What are the five best things to see and do in Santorini?

Marissa Tejada

Not only is Santorini one of the most beautiful islands in the world, it’s also one of the most unique. It boasts black and red beaches, the “Greek Pompeii” and restaurants with sunset views. Here are five things our Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend doing:
 
1. Watch the sunset. Grab a seat at any number of seaside restaurants and watch as the sun dips into the sea. From Oia, you can see the sun sink unobstructed right into the deep blue waters but the view is spectacular from pretty much anywhere on the island. Order some mezedes (appetizers) and ouzo shots and see the sky transform into an intense mix of red and deep orange.
 
2. Explore Akrotiri (otherwise known as the “Greek Pompeii”). Visit the excavation site of the ancient Minoan city of Akrotiri, which was buried under lava after a volcanic explosion 3,600 years ago. See the amazing artifacts that remain intact as you walk through the town.
 
3. Hike the caldera. Santorini exists because of a volcano eruption that left behind the island’s centerpiece caldera. You can hike its rim from Fira to Oia or take a boat tour of the volcano with a stop in the island’s hot sulphur springs (just be warned that these will turn your bathing suit orange).
 
4. Hit the volcanic beaches. Santorini’s volcanic activity left behind black, red and gray sand, along with volcanic rocks that color the various beaches and are a striking contrast with the royal blue sea. Take in this gorgeous sight at Red Beach — one of the island’s most popular spots — which is sprinkled with black and red volcanic pebbles.
 
5. Climb the steps. Gialos, the port of Santorini, is 900 feet below the main town of Fira. In order to get there, you can climb the 587 steps — a scenic route, if you don’t mind the exercise (or the donkey waste). Other options to the top include a cable car and a traditional donkey ride.

  • On September 18, 2012
    Marissa Tejada answered the question: Marissa Tejada

    What are the best wineries to visit near Santorini?

    There are more than a dozen wineries in Santorini that produce award-winning reds, whites, roses and sweet wines. Stop by a local winery to learn about the unique wine production on this island and figure out which variety suits your taste. Here are three our Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend:
     
    1. Canava Roussos. Established in 1836 by a Mykonian family, Canava Roussos sits in the quiet village of Mesa Gonia and is the oldest winery on the island. It boasts a beautiful garden for wine tasting and a small museum that displays fantastic photos of wine production throughout the decades.
     
    2. Hatzidakis Winery. Established in 1997, this family-owned winery in the village of Pyrgos produces a classic selection of award-winning Santorini wines. Try them in the cellar tasting room.
     
    3. Santo Wines. At this beautiful winery in Oia, take a tour and learn about winemaking or just figure out what your favorite Greek wine is. If nothing else, you’ll have a top view of the caldera.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Marissa Tejada answered the question: Marissa Tejada

    What is the best thing to bring home from Santorini?

    Santorini is a unique island, filled with unique items to take home. It has a rich volcanic soil and special microclimate that help to make it one of the most distinct and unique wine-producing areas in entire world. The local varieties of vines are assyrtiko, aidani, mantillaria and mavrotragano. Several local vineyards produce award-winning labels that are worth taking home.
     
    Santorini’s wines are easily found in local stores and supermarkets throughout the island. Another wine product to look out for is gourmet chocolate that’s made with the island’s sweet vinsanto wine – a delicious souvenir difficult to find anywhere else.  
  • On September 18, 2012
    Marissa Tejada answered the question: Marissa Tejada

    What are the five best Santorini food experiences?

    Santorini’s unique vibe extends to its food. The volcanic soil helps to produce local products — wine, fava, cherry tomatoes, white eggplants—that are unlike any you’ve had before. Here are five food experiences Forbes Travel Guide recommends having in Santorini:
     
    1. Vinsanto chocolates. Combine sweet wine and sweet chocolate, and you’ll get this little dessert truffle. The Estate Argyros makes a popular version of this island original. You can visit the winery to pick up the chocolates and a few bottles of wine.
     
    2. White eggplants. Most people have never seen this white veggie before. It’s sweeter than its darker cousin and incorporated into many dishes on the island.
     
    3. Fava dip and tomato balls. You can order these appetizers at nearly any traditional tavern on the island. Santorini’s fava (similar to hummus) is often sprinkled with fresh capers and olive oil, while the island’s fried tomato balls are often made using delicious local cherry tomatoes.
     
    4. Winetasting. Wine is widely produced on the island, and there are several award-winning wineries that offer tours and tastings. Must-tries include the sweet amber-colored dessert wine vinsanto and white wines made with assyrtiko grapes.
     
