Welcome to Santorini (Thira)!
The Passion Pours Out On This Gorgeous Greek Island
White buildings against the deep-blue Aegean Sea make Santorini stunning.
A visit to Mykonos, it has been said, will stir one's soul. Santorini, on the other hand, will change your life.
Regarded by many as one of the most scenic places on Earth, Santorini reaches out and grabs you by the heart from the minute you step on its soil. Okay, maybe it's that harrowing bus ride up the face of a cliff from the ferry port that initially takes your heart away, but soon it becomes the island itself that captivates the spirit.
Santorini offers the most stunning views in all of Greece. It's one of the only places on the planet that has both sunsets and moonsets which can be viewed from the exactly the same spot.
Fira, the main town, looks out over the cliff and caldera.
It looks like Fira will fall off into the sea, but
see it up close.
The volcano hasn't blown in hundreds of years but still dominates Thira.
Santorini's steep cliffs are the result of the largest volcanic explosion known to mankind; it was so powerful it blew the island into three pieces. It also created cresent moon-shaped island from which the view of the Aegean Sea is unparalleled.
Some will argue that Santorini is best visited by couples, that singles in search of a good party will wilt from lack of alcohol exposure. This is simply not the case. In fact, Santorini boasts one of the best bars in all the Cyclades; go there and you may never leave. This site has it all – what to do in the daytime, where to party at night (and there IS a party!), visiting the volcano, where to stay and more.
Rooms To Let
Stay in Fira or Firastafani; Backpakers Prefer Perissa
Clean and close to the caldera, you can rent places like this in Fira.
Prices on Santorini vary greatly according to demand and location. The best bet is to get a room in Fira or around the adjacent Town Square. Fira – also listed as Thira, which is what the Greeks call the town as well as Santorini – is the heartbeat of activity. At night, all roads lead to Fira, so it's convenient to stay there for the bar and dining activity. We recommend checking out – and into – Loizos Apts. for clean, basic accommodations just steps from the calera and the heart of Fira (2286-0-2406; www.loizos.gr. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org). Rates are 70 Euros for a double; they also rent scooters (15 Euro per day). Fira hotels range from budget to budget busting; for backpackers, there is a hostel near the Town Square.
Steps like this lead to great hotel room finds in Fira.
Some of the most spectacular views of the caldera are in Firastafani, (Fira-sta-faun-i), a 10-15-minute walk from Fira. Waking up in the morning (or whenever) and having that view from your personal patio is breathtaking. It's impossible to find accommodations in Firastafani off the ferry, so head up the main road past the town square and explore the many pensions and small hotels. It makes for a great daytime adventure; find a place you like, knock on the door and bargain your way into it. If the price is too high – always pretend it is – keep walking. You can always return. The views on this journey are unforgettable.
College students and backpackers prefer Perissa Beach, which has the most affordable places. It's a half-hour bus ride to Fira or a very interesting moped adventure (don't try this at night, especially after a night on the town).
For some, Oia (E-ya) is the only place to stay. But leave that for the honeymooners and couples; it's a half-hour by bus or moped from Fira and is so quiet you can hear the gentle wind blowing. "But the sunsets," you beg. Hey, the sunsets in Oia are no more spectacular than they are from the Tropical Bar in Fira, and the place is not nearly as lively.
Santorini, Step by Step
From Daytime to Dawn, There's Always Something Happening
People walk around Oia, one of the top spots (literally) in Santorini.
Once settled, then it's off to explore the island. Unlike some Greek islands, Santorini is relatively large; to see it requires taking a bus, jeep, rental car or, for the adventurous (and foolish, some night argue), a moped.
Reliable and cheap buses are available and Jeeps provide transport for groups, but only the leisurely pace of the moped allows for frequent stops when the inspiration hits. And on this island, there are plenty of insiprations. Mopeds are a 40-50km "Born to be Wild" thrill. Be warned, however; Santorini is on a cliff, roads are narrow and trucks and buses can come careening around a corner at any moment. Ride only within your limits and be careful!!! Four-wheel ATVs are also available and for some are a more stable option. If riding atop a 50cc stranger is unsettling, then rent a vehicle or take the bus.
Regardless of mode of transportation, here is where to go on Santorini day, at sunset (a ritual on the island) and into the night.
Santorini Sighseeing and Activities
Beaches, the Volcano, Climbing the Cliffs and Ammoudi
At the bottom of Oai is Ammoudi, the best swimming spot on the island.
Due to it's size and diversity, Santorini lacks the all-out day party of Mykonos or Ios. Therefore for singles, it's difficult to put the "meet in the daytime/meet out at night" strategy into play that works so effectively on other Greek Islands.
Instead of trying to create a party, take advantage of Santorini's splendor and beauty by exploring the island by moped, cliff jumping or taking a ride on a donkey. It doesn't matter which way you go, since treasures await in every direction.
PubClub's favorite spot is a hideaway called Amoudi. Located below (way below!) Oia it's a simplistic four-taverna Greek fishing village.
Arriving at dusk is like walking into a painting. It's a breathtaking scene, one that will have you stopping in your tracks to admire. In the daytime, it's ideal for splashing about in its crystal-clear waters. The harbor offers swimming opportunities, but trek past the tavernas around the rocky point. A small bay separates this area from a rock, from which sunbathing and cliff-jumping are common.
There is no beach, but a few of the rocks are perfectly contoured to the human shape, so find a comfortable spot and throw down the towel. Gingerly walk to the water's edge and take the plunge. Snorkeling is a great activity; an inexpensive mask and snorkel can be purchased just down from the town square or in Ammoudi for about 10 Euros. The water is refreshing and the views spectacular. Be careful of the sea urchins, though. Adventurous souls can walk around the cliffs to, well, Fira if you like. Be cautious of swimming outside the cove, though, as currents there are strong and may carry one to Crete.
After a swim and a nap, enjoy lunch at one of the tavernas. The fish is so fresh you can literally select it as its being brought in off a boat. Prices for fish are not cheap – upwards of 40 Euros – but beers are a refreshing 4. Each taverna is a bit different; we like the one on the end closest to the road because the old Greek guy bringing the beers shuffles along at an incredibly slow but amusing pace. The taverna closest to the edge of the cliffs attracts the most people.
Bus service to Amoudi stops at Oia; you must either walk down the cliff or hitch a ride from donkey. The moped ride is on a gravely road alongside a cliff with no guardrail, so it's not for the faint of heart.
Now that looks like a good place to stop for lunch.
Kamari is the nicest beach in Santorini.
The red sand beach is not as popular as the other Santorini beaches.
The two main beaches (pay no attention to the overly-hyped "red sand beach;" nobody goes there) are Kamari and Perissa. Kamari is the most popular with the general tourist set, a rocky black-sand beach with an ideal cliff-jumping spot for daredevils of all nerve levels. It is lined with cafes and shops, although it is not a big daytime party scene. In fact, it's often peaceful enough to hear the wind blow.
Perrisa, one of two black-sand beaches, caters to young backpackers.
Perissa is popular among backpackers and budget travelers as it offers inexpensive accommodations such as camping for less than 10 Euros. The atmosphere is much more casual and it has a small beachside bar providing music. A number of inexpensive and decent cafes dot the landscape.
A huge rock separates Kamari from Perissa. