise evening in Oia, after our sunset sail was canceled last-minute. We decided to explore the village a bit more extensively, and before we knew it, we were 500 steps into a LONG descent, winding our way down towards a charming bay. If you’re up for the walk, the vistas are lovely on the walk down to Amoudi Bay, and you will most likely pass a few grumpy donkeys along the way!Once you’ve reached the bottom, consider stopping for a drink or meal at one of the harbor’s adorable restaurants. Or, go for a dip in the cool, rocky harbor.4. Eat alllllllll the local food!
Do I have to put this one on the list?! If you’re heading to Santorini, make sure you indulge in some of the island’s culinary specialties (and don’t forget those classic Greek dishes as well!) A few top contenders are . . Tomato fritters are a Santorini gem – the dish shines predominately due to the fact that the star tomatoes are sun-kissed, sweet, and locally grown. A Santorini Salad (below), appearing on almost all of the local menus, cannot be missed, and consists of fresh capers, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, olives, and a huge slab of the local hard cheese.Stuffed grape leaves are another Greek classic that tase a thousand times better when consumed on Santorini in the sun. Baklava, a nutty, sweet pastry can be found all over Greece, but is especially delicious in Santorini where it’s made with local pistachios. White eggplant thrives in Santorini’s ashy soil, and can be found baked, fried, or pureed (my favorite!) on many of the local menus. Seek out anything from the ocean – from calamari to fish – as the island’s geography makes it a mecca for fresh seafood. A frappe (below) is Greece’s very own coffee brew that is sweet, frothy, and incredibly caffeinated. Consume early to kick-start your day! And don’t forget to graze on ample appetizers – tzatziki, eggplant dip, pita bread, olives, and zucchini fritters all must-tries when visiting Santorini!Our two favorite restaurants on the island were Good Heart, which was on the south of the island by Akrotiri Lighthouse and served hearty, homemade food, and Melitini which was a cozy corner-side eatery in Oia and which offered an array of delicious Greek share plates.
5. Catch a sunset in Oia.
When you’re on one of the most romantic islands in the world, it’s compulsory to observe at least one sunset! As mentioned in my Greek sunset post, the village of Oia is situated on the north-western coast of Santorini, and is perfectly placed for catching the day’s final rays. As the sun begins to dip, hundreds of people flock to the caldera edge so say farewell to another glorious day, and ring in the evening hours. You could join the hundreds of others who find a monument, step, or concrete wall to perch up against, or you could scout out a table at a vista serving cafe. I’d strongly suggest making a reservation ahead of time if you want to snag a table for golden hour. Our favorites for sipping a cocktail and catching the sunset were Sunset Spirit (below), which was smack next to a windmill on the caldera, and Katharos Lounge, which was about a 15 minute walk from Oia and situated on a beautiful, secluded beach!6. Roam the island on a quad bike.
Initially, I didn’t realize how big Santorini was. I thought it was an island with one main town or center, and expected everything to be walkable. Turns out there are dozens of small villages scattered throughout the island, which is in fact 11 miles long! And so although we stayed in Oia, which is one of the smaller, more romantic villages on the island, we wanted an opportunity to explore the rest of the island, and renting a quad bike let us do just that!I don’t think we paid more than €35 to rent the bike and helmets for the day, and only had to stop once to fill up on gas, which was fairly inexpensive due to the quad bike’s small tank. Not only is renting a quad bike fun, but it lets you explore parts of the island you otherwise wouldn’t be able to reach. While cruising on our quad, we impromptu stopped in two small villages for coffee and cake, in addition to Red Beach (below), Akrotiri Lighthouse, and Good Heart, a sumptuous restaurant recommended by a local (more on these later!)7. Befriend all the stray cats!
There are many stray cats on the island of Santorini. Some are pets and appear plump and well-fed, while others are scrawny and sad, and look like they need major cuddles.If you are a cat person like myself, do not hesitate to give these little guys some love! They rely predominantly on the passion of travelers, and need to plump up as much as possible during the high season so they do not starve to death in the winter when the tourists are gone and the food scraps become sparse.Pro Tip: The cats of Santorini really tugged at my heart-strings, so I did some digging and discovered that there are a couple of charities on the island dedicated to helping the cats. If you’d like to do more, consider making a small donation of money or food to Sterila, a charity organization in Kamari. They look to supply water, feeding points, and sterilization for the cats. These little guys provided so much extra joy to our trip – it’s the least we could do in return!
8. Take a dip in the sea at Red Beach.
Red Beach is one of Santorini’s geological gems. You’ll find this fiery beach on the south of the island – bright red cliffs slope abruptly down to the sea, where brilliant blue waters sing in contrast to the crumbling Mars-like rocks. Take a walk along the red-pebbled beach, go for a dip, or simply stop by to take in one of nature’s most brilliant pieces of art. You can read more about our day at Red Beach here.Pro Tip: If you don’t have a car, renting a quad bike to get to the beach is easy and regularly done – dozens are scattered around the beach’s parking lot! Also note that getting to the beach does involve some scrambling over boulders and rocks, so be mindful of your footwear choice.
9. Grab lunch at The Good Heart and swing by Akrotiri Lighthouse.
On our first day in Santorini, our cab driver mentioned that Good Heart was his favorite restaurant, and so we mapped it out as a stop on our quad bike adventure, and boy were we glad we stopped by! The meal was simple and delicious, and tasted much more homey and authentic than a lot of the restaurants we’d previously eaten at in Oia. While this place does have a small gift shop, it doesn’t scream ‘tourist stop!’ which we really liked about it. Kai had the veal with white mashed eggplant, and I had the rabbit and spaghetti, and both meals tasted like they came straight out of our Greek Gramma’s kitchen!Afterwards we stopped by Akrotiri Lighthouse, which on its own might have been a bit lack-luster, but as it was very close to Good Heart we swung by anyways, and appreciated the opportunity to stretch our legs following such a heavy mid-day meal. I didn’t think Akrotiri Lighthouse was too awe-inspiring on its own, but I would heed you to check out Good Heart and perhaps give the lighthouse a little roam after – it’s a great combo!
