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Why Should I Visit Santorini?

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Santorini at a glance

Born of hot lava, Santorini is the “daughter of the highest wrath” according to the poet Odysseus Elytis. Not just an island of explosive beauty, it is also a breathtaking geological spectacle of stone and ash.

The precipitous volcanic cliffs that plunge into the waters of the Aegean and the cave houses carved from the rock, which appear to hang vertiginously on the rim of the caldera, make it a natural wonder. As such, this extraordinary place, which inspired the myth of Atlantis, is one of the most photographed destinations in the world today.

With its luxury hotels, fine culinary tradition and unique wine culture, it is no surprise that Santorini so often features on lists of dream destinations for a holiday. And of course, it is consistently voted one of the most beautiful islands in the world that you can visit by choosing an itinerary to Santorini!

10 reasons to visit Santorini
  1. To experience one of the most spectacular sunsets in the world, a kaleidoscope of gold, red and pink that transforms the island into a living postcard. The best viewing spots are the castle of Oia, Mount Profitis Ilias above the village of Pyrgos, the lighthouse at Akrotiri, and Vlychada Beach.
  2. To explore the dazzling archaeological site of Akrotiri, one of the most important prehistoric settlements in Europe. Known as the “Pompeii of the Aegean”, the remains of this legendary ancient city (1500 BC) bear witness to a high degree of organisation in terms of its architecture and planning, and a sophisticated society.
  3. To discover a four-thousand-year-old tradition of viticulture with wine tasting lessons at the modern premises and traditional caves of the island’s wineries.
  4. To visit the superb Museum of Prehistoric Thera in Fira, where you can admire unique treasures from the island’s past. These include impressive frescoes from the “House of Women” and a beautiful golden goat statuette.
  5. To watch the “Ifestia”, a spectacular recreation of the eruption of the volcano staged with fireworks and flares in late August.
  6. To admire the geological spectacle of the Red Beach, one of the most otherworldly settings in the Mediterranean.
  7. To feel the energy of the island by walking in the crater of the Nea Kameni volcano or swimming in the warm sulphurous waters of Palia Kameni. Both of the famous volcanic islands in the centre of the caldera can be reached by boat from Athinios, Gialos (the old port) and Ammoudi.
  8. To enjoy an evening cocktail with a view of the boundless sea and the starry sky at one of the dozens of cafes and bars in Fira or Oia.
  9. To explore the cosmopolitan town of Oia, an architectural jewel with cave houses and elegant captain’s homes painted in various colours, as well as beautiful churches, museums, and art galleries. Built on the edge of the caldera, this captivating place is famous all over the world for the view of the sunset from its Venetian castle.
  10. To discover the charm of old Santorini in the enchanting medieval setting of Pyrgos. Located in the foothills of the island’s highest peak, Mount Profitis Ilias, this listed village is an atmospheric fortress settlement with narrow white streets and alleys, beautiful churches, neoclassical mansions, traditional houses, and wineries.
The top 5 beaches

Red Beach: With its fascinating mix of dark red columns of lava and red sand with black pebbles, the island’s most famous beach would resemble a Martian landscape were it not for its crystal-clear blue waters. Close to the archaeological site of Akrotiri, the beach can be reached by car or boat. In the summer it attracts large numbers of people.

Kamari: One of the island's biggest beaches, Kamari has black volcanic sand, deep turquoise waters and a cosmopolitan feel. Mount Mesa Vouno looms over one end, creating a magnificent backdrop, especially at night, when it is illuminated. On one part of the beach there are also umbrellas, sun loungers and wooden walkways to get to the sea over the hot sand. It is ideal for water sports.

Vlychada: Its lunar landscape, with a high wall of soft volcanic ash sculpted into strange patterns by the elements, is stunning. A vast beach, with fine black sand and dark pebbles, it is a paradise for lovers of quiet and seclusion (for the most part). The tall chimneys of the old canning factory (now the Tomato Industrial Museum) stand at one end.

Perivolos: The largest beach of the island, as it merges into Perissa Beach. Cosmopolitan, trendy and a favourite of young people, it has plenty of beach bars for all day clubbing. Its long expanse of black sand offers every amenity, with sun beds, umbrellas, water sports clubs and diving centres. It is one of the most beautiful places to welcome the sunrise if you take the ferry to Santorini.

Monolithos: A large beach with dark grey sand on the east coast of the island. Its shallow waters and many organised sporting activities make it ideal for families with children. Don't miss the opportunity to try a kite-surfing lesson.

