Santorini Travel Guide

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Courtesy of Artie Photography (Artie Ng)/Getty Images

Santorini Area Map


Only two of Santorini's five 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 about 35 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 about 7 miles northwest of Fira. Oia is renowned as the spot to catch dazzling sunsets that make the town glow as if it were on fire. That, in combination with Oia's alluring white-and-pastel colored architecture and a bevy of luxurious 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, including Armeni Beach and Amoudi Bay. 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 Santorini'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 long sandy shores are decorated with plenty of beachfront hotels, restaurants, bars and shops that cater to both expensive and budget-conscious tastes. And unlike Fira and Oia, Kamari isn't perched high above the cliffs, but on largely flat terrain at the base of the island's eastern hills. 

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 towns. 

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 less than a half-mile north of the easternmost end of Perissa Beach.

Sitting near the southernmost tip of Thira and 6 miles south of Fira is Akrotiri. Referred to by some 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. 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 west of the Oia coast, Thirassia is the largest of a chain of islets, including the uninhabited islands of Nea Kameni, Palaia Kameni and Aspronisi. Outdoor enthusiasts should include Thirassia on their itinerary. Since much of the island is untouched by civilization, its rocky landscape is perfect for hiking. What's more, you can expect its beaches to be far less crowded than what you'd find on Thira. Boating excursions are also available to the other small, isolated islets.

Manolas is the main settlement on Thirassia. This small town on the western part of the caldera is made up of small whitewashed homes that can only be reached by climbing a flight of 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.

Travelers can also take a boat to the volcanic island of Nea Kameni. Here travelers can climb up to the active craters or take a dip in the island's therapeutic waters. The colorful waters of Agios Nikolaos cove contain sulfur, known to be a healing property. 

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