Santorini is one of the most famous Greek islands known, mostly, as a romantic summer destination.
I am sure you can, automatically recall photos from the internet picturing cliffside views with typical white cubical houses and blue domed churches, stunning infinity pools and incredible sunsets.
Hunt for those views is definitely one of the best things to do in Santorini (because who can get bored of those views), but, Santorini has much more to offer, and not only to couples.
If you enjoy picturesque villages, swimming, sunbathing… you appreciate good food and wines… you are interested in volcanos… you don’t mind enjoying a beautiful sunset with a friend/imaginary friend/relative/parent/neighbor/your alter ego (and not necessarily with a partner) – then you can enjoy Santorini as well.
Honestly, I find the etiquette “honeymoon destination” a bit exclusive (annoying as well) and, even though I agree that any functional couple would definitely enjoy their time in Santorini, I don`t see why singles or groups of non-coupled people wouldn’t.
I heard that phrase so many times – “I haven’t been to Santorini, that’s for couples” and, especially, after visiting it myself, I just don’t see the logic.
There is no reason any single person should miss Santorini and all the incredible things one can do there with or without the partner.
In this text we will write about best things to do in Santorini (both romantic and non-romantic) based on our recent (August 2021) experience.
But, before that, let’s speak about facts.
Some interesting facts about Santorini:
- Santorini (Thira in Greek) is an island in the southern Aegan Sea and it’s the largest within a small archipelago (other inhabited islands of Santorini are Therasia, Nea Kameni, Palaia Kameni, Aspronisi and Christiana)
- The whole island of Santorini is a volcanic rock and it’s one of very few places in the world where houses are built on volcanic soil.
- Santorini is where one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history happen around 160 BCE (known as Minoan eruption).ย This eruption devastated the island and it destroyed the Minoan settlement.
- There are speculations suggesting that Santorini was the inspiration for Plato’s Atlantis.
- Excavation done in the 1960s, led to the findings that the island’s pre-eruption shape and landscape frescos located under the ash strongly resembled Plato’s description.
- This volcano is still active but, currently (for the last around 70 years) in a sleeping mode.
- The most recent eruption (smaller one) was in 1950 and, according to the local tour guide, more eruptions (hopefully not the catastrophic ones) are expected in not so far future.
- On the bright side – Santorini is a home to over 100 varieties of grapes which brings us to even brighter side of the life above the active volcano – wine… lots of wine.
- There is a saying that the wine is more abundant than water in Santorini (referring to the lack of rain).
- Santorini wines are unique because of the volcanic soils that gives them very special quality and aroma.
As for the best things to do in Santorini, these ones are not to be missed:
1. BE LAZY AT THE BEACH
As on any island, you must relax and spend some quality time doing nothing in the sun, sipping a cocktail and listening to the waves.
Even though I would say that beaches are not Santorini’s strongest point (just a personal preference), there are some quite nice and relaxing ones:
Extending for 7 km on the southeastern side of Santorini, is unique black sand beach with crystal clear waters located in a small village Perissa.ย It is equipped with all the amenities (sunbeds, umbrellas, beach bars and restaurants…).
This is another black beach located in close proximity to Perissa.
Similar to Perissa beach, this one shares the same sparkling azure blue waters and tranquil atmosphere.
On the beachfront, there are numerous bars and restaurants serving freshly made sea food and excellent Greek meals.
Perivolos is a great beach if you are into watersports – here you can find numerous facilities like scuba diving, jet ski and similar.
**Both Perissa and Perivolosย are good options to stay as there are plenty of different accommodation options (from the cheaper ones to the more fancy ones in a boutique hotels with private pools/jacuzzi etc.).
**In most of the beach bars (on both Perissa and Perivolos beach), you can use sunbeds and umbrellas for free if consuming at their bar.ย
This beach is quite similar to the landscapes of Perissa and Perivolos – it is black sand beach as well and it’s fully equipped with different facilities such as sunbeds, umbrellas, water sports facilities…
There are plenty of excellent restaurants and bars along the coast where you can enjoy fresh sea-food and a refreshing drinks.
Kamari is another great option for accommodation, especially if you are looking for the budget options.
Beach bars work the same – you can use beach beds and umbrellas while consuming (drink or food).
This one calls the most attention in the whole island, I would say.
As the name suggests, you can expect some shades of red involved and the reason is the volcano.
