The stuff of modern legend, Santorini seduces and serenades with its cerulean domes, whitewashed walls, and villages that cascade down the side of its mountainous edge. This Cyclades island flawlessly combines natural beauty and pristine glamour, making it a desirable destination for travellers looking to splash the cash. Whether you want to venture to this contemporary Greek paradise for a romantic weekend or a short break with friends, discover our must-dos on the island, from the iconic towns to volcanic landscapes.
If you’re seeking those postcard-perfect, insta-worthy snaps that define Santorini, Fira will be high on your list. For the most dramatic introduction to the clusters of pristine buildings embedded into the cliffside, arrive to the island by ferry to the Old Port of Ormos Firon. To reach the town above, take your time climbing the 588 steps of the Karavolades stairs. While you’ll find the traditional markets, boutiques and cafés you’d expect of any picturesque Greek town, Fira is also heads up the island’s nightlife scene: start the evening with a drink at PK Cocktail Bar, a venue split over three levels overlooking the caldera. It’s favoured by locals and travellers alike for views of Santorini’s mesmerising sunsets (just make sure to book early to get a seat). If you’re looking for something authentically Greek, head to the oldest bar on the island: Kira Thira Jazz Bar is a unique spot, unpretentious and unfussy, where the music is soulful and the alcohol measurements are generous. For something a little more contemporary, MoMix Bar crafts experimental cocktails in a cave-like space, lit by UV and neon for a younger crowd. Most bars and clubs are open to the early hours, so if a quiet night’s sleep is what you’re after, then make sure your hotel is on the outskirts of the town or a different part of the island all together.
Quiet, calm Oia village is quintessential Santorini: the domes and pristine white walls that instantly come to mind spring vividly to life here. As well as the fantastic sunsets you can find anywhere along the western coast of the island, this traditional village exudes an indefinable charm: in between the cafés and tavernas, you’ll find a sprinkling of art galleries full of paintings inspired by the island’s natural beauty, as well as market stalls selling tiny trinkets. Oia is home to Ammoudi port, where small boats can take you across to Thirassia island. At the cusp of the village just beyond the whitewashed façades, you’ll find the remnants of an old Byzantine fort. The crumbling remains are a large contrast to the village, but take on an epic feel, especially as you look out to the caldera below. When it comes to dining, head down to Dimitris Ammoudi Taverna for incredible seafood and views of the ocean front – and once again, a mesmerising sunset awaits.
Kokkini (red) Beach
Another recognisable and astonishing piece of natural beauty is the red beach of Santorini. Comprised of red lava cliffs and sands that strikingly contrast the azure waters of the ocean, it’s the perfect backdrop of dramatic colours to be in awe of. One of the coolest ways to visit Kokkini would be by a catamaran cruise, which means you get to take some long-distance shots of this scarlet wonder, however you can reach the beach by car and bus as well (and then taking a steep walk down, of course). A tiny word of caution: if you’re looking somewhere to unwind and spend the day, there are quieter, calmer beaches. Kokkini is great for its unique hue, but for afternoons of idyllic beaching, head to Vlychada beach, a small quiet harbour on the southern tip of the island .
Aspri (white) Beach
In stark contrast to the scarlet wonder, Aspri beach is a dazzling vision in (almost) white: with cliffs carved from pumice stone and black and white pebbles lining its shores, it feels like one of the calmest spots on an already serene island. It’s in a pretty remote spot and can only be reached by boat from with Kokkini beach or Akrotiri. Once you’re there, there’s a small selection of sun loungers facing the sea for you to recline on. Because of its small size, you won’t find any motorised watersports around, and the beach and sometimes get crowded, so be sure to take a volleyball or snorkels with you to explore the shallow sapphire waters.
Santorini’s organic shape has been carved out by natural disaster: a volcanic eruption which partially sank the island and formed a cluster of triplets, making the island what we see it as today. The views of the caldera are beyond stunning and can be seen from many points high on the island – but heading to the centre is best experienced by boat. There are many tours available on the island (some special ones at sunset, too) so it’s easy to see this stunning highlight of one of Greece’s most coveted islands.