    5. Fish by the sea. You can’t leave the island without eating some fresh fish by the sea. Whether you are at a bay or at the beach, the experience is an authentic part of Greek island life.
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  • On September 18, 2012
    Marissa Tejada answered the question: Marissa Tejada

    Where is the best nightlife in Santorini?

    Even the nightlife scene in Santorini is scenic. You’ll be awed by the bright, twinkling lights of the villages in contrast with the dark of the sea and caldera. Fira is the place to go for Santorini’s vivid nightlife. Follow the music and you’ll find various dance clubs down Fira’s quaint cobbled streets.  A number of lively bars and clubs are built into the cliff. Their unique and scenic location on the island provides the ambience for a perfect summer night out.  
  • On September 18, 2012
    Marissa Tejada answered the question: Marissa Tejada

    What is the best way to see Santorini in one day?

    Santorini is a fairly large island, so the best way to see it in one day is by renting a car. A car will allow you to see more than just the main towns of Oia and Fira. 
     
    Start your morning at the Akrotiri. The archeological site gives you a fascinating look at life when the Minoan civilization was at its peak right before a volcanic eruption destroyed it. Next, take a beach break at one of the prettiest beaches in Santorini — the Red Beach. Its burnt burgundy cliffs give a striking contrast as they dip sharply into the blue-green sea.
     
    Lunch is waiting for you on the other side of the island in Amoudi Bay. This small, rocky cove sits below the cliff-side town of Oia. Enjoy Greek seafood dishes and appetizers at one of the three fish tavernas situated near the dock. Sit back as the bright blue waters calmly lap around you.
     
    After lunch, drive up to Oia and browse through the town’s art galleries and jewelry stores. Shop for souvenirs and enjoy the view. Continue your afternoon walk in Firostefani, and stop for a coffee break at one of the many cafes built into the steep cliffs. By late afternoon, stroll into the next town over called Fira. Take the scenic three-minute cable car ride down to the old port below. If you have more time, hire a donkey that knows how to trek the nearly 600 steps. Just be sure to return to Fira in time for the sunset—you’ll want to take advantage of the terrace seating at Koukoumavlos, one of the best restaurants on the island.
     
    Fira is the best place for nightlife on the island, so you don’t have to venture far to have a drink somewhere scenic and relaxing. Sit under the stars at Franco’s Bar, where only opera and classical music is played. It will add a special ambiance to your night in Santorini.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Marissa Tejada answered the question: Marissa Tejada

    Where is the best shopping in Santorini?

    Santorini is a fun place to shop. Small boutiques dot the villages that sit on the cliff. In the summer months they are open until quite late, so you have time to find the perfect things to take home with you.
     
    Fira is where you’ll find most of the shopping on the island. It has dozens of stores lining its small cobblestoned streets. You’ll find everything from cheap souvenirs to trendy clothing. Santorini is especially known for its jewelry shops. Odos Ipapantis (Gold Street) is lined with them. Lalaounis in the Ypapantis shopping center is a well-known shop for vintage-inspired pieces. The designer has shops all over Greece.
     
    There’s also some good shopping in Oia. It boasts an array of jewelry stores, but what it’s really known for is its art scene. Go there to find exclusive art galleries featuring contemporary Greek art. 
  • On September 18, 2012
    Marissa Tejada answered the question: Marissa Tejada

    What are the five best things to do with kids in Santorini?

    Santorini is not only an island for romance, but it’s a great destination for families, too. Here are five things Forbes Travel Guide recommends you do with your kids on the Greek island:
     
    1. Hit the beach. Known for their unique black, red and gray sand, the beaches of Santorini are a sight to see. One of the best beaches on the island for kids is Monolithos, which has shallow, calm waters and various playgrounds.
      
    2. Visit Santorini Waterpark. Santorini Waterpark in Perissa is a simple but fun place to stay cool. It has three pools, three water slides, playgrounds and a pool bar for drinks and snacks.
     
    3. Ride a donkey. Part of Santorini’s charm is the fact that donkeys are often the best way to get up and down the many steep steps of the island. When you pull into the harbor, skip the cable car and opt for the scenic route into town via donkey.
      
    4. Go on a submarine ride. Submerge 100 feet into the sea with your kids on a submarine excursion. Together you’ll discover the Aegean Sea’s exotic marine life.
       
    5. Take a sailing Tour. There’s no better way to enjoy Santorini’s bright blue waters than to sail them. Sign up for a sailing tour with the kids, and stop by picturesque fishing villages and nearby islands.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Marissa Tejada answered the question: Marissa Tejada

    What are the five best things to see and do in Santorini?

