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Kitesurfing and Windsurfing in Santorini for Adrenaline Lovers

Santorini is one of the world’s most iconic travel destinations many reasons. Romantic sunsets are in the top of the list, of course, but not so many travelers consider the island’s aquatic sports offerings when they add the destination to their “bucket lists.” Take kitesurfing, for instance. After the glorious sun rises, and before it sets into the aquamarine sea, the warm winds blow kitesurfers across the crystal waters of the caldera.

Kitesurfing or windsurfing in the Caldera of Santorini ads an amazing seascape backdrop to an already exhilarating aquatic sport. The dark sandy beaches, the white and blue overhanging the amazing cliffs above, and unbelievable wind conditions year-round make Santorini a kind of kitesurfer’s haven. On any given day you’ll find enthusiasts of the sport of all experience levels gliding across the waves challenging themselves, or those learning for the first time.

Pros and first-timers end up creating a kind of kaleidoscope of weaving kites dotting the sky and the horizon on some days. Initiates take lessons from Santorini experts, old hands at the sport push the limits and search out the best conditions, and most often they are drawn to Monolithos Beach – where Santorini Kite offers classes and professional equipment rentals. To the south, Avis Beach is another excellent sport to practice the sport.

On the east side of the island, beginners and experienced kitesurfers gravitate to the beautiful black sandy beach and the constant north-east wind that sustains at 14 to 20 knots. Idyllic, this is the only way to describe such conditions. But Santorini has other secret spots that offer stellar conditions, glass smooth seas, and even boat excursions for downwind kitesurfing sessions. One expert tip is to take the boat ride to Paros or Naxos and spend a night there, to experience some genuinely pristine kiting time. Take care though, the Paros offshore winds can reach 40 knots, not exactly perfect for newcomers to the sport.
Local experts offer classes for beginners that range from 1 to 2-hour introductory lessons, all the way up to 10-hour packages that help beginners become independent riders capable of taking full advantage of the sport.

Cover photo credits: Santorini Kite (santorinikite.gr)

Counting down to the Santorini Experience 2019!

With just a few days to go to the ultimate sports experience in the Mediterranean, swimmers, runners and walkers from around the world are heading to the majestic Santorini island for the fifth Santorini Experience taking place October 4th to 6th. Last year, competitors from 45 countries across five continents took part in the event, and this year organizers are expecting an even higher number of participants.

Two days of open-water swimming and running set against the vast natural amphitheatre of the caldera, beckon athletes of all ages and abilities who wish to test themselves in what is one the of most stunning landscapes in the world.

On Saturday 5th of October the events begin, with runners take on the 15km, 10km and 5km routes following steep paths over the hills along the caldera, with participants enjoying breathtaking views of the volcano and the stunning landscapes of Imerovigli, Firostefani and Oia. The gentler 5km ‘Aristides Alafouzos’ route is a favourite for keen amateur runners and power walkers.

The focus turns to the glistening waters of the Caldera on Sunday when swimmers will head to Fira for embarkation to the volcano – the start point of the now legendary 2.4km open-water race back to the Old Port. And don’t worry if you can’t keep up with the pros, more sedate swimmers even have the option to use snorkel and flippers!

Mixing professional swimmers with keen amateurs, the organizers of the Santorini Experience are keen to stress that is an event for anyone and everyone who enjoys running, walking and swimming.

In 2016 the Santorini Experience attracted worldwide attention when global TV network FOX Sports broadcast the event to more than 40 million viewers. A host of awards for the event followed including gold awards for Best Sporting Event Production at the Ermis Awards in Greece. The Santorini Experience was named Unique Tour Company of the Year at this year’s Travel & Hospitality Awards.

One of the event’s biggest fans is Greek national swimming team member George Arniakos, who took part in 2018. “I’ve swam open-water all over the world, but nothing beats the energy of Santorini’s caldera,” says Arniakos. “The wind is so strong, you can smell the sulphur, and the image of the giant rock wall of the island approaching is just incredible”.

Register here for the Santorini Experience

Being an Official Sponsor of “Santorini Experience”, Santo Maris invites you to an exclusive Sunset Poolside Pilates Session under the guidance of the recognized instructor, Mandy Persaki. If you wish to take part at this exclusive wellness experience, reserve in advance and relish in moments of tranquility awakening your body while the sun is setting to the velvet Aegean Sea.

