Santorini Island holidays

Experience Santorini Island

Experience [destination]

Best Places to Visit

Santorini owes its spectacular crescent shape to an enormous volcanic explosion, which blasted the once single island into many islands within the Cyclades. The long inner bay is the caldera and Fira. Thira (the capital of Santorini), is located right on its edge. Apart from the quaint cobbled streets and superb views, Fira offers travellers several notable museums, a lively nightlife and great dining options. During the peak season, Fira can become crowded. Nevertheless, the town is still worth a visit.

What many call Santorini's most charming town, Oia, is a must-visit for guests to the island. Well known for its colourful houses clinging to an almost sheer cliff, Oia is just right for catching a stunning Santorini sunset and capturing a few vibrant pictures. Oia also boasts historical sites including the ruins of a Venetian castle.

With its distinctively relaxed atmosphere, the picturesque town of Kamari provides an excellent alternative to the hustle and bustle of larger centres like Fira. Best-known for its long stretches of black-sand beaches, a remnant of the island's volcanic history, Kamari is the perfect place for travellers wanting to slow down the pace for a while.

Vothonas has some of the most interesting examples of early Greek architecture as the village was carved from the mountainous ravine rock. Walking through the tangled pathways, visitors can admire the ornate detail of the houses, from engraved doorways to perfectly domed rooftops. Only four miles from Fira, Vothonas draws few crowds and is sparsely inhabited, allowing visitors to enjoy the town in relative peace.

Locals refer to the two small volcanic islands as Palea Kameni and Nea Kameni. Tours depart from the mainland for both islands daily, allowing travellers to set foot on these landmarks. Visitors to Palea Kameni should remember to pack bathing suits as the island has a famous hot spring, which can be enjoyed by all.

For the best views of the entire island, visitors should head to the town of Pyrgos. Santorini's highest point, Pyrgos is steeped in history and is home to many beautiful religious buildings including a wonderfully decorated monastery at the top of the hill.

Top Landmarks

Located in the centre of Santorini Island, Santorini Volcano is a piece of Greek history that cannot be missed. Its eruption in the late Minoan period was the cause of the civilisation's destruction and can be credited for creating the Santorini we know today.

For more insight into the Santorini of the past, visitors should pay a visit to the Museum of Prehistoric Thira. Home to several intriguing artefacts, which were excavated from the ancient Minoan settlement of Akrotiri, the museum offers a comprehensive guide to the island's history and archaeology. From beautiful wall paintings to archaic figurines, the museum is a great place for those interested in the island's past.

Another important settlement in Santorini's history is Ancient Thira. Inhabited as early as the 9th century BC and excavated in 1896, Ancient Thira is today a fascinating historical site. Located in Mesa Vouno, which sits 396m above sea level, the ruins of Thira offer tourists a rare chance to roam the streets of an excavated ancient city, but also to experience the stunning views of the coastline below.

A museum of a different kind, the Folklore Museum in Fira is located in original cave houses built in 1861. While many museums on the island deal with the region's fascinating archaeology, the Folklore Museum explores the equally compelling culture. Everything from Santorini's wines, housed at a traditional winery, to workshops in ancient trades like carpentry and shoemaking can be experienced in this quaint museum.

Entertainment

The best part about Santorini's nightlife is that it is mostly located along the Caldera. Visitors can party the night away to the backdrop of one of the world's most fantastic views. The nightlife is best experienced during summer when tourist season is at its peak and all establishments are open.

Unsurprisingly, most of the island's nightlife is situated in the largest and busiest city, Fira. Oia also has a good selection of clubs and bars and makes for a nice change from the capital. Visitors to these towns will find everything from swanky clubs blasting pumping favourites to sophisticated wine bars with a slower tempo.