The beach is semi-organized (there are some umbrellas and few food and drink stalls in the vicinity) so don’t expect all the commodities.
It is surrounded by high, bright-red cliffs which make it unique and picturesque.
Red Beach is located somehow remotely (not too remotely, but, most likely, not within walking distance from your accommodation) , in the area of Akrotiri (archaeological site – *also among the best things to do in Santorini, don’t miss visiting Akrotiri).
It’s a good option to make a half-day or one-day trip to Akrotiri ruins antient cite and visit Red Beach on the way. It can be reached by taxi, motorbike, car, bus. Good for snorkeling.
White Beach is one is located near the Akrotiri area and near the Red Beach. It can be reached by boat or on foot from the Red beach.
The scenery is quite similar to the Red Beach only with the different coloring – black pebbles on the shore and the surrounding cliffs are white.
It does not have many facilities (only some umbrellas and sunbeds) and it is much less crowded than the nearby Red Beach.
There are, obviously, more beaches in Santorini, but, according to our investigation, these are the main and the best ones so we decided to visit them.
Some other beaches that we didn’t have time to visit are: Vlychada beach, Agios Georgios beach, Cape Columbo beach, Monolithos beach, Vourvoulos beach, Caldera beach, Armeni beach
2. VOLCANO + HOT SPRINGS + THIRASIA ISLAND TOUR
If the idea of walking over the crater of a still active volcano, attracts you, you must do this tour. If you would like to fit in several other activities and seize the day, there are tours that offer that as well.
Normally, it is organized as half-day or, even better, full-day excursion that includes several different activities (the one that we did included the following activities):
- Boat ride
- Walk to the volcanoโs ridge with a tour guide explaining the whole volcano history (which is, btw, incredibly interesting
- Swimming in the hot springs
- Visit to Thirasia island – free time for beach, lunch, sightseeing of the village…
- Return boat trip and seeing all the villages from the boat (Fira, Oia)
- Sunset time in Oia – free time for exploring Oia town, dinner, taking photos & enjoying what is said to be one of the most spectacular sunset spots in the world.
- Return by bus to your accommodation
We, normally, love boat tours and we loved this one too. It was a nice day used in a best possible way – lot of different activities + relaxing time on the boat between the each one of them and wrapping up the day with incredible sunset.
These kinds of tours normally start in the morning (around 9 or 10 AM and finishes around 9PM – depending on the activities included).
Our tour was ending around 9PM so that was our planned departure time from Oia to bring us back to our accommodation in Kamari.
We decided to end the day with calm and enough time to enjoy the place + have an amazing dinner in Ammoudy Bay in Oia, so we skipped the organized return and got back by taxi later on.
A bit more expensive but a nice way to customize the tour to fit our preferences. Besides, if you are not staying in Oia (which is, btw, one of the most crowded and most expensive places to stay), then you may want to spend some more time in this town before you go back.
These types of tours that include volcano, hot springs, Thirasia island and sunset in Oia are organized from any place in Santorini, no matter where you accommodation is.
There are, also, various variations of this tour that include more or less activities, bigger or smaller group of people and different types of the boat. Our choice was a budget option – that means, full house onboard (quite many people) and no food/drinks included in the price.
There are options for smaller groups, even private tours, with included food/drinks onboard etc.
I would say the best way to book a tour is simply asking at your accommodation or just visiting some tour operator office or stand that you can spot around the touristic centers.
The prices can go from 20 eur per person (including less activities) to +100 eur (offering more commodity, drinks/food and similar). Our tour was around 40 eur per person.
3. DRINK LOTS OF WINE @WINE TASTING TOUR
As already mentioned, Santorini is well known by it`s production of excellent wines.
Thanks to the volcano soil, warm and dry climate, the island’s vineyards give high quality grapes with naturally high levels of sugars and acidity.
Santorini is best known for its crisp, dry whites and sweet Vinsanto wines, both of which made of the island’s most famous grape kind – Assyrtico.
If you enjoy good wines, especially white ones, one of the best things you can do in Santorini is getting tipsy at a wine tasting tour.
There are plenty of organized tours but also, there are many wineries where you can just go on your own (book your visit at the winery’s web page) and chose some of the options for wine tasting.
