Santorini Travel Guide
Your first order of business in Santorini is to hit the colorful beaches — the black and red sands make for a memorable visit. Next up, indulge in the archaeological delights of the impressively preserved Ancient Akrotiri. or climb the ancient stairs that lead to the historic city of Manolas in Thirassia. From there, catch a breathtaking view of the caldera, a brilliant turquoise pool of water that serves as nucleus for the varied isles of ... continue»
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The best time to visit Santorini is the fall when the weather is warm and the crowds are few. Like all of the Cyclades, Santorini welcomes the most visitors during the summer, so you'll need to make your reservations at least two months in advance if you plan on visiting anytime from June through August. Looking for a bargain? Try winter when room rates tend to plummet. Keep in mind, thought, that this season's average highs only reach the 50s (not good for sunbathing) and the region sees plenty of precipitation. However, all that rain does make for a very flowery (and warm) spring season. Crowds will be at a low in the spring as well, though plenty of tourists begin invading the islands come May.Best Times to Visit Santorini»
Only two of Santorini's six islands are inhabited, and tourists typically spend most if not all their time on the largest island, Thira. Sitting off the main island's northwest coast is the smaller, more laid-back island of Thirassia.
An area of approximately 28 square miles, the narrow, crescent-shaped island of Thira is home to several towns, historic sites and the archipelago's famous beaches.
Perched along the cliffs of central western Thira overlooking the caldera, is Santorini's capital, Fira. The city's cobblestone streets are home to a wide array of boutique shops, trendy restaurants, lively bars, clubs and plenty of hotel options, many of which wrestle for space along the jagged cliffside. You can also find several museums here, including the Museum of Prehistoric Thira, located a few blocks north of Fira's square.
The city also acts as the island's primary transportation hub; KTEL buses run between Fira's main square — located near the center of the city — and other Thira towns, and the streets are often packed with cars and mopeds.
Oia is less than 10 miles north of Fira (and a nice walk if you're up for it). Oia is renowned as the spot to catch dazzling sunsets that make the town glow as if it were on fire. After an earthquake devastated the town in 1956, residents chose to rebuild their city by carving most of the buildings into cliffsides. Today, the whitewashed walls of cave hotels attract many a honeymooning couple. (It also helps Santorini earn a top spot on the Best Honeymoon Destinations ranking year after year.) Although Oia is not too close to any beaches, there are several swimming holes located within walking distance of town. Keep in mind that this part of town does not cater to budget-minded travelers. It's full of upscale boutiques, trendy art galleries and expensive restaurants, not to mention some of the swankiest hotels (and highest hotel room rates) on the island. If you're willing to spend the money, you would be hard-pressed to find a more romantic place to stay than a cliffside Oia hotel.
Home to the archipelago's famous black-sand beaches, the city of Kamari is one of Santorini's major tourist hot spots. Located about 5 miles southeast of Fira, Kamari's sandy shores are decorated with plenty of beachfront hotels, restaurants, bars and shops that cater to both expensive and budget-conscious tastes. Those who venture inland will come across Kamari's church, Panagia Episkopi, which was built in 1100 and plays host to the Feast of the Virgin Mary, a small religious festival that takes place August 15.
The small town of Perissa — sitting just south of Kamari — is home to more black-sand beaches and crystal clear water as well as numerous hotels, tavernas and beach bars. The town itself is still developing and therefore lacks the traditional architecture found in other Santorini destinations.
The beach is protected from cool Aegean winds by the Profitis Ilias Mountain, sitting just north of town and perfect for hiking. A small path crosses the mountain and leads to the ruins of Ancient Thira, located about half a mile north of Perissa. It can be reached by either foot or donkey.
Sitting near the southernmost tip of Thira and 6 miles south of Fira is Akrotiri. Known by experts as "Greece's Pompeii," it features the remains of Ancient Akrotiri that were preserved beneath layers of lava after a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago. Above ground, tourists can spend a day exploring Akrotiri's two churches, Agia Triada and Ipapandi tou Sotiros, or the ruins of the Venetian Castle, which once defended Akrotiri from foreign invaders. Akrotiri is also home to Santorini's famous red-sand beach, which is surrounded by towering red volcanic cliffs.
Accessible from Athinios and Ammoudi via ferry.
Just 2 miles west of the Oia coast, Thirassia is the largest of a chain of islets, including the uninhabited islands of Nea Kameni, Palaia Kameni, Aspronisi and Christiana. Outdoor enthusiasts should include Thirassia on their itinerary. Since most of the island is untouched by civilization, its rocky landscape is perfect for hiking. Boating excursions are also available to the other small, isolated islets.
Manolas — also known as Horia — is the main settlement on Thirassia. This small town on the northern part of the caldera is made up of small whitewashed homes that can only be reached by climbing a flight of 250 stairs uphill from where boats from Thira dock. Manolas does not offer much in the way of hotels or restaurants, but some say that the caldera views at sunset are worth the trip.
Santorini is generally safe. Keep an eye out for pickpockets in crowded areas, and you should be fine. There are not many sidewalks, so be careful when walking the streets as you may need to dodge the occasional wayward, speedy scooter. Use caution when navigating Santorini's beaches as well — since it's a volcanic island, large slippery stones lead the way into the water. It's also a good idea to avoid drinking the tap water.
The best way to get around Santorini is on foot or by bus. You'll see that it's easy to walk around the tiny seaside towns, but the bus is best to get from one town to another. There are KTEL bus routes from Fira (the capital city) to many different destinations around the main island. KTEL also services the Athens and Santorini (Thira) Island National Airport (JTR), but you might find it easier to rely on a cab to get you into town. If you're planning to do a little island hopping, you can catch a ferry from either Athinios (about 5 miles south of Fira) or Ammoudi, near the northern town of Oia.Getting Around Santorini»