Santorini is part of the Greek island group called the Cyclades. The island is a volcanic one, and its distinctive crescent shape, which encircles a deep blue lagoon, is the result of an eruption that occurred several centuries ago. With a total land area of just over 90 square kilometres Santorini is a small island, but there’s a lot to see and do, and many beautiful places that are perfect for relaxing and soaking up the sun.
Where to Go in Santorini
There are few places more perfect for villa holidays than Santorini, where the Mediterranean climate and the incredible scenery seem ideally suited for this style of accommodation. Package holidays in Santorini offer plenty of variety in terms of accommodation, including full-service hotels as well as bed and breakfast and self-catering options. Most hotels on the island are of the same white-painted architectural style as the majority of private residences and buildings, giving hotels a fresh and authentic feel that’s highly enjoyable.
While there are hotels and other types of accommodation available all over the island, the western side is where you’ll find accommodation for luxury holidays in Santorini. The western side typically offers the best views, especially high on the side of the caldera, and in general, the hotels on the western side have larger rooms and more amenities. In contrast, the smaller hotels on the eastern side tend to be less expensive and are more likely to cater to families with children. If you’re exploring your options for family holidays in Santorini, note that some cliff-side hotels won’t accommodate children under 13, as most have many stairs that may present a falling hazard for young children.
Santorini is the perfect place for a sun-soaked and relaxing holiday. Classic holiday pastimes include diving and swimming, exploring ruins, and simply enjoying the hot Mediterranean sun on one of Santorini’s gorgeous beaches. While there are plenty of places to visit and activities to enjoy on the island, one of the best ways to spend a few hours is by taking a walking tour of one of the many beautiful villages and towns. The towns of Fira and Oia, which are spread along the top and sides of the caldera, are particularly stunning, with their white-painted houses and classic architectural style displayed prominently on the cliff-top and shining in the sun.
What to See and Do in Santorini
- Santorini is widely regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful places, due not only to its picturesque towns and villages, but also for its incredible landscapes, beaches, and sunsets. The towns of Oia and Imerovigli are generally the best places to view the sunsets, as these towns provide views that are completely free from obstructions.
- Visit Santorini wineries to try some of the local wines. Check out the Roussos winery and Argiros Estate near Kamari, or the Boutari and Venetsanos wineries at Megalochori.
- Head to one of the many beaches on the island; Red Beach is excellent for snorkelling, Periovolos has a fun club atmosphere with restaurants and bars, and Monolithos is perfect for people who want a peaceful place to relax. If heading to Vlychada, note that the right side of this beach is a nudist area.
- Visit one of the smaller islands near Santorini to explore smaller villages, and older churches and other buildings. A great place for this is the island of Thirassia, which also has some fabulous hot springs.
- The 3,500-year-old Minoan town of Akrotiri was excavated from layers of volcanic ash in a manner similar to Pompeii, and the ruins are very well preserved. Another historical site of interest is Ancient Thera, the ruins of a city founded in the 8th century. Artifacts from the city can be seen at the Museum of Prehistoric Thera in Fira.
- There are incredible views wherever you go, but the best views are seen from high on the caldera. Walking the route from Oia to Fira offers amazing views, as does the monastery above the ruins of Ancient Thera.
- The crystal clear waters provide excellent visibility for scuba diving and snorkelling, and there are diving spots suitable for all skill levels.
- The southern part of the island is relatively flat, and is good for cycling. Bikes can be rented for one or more days in the southern town of Perissa.
- It is really important not to miss the Blue Lagoon tours in Santorini. This consists of sailing around in a yacht, sailboat or Catamaran. The Yacht Sailing tours are the best charters you will ever experience.
Need to Know Info for Santorini
The official language of Santorini is Greek, and the official currency is the Euro. It’s not uncommon to find people in larger towns who speak English, but it’s definitely best to take a good guidebook to facilitate communication.
Santorini is unique in Europe as one of only two locations which feature a predominately desert climate. From April to October, the climate is warm and dry, with temperatures reaching the mid 20s in June, July, and August. Between November and March the climate is mostly cold and wet, with plenty of rain and average temperatures ranging from 12 to 17 degrees.
The quickest way to get to Santorini is by air. The tourist season runs from May through to October, and during this time many European airlines, including Thompson and Thomas Cook, fly direct to the island. All year round there are regular flights to Santorini from Athens, which is a journey of around 30 minutes. Santorini is also accessible by sea by taking a ferry from neighbouring islands such as Piraeus and Crete. UK residents, and people in most European countries, do not need a visa to enter Greece, but a valid passport is required.
Santorini has a public transport system with buses that travel around and between the island’s main centres. Buses are often very crowded, especially during the busy tourist season; as a result, many people opt to travel via other methods. Options include a shuttle or private bus service, and even private cars with drivers. Water-taxis, ferries, and boats travel between the larger coastal towns. There’s also the option to rent a car, scooter, or bicycle, or an all-terrain vehicle, which can be convenient if you want to explore off the beaten track.