Santorini is a stunning island in Greece that attracts millions of tourists each year, and with good reason. Its iconic white-walled architecture, stunning sunset spots, and vibrant restaurants make it one of the most popular islands to visit in the Greek archipelago.
There are many things to do in Santorini, but not all of them are well known! Here's our list of 6 things you should try when visiting 'The Wine Island'...
1) Explore Akrotiri, Santorini's most important Archaeological Site
History and archeology buffs will want to pay a visit to Akrotiri, a village on the southern part of the island with a famous archaeological site. It was one of the first Minoan settlements to be excavated in modern times, and it has since been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Visitors can explore the ruins of this ancient city on foot or, for something more unique, via donkey-drawn cart.
In recent years Akrotiri's popularity as a tourist destination has exploded, with around 130,000 visitors each year - more than double what they were just ten years ago!
The excavation of this ancient city began in 1967 by Spyridon Marinatos and colleagues from the Greek Archaeological Service (now as part of "ELAIA" - Ephorate of Antiquities) before being suspended for over 40 years due to technical reasons caused by volcanic activity on Santorini island. The work resumed after 2000 thanks to European Union funding together with key contributions from universities, museums, NGOs and private sponsors.
At its peak, Akrotiri once had about three thousand inhabitants who lived during the Bronze Age. Sometime towards the end of the 17th century BC the inhabitants of the town were forced to leave after a series of severe earthquakes, which was followed by a massive volcanic eruption that completely covered the island and the town in ash.
Excavations at the Akrotiri site reveal that it was an important tradepost, evidenced by more than 250 imports found there, most notably luxury items such as bronze and gold artefacts, faience amulets and scarabs.
2) Sample some local Santorini wine
The wines of Santorini are a product of the volcanic soil mixed with Mediterranean climate. The white grape variety Mavrotragano, or Assyrtiko in Greek, is grown on some vineyards and is known for its intense bouquet and refreshing acidity. Other popular varietals include Xynomavro (red) and Thrapsathiri (white). Most of the wine produced here is sweet, due to the high amount of sugar in the soil.
Santorini’s wine production was evaluated as “excellent quality” by French oenologist Émile Peynaud who visited the island in 1985; but in spite of this not much is set aside for export abroad. Most of the wine is consumed locally, and sold at many restaurants across Santorini. They are the perfect complement to the fresh produce and seafood that come straight from the island's villages each morning.
There are a number of wine tours that will take you to the local vineyards to sample the best wines that Santorini has to offer. There are also some very fine olive oils and vinegars produced here as well for your sampling pleasure.
3) Relax on one of Santorini's beaches
The beaches have been awarded the blue flag for cleanliness, and are one of Santorini's most-loved attractions. There is a huge variety to choose from, but you cannot go wrong with either Akti Kallisti or Perissa which both offer crystal clear water and golden sands.
There are two main types of beach: black sand or white sand. The black-sand beaches are very popular, but can be quite crowded during the peak of summer and have fewer facilities. The most well-known beach on Santorini is Golden Beach which has a stretch that is lined with seaside cafes that look out to the caldera in one direction and down onto Athinios port for yachts to moor at night in another.
4) Catch a sunset from Oia
The sunsets in Santorini are world-renowned, and Oia is considered one of the best spots to catch one. The best way to catch the sunset from Oia is by taking a walk around the main square with all of its shops.
From there you can climb up on top of one of the restaurants (there are stairs), or head up through some back streets that take you past more little squares, churches, wine bars and good places for gelato, until finally reaching an open space at the edge of town where you'll have great views down over Athinios port and out towards Nea Kameni. There's also a bus stop right here if that sounds like too much walking!
5) Dine at one of Santorini's fine restaurants
Santorini wouldn't be such a famous spot for tourists without its fine dining establishments. There are so many different types of cuisine to choose from and, while they all have things in common (such as the freshest ingredients), each one will also have its own unique twist on what's popular around Greece at any given moment. You can find anything from traditional Greek dishes through to modern twists like sushi - with plenty more in between!
Many of the best restaurants in Santorini are family-run affairs that have been serving the island's guests for generations. The seafood in this region is (unsurprisingly) as fresh as it comes, and there are many highly-rated seafood dishes and establishments all over the island.
6) Go for a hike along the coast
In Santorini you have the opportunity to go for a hike and enjoy some of the most beautiful views in Greece. The island has many hiking trails that are great opportunities for travellers who want to explore some of its hidden gems. Most travellers come here with relaxation on the mind, but for those willing to venture out, there are some spectacular viewpoints to be discovered.
Apart from being an enjoyable activity on their own, hikes also offer excellent photo opportunities. Whether you're looking up at the iconic peak (known as Mesa Vouno) or down into one of Santorini's picturesque valleys, this is an experience not soon forgotten! The perfect complement to a morning hikes is an afternoon wine tasting sessions, where visitors can sample wines produced by local vineyards - a little something different from exploring cobbled streets and relaxing on Santorini's sandy beaches.
All in all, Santorini has earned its reputation as one of the top destinations in the Greek archipelago. Whether you're after fine wine and dining, beautiful coastal hikes, or sunsets and relaxing, you're unlikely to be disappointed with what this spectacular island has to offer.
Wheel & Anchor will be exploring Santorini as well as a few even less-visited islands in Greece, including Naxos, Paros, and Crete on our island-hopping adventure happening in June 2022. Get all the information here!