First time Santorini: top tips for your first trip to the Greek isle

Santorini is the supermodel of the Greek islands, a head-turner whose deal with is promptly recognizable around the globe: multicolored cliffs soar out of a sea-drowned volcanic crater, topped by whitewashed buildings.

With its reputation for stunning panoramas, intimate sunsets and volcanic-sand beach locations, it’s barely stunning Santorini features on so several travelers’ bucket lists. There is no denying the uniqueness of this place or its massive allure: the island hosts 2 million readers every year, leading some to problem whether or not Santorini has grow to be a victim of overtourism.

If you’re planning to be a part of the crowd, here’s what you require to know for your initially journey to Santorini.

Whitewashed buildings on the island of Santorini, Greece
Blue roofs major Santorini’s whitewashed buildings © Anastasios71 / Shutterstock

Introducing Santorini

Element of the Cyclades island team, Santorini (formally acknowledged as Thira, a title that encompasses the volcanic islets inside of Santorini’s orbit) sits in the Aegean Sea, approximately midway involving Athens and Crete. The island is shaped like a wonky croissant, and the neighboring islets trace at the simple fact that Santorini was at the time round. It was recognized as Strongili (the Round 1). Hundreds of yrs back, a large volcanic eruption caused the center of Strongili to sink, leaving a caldera (or crater) with towering cliffs alongside the east aspect, now Santorini’s trademark landscape.

Introducing the Greek Islands

Which portion of Santorini must I stop by?

Santorini’s commercial improvement is focused on the caldera-edge clifftops in the island’s west, with substantial clusters of whitewashed properties nesting at dizzying heights, spilling down cliffsides and offering gasp-inducing views from land or sea. Fira, the island’s occupied capital, sprawls north into villages termed Firostefani (about a 15-moment stroll from Fira) and Imerovigli (the highest level of the caldera edge, about a 30-moment walk from Fira). A route jogging by way of these villages is lined with upmarket resorts, restaurant terraces and countless image alternatives.

These a few conjoined settlements draw most visitors, collectively with the amazing and really unique village of Oia in Santorini’s north. There’s a rising quantity of accommodations in the island’s south, providing caldera sights to the north and northeast. Akrotiri’s views arrive more affordable than Oia’s, but it is a honest way from the action of Fira.

Red Beach on Santorini during summer
The dramatic landscape of Red Seashore in Santorini © Olga Gavrilova / Shutterstock

Santorini’s east coast is lesser recognised than the celebrated, elevated west coastline. Listed here, the caldera-edge heights have sloped down to sea level, and volcanic-sand beach locations and resorts provide a really various drawcard. East coastline resorts these kinds of as Kamari and Perissa have a more conventional (and extra reasonably priced) island-holiday break appeal: sunlounger-loaded shorelines, drinking water sports, bars and taverna-lined promenades. The east coast’s beach locations are lined with black sand. On the south coastline, there’s a string of shorelines famed for their multicolored sand. The dramatic Purple Seashore is a traveler most loved.

The island’s interior is dotted with vineyards and traditional villages that enable you see further than the tourist hustle. Make a stop in Pyrgos for terrific eats and a wander by way of charming backstreets.

Tourists visiting Oia town on Santorini on a sunny day
Site visitors love in the sights in Santorini © Littleaom / Shutterstock

Ideal points to do in Santorini

The noticeable activity in Santorini is to wander the caldera edge and admire the sights. Walks in and all-around Fira are impressive, specially heading north to Firostefani and Imerovigli along the caldera-edge pathway. Keep going for walks and you will inevitably reach Oia, but be informed that this is no compact enterprise and the path past Imerovigli can be rough. It is about 5.6 miles (9km) in all, and a very good 4-hour walk 1 way.

Santorini’s lauded wines are its crisp dry whites and the amber-colored, unfortified dessert wine recognized as Vinsanto. Equally are made from the indigenous grape variety, assyrtiko. About a dozen community vineyards host tastings (typically with a modest charge) and some offer you foods, with scenery and nearby create combining to good influence. Get started your investigations at SantoWines.

Santorini’s intrigue reaches deep into the earlier, with the interesting site of Akrotiri exhibiting a Minoan town destroyed by the volcanic eruption of 1613 BC. In Fira, the spectacular Museum of Prehistoric Thera aids piece together the tale of ancient Akrotiri.

Oia skyline during sunset with church bell on the island of Santorini, Greece
Santorini is famed for its amazing sunsets © Songquan Deng / Shutterstock

Nature’s handiwork is on exhibit from any waterfront seat appear sundown, but key sunset-viewing on Santorini is in Oia, in which thousands of holidaymakers flock to admire (and applaud) dusk.

Any tour your coronary heart needs can be structured, and there are dozens of organizations all set to enable with winery visits, archaeology tours, sunset-watching and a lot more. The most popular alternative is a cruise, and the common itinerary takes in the caldera’s volcanic islands of Nea Kameni and Palia Kameni, which includes a end at the former’s crater and the latter’s hot springs.

Woman enjoying breakfast with a beautiful view over Santorini
Take pleasure in breakfast with a check out above the sea and Santorini © grinvalds / Getty Visuals

Where to stay in Santorini

If you can manage it, initially-timers to Santorini need to keep on the caldera edge to working experience the total “wow” factor. Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli and Oia have accommodations and villas with whitewashed interiors, terraces and infinity pools that have impressed relationship proposals, significant-vogue photo shoots and lots of Instagram posts. Sadly, there’s not a good deal in these perspective-blessed locales for budget-mindful travelers: caldera-watch lodging come at a quality, and they are in hot need. Guide in progress.

There are decent midrange choices in Fira and Firostefani (much less so in Imerovigli and Oia), absent from the entrance-row panoramas. There’s also a good hostel and a price range-welcoming campground (with rooms) on the outskirts of Fira.

If you’re a lot more intrigued in a beach front crack or routines, stay in Perissa or Kamari (and capture the bus into Fira). The advantage of this is some respite from the digicam-toting caldera crowds, and more fair prices.

Staircase in the white village of Oia, Santorini, at night
Santorini is busiest in July and August, but gets a minimal quieter in other months © cge2010 / Shutterstock

When to go to Santorini

Peak journey time to Santorini is July and August, when prices soar and lodges, viewpoints and beaches are packed with tourists. The shoulder season months of April, May perhaps, early June, late September and Oct are greater instances to check out. Points are marginally quieter at the caldera edge, and considerably quieter on the east coastline (in which lodging bargains are plentiful).

Really don’t discount a wintertime crack, when crowds are scarce (and rates small) when the scenery is still spectacular. Santorini is working on positioning by itself as a 12 months-round desired destination.

Tourists board the ferry to Santorini island at the port of Heraklion, Greece
Guests can access Santorini by ferry or flight © InnaFelker / Shutterstock

How to get to Santorini

Regular ferries and significant-pace catamarans hyperlink Santorini with Athens’ key port of Piraeus, Crete and numerous Cycladic islands. Check OpenSeas for ferry timetables. Santorini Airport has calendar year-round flight connections with Athens, and summertime European connections. On the island, bus products and services are good, if crowded in summer season. Lots of providers provide autos, mopeds and ATV 4-wheeler bikes for rent.

This post was at first published in April 2016.