PILATES GUIDE: Mandy Persaki
DATE: Friday, 4th of October | 18:00 p.m. to 19:00p.m.
DRESS CODE: Fitness clothing
EQUIPMENT: Mats will be provided

Space is limited, so please make your reservation in advance at events@santomaris.gr or at +30 28975 02151

Ceramics and Pottery in Santorini

The roots of pottery tradition on Thira (alternative name of Santorini) can be traced long before the Minoan eruption of Santorini that occurred during the Late Bronze Age, which destroyed one of the most flourishing societies of the time. Excavations carried out at Akrotiri brought to light a settlement with multi-storey buildings and complex drainage systems, detailed furniture, striking frescoes, and ceramics that prove that the Minoan civilization at the time lived in peace and extraordinary prosperity. Most Santorinian potteries at the time were decorated with motifs, usually depicting cultivated plants, subjects from the marine life, and even terrestrial elements that echoed the Santorinian culture.The depiction of cultivated plants is a unique phenomenon in Aegean pottery and it first appeared on Thira during the Late Bronze Age. This is an aspect of art history, but also gives proof that the island occupied a significant position in the Cyclades. According to Marisa Marthari, the director of the excavations at Kastri-Chalandriani on Syros and Skarkos on Ios, Thira was “the producer of the richest pictorial pottery in the Aegean in the first period of the Late Bronze Age.” Vessels unearthed at Akrotiri support the theory that decorative painting was commonplace at the time. Popular motifs, like lilies and swallows found their way on vases, cookery pots, and frescoes quite often. Sometimes highly stylized, other times with a wealth of details, these symbols are still used by ceramists today and are characteristics of authentic Santorini ceramics. With such strong roots, no wonder that the pottery and ceramics of Santorini are among the most sought-after souvenirs from the island. Contemporary ceramists still produce vessels drawing on the rich past of this tradition. Here are some of the ceramic shops that will give you an idea of what to expect when you go pottery shopping on the island:

Akron Art Centre is owned by Dimitris Bellos and Aspasia Vovola. They are usually focused on replicas of ancient Santorini pottery art.  This is a great place to visit to learn about the history of ceramics on the island. Akron is the only workshop of its kind in Santorini and one of the largest in Greece. They exhibit and sell Minoan, Geometric, and Classical era pottery from Santorini and from all over Greece.

1260° ceramic studio, owned by Marina Taliadourou and Giannis Vlantonopoulos, displays tableware ceramic objects inspired by the life and nature of Santorini. In the artists’ words: “The black volcanic earth, the red terracotta, the blue of the sea, the white and the red-orange color of the sunset.” Each piece is a one-of-a-kind.  The name of the studio comes from a technique used to produce ceramics, firing them once at high temperatures.

1260º Ceramic studio

Galatea’s Pottery and Art in Megalohori is a studio offering pottery designed by artist Galatea Papageorgiou. She has developed an individual style based on Santorini traditional art and you will notice a variety of motifs on her ceramics: caper leaf – inspired by a ceramic mug in the Museum of Prehistoric Thera, olive motif, Santorini motif – inspired by the traditional cave houses on the island, sea motif – inspired by Thalassa, the artist’s sister, wildflowers – an original theme, designed by the artist, as well as some stylized motifs, like meandros, leaves, dinner table, bamboo, and more.

EARTH and WATER, another pottery studio in Megalochori, is the studio of Athens-born ceramist Andreas Makaris, who lives and works in Santorini since 1985. As the artist testifies, his work is “inspired by the profuse light and the hidden mysteries of Santorini’s ancient past.” He shares the workshop with his wife, Kristi Kapetanaki, and their designs are in high demand on the island. They also offer pottery-making classes.

There are many other pottery stores on the island. Also, as you explore Oia, you will see ceramics in souvenir shops too. Don’t leave Santorini without visiting a ceramic store, buying a souvenir or joining a workshop that will always bring you in mind memories from Santorini!

