Your guide to the unmatched beauty of Santorini
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July 13, 2022 | View OnlineSign Up

It’s sunrise.

Somehow you’ve dragged yourself out of bed and slipped into the balcony pool. The early morning sun is glowing on the stone walls of your hotel. You glance down at the steep slope below, where a patchwork tapestry of white and blue rooftops crisscrosses until it meets the Aegean Sea. You bite into a pastry you grabbed from the floating breakfast conjured, as if by magic, to your room.

Later, you’ll sip endless wine and gorge on all the Greek food you can, while the sun dips low on the horizon, wondering when you’ll wake up…

This isn’t a dream. This is Santorini. 

And trust us, it’s so much more than this.


It’s on the edge of a collapsed volcano

Santorini is one of the most beautiful places in the world, owing in no small part to its origins as a volcano. Many volcanic islands wind up with stunning beaches and dramatic landscapes, but Santorini is more special than that.

It’s the only inhabited Caldera in the world. A Caldera is created when a strato-volcano collapses in on itself after a major eruption. Thousands of years ago, the island would have been one big conical volcano. Now, what we call Santorini is the largest island of an archipelago of the same name. The sea between the islands where the volcano once stood. 

The eruption that collapsed the island was one of the biggest ever recorded and was even tied to the collapse of the Minoan Empire. The original island was called Thera, and its collapse into the ocean may be the inspiration for the myth of Atlantis.


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Choose your months wisely

As one of the most popular destinations on the planet, timing is everything when planning a trip. Although you’ll want the best weather possible, try staying away from July and August. It’s prime European travel season, and restaurants, hotels, and local attractions will be utterly packed. Focus on the shoulder months of September and June to help ease the congestion a little.

For cooler (but still warm) weather, give October or May a go. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with some cheaper rates too. Winter months are still wonderful, but you’ll find many restaurants and bars shut up shop for the whole season.

Think twice about a car rental

There’s more to Santorini than lounging by the pool with a floating breakfast (although that seems to be the main draw these days). Make sure to get out and explore the island’s towns and villages.

There are affordable buses to get around the island, which are the most hassle-free option. But if you prefer a little more freedom, a rental could be the right call.

Be warned, however. The streets of Santorini can be ludicrously narrow, and you may find yourself reversing uphill with inches on either side of your wing mirrors. If you’re not confident in that kind of situation, maybe try a scooter or stick to the bus.

Pack light

It should be fairly obvious that a winter coat is unnecessary in Santorini, but going the extra mile to pack a little more compact will save you a lot of effort. The caldera-side villages of Santorini are a higgledy-piggledy maze of stairs and winding lanes. If you’ve ever dragged a massive suitcase along a cobbled street, you’ll have a small idea of the task ahead.

Don’t go overboard on your clothing choices and, if you can, stick it all in a backpack or at least a small carry-on. You want to arrive at your hotel excited, not soaked with sweat and hunched from tweaking your back.


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Catch a sunset

As simple as it sounds, sunsets on Santorini are a special event. Most tourists wind up planning their day around finding a good spot to watch the late evening light dip down below the horizon as the sky turns a vibrant shade of crimson.

Of course, in a town with sunsets as legendary as Santorini, finding that special spot to share with someone (man, woman, or bottle of wine) can be harder than you think. For your first sunset, try and reserve a table at the Mystique Hotel. You’ll have your own front-row view of the Caldera as the sun goes down, your dinner, and a bottle of wine while you watch. What could be better?

For a different experience, book yourself onto a sunset wine-tasting or take a wander to a more isolated spot on the island. The Donkey stairs in Fira are a fantastic choice to settle down and enjoy the view sans crowds.

If you’re craving solitude, take it one step further, rent yourself a boat, and watch it from the water.

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Go village-hopping

Everyone’s seen the stunning white-walled, blue-roofed town plastered on their social media feed. The town itself is called Oia, one of the most recognizable places in the world. But few know that Santorini goes beyond this one picturesque town, and that exploring it further should be at the top of your to-do list.