As for the organized tours – there are many of them and there are many options: private tours, small groups, tours that combine wine tasting with some other activity (sightseeing, visit to some village, sunset tours…) … choices are many and you can, for sure find some that suits to your taste and budget.
If you want to do a wine tasting on your own, you can just search for the wineries and look for the info on their web sites in order to chose the best option and book your visit.
Keep in mind that, in case you book an organized tour, you won’t need to worry about the transport to and from the winery. In case you opt for self-organized tour, you will have to figure out the transport (taxi, bus…) as you don’t want to drive after the wine tasting tour.
Some of the famous wineries in Santorini are:
Santo Winery in Pyrgos village , Venetsanosย in Megalochori village, Art Space Winery in Exo Gonia, Domaine Sigalas Winery in Oia, Gaia Winery in Perivolia, Koutsoyannopoulos Winery and Museum (or Santorini Wine Museum) in Vothonas (close to Kamari).
Our choice was Santorini Wine Museumย ย which is located around 4km from Kamari Beach so we decided to make it a walking tour. On our way to Santorini Wine Museum we passed by several other wineries so, you can even visit few of them and taste even more wine.ย
At Santorini Wine Museum, there are several options for wine tasting (that include more or less different kinds of wines) that you can choose for your private wine tasting. You can book your tour online and just appear there in the given time.
Wine tasting is done inside of the winery in a nice and quite environment where you will get the main explications about different kinds of grapes and wines while enjoying some of the most popular Santorini’s wines.
As for the tasting menu options – you can chose the size of your group (in case you are not coming alone) and you can chose how many wines you want to try.
Prices vary from 14 eur (tasting of 4 wines) to 190 eur (tasting of 10 wines, some of which are quite exclusive ones). You will be given an audio guide so you can get more detailed information about each wine you are tasting.
Any of the wine tasting options include also a visit to the museum – here you can learn about the history of this winery, family business run by two brothers and also, about different types of grapes, wine growing techniques and similar.
You can visit the museum on your own as you will get an audio guide for more detailed explanation.
After you are done with the museum visit and the wine tasting tour, you can, eventually, shop some of the local products that are being sold in the winery’s store and, maybe, enjoy some time in the beautiful courtyard.
4. HIKE TO PYRGOS VILLAGE
Pyrgos is a former capital of Santorini and, the highest settlement of the island and, according to the internet, the best-preserved medieval settlement in Santorini. It’s a small village located around 4.5km from Kamari.
This village is built at the foot of Mountain Profitis Ilias and, therefore offers incredible panoramic views from the top.
The concept of the village is somewhat similar to Oia and Fira for example (narrow streets and white houses, infinity pools and stunning views from the top) but Pyrgos has a much different charm than those 2 popular touristic places.
It’s location (on the very top of a hill) makes it, maybe, a little bit more isolated and, therefore, less exploited by the tourism so, compared to the main touristic cities (Fira and Oia) Pyrgos, in my opinion, looks much more authentic.
However, Pyrgos is, definitely, not lacking charm and beauty. We both fall in love with this village and would even call it our favorite place in Santorini.
Since we decided to extend our walking tour to the winery and visit Pyrgos village on the way, the day, suddenly turned out into a real hike (I am speaking about 20km more less).
So, if you are staying in Kamari, you can easily do the same – hike from Kamari to Pyrgos (4,6km walking uphill most of the time).
If you want to add some complicity, few more kilometers and some funny vibes to your hike, do a wine tasting tour on the way as well.
All in all, if you start from Kamari, walk until the Santorini Wine Museum, taste some wines, hike up to Pyrgos, wonder around the village for some time and go back to Kamari before dark, you can, then, proudly brag about cca. 20 km walked (which is, btw, approximate distance from the southern most to the northern most point of the island).
In Pyrgos you can see the typical architecture of the island, white houses and blue domed churches, narrow labyrinth streets, some donkey here and there and amazing panoramic views.
It is said that there are around 40 churches in Pyrgos – it’s a great opportunity to visit at least some of them.
Once you are done with walking around, there is a great spot for some nice, refreshing drinks and some quick food.
Franco’s cafรฉ has one of the best outdoors sitting area in Pyrgos from where you can have breathtaking views, especially in sunset.
If you are not into too much walking, you can visit Pyrgos in some other way – bus, taxi, motorbike, rented car… but make sure not to miss it.