The Volcanic Birth of Santorini

The birth of Santorini as you see it today reminds a lot of the legend of the mythical phoenix, the bird that comes back to life rising from its ashes after dying consumed by flames.
Santorini is a story of new life rising from its ashes too. The phoenix of the Greek islands has changed its shape numerous times throughout history, always because of volcanic activity in the Aegean Sea. The Minoan eruption – although scientists cannot pinpoint the date accurately – was the largest in history. It changed the geomorphology of the island and buried all settlements under ash and pumice, putting an end to the Minoan civilization.

After the Minoan eruption (1627 – 1600 BCE), Santorini remained deserted for many years. The outburst was so violent that it ejected 60km³ of ash, rocks, and pumice into the air. Its impact was global. It was followed by two weeks of darkness (night) and two-year long winter and it left the soil on Santorini bare, destroying all flora and fauna, and covering the entire island in a thick layer of ash – according to experts, 60 m high.

It’s a wonder that life flourished again on Santorini after this cataclysm. The myths that tell of the birth of Santorini relate of miracles too. In Apollonius of Rhodes’s Argonautica, we learn of Jason and the Argonauts landing on Anaphe. Here, Euphemus dreamt of making love to a nymph, daughter of Triton, messenger god of the sea. In the dream, the nymph told him she got pregnant and she needed a place to hide from the fury of her father, who would have undoubtedly reacted fiercely to the news. She advised Euphemus to throw a clod of earth from Anaphe into the sea to make her a safe hideout. When Euphemus woke, he followed up on his dream and threw the clod of earth into the waves. Just as the nymph predicted, an island emerged, and he named it Strogyli for its circular shape.

Another myth associates Santorini with the legendary Atlantis. According to some, Santorini may have been the inspiration for Plato’s prosperous and peaceful Atlantis – yet its location was never confirmed. Researchers went as far as the marshlands of Spain to find Atlantis. Besides Plato’s description of Atlantis, there are no other documents to attest its existence. In Plato’s Critias dialogue we learn that:
“Now, on the island of Atlantis there was a great and wonderful empire, which had rule over the whole island and several others, as well as over parts of the continent; and, besides these, they subjected the parts of Libya within the Columns of Heracles as far as Egypt, and of Europe as far as Tyrrhenia. […] But afterward there occurred violent earthquakes and floods, and in a single day and night of rain all your warlike men in a body sunk into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared, and was sunk beneath the sea.”

No matter how many similarities one finds between Plato’s Atlantis and Santorini, there’s no certitude that the two are the same. Moreover, archeological digs at Akrotiri on Santorini did not unearth the remains of the “warlike men” described by the Greek philosopher.

Whether or not Santorini was the location of Atlantis is less relevant than the miraculous rebirth of the island from volcanic ash after the Minoan eruption. Today, the island flourishes again and counts as the most visited of the Greek islands. Its iconic beauty is a symbol for Greece all over the world and its fiery sunsets inspire all kinds of legends still.

That Santorini is born of fire, there’s no doubt, and the volcano is still active. Its threat is real, but eruptions such as the Minoan one are likely to occur every 15,000-20,000 years according to scientists. The last volcanic eruption on Santorini was 1950 and it lasted 22 days.

Today, volcanic activity on Nea Kameni is monitored by the Institute for the Study and Monitoring of the Santorini Volcano (ISMOSAV) and life goes on safely on the island. Civilization continues to flourish, tourists come and go, and no one worries about another cataclysm.
“If there was another eruption from Santorini/Thera in the near future, the most likely event would be another small, dome-building eruption around Nea Kameni inside the Minoan caldera,” reports Erik Klemetti in an editorial for Discover Magazine. “Most of these eruptions have been VEI 2 eruptions that had phreatic explosions and the extrusion of lava domes/flows. It is very unlikely that we’d seen around Minoan-scale eruption, although Santorini/Thera has seen a number of caldera-forming eruptions (at 180,000, 21,000 and 3,600 years before present).”
With ISMOSAV and the Hellenic Seismic Network constantly monitoring the island, residents and visitors alike can enjoy Santorini worry-free.

Indigenous Grapes of Santorini

Santorini is often called “the vineyard,” because wine-making is one of the main agricultural practices on the island – and the history of vinification here is as deeply-rooted in legend and tradition. Some say the Minoans had vineyards on Thira as far back as the 5th millennium BC.