The island's capital is Fira, a larger, livelier alternative to Oia. Luckily, it’s just as beautiful and looks out over the seas atop rugged cliffs that were once the sides of the volcano crater. Plenty of hotel options mean it could be worth staying here too. To get away from the crowds, try Imerovigli. Sitting atop a cliff, this balcony village boasts Venetian ruins and glorious seafood. 

Akrotiri’s red beach and ruins perfectly preserved in volcanic ash earned it the nickname “Pompeii of the Aegean,” while the contrasting black sands of Perissa can satiate the naturally inclined with its Geological museum and wonderful watersports.

Sometimes having no plan is the best. Rent a scooter, and go explore. The island is small enough for you to see a lot of it, and each corner lends something unique to the experience.

Tour the volcano itself

Believe it or not, many visitors to Santorini don’t even know they're sitting on top of a collapsed volcano. And there’s no doubt they’re missing out on one of the coolest experiences in the area- the crater itself.

Plenty of tours run from the main island to the volcano, where visitors can hike the short trail up to the crater. Expect a Martian landscape, where volcanic rocks line the path, and the eerie smell of sulfur reminds tourists precisely what they’re standing on. Don’t worry; seismologists are constantly tracking the activity, so if there were any danger, the tour would be canceled. Most of the tours include a stop at the hot spring, where the water has been heated by the volcano. Don’t miss out on a swim, where the waters are said to have mystical healing properties.

If you splash a little more, you might even get a private tour that ends with a sunset dinner on the boat itself, ticking off our first suggestion simultaneously. You’ll also get the chance to see Oia from the water. Tours start from around $25.


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Cave in. It's Santorini, after all

Staying in Santorini and avoiding one of its stunning cliffside cave hotels feels like travel blasphemy. The white stone walls have drawn visitors for years because they’re amazing. They're stunning on the eye, luxurious to a tee, and home to some of the best service in the Aegean Sea, you’re spoilt for choice.

Of course, cheaper options are available for those enjoying the island on a budget or avoiding the crowds of honeymooners. Just don’t stray too far from the beauty of Santorini’s villages. It’s why you came in the first place.

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Our Top Pick: Perivolas

Santorini, Greece
$$$$ | See inside

Perivolas has been setting the standard for Santorini’s cave hotels since the early eighties when it first opened its stone doors. While plenty of other establishments in the area have done a wonderful job of emulating its style, few options in the region offer what this beauty does.

Quiet, minimalist, but equipped with everything needed to enjoy the island, visitors can lounge by the immaculate infinity pool without the burden of a crowded deck. Its 20 stone carved suites are the stuff of vacation dreams. No wonder it's such a honeymoon favorite.

Book Your Stay

Other Top Picks


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Feta fantasies

Greek food is famous worldwide and, of course, you can find all the staples like souvlaki and mousaka in Santorini. But as an island, it’s also got its own specialties that are worth seeking out. 

Tomatoes on the island are amazing, making the local dish of tomato keftedes (tomato fritters) a must. Once you’ve polished off a plate or five of them, try the fava - a regional bean dish you’ll find in every taverna. You’ll also eat your weight in feta cheese, so go with loose pants.

Whatever you’re looking for, there’s an array of places to chow down, from lower-priced tavernas all the way to fine dining establishments paired with dazzling sunsets.

Our Top Pick: Metaxi Mas

Santorini, Greece
$$$ Menu

If Metaxi Mas is your taste of Santorini cuisine, you’re in for a welcome introduction. Often called the best restaurant in Santorini, this wonderful taverna’s stunning setting takes in the best of the mountainside and sea views before treating you to the best of the island’s produce.

Fresh is the operative word here. Whether pulled from the ocean, grown on Santorini soil, or reared on the hillside, the restaurant takes pride in its food. A gloriously long wine list complements any meal here, and it’s sure to pull you back in after the first taste. Even more satisfying are the prices, which are entirely reasonable for such a tourist-heavy island.

Reserve a table

The Best of the Rest


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