Santorini is the largest island of a circular archipelago in the southern Aegean Sea, southeast of Greece’s mainland.
It is most known for its beautiful white buildings with blue rooftops. The way these buildings are built into the side of the hill, combined with the vast views of the Mediterranean Sea make Santorini one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever been.
You’ll likely never get tired of just “being” in this wonderful vacation destination. But, while you’re there, you’ll want to check out these 7 activities to make the most of your time.
7 Things to Do in Santorini
1. Sit Back and Relax
There is so much to see and do in Santorini, but make sure that you allocate time to simply relax. The view of the caldera is incredible and it is worth budgeting time to do a “whole lot of nothing”! Get a room with a balcony or find a terrace, grab a drink and unwind.
If your definition of relaxing includes a little bit of pampering, you’re in luck because there is no shortage of world class spas to offer you the ultimate in relaxation.
2. Eat fresh, delicious Mediterranean food
Santorini has a seemingly unlimited supply of excellent dining options. Honestly, if you like food, then there is a pretty good chance that you will enjoy wherever you decide to eat while on the island.
For us, we typically choose where to eat based on the view. If there’s a great view, there’s a good chance that’s where we’ll go 🙂 .
So, while on the island find the type of restaurant that suits you best and go there… chances are good that you’ll love it. Two places we very much enjoyed:
Bella Thira in Imerovigli – We walked to this restaurant from our hotel. The restaurant doesn’t have a great view but does have really good food and a more quiet, authentic atmosphere. Unfortunately, now closed.
- Taverna Santorini Mou – This is a popular place to visit for tourists of all types – the restaurant/bar proudly showcases all of the celebrities that have visited. In fact, the owner showed us a binder containing photos of him with Jennifer Aniston and Greenday that were taken during their visits. We especially enjoyed the atmosphere at this tavern. The live music, the way they engage with the guests, and the funky decor, made it such a fun and memorable experience.
3. Watch the Sunset Every Single Day
Every night during our stay in Santorini, the sunset was spectacular. It was like a art show marking the end of every day.
You’ll have plenty of chances to snap photos of gorgeous sunsets, but don’t forget to stop and enjoy them with your eyes too! Whether you’re at a fancy restaurant, sitting on your private balcony, scooting along the road…there’s no doubt you’ll enjoy several unforgettable Santorini sunsets. We sure did!
4. Visit Ancient Thira
The antique city of Thira can be reached from a winding road starting at Kamari and leading you up the Messavouno mountain. The drive up to the top is the best part of visiting Ancient Thira. With every curve, you’ll get a different view and when you arrive at the top, you won’t believe the beautiful sights of the coastline. The limestone ruins are fascinating too, but the views and ride up were what we enjoyed most.
5. Go to the Beach
The volcanic history of Santorini has led to the formation of its unique beaches. While riding around the island on our scooter, we discovered Kamari Beach and Perissa Beach. We loved the unique black sands of these beaches. It was also pleasant to get out of the crowds of more popular Oia and Fira.
We walked along the rocks in the water, checked out the shops and restaurants as we strolled along the boardwalks, and soaked up some sun under a tiki umbrella.
Kamari, being one of the larger beaches on Santorini, has many luxury resorts and amenities. Kamari is great because it feels very different from the rest of the island. It’s got its own hip beach town vibe.
We also enjoyed the more easygoing Perissa beach. Our favorite part was eating lunch steps from the beach and enjoying our favorite part of Greek culture – gyro!
We ate at Poseidon restaurant and loved the friendly staff, ocean view, delicious food, and ice cold beers! It was one of the moments in our travels that has really stuck with us, and for whatever reason, we reminisce about it often. There are lots of other beaches in Santorini that are worth visiting.
6. Visit a Winery
Wine is an important and interesting part of Santorini’s history. In fact, Santorini boast an unlikely record. It is the the oldest vineyard in Europe and has consistently been producing wine for over 3,000 years.
Drink the wine, yes. Expect to be surrounded by lush vineyards a la the Tuscan countryside…. um, no. If you weren’t told, you’d likely not even realize your were driving by a vineyard. Due to climate, vineyards and Santorini look like small bushes dotted all over the country side.
Santorini’s indigenous white grape varieties and volcanic soils make its vineyards and wine production truly unique, however.The vineyards aren’t even irrigated!
This site offers a good overview of the different wineries, as well as a helpful map to guide you in deciding which one you’d like to visit. Cheers!
7. Hike the Steps to Amoudi Bay
Ammoudi is a small but charming port village on the northwest side of the island. It has a very little beach area, but is a very popular spot for both tourists and locals.
Ammoudi is accessible by car or foot via a long stair trail. If you’re up for a little exercise, try taking the stairs – maybe the way down at least!
There are a few great taverns if you’d like to sit and enjoy watching the boat tours come and go. Or, get more adventurous and do some cliff jumping. Want to get on the water? Many water excursions also depart from here so its an easy place to book a tour.
Deciding Where to Stay in Santorini
Now that you know what to do while in Santorini, you’ve got to decide where to stay. The entire island is dedicated to tourism, which means there are accommodation types for all travelers and all budgets.
That being said, choosing where to stay is a big decision.
The most popular areas are the towns of Fira and Oia, but we found Imerovigli a better place to call home during our stay.
In our opinion, Imerovigli offers all the same great views of the Aegean without the crowds that its neighboring towns have.
Oia has stunning views, sunsets, and excellent dining, but overall felt extremely overcrowded. You’ll absolutely want to visit, but you may think twice about staying there.
We recommend going there for a sunset dinner (arrive early to beat the crowds) and shopping. Oia also offers different scenery for incredible photo ops too. Make sure you snap the famous photo of the windmill if you can get through the crowds. There’s also lots of spots to take an awesome photo of the beautiful pastel colored buildings along the cliff, like the one we took below.
Fira, the capital of the island, is a popular choice for visitors due to its excellent accommodations, central location, great restaurants, and amazing views. But again, for our money, we felt Imerovigli was the better choice because Fira is highly congested with traffic and tourists.
Fira is walk-able from Imerovigli, which is convenient but is also a great activity in itself. While it only takes about 20 minutes, it probably took us an hour because of all the beautiful views and photos we had to take. We walked all around and then enjoyed a great lunch with stunning views but didn’t spend too much time in Fira because of the crowds.
Imerovigli has lots of great restaurants too and offers more of a quaint, laid-back vibe, which was refreshing for us.
Wherever you decide to stay, we HIGHLY recommend paying the extra money for a room with a patio/balcony and a view of the caldera. We literally wasted hours just sitting on our patio or by the pool taking in the view. Actually, that’s the main reason to visit Santorini in the first place. It will be well worth the price!
Where We Stayed
Just in case you are curious, we stayed at Prekas Apartments in Imerovigli and can’t recommend it enough. The staff was incredibly welcoming, the view was exquisite.
Since there are only a few apartments, we felt like we had the whole place to ourselves! They serve up a great breakfast which was one of the best parts of the day. The pool was really great as well!
Finally, Getting Around Santorini
While there are buses and taxis, the best way to get around the island is by renting a scooter or ATV. The roads are narrow and it can be a little intimidating at first, but you’ll quickly get the hang of it. Having a scooter allowed us the freedom to go where we wanted, when we wanted which was great! We were able to explore almost the entire island in one day!
Santorini is the kind of place that you dream about before going and again once you are back home. The beauty is hard to describe. The soft pastel building, the fresh food, the consistent breeze blowing up from the caldera – its all so magical. Chances are good if you are reading this article, you have the desire to go. Hopefully, we’ve given you some ideas for the best activities to do during your trip to Santorini as well!