The volcanic soil layers upon limestone under the scorching sun, exposed to dry winds and essentially deprived of water, as rainfall is scarce and there are no sources of underground water either. Farmers found a distinctive way to overcome these challenges. They cultivate grapes according to the kouloura method, training the vines to coil in a wreath on the ground to protect the fruit from the heat and against the dry winds. Kouloura is the most widespread system on the island, although wineries like Domaine Sigalas use more modern techniques too – growing Assyrtiko on a vertical structure.

Due to these extraordinary natural conditions, the indigenous grapes of Santorini have unique characteristics too.

Assyrtiko

Winemakers appreciate the indigenous grapes of Santorini, especially the Assyrtiko (pronounced ah-SEER-tee-koh) – the noblest of the whites – which makes up about 75% of the overall grape production on the island.
Assyrtiko is a spectacular fruit, known around the world as the Greek grape by excellence. Master Sommelier Yoon Ha described its potency in vibrant epithets:
“Young Assyrtiko is relentless. It is a predator, and your palate is the prey. It puts you on your back and you throw your hands up. You have to submit!”
Indeed, Assyrtiko deserves its place among the grapes of renown. It’s also one of the world’s oldest varieties grape vines, traced to Thira as early as the 16th century BC. The volcanic eruption back then created the unique characteristics of the soil that make the wines produced in Santorini truly exceptional.
Assyrtiko has the potential to develop high levels of alcohol when harvested at the right time – usually mid-August and early September. The grape produces wine with a pH of 2.90 or lower and high acidity. It is mainly used for dry white wines with citrus nuances, which go well with fish and seafood, but also with grilled meats and Greek spreads like fava.

Athiri

Athiri is an ancient grape too. Its name derives from Thira, the official name of Santorini, but it is more widely cultivated in Rhodes. On Santorini, Athiri is used as a blending grape with Assyrtiko and Aidani to produce white wines. It has a fruity, lemony aroma and is usually paired with Greek mezze due to its easy-drinking, accessible character.

Aidani

Aidani is a dry varietal blended with Athiri and Assyrtiko to make vinsanto, Santorini’s famous amber-colored wine, which is produced according to the local passito tradition, using grapes dried in the sun for up to 14 days. The result is a sweet wine, golden-orange to dark amber, with a complex bouquet. Santorini is the exclusive producer of original Vinsanto. Aidani is a Muscat relative according to experts.

Mavrotragano

Mavrotragano is a tannic red varietal with small berries that produce exceptional dry wines. It is a protected grape as it was once on the brink of extinction. Winegrowers began making Mavrotragano reds in the 1990s. This wine is served at room temperature and pairs well with red meat or stews and mild cheeses.

Mandilaria

The island’s second most popular red grape, Mandilaria is tart and tannic, producing dry wines of deep color with aromas of red fruit. It is often blended with other varieties to make sweet wines.

There are several other grape varieties on the island, but these five are more popular and widespread.
Our Guest Experience Team is by your side in order to organize for you a visit and a wine tasting experience to the best local wineries and get acquainted with the winemaking history of the island and the unique characteristics of the Santorini terroir.

Photo Tours: An Alternative Way to Explore Santorini

Is there a better way to discover this amazing crescent-shaped isle than to explore it looking through the camera’s lens? Santorini, or Thíra since ancient times, is actually a small group of islands including Thíra, Thirassiá, Asproníssi, and Palea and Nea Kaméni. Dazzling for their sunset vistas and traditional Cycladic white houses, blue-domed churches, and hilltop windmills, the island group is one of the most photographed places on Earth.

From picturesque Fira, the capital of Santorini, to the stunning volcanic beaches at the base of the island, this place is a photographer’s dream come true. Take Fira, along with Oia perched high up on the rim of the famous volcanic caldera. The uniqueness of the geography where mountain and sea meet is simply breathtaking. Professionals and amateurs flock to Imerovígli and Firostefáni, also located high above on the cliffs that make up the so-called “Caldera’s eyebrow,” which is, in fact, the balcony of Santorini.
Some companies offering photo tours of Santorini are creative enough to combine two or three activities to make the experience truly remarkable. For instance, wine tasting and photography tours – the two make sense because the vineyards of the island have unique character considering the history and background, the architecture, the way grapes are cultivated etc.