For travellers looking for something a little different, Santorini hosts a range of festivals throughout the year, which cater for every taste. A notable festival, which should not be missed is the annual Santorini Jazz Festival. Held in July, the festival takes place just outside of Fira and features both local and international acts. In September, an International Music Festival welcomes a broad mix of performers, from classical and opera to tango and jazz, to the Petros Nomikos Conference centre in Fira.

The open-air cinema in Kamari is another great way to spend an evening. The cinema tends to show the latest Hollywood blockbusters but the experience is made special by the beautiful natural settings. Seat numbers are kept to a minimum, which makes for a rather intimate and unique night.

Dining Out

Santorini's varied cuisine is a highlight of most visitors' stay on the island. With strong Mediterranean flavours like olives and herbs, and a range of breads, the cooking ensures dining out in Santorini is always a special occasion.

Greece's cuisine varies starkly from region to region, and Santorini is no different. There are a few local specialities, which every guest should try. Some favourites include white eggplant, which is usually grilled, fava (yellow lentils that have been pureed) and domatokeftedes (tomato fritters made with mint, fried in olive oil and served with fava beans).

As you'd expect, Santorini's selection of fish dishes is wide. Many beachfront tavernas serve a fish of the day that has been delicately grilled. Other seafood dishes include achinosalata (sea urchin eggs cooked with lemon and olive oil) and stakomacaronada (spaghetti with lobster).

There are also a few standout national dishes which can be found on the island. A favourite with locals and tourists alike is moussaka (an aubergine-based oven baked dish topped with white sauce) as well as souvlaki (grilled meat and vegetables on a skewer).

The traditional Greek liquor called ouzo (an aniseed-flavoured spirit) flows freely across the island but there is also a range of wines from which travellers have their pick, including the local dessert wine of Vin Santo. Greek beer brands Mythos and Alpha are sold in several bars and some restaurants, but tourists will find that locals generally prefer other, better-known European brands.

Beach

With their famous black volcanic sand and deep blue waters, Santorini's beaches are some of the best in the country. One of the nicest beaches on the island is the seemingly endless stretch of sand in the town of Perissa. Apart from its smooth sand and crystal clear water, this beach provides shelter from the strong summer winds and is just the right place for a day of sunbathing.

Romance

Santorini is the most romantic of the Greek Cycladic islands and among the top romantic destinations in the world. The town of Oia oozes romance and provides beautiful views of the caldera. After a romantic dinner at one of the beachside establishments, couples could travel to Oia Castle, which is the best spot to catch a breathtaking Greek sunset.

Family

If the little ones are growing tired of the beach, take them to Santorini Waterpark, which proves to be fun for children and adults alike. Located conveniently near the beach in Perissa, the park has several slides, leading to hours of entertainment. For something a little more exciting, try the paintball range at Megalochori.

Adventure

Adrenaline junkies should take full advantage of Santorini's vast coastline and engage in the many water sport activities available. Perivolos is a great place for windsurfing and parasailing, while the diving school in Perissa organises amazing trips into the Aegean. Horseback riding lessons are offered on the beach of Exo Gonia and motorcycle lovers can go wild at Santorini Moto Cross Club in Pyrgos.

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Need to know

Need to know [destination]

Language

Greek is the native language of Greece and is spoken in Santorini. English is also widely spoken because of Santorini's large influx of tourists every year. Most people operating in the tourism industry are proficient in English while other tongues used in the region are French, Italian and German.

Currency

The official currency of Greece, including of Santorini, is the euro. Major currencies can be exchanged at the airport, automated exchange machines and banks. ATMs are widely available, especially in the tourist hubs, but some Greek machines reject five-digit pin codes. It is advisable to inform your card supplier that you will be using your card in Greece before leaving home. Large hotels, travel agents and some restaurants accept major credit cards.

Visas

Citizens of European Union member states are allowed into Greece without time limit. The same is true for citizens of countries that have signed the Schengen Agreement, of which Greece is party to. UK nationals can enter Greece without a visa for an unlimited period and are not subjected to any border controls.

