10 reasons to visit Santorini
Santorini is known as one of the most visually interesting of the Greek islands – and with its volcanoes and white-washed buildings set against a vibrant blue sky, it's not hard to see why. Whether you're into your photography or just really appreciate great views, Santorini will get you gasping at just about every corner.
The best sunset in the world
It sounds a like a big brag but Santorini is argued to have one of the best sunset views in the entire world – the sun just seems to drop into the sea in a haze of gold and amber. Oia is known as the best place to view the sunset and people flock there early every evening just to experience it. People turn up by the coach load, and restaurants and bars have priced their meals and drinks accordingly. If you want to avoid the crowds, the views from Firostefani, just down the road, are almost as spectacular, and you can appreciate the view without having to fight for a space.
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Sunsets, delicious wine, beautiful buildings... all of these things ensure that Santorini is the place for lovers. It's also the place for weddings so if there's anything that will tip you into getting married, it's seeing all these blissful-looking couples having their photographs taken against stunning backdrops.
Our guides to the Greek islands
See our guides to Kos, Rhodes, Crete and Santorini.
The fascinating landscapes
Much of Santorini is built on the rim of an old, extinct volcano (they call this the caldera) which is why you'll see towns that look as though they are tumbling down the hillside. The effect is remarkable and extremely photogenic, but it does mean that roads and pavements are very steep. For instance, in the capital of Fira there are only three ways down to the port and back up again – by cable car, walking up or down the hundreds of steps or by donkey. Even if you decide not to do this little excursion, the steps are everywhere, often uneven and all at different heights and lengths. This is not the place to wear heels. Sensible shoes are a must, and anyone with mobility problems should be aware that this may not be an ideal location. There is also a live volcano, which you can visit by boat on a day trip.
Greek Orthodox is the ruling denomination here, along with a small percentage of Catholicism. Whether you are religious or not, you'll have to agree that it makes a large stamp on the landscape here. On Santorini, especially in the villages, you'll find that almost every house has its own private chapel. Indeed, the villagers all come together to help build each resident their own chapel, and all of them are that beautiful combination of white, each with a sky blue roofs – blue so that they reach out to the sky, where God resides.
The food and wine
Fish and seafood lovers will be delighted by the food on Santorini, but Greek staples like Moussaka and Souvlaki are well in evidence. There are a plethora of tavern-style eateries, but you can also find beautiful upmarket fare and presentation in places like Oia. Santorini wine is award-winning and it's well worth making visit to a vineyard to do some wine tasting. Santo, with its stunning views, is where the tourists tend to go, but there are many smaller vineyards you can peruse.
Its low level of rainfall, together with the volcanic landscape and soil mean that Santorini is a unique environment for home-grown food and wine, and that is reflected in what you will see and eat.
Almost every corner brings something new for a photographer – from iconic white-washed buildings to the rich blue of the sea surrounding it.
If you're fascinated by archaeology, then the excavations at Akrotiri are unmissable – they're said by many to be one of the most important prehistoric settlements anywhere. Dating back to 3600 BC, this is a town that, like Pompeii, was destroyed by the volcanic ash from an earthquake.
The ghost towns
Santorini has suffered from numerous earthquakes over the years, with the biggest in living memory being one in 1965. It left the town of Mesa Gonia a ghost town, which you can now visit. Wander through its deserted streets (although there are now a handful of people living there) and watch the wild cats that are its main inhabitants.
You can catch a ferry to the mainland ports of Piraeus and Rafina from Santorini or go island hopping around Ios, Anafi, Crete, Naxos and Paros, amongst others.
If getting into the water is your idea of a great holiday, then Santorini also ticks the box for an active trip. Perissa and Kamari are the two main centres for water sports. Here you'll find black volcanic sand and can take part in diving, waterskiing, wind-kiting and banana-boating. Lined with bars and restaurants, these beaches are also perfect for those who just want to lie back, chill out and catch the sun.
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