The seaside is another treasure of the island. The deep blue waters, the red, and black volcanic sand beaches, the amazing rock formations, and the moonscapes are other-worldly. You can book a photo-tour to volcanic Milos, to capture the sun playing off the arches around the central caldera or the surrealistic rock formations that islet is known for. Or perhaps, a digital magazine of photos of picturesque villages is what you seek? Milos, Santorini, and the other islands are a perfect choice for this, and for its geology, hot springs, and wild goats even.

Photo tours of Santorini also help visitors experiencing this beautiful island. Surveying the landscapes, getting to know the customs and the environment, being part of the cultural fabric of the place, these and more aspect are good reasons to integrate photo tours into your agenda. Santorini is a creative paradise and a cultural and learning one as well.

You can take part in every conceivable photography tour here on Santorini. There are boat tours, underwater photographic tours, night sky photo escapades, romantic sunset photo sessions, walking photo tours, and tours where you get your own personal, professional photographer.

Santorini is so beautiful that even amateur images captured with a smartphone camera can look like something out of a magazine.

Cover photo: by Kyler Boone on Unsplash

A Santorini Guide for First-Time Visitors

Santorini is one of the world’s iconic destinations, a stunning postcard recognized by anyone who ever dreamt of travel. From her multicolored cliffs that rise ominously from the aquamarine depths of the Aegean to the whitewashed buildings huddled on the rim of the cliffs, this is a place of and for daydreams. Dazzling panoramas, legendary sunsets, and unbelievable volcanic-sand beaches lay waiting to dazzle visitors young and old.

Of all the places people put on their “bucket lists,” Santorini leaves upwards of 1.5 million tourists a year stunned by her sheer beauty and allure. This most volatile and enigmatic Cyclades isle is officially called Thera, after the son of Euphemus, who was one of Jason’s Argonauts. Out of the myths of prehistory, garnished by tales from Plato of Atlantis and other epic legends, Santorini does not have any “little history.” Here you’ll find the stuff dreams are made of growing out of the black sands of time.

As legend has it, Thera was a major naval base of the Minoan Empire utterly destroyed when the volcano erupted about 1450 BC. The violent explosion of magma beneath this mystic island emptied the gigantic basin below the island, and caused the collapse of the volcano. The billions of cubic meters of seawater emptied into this blazing abyss unleashed what some believe, was the largest explosion in human history, a blast that delivered 60 meter-high tsunami waves to nearby Crete and Egypt further beyond. What remains of the island many believe was fabled Atlantis, is a caldera (or crater) with towering cliffs along the east side, which is now Santorini’s trademark landscape dotted with settlements along its edge.

First-time visitors to the island will at first be amazed by the dizzying heights and views of the caldera that provoke many to gasp in awe. From the busy capital of Fira, visitors find the 15-minute walk to nearby Firostefani an uplifting experience, and then a further quarter hour’s trek leads to the highest point of Santorini, where Imerovigli village offers unimaginable photo-taking opportunities. It is these three settlements that get most of the attention, along with the iconic Oia – the most photographed village of Thera – to the north.
Farther east, volcanic sand beaches beckon sunbathers, snorkelers, and swimmers where the land levels out onto the sea. The resorts of Kamari and Perissa offer a more traditional appeal, along with water sports, bars, and beautiful promenades. Then there’s Santorini’s spectacular vineyard-lined inland, where travelers can catch a glimpse into the past of the island. At Pyrgos and other villages, the cuisine of Santorini takes on a new life, and the charm of ancient Greece comes to life. Wine tastings at more than a dozen local wineries compliment any hike into the island’s inner sanctum, and any number of wine or archeological tours come highly recommended. A few of Santorini’s highlights for first-time visitors include:

  • See the impressive Museum of Prehistoric Thera in Fira, which reveals the puzzle pieces of the island’s distant past via the archeology of legendary Akrotiri.
  • Sunsets: Prime sunset-seeing is accomplished best in Oia, where tens of thousands come to admire the sundown on the island.
  • Hike from Fira to Oia: While the walk is challenging under the scorching sun, this is one of those experiences you take home and tell about forever.
  • Swim in the hot springs: Take a boat tour to the base of the caldera and dive into the hot springs in the midst of the sea – this is a fantastic experience.
  • Swimming, as suggested, can best be enjoyed at the black sand beaches in the east.
  • Tours: Any number of companies lead guided archeological, wine and culinary, and sunset photography tours.
  • Akrotiri: The fascinating site of Akrotiri displaying a Minoan city destroyed by the volcanic eruption during the Bronze Age is a must-see.

