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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

ALIOS ILIOS: Our gastronomic delights for the new season

At our fine-dining restaurant ALIOS ILIOS, the new concept of the season reflects, once again, our philosophy of creativity and passion for excellence that extends throughout Santo Maris’s offerings to its guests.

The concept in one word: Meraki. The untranslatable unique Greek word that describes the action from the soul, with creativity, passion, and love. Meraki is the essence of Santo Maris; from our Food and Beverage operations, and Guest Experience team, through the Housekeeping team. Our main goal is to offer our guests a memorable hospitality experience.

For this summer our culinary team presents a menu of flavorsome dishes that pay tribute to Greek authentic flavors, while offering new and creative interpretations for the most discerning palates.

Our appetizers are just the beginning. Choose from dishes such as Trahanas – a delightful grain soup, made with shrimps, local sausage or feta cheese, or the classic Aegean favourite – Octopus, served with delicious fava.

For main course try the fresh caught Sea bream with artichoke, enticingly prepared with a hint of ouzo – A la Polita”. Sea food is a specialty at ALIOS ILIOS, and our seafood platter – with lobster, squid, sea bass, octopus and shrimps – is a stunning dish.

Sea bream a la polita

With chefs who pride themselves on their own unique interpretations of the great traditional Greek favorites, the delicately prepared veal Mouzaka and Pasticcio are highly recommended. For meat lovers, there is Fricasse, made with tender lamb in a delicate egg and lemon sauce, and Savore – a delicious pork dish with sublime mashed potato and local mushrooms.

Last but not least, let’s not forget scrumptious desserts. Try the Tart, lovingly prepared from raspberries, beetroot and melon, with a dash of yoghurt and basil, or perhaps the irresistible dark Chocolate sorbet, with praline sesame and hibiscus.

Tart with raspberries & beetroot

For a true gastronomic adventure, treat yourself to our Seven Stage Degustation Menu – an exquisite journey through our top signature dishes, paired with seven of the finest wines in our cellar, showcasing wines from Crete, the Greek islands and the mainland.

We leave the last word to one of our valued guests who declared on TripAdvisor this month: “Delicious Greek food expertly turned into fine cuisine. Genuine Greek hospitality. A sunset view to die for. A sommelier who’s a real specialist. What else to ask for?”

We look forward to welcoming you soon.

ALIOS ILIOS is open daily from 7.30pm until 10:30 pm.
Tel. +30 2897 502151

Summer nights – See the Stars under the stars

Here in Santorini, at least one visit to Open Air Cinema Kamari is a must for any movie lover. The cinema has been open since the late 1980s offering visitors and locals the quintessential Greek summer experience – sitting in comfort on a balmy evening, sipping one’s favourite drink – with one or two nibbles and be engrossed in a great movie.

It’s an experience not to be missed. With its state-of-the-art sound and projection equipment, the latest ‘A’ class movies, and one of the most picture-perfect auditoriums to be found in the Mediterranean, it’s a movie goer’s dream. Housed beautiful garden flanked by eucalyptus and palm trees, bathed in discrete lighting, and with every respect given to the architecture of Santorini, this is a pleasant place to be.

Photo: santorinicinema.com

At the center of Santorini’s artistic life, the cinema is also home to some of the island’s most exciting cultural events including live music concerts and theatre performances, while this venue hosts local artists’ exhibitions. In recent years the cinema has won numerous accolades in the international media, including being described by the US TV network CNN as one of the 10 best open cinemas in the world!

USEFUL INFORMATION:

Open Air Cinema Kamari is at the entrance to Kamari town on the main road to Fira. A bus stop is just across from the entrance. It is open from May until October, and the ticket costs 8€. Cinephiles head here of course for the movies, but Kamari’s almost as famous for its amazing cocktail bar. Strawberry Daiquiris and Mojitos are house specialties. There’s also a great range of beers and wines, soft drinks, ice cream and snacks. Movies are shown in their English language version with Greek subtitles. Doors open 20.30 and the movie starts 21.30.

Just some of the great movies being shown this summer include (in June) the Oscar-winning Green Book, Stan and Ollie, eMamma Mia, and its sequel Mamma Mia: Here we go again along with The Hustle and Men in Black: International. As the nights get even warmer, Avengers: Endgame kicks off July. See the full program and dates.

The Lost Atlantis Experience

The Lost Atlantis Experience – an exciting state-of-the-art digital interactive experience exploring the myth of Atlantis – is a new and stunning addition to Santorini’s visitor attractions.

For thousands of years the story of the lost city of Atlantis, written by ancient Greece’s most famous philosopher Plato, has gripped the world. Capturing the imagination of millions, the tale of how an ancient island city, (believed by some to be Santorini), was created and then destroyed, is one of the great legends.

The founders of Atlantis were said to be half god, half man, a race who created a rich and powerful civilisation, but the city at the heart of the myth would be destroyed in a cataclysmic earthquake and tsunami – which, as the legend goes – was punishment by the gods for greed and immorality.

Now the story of Atlantis is being presented in a truly extraordinary way in Santorini itself, and it makes a stunning excursion for all the family. Using the latest interactive technology, visitors to the Lost Atlantis Experience Museum can experience everyday life in the mythical city through virtual ‘windows in time’, discover how the Minoan civilisation may well be at the heart of the Atlantis story, and even relive the earthquake, volcanic eruption and tsunami that caused the destruction of the city, using the latest ‘9D’ virtual reality.

Through its high-tech wonders the Experience allows visitors to explore Plato’s life journey through an interactive fresco, and engage with the famous philosopher, to find out more about the legendary city, and the theories surrounding its existence. This is history exploration with the accent on fun.

Having only opened its doors in May 2019, already the Lost Atlantis Experience has already received acclaim, with early visitors expressing their delight at this new and pioneering addition to Santorini’s attractions.

USEFUL INFORMATION:
The Lost Atlantis Experience is open daily, 09:00 – 21:00. 12€ adults, 6€ children (7-12). Children under 6 admitted free.

Please ask our Guest Experience Specialist in the reception of Santo Maris Oia for details about the best way to arrange your visit.

The Lost Atlantis Experience

2286 085076
Megalochori 84700

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.