Climate

Santorini's weather during the summer, which spans from April to November, is perfect for a beach holiday, with the mercury rising to highs of 40°C. During this peak season, days are long and dry, and the evenings are generally temperate. December through March marks the island's low season and brings colder temperatures and plenty of rain. The best time to visit is at either the beginning or the end of peak season when temperatures are mild and tourist numbers are reasonable.

Main Airports

Santorini's air gateway is Santorini National Airport. Several domestic carriers embark on the 30-minute flight between this airport and Athens International Airport, which receives most of the country's international traffic. From here, domestic flights can be taken to the island. Both high-end and budget airlines serve Santorini's airport, with seasonal direct flights to London-Gatwick and Manchester available.

Flight Options

During the peak summer season (April to October), direct flights from London-Gatwick and Manchester serve Santorini National Airport. easyJet flies from London-Gatwick, while Thomas Cook and Thompson operate direct flights from Manchester. Outside of this season, direct flights are unavailable so travellers need to fly into one of Greece's other major airports first and then take a domestic flight to Santorini. The average flight time between London and Santorini is 3 hours and 50 minutes.

Travel Advice

High season in Santorini sees its tourist spots become very busy and prices of air and transfer tickets rise dramatically. It is a good idea to book far in advance to make a saving, although last-minute deals can sometimes be had. The same can be said for ferries during the peak season, which tend to fill up quickly.

Other Transport Options

It is possible, and some argue more beautiful, to arrive at Santorini by ferry. Tickets for the ferry trip are generally cheaper than domestic flights. The port of Ormos Athinios is Santorini's main sea gateway. From here travellers can catch a local bus or taxi to their next destination. Direct trips between Piraeus in Athens to Santorini are available, and during the peak season, ferries can be caught from Crete as well.

Getting Around

The island is small enough to be navigated by road. The local bus system is by far the most popular form of transport on the island while hiring a car or motorcycle will give you more freedom to explore at your own pace. Taxi companies are also available to carry passengers between destinations on the island.

Bus

The island has a reliable bus system, with buses leaving the main terminal in Fira every half an hour to popular stops at Oia, Monolithos Perissa and Kamari. Buses to other destinations leave less frequently. Timetables are available online and at bus stations. The buses are efficient and relatively comfortable, but can become overcrowded during the peak season.

Car

Hiring a car or motorcycle is a great way to see the island and cut through traffic during the summer. Most international car hire companies are represented at Santorini International Airport, but local businesses like Damigos Car Rental and Zerbakis also have good reputations.

Taxi

Taxi services are available but during high season, the number of tourists can exceed the number of taxis available. Don't be alarmed if taxi drivers stop to pick up additional passengers along your route. Taxis can generally be found waiting in Fira's main square and at Ormos Athinios port.

MAP

SANTORINI ISLAND`S WEATHER TODAY

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AVERAGE RAINFALL (mm)

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FACTS

  1. Santorini's official name is actually Thira. Before it became known as Santorini, the island was known to as Kalliste, which means 'the most beautiful one'. The name Santorini was derived from Saint Irene and given by the Venetians in the 13th century.
  2. You'll find the water at black beaches warmer than the red or white beaches because the volcanic sand absorbs and retains heat more efficiently.
  3. Tomatoes here taste exceptional thanks to the volcanic ash in the soil. The island is considered an active volcano, with the last eruption in 1950.

FACTS

  1. Santorini's official name is actually Thira. Before it became known as Santorini, the island was known to as Kalliste, which means 'the most beautiful one'. The name Santorini was derived from Saint Irene and given by the Venetians in the 13th century.
  2. You'll find the water at black beaches warmer than the red or white beaches because the volcanic sand absorbs and retains heat more efficiently.
  3. Tomatoes here taste exceptional thanks to the volcanic ash in the soil. The island is considered an active volcano, with the last eruption in 1950.

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