Don’t leave Santorini without…
  • Having a swim at Ammoudi, the magical bay with crystal-clear waters below Oia, and diving off the rocks of tiny St Nicholas Island. You can get there by car or by walking down the 235 steps that lead from Oia to the harbour. It’s worth having a meal in one of the tavernas next to the sea.
  • Taking the path between Fira and Oia, one of the most beautiful hiking routes in the Aegean. The best time to enjoy the wonderful views on this three-hour, 9.5-km cliffside walk is in the early morning or late afternoon.
  • Taking a tour of the Tomato Industrial Museum in Vlychada. Housed in an attractive building that was once a canning factory (1945-1981), it offers a rare journey into the industrial heritage of Santorini’s most famous export with exhibits that include machinery, tools, cans, photographs, and other items. Tasting events are held here, while part of the site is occupied by the Santorini Arts Factory, a centre for contemporary art.
  • Exploring the astounding sea of Santorini, on the trail of Jacques Cousteau, who searched for the lost city of Atlantis here. Book with one of the island's certified diving centres and marvel at the dramatic underwater world of caves, canyons, shipwrecks and sea life.
  • Visiting Skaros rock to admire the whitewashed Church of the Virgin Mary Theoskepasti. The capital of the island until the mid-18th century, the Venetian fortress of Skaros was once joined with Imerovigli by a wooden bridge. The path to the top starts from St. George’s Church in Imerovigli and has 300 steps, but the views of the caldera and the volcano make it worth the effort.
  • Seeing Santorini, the volcano and the caldera from the island of Thirasia, a world of untouched beauty and tranquillity with beautiful cave houses and wineries, and picturesque 19th-century churches with painted bell towers.
  • Paddling a kayak or canoe along the southern coast of the island. Organised excursions include stops at Akrotiri, the famous red, white and black beaches, and Indian Rock, as well as swimming in sea caves, diving off the rocks and snorkelling.
  • Wandering the narrow streets of the dazzling mountain villages of Santorini, each with its own unique history: Megalochori, the village of rich landowners, with its mansions and great winemaking tradition; Messaria, a centre of industrial development in the 19th century; quaint Emborio with its labyrinthine fortified town and traditional cafes; and picturesque Finikia with its traditional pastel-coloured houses and old cave wineries.
  • Visiting the wonderful Thera Maritime Museum in Oia. This two-storey captain's house is dedicated to the nautical heritage of the 19th century, when sailing ships from Santorini dominated maritime trade from Egypt to the Black Sea. The exhibits include model boats, nautical instruments and beautiful watercolour paintings.
  • Enjoying a movie under the stars at Kamari Garden Cinema, one of the 10 best open-air cinemas in the world, according to the British newspaper, The Guardian.
Tasty experiences
  • Be sure to try Santorini fava (split pea mash), which is famous for its velvety texture. The most popular way of serving it is with onions.
  • Cherry tomatoes are the “red queens” of the island’s cuisine, the dry local soil giving them a unique sweet taste. Try them fresh in a salad, sun dried, in a puree, as a spread, and in the deliciously light tomato fritters of Santorini.
  • Capers are one of Santorini’s finest exports. Add them to salads or fava.
  • Santorini is famous for its white aubergines, which are native to the island. Try them fried, grilled, or pureed in a spicy melitzanosalata (aubergine dip).
  • Don’t leave Santorini without getting to know its distinctive wine culture. Try the renowned Assyrtiko, Athiri and Aidani, the red Mandilaria and Mavrotragano, and, of course, the famous sweet Santorini Vinsanto.
  • Take the ferry to Santorini and enjoy some of the favourite traditional recipes of Santorini, such as “stuffed birds” (courgette flowers filled with rice), sfouggato (omelette with potatoes, courgettes and tomatoes), or hortokeftedes (vegetarian meatballs made with chard or other greens, mint, tomato, and courgettes, which are fried in batter).
  • Seek out the island's fine craft beers such as “Volkan”, with the picture of a volcano on its label, and “Donkey Beer” from the Santorini Microbrewery, which similarly features the island’s trademark donkey.
Trivia

[…] You were the first to leap forth into the world,

Porphyrogenite, sea-begotten,

You sent to the far horizons

Blessings nurtured in the sea’s vigils

To caress the hair of daylight’s waking hour.

Queen of the heartbeats, and wings of the Aegean,

With words that convert the infinite

With fire, lava, smoke,

You discovered the great lines of your destiny. […]

[…] O daughter of the highest wrath

Sea-begotten, naked,

Open the glorious gates of man

So that health may sweeten the land

The senses may flower in a thousand colours

Their wings spread wide

So that freedom may blow from all directions.[…]

Ode to Santorini, 1939 (Orientations)

Odysseus Elytis

MAP OF SANTORINI
Useful Information