10. Drink a cold donkey beer!
Whether you’re into pale ale, red ale, or wheat beers, Santorini Brewing Company, the folk behind Donkey Beer, will have the brew for you!Named after the numerous donkeys on the island, you can find Donkey Beer on the menu at many of Santorini’s restaurants and bars. If you’re a big beer fanatic, you might even consider stopping by the brewery, where you can see how the beer is made and enjoy a tasting of Red, Yellow, and Crazy Donkey Beer! 11. Sail along the caldera.
While there are many beautiful vantage points on the island of Santorini, nothing beats seeing the pastel colors of the island’s villages from a sailboat below.
There are numerous tour companies that offer sunset sailboat rides, in addition to early morning and daytime excursions. Kai and I did a day tour which involved trekking up a volcano, swimming in a hot spring, stopping by the smaller island of Therasia for lunch, and finally sailing along the caldera’s edge at sunset.The views along the caldera were unforgettable, and offered some of the most beautiful views of Santorini. If you get the chance, enjoy a sail and take in the island’s dreamy villages from below.
12. Eat lunch under a sea of pink Bougainvillea.
The island of Santorini is blooming. Cafes, restaurants, and hotels often sport miles of falling Bougainvillea, an ornamental vine that flowers almost all year-long!So when the afternoon sun is hot, find a shady terrace to hide below, and eat your lunch under a sea of hot pink florals. We were lucky in that our hotel had a beautiful, white terrace draped with the pretty flowers, and we often sought it out elsewhere as we picked our mid-morning coffee spots! It’s a lovely sight, synonymous with Greece, so make sure you at least snap a photo underneath these decorative blossoms. 13. Rent a room along the caldera, or watch the sunset from your hot tub.
You’ve seen the photos – those chalky, cavernous homes along the caldera that scream most romantic place on earth! Some will set you back thousands a night, while others offer similar amenities and can be found at a bargain. No matter where you stay, consider hunting for something that feels authentic and let’s you live like a local, whether you’d prefer to look our over the caldera or the sea.
Santorini is incredibly beautiful, and there’s nothing better than taking in the view over a glass of prosecco from your very own space. The villages, and especially Oia, tend to wind down fairly early in the evening, so Kai and I loved having a romantic spot to head back to and top off the evening with some private relaxation and a refreshing night-cap. We stayed at Anemomilos, which was very reasonably priced, and allowed us to book a room with a sea view and a hot tub within our budget. Shop around to find the right mix for you, and when in doubt, don’t be afraid to splurge a bit on the small extras that will make your trip that much more memorable!
12. Hike from Oia to Fira at sunrise.
This activity is on the top of many Santorini travel guides, and it’s not hard to see why. Whether you hike from Oia to Fira, or the other way around, you have to do it at least once, and you have to do it at sunrise! You will be treated to some of the most breathtaking, attractive views of the island, and will have peaceful moments to yourself as the day begins, on an otherwise bustling and lively island.Check out the sunrise time on your weather app before you set your alarm, and make sure you get up at least marginally before the sun is due to rise. You don’t want to be groping around in the dark, but you also don’t want to miss the most spectacular moment of the day when the sun casts its first glow on the sleeping villages of Santotini. You can read more about our hike here, but in total it took about three hours to complete. We stopped frequently to take in our surroundings, snap some photos, and guzzle water. I believe the distance was about six miles, and by the time we reached Fira, we were ready and rearing for breakfast! The hike is fairly easy – there are a few steep hills but no crazy-intense rock climbing moments (but then again, you’re talking to an experienced hiker!) You should wear sneakers, pack some snacks and water, and enjoy one of the most spectacular sunrises you will see!
14. Hike a volcano.
Technically, the entire island of Santorini is a volcano (more on that here!) but if you’re keen to get an even closer look, you can book a boat ride out to the main crater of the volcano, where you can hike up to the peak.The volcano itself is still active, with smoke escaping from the throat and scalding hot rocks located a mere six inches below the surface. There are many excursion companies that stop at the volcano, so take your pick! I wouldn’t recommend ours here – although we loved our excursion, it was a re-schedule as the tour company we booked with had canceled on us two nights prior without any notice. So no plug for them here ;) But look around online or even wander into some of the tour shops in Fira, where you are sure to find a bargain!
Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes, and pack sun screen and water, along with your camera for some epic photos at the top – such as the above!
15. Visit the island of Thirasia.
Compared to Santorini, Therasia is a small island, with only 300 inhabitants. Quiet, rural, and dreamy, this island is surely what Santorini resembled 50 years ago. Horses graze in pastures, peaceful houses bake in the sun, and cats seem to be more abundant than people. Boats can sail into the island’s small port, where there are several restaurants and a convenient store. Aside from this, commodities on the island are scarce. There may be an ATM, but public transport is provided solely in the form of donkeys, and many of the island’s shops are closed come low-season.However, the island’s charm is well worth a visit, so wear sturdy shoes and be prepared to walk – winding through the muted streets of Thirasia is the best way to take in the island’s soft beauty.
If you have any questions regarding your travels to Santorini, let me know in the comments below. We loved our time on the island, and I am happy to help make sure you have the same experience!