No matter what else you do while on Santorini, be sure and book at least one tour. They’re simply fun, informative, and the best way to get to know more about the island. Whether you pick a spellbinding helicopter flight over the caldera, or a luxury wine tour, there’s no better way to pack a wealth of information and fun into a first-time visit. For the visitor who likes venturing off-the-beaten-path, the boat trip to uninhabited Thirassia on the western side is a memorable adventure. Oh, and be sure to take a walk to Skaros Rock for an unbelievable view. Finally, no Santorini suggestion guide could be complete without recommending a swim in Ammoudi Bay and a dive off the cliff at Agios Nikolaos.

The best times to visit Santorini are spring and fall – from April to May and September to October. Temperatures during these months are not as elevated as they are from June to the end of August. Offseason, in the winter months – from November until March – most of the hotels, restaurants, and shops, are closed, but the experience is unique and ideally suited for those who are looking to experience the island like a local.
First-time visitors to Santorini may also want to consult this list of frequently asked questions before traveling.

Santorini Through Nelly’s Lens

Nelly Sougioultzoglou-Seraidari (1899-1998), was an amazing Greek photographic talent better known as Nelly’s. Her unique attempts to capture the distinctive light of the Cyclades and other Greek locations are legendary. Her extraordinary work is reflected in the “Nelly’s Santorini, 1925-1930” album, which was published in 1987 and republished in 2001 by the Archive of Santorinian Studies. Famous for having traversed every goat’s path and cliff precipice on Santorini to capture this special harsh light, the view from Nelly’s lens still captivates people from every walk of life even today.
The volume published by the Archive of Santorinian Studies includes comments from the photographer about her perceptions at the time. Back in those days, travel to the island was exclusively by boat from the mainland or from Crete, and in Nelly’s recollections, this travel log of her journey’s plays a major role in the compositions of the photographs. One paragraph from the book reproduced by Greek daily newspaper Kathimerini puts things into perspective:

“I could hardly wait to set off with my equipment. In those days, one travelled by sea. The boat to Santorini arrived at dawn. It was, I recall, summertime. At 5.30 a.m. I was on deck. I wanted to enjoy my first view of the island from a distance, before entering the harbor, and to take a few photographs from there. I shall never forget that magical spectacle upon beholding the island. It seemed as if I were looking at an enormous chocolate cake, topped with whipped cream. And when the sun rose and shed its golden rays upon it, I gazed as if I would never get my fill. Never before had I seen such a vista, and I tried to make the most of those unforgettable moments, to immortalize them in the few photographs I took.”

The adventurous photographer took special note of the way the island looked from the sea as her boat approached, and the first photos of the island are from before entering the harbor. During her adventure on the island, Nelly managed to capture stunning imagery from Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli, Pyrgos, Kamari, Exo Gonia and Perissa, with famous Oia proving too difficult to navigate for more than a few images.
Nelly’s work on Santorini brought the island to life in images for the first time, making the nature the focal point, adorned with unbelievably lifelike people, stunning village-scapes, and conveying the unmatched beauty of Santorini.
Even 90 years after Nelly processed these images, the vibrant captures of volcanic Santorini have left an indelible mark. Pictures from Nelly’s trip to the island in the mid-1920s now grace the collection of the Benakis’ Museum.

Horse Riding in Santorini: Experience Sunsets on Horseback

Imagine a stunning sunset over iconic Santorini’s cliffs. Now imagine one of the most unforgettable experiences in the world from horseback. It’s possible to make even the most memorable moments even more momentous with a horseback tour along the rim, winding down through narrow village streets, exploring the heart of Thira.

