Due to the beautiful white and blue buildings of Oia, a few popular movies, and then, of course, Instagram, Santorini is one of the most popular islands in the Greek isles.
Mix that in with a few cheap flight options, Santorini car rental, friendly Greeks, never-ending sunshine, and delicious Mediterranean food and you have yourself the grand slam of holidays. We love Greece and have made several trips to explore the different islands. There are so many things to do in Santorini so I’m sure you’ll have just as great of a time as we did!
How to get around Santorini
There are a few popular ways to travel around Santorini. Rental car, moped, or four-wheeler. Santorini isn’t a huge island, but if you are a family or not confident on a moped a car rental is probably the best way to go. Just be aware that sometimes the Greeks can drive a little…crazy. If it’s your first time renting a car make sure to read a few of our tips.
The most popular way to get around is via moped or ATV. You can usually rent a motorbike for about €15 a day, and the Greeks are generally willing to cut you a deal the longer you rent.
1. Visit the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral
Resting precariously on the edge of the caldera in Fira, the Orthodox Cathedral’s white plaster façade brilliantly contrasts with the blue sky, making it a recognizable icon that can be viewed from many parts of the island. Nearly two hundred years old – and despite being shaken by a massive earthquake in the ’50s – the Cathedral has held together and been totally refurbished.
Known for its majestic tower, graceful arches and the mosaics and frescos that were created by artisans from the town, it’s a spot you won’t want to miss. Inside its arches, there’s a peaceful courtyard, but be advised that men must wear long pants, and women must have their shoulders covered before you’ll be allowed in.
2. See the Tomato Museum in Vlychada
If visiting a real-life tomato processing plant turned museum has been that one maddeningly elusive item on your bucket list, then your trip to Santorini will be like divine intervention. Like a looking glass into its agricultural past, the museum will give you a glimpse of farming, processing and the importance of the humble tomato in Santorini’s prosperous past.
The original machines have been lovingly restored, as have lots of documents, papers, tools, and some of the original packaging labels too. There are audiovisual stations throughout the museum that include recorded interviews with the workers who used to work there. It’s one of the cool and quirky things to do in Santorini and a great place to spend a few hours after a long hike or morning at the beach.
3. Stroll the Streets of Oia
In years past, the town of Oia was prosperous due to its large fleet of merchant’s vessels that carried goods from Greece to Europe, Russia, and the Middle East. Most of the two-story homes near the top of the hill are the former residences of these vessel’s captains. Though many of the homes were damaged in the earthquake of 1956, they’ve all been restored.
The view from below on the narrow path leading up into the town hearkens back to a different age. The white and cream plaster homes with their wonderful mix of Greek and Moorish architecture and turquoise windows, domes, and doors, all stacked together on uneven terraces framed by the blue sky, are the stuff of which great photographs, paintings, and memories are made. Tiny bistros, statues of the Virgin Mary and other gems await you as you meander through the town’s tiny alleys.
4. Visit the Black Beach at Perissav
If you’re looking to kill some time on a sunny day, why not try a little black sand sunbathing? It’ll be painful if you’re walking barefoot in the hot sub, but at least you can say you did it. Be sure to wear foot protection and slather on a liberal dose of sunblock to avoid the real damage the sun can do here. Lounge chairs and umbrellas are available to rent, and when you’re ready to call it quits, you can head to one of the cool cafes just behind the beach.
5. Relax at Kamari Beach
After all, you’ve done and seen while in Santorini, you deserve a relaxing day – or at least a half-day at the beach. Located on Santorini’s southeast coast, Kamari is a touristy but ritzy beach that sits in the shadow of impressive Mesa Vouno Mountain. There’s a wharf that runs just behind the beach which is great for taking a casual stroll, too.
Comprised of dark sand and pebbles, the beach does get very hot, but in most areas, there are wooden walkways to prevent you from burning your feet while getting to the lounges and umbrellas you’ll want to rent. If the sun gets too much for you, head to a nearby café, bar or shop.
6. Take a Photo Tour
What better way to capture Santorini’s unique sites and charm than with a few photographs that will spark wonderful memories for years to come. If you always seem to get blurry pictures of your thumb, fear not, the tour guides are professional photographers too.
They’ll take you to the right places, at the right times, and give you plenty of friendly pointers to make sure your pictures are the best they can be. Since there are more than a few options out there, ask around or check online to get a recommendation.
Some tours include hotel pick up and drop off, and remember that though many of the tours go to the same places, they’re not all identical, so do a little investigating and pick one that best suits your interests.
7. Akrotiri Archaeological Site
Often likened to its Italian cousin Pompeii, the archaeological site at Akrotiri will give you a fascinating glimpse into ancient Greek civilization and culture. Since the town for which the site is named was buried in ash from a massive volcanic eruption in the 17th Century BC, much of the art, architecture, and items the villagers used in their everyday lives were perfectly preserved.
Unlike Pompeii, however, most of Akrotiri’s lucky inhabitants had enough time to flee before the big boom making it less well known and certainly less touristy than in Italy.
8. Visit Skaros Rock
Originally a dramatic geologic formation, Skaros Rock was used as the foundation for fortifications by the Byzantine Empire in the 13th Century, which were key to defending the island and surrounding seaways from maritime raiders.
Due to its height and a commanding view of the sea below, it’s also called Cape Skaros. Though not easy to get to, the views of the sea and volcano from the fortress are second to none, as is the sunset if you’re lucky enough – or smart enough – to be there at the right time. Due to its proximity to Imerovigli, most tours of the area’s forts start there.