It’s one of the most popular European island destinations, recognized by its iconic blue and white houses. The Cycladic island of Santorini enchants more than one million tourists each year with its simple beauty, volcanic-sand beaches and picturesque sunsets.
Whether Santorini made it onto a detailed itinerary or is a last minute excursion for those vacationing in Greece, travelers can choose from multiple modes of transportation to reach the island. Visitors can book a short forty-minute plane ride from Athens, or opt for a much longer and less expensive ferry ride departing from Piraeus Port. Once on the island, tourists can hail cabs from designated taxi stands to get around. To experience the beauty of Santorini in a more adventurous fashion, some visitors choose to rent an ATV bike or buggy from one of the many vendors on the island.
© Mehnaz Ladha
As a trendy destination for travelers of all ages, including students studying abroad, couples seeking a romantic getaway and families vacationing off the shores of Greece, Santorini provides hotel accommodations that fit all types of budgets and needs. A short distance from the medieval village of Pyrgos, Impressive One is a newly constructed boutique hotel designed to resemble the whitewashed houses of the island. With suites that can accommodate up to four people, guests can spend their mornings tasting Greek delicacies at the buffet breakfast, sunbathe by the poolside in the afternoon and cozy up on their balconies in time to admire the scenic sunset.
Much further north on the island, Cavo Tagoo Santorini is a five-star franchise of the original hotel in Mykonos. Its 13-guestrooms are equipped with luxurious amenities such as private jacuzzis and pools overlooking the Aegean Sea. The onsite restaurant, OVAC, has earned widespread acclaim as one of the finest dining spots in Imerovigli, creating a unique gastronomic experience with its fusion of Mediterranean flavors with local dishes. Although it’s more expensive than other hotels on the island, Cavo Tagoo sits just above the volcanic caldera and is a perfect location to watch the idyllic sunsets of Santorini.
As captivating as the views are from any hotel, the quintessential position to savor the rosy sunsets is atop the cliffs of Oia. This crawling tourist hub at the northern tip of the island is lined with souvenir shops, handcrafted jewelry vendors and restaurants serving mouthwatering dishes. The cobblestone paths lead directly to the famous viewing point, which quickly becomes congested with tourists long before the actual sunset.
© Mehnaz Ladha
Apart from the beautiful scenery of the island, Santorini is home to a number of museums and notable landmarks. Ranked among the top 10 wine museums around the world, Koutsogiannopoulos is the only natural underground museum throughout Greece that provides insight into the history of wine making since the 17th century. The capital of the island, Fira, is home to two of the island’s most popular museums: the Archaeological Museum of Thera and the Museum of Prehistoric Thera. Both feature artifacts from excavations around the island, piecing together the histories of past civilizations.
Unlike the sparkling sands in other parts of Greece, the beaches of Santorini are composed of volcanic sand and pebbles. The black beaches of Perissa and Perivolos stretch for several kilometers and are a favorite among youth especially, as it’s one of the more lively spots on the island to relax, play some beach volleyball and listen to live music. Along the Red Beach near the excavation site of Akrotiri, the gradient change of the red cliffs contrasts sharply with the shimmering deep blue waters. Due to the small size and overcrowding of the beach, most tourists opt to hike up halfway for the view and replenish themselves with freshly squeezed fruit juice at the stalls beneath the hill.
© Mehnaz Ladha
A trip to Santorini would be considered incomplete without tasting the local cuisine. Whether it’s an elegant terrace restaurant on the cliffs of Oia or a casual spot in downtown Fira, the dining experience in Santorini always comes with a view. The eco-friendly kitchen at Argo in Fira reinvents classic recipes from around the world with fresh, locally grown ingredients such as fava beans, tomatoes and white eggplants. Nestled in the village of Finikia, the traditional Greek taverna of Krinaki appeals to both vegetarians and meat lovers with its diverse menu that includes everything from roasted eggplants to fried pork in wine. Krinaki is also a venue for wine tastings, poetry readings, and art exhibitions.
If Santorini hasn’t already made its way onto your bucket list, it will soon be soaring to the very top. From the soothing breezes along the crystal clear waters to the centuries of history waiting to be uncovered, there’s something for every type of traveler visiting the island.
© Mehnaz Ladha
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Cover photo © Mehnaz Ladha