    Not only is Santorini one of the most beautiful islands in the world, it’s also one of the most unique. It boasts black and red beaches, the “Greek Pompeii” and restaurants with sunset views. Here are five things our Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend doing:
     
    1. Watch the sunset. Grab a seat at any number of seaside restaurants and watch as the sun dips into the sea. From Oia, you can see the sun sink unobstructed right into the deep blue waters but the view is spectacular from pretty much anywhere on the island. Order some mezedes (appetizers) and ouzo shots and see the sky transform into an intense mix of red and deep orange.
     
    2. Explore Akrotiri (otherwise known as the “Greek Pompeii”). Visit the excavation site of the ancient Minoan city of Akrotiri, which was buried under lava after a volcanic explosion 3,600 years ago. See the amazing artifacts that remain intact as you walk through the town.
     
    3. Hike the caldera. Santorini exists because of a volcano eruption that left behind the island’s centerpiece caldera. You can hike its rim from Fira to Oia or take a boat tour of the volcano with a stop in the island’s hot sulphur springs (just be warned that these will turn your bathing suit orange).
     
    4. Hit the volcanic beaches. Santorini’s volcanic activity left behind black, red and gray sand, along with volcanic rocks that color the various beaches and are a striking contrast with the royal blue sea. Take in this gorgeous sight at Red Beach — one of the island’s most popular spots — which is sprinkled with black and red volcanic pebbles.
     
    5. Climb the steps. Gialos, the port of Santorini, is 900 feet below the main town of Fira. In order to get there, you can climb the 587 steps — a scenic route, if you don’t mind the exercise (or the donkey waste). Other options to the top include a cable car and a traditional donkey ride.
  • On July 9, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best places to eat in Santorini?

    Santorini is the place to have the best island dining experience. Most restaurants can’t help but have a great view — whether it’s of the sea, the quaint villages or the breathtaking caldera. Here are five Forbes Travel Guide-recommended spots:  
     
    1. Metaxi Mas. Located in the quiet village of Exo Gonia, this cozy Greek taverna welcomes you with raki (or tsipouro, hard liquor made from leftover grapes), olives and traditional bread rusks. Locals come here for its home-style Cretan dishes.
     
    2. Aktaion. Have a meal with a superb view of the caldera at the island’s oldest tavern in the heart of Firostefani. The white eggplant is excellent, and you can finish off with your meal with a slice of lemon pie.
     
    3. Koukoumavlos. The dining terrace at Koukoumavlos in Fira overlooks the caldera. Enjoy the view as you choose from the inventive yet delectable Mediterranean-fusion menu. 
     
    4. 1800. This restaurant in Oia is an old Santorini mansion that dates back to 1845. Order off its acclaimed menu of Mediterranean dishes as you enjoy the views of the caldera.
     
    5. Vanilia. Located in a white stone house in Firostefani, Vanilia offers Greek dishes and wines that are just as impressive as the sea views. Try its version of saganaki, a Greek fried cheese appetizer with honey and poppy seeds.
  • On July 9, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best places to stay in Santorini?

    The best hotels in Santorini combine luxury with amazing views of the sea and caldera. Here are five that Forbes Travel Guide recommends:
     
    1. Katikies. Giving a heavy nod to the island’s famed whitewashed buildings, almost everything in this Oia hotel is white — even the flat-screen TVs. It’s a simple, airy feel that will make you want to get a seaside massage (which you can do here).
     
    2. Grace Santorini. Built into a cliff top in Imerovigli, Grace Santorini offers sweeping views of the caldera. The newest accommodation at the sleek white hotel is the villa, which includes two bedrooms, a private spa with steam room, and a bi-level patio space with a private pool and outdoor fireplace.
     
    3. Andronis Luxury Suites. Feel like a local at Andronis Luxury Suites, where you’ll stay in your own villa. They have a beautifully minimal design that incorporates classic whites, reflecting Cycladic architecture.  
     
    4. Mystique. Situated on the cliffs of Oia, the 18 suites and villas at Mystique boast a gorgeous outdoor infinity-edge pool. There’s also a 150-year-old cellar, called “the secret wine cave,” where you can have dinner while sampling the local bottles.
     
    5. Tsitouras Collection. The traditional hotel was built around a historic mansion that dates back to 1780. A famous Greek art collector redecorated it and updated its romantic design to accentuate the spectacular views just outside. Today, it’s made up of five freestanding cottages — each attended by its own butler staff. It’s a one-of-a-kind luxury experience; but it’s important to note that the hotel requires a two-night stay minimum and is only open from March to October.