5. OIA & FIRA – DO WHAT OTHER TOURISTS DO
Doesn’t matter which type of person you are – tourist or traveler, the one who likes to check all the mainstream attractions or the one who likes to get lost and hit off the beaten paths, if you are in Santorini, you must see the famous postcard spots – Fira and Oia.
Fira is the capital of Santorini and the center of everything – tourism, nightlife, everything.
Oia is another, nearby town and one of the most popular destinations in Santorini.
Both Oia and Fira are located on the Santorini caldera. These towns have great views of the sunset, volcano, caldera and, all the famous photos from the internet (browse “Santorini”) are, most likely, taken in these towns.
Both of these towns are extremely crowded in the summer season and the crowds there look like a fashion runways. The best thing to do in Oia and Fira is, well, get all dressed up and take some photos.
Photos of the sunsets, photos of the beautiful white houses and blue domes, pre-wedding photos of the Asiatic couples, honeymoon photos, couple’s photos, beautiful girls’ in a floating dresses photos… photos of everything.
This being said, you will have to wait in the line to get your perfect photo moment. On the positive side, if you are into Instagram or taking photos in general, this is the place.
Speaking of Oia, once you get all your perfect shots done, we suggest visiting the nearby Amoudy Bay and have a nice dinner by the sea.
You will reach Amoudy Bay just following around 300 stairs down in the direction of the sea. Once you get there, you will see that there are few fancy restaurants with outside sitting area overlooking the sea.
In the high season it is recommendable to book the table in advance. Anyways, we were able to get a table without booking so, I guess booking is not mandatory.
After the dinner you will have to climb the same 300 stairs up in order to go back to the center of Oia.
High heals not recommendable.
In case you need some help on your way back, there are some donkeys employed as a mean of transportation from Amoudy Bay to Oia – definitely not something I would recommend but, there they are.
6. VISIT THE PREHISTORIC CITY – AKROTIRI
Akrotiri was the prehistoric settlement that was a home to Minoan civilization. The settlement was destroyed in the Minoan eruption in the 16th century BC and itย has been excavated since 1967.
Apparently, the excavation findings led some experts to think of Akrotiri settlement was a possible inspiration for Plato’s story of Atlantis.
Nowadays, many believe in the theory that Atlantis is actually right there in Santorini, buried in volcanic ash above Akrotiri.
It is definitely an interesting place to visit therefore we put it on our list of best things to do in Santorini.
The site has a covered roof and walkways above and around the archeological ruins so you can see the remains of the houses from a very close distance.
At the entrance, you can chose to hire a guide who would give you all the necessary explanations or you can visit it on your own.
For more information about the opening hours, rates etc – refer to the official web – Ministry of Culture and Sports | Akrotiri of Thera
Since the archeological site is not too big (most likely you will need not more than half an hour – 45 min, to see it), you can use the opportunity to visit the nearby beaches (Red Beach & White Beach) and/or have lunch at some of the nearby tavernas that serve excellent sea food meals.
For a hustle-free vacation, book your tours in advance – check trustable agencies and sources such as Viator where you can compare prices, check different tours and see the ratings and reviews of each tour.
***This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something we may earn a commission. NO EXTRA COST FOR YOU!ย
Covid-19 restrictions in Santorini:
Up to date (August 2021) Santorini (and Greece in general) is open for tourism. To enter Greece you must have with you either of these certificates:
- Vaccination certificate (14 days from the last dose)
- Negative PCR (72 hrs)/Rapid Test Certificate (48hrs)
- Certificate of recovery
- Before arrival to Greece, you should fill in Passenger Locator Form (PLF)
On arrival to the Santorini airport, we were requested to show PLF form and vaccine/covid test certificates.
All passengers on our flight were requested to to a rapid test (free on charge) on the arrival to Santorini. After they take the sample, within only few minutes they communicate you the result and let you pass towards the exit from the airport.
Face masks are (officially) mandatory when entering taxi, bus, shops, restaurants, hotel reception areas and similar.
BUUUT, not many locals respect or cares if other respect this rule or not. In case you happen to forget your mask, most likely nobody is gonna say anything about it.
As for the return to your country from Santorini – in case your home country requires negative rapid test, you can do one in almost any pharmacy in Santorini for a fee of 20 eur (result in 5 minutes).
**For more information about the current entry protocol to Greece – visit the official government web page – Protocol for Arrivals in Greece – travel.gov.gr
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