Booking a horse riding tour of Santorini is definitely a unique experience to be remembered. For travelers who thrive on journeys beyond the beaten path, the horseback adventures on Santorini are a real differentiator. Local companies offer custom tours on thoroughbreds through the meandering streets of the traditional village of Megalochori, in the cliffs and in the unique landscape of Vlychada. Although the most common horseback riding adventures on Santorini are along a beach (Vlychada), equestrians can choose to gallop along through awe-inspiring gorges or picturesque vineyards, and even to the archaeological site of Akrotiri, among other interesting destinations.

On horseback, visitors get a different viewpoint as they explore the spectacular villages, vineyards, hidden beaches, and as they ride along the caldera while watching the sunset. There are even combo-tours for riding and wine tasting, not to mention custom excursions for either new or experienced riders.

While some might think Santorini via horseback a novel or unrealistic excursion, it’s important to remember the horse in all Greek tradition. Remember Bucephalus, the legendary warhorse of Alexander the Great, as you ride the old dirt roads of Oia or explore the hidden ravines down toward the waiting volcanic beaches. You can also enjoy private horse rides with a romantic dinner along the way. You can even get married on horseback if you envision your Santorini visit as a true once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Ask our guest experience specialists when you stay at Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa to recommend you the riding tour that best decribes your preferenceces and organise it for your and your loved ones.

We urge you to avoid riding donkeys, as the animals are now under governmental protection.

Island Hopping: What Nearby Islands to Visit from Santorini

Each summer the Greek isles get a new infusion of tourists seeking their “bucket list” existential experiences. Santorini is often the bullseye destination more sought out than some others. However, many who arrive here do not realize how close other famous Greek isles are, and few take the opportunity to use Santorini as a home port for greater exploration. For those who do, the following list of nearby destinations may prove helpful.

Crete

A short distance from Santorini (1.5 hours by fast ferry), Crete is the legendary land of the ancient Minoans. The largest island in Greece, Crete is known for its rugged mountains and pristine beaches, and for charming villages set around ancient hamlets. Famed for the friendliness of its locals, the island has some of Europe’s most famous beaches including Elafonisi, Falasarna, and the well-known Vai, where Europe’s biggest palm forest hugs the shoreline. On Crete, you’ll find worlds within a world set on an island paradise where legends still echo, and where hospitality takes on a whole new meaning. Visit the Minoan Palace at Knossos, then find a lost beach cove somewhere in the mountains of Sfakia. Crete is simply amazing.

Mykonos

This island gem is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. Mykonos is known for its cosmopolitan atmosphere and the wild party vibe too. Since forever, the island has been a favorite playground for celebrities and the jet-set crowd. Known to many as “The Island of the Winds,” Mykonos was first made famous back in the early 1930s. Key points of interest on the island are Psarou Beach, Paradise Beach, and the unspoiled hidden beach hangouts the party set searches out each season. For a non-stop beach party, this is the place to be seen. Daily ferries in between Santorini and Mykonos, take about 2 hours.

Naxos

The largest island of the Cyclades group is almost as popular as its closest neighbor Mykonos. Covering an area of nearly 430,000 square kilometers, this magical atoll of 18,000 local inhabitants is famous for its pristine beaches, for Kitron, and for gastronomic wonders as well. If you desire undiscovered beach bliss or the Temple of Demeter, Naxos is a must visit paradise not far by ferry from Santorini (1.5 hours). Other attractions include the Eggares Olive Press Museum, Kouros Statue, the Temple of Apollo, the Cave of Zeus, Bazeos Tower, Zas Mountain, and the Venetian Museum.

Paros

This fantastic island is home to about 13,000 full-time residents scattered across a landscape of traditional villages and beautiful beaches few can imagine. One of the most popular of the Cyclades group, Paros covers a total area of 196.3 square kilometers. Here you will find family travelers mixing it up with romantic explorers and the youthful et. The main villages of Parikia and Naoussa get most of the action, but in all, there are 38 beaches with some of the cleanest sand and aquamarine surf anywhere. A favored spot for windsurfers and kiteboarders, the island is a watersports legend. The best-known ones, Santa Maria, Kolymbithres, and the New Golden Beach are buzzing with sporting enthusiasts. The Santorini to Paros, the ferry ride is a bit longer than to the other outlying islands, but 2-3 hours cruising the Aegean is not the worst destiny ever. Paros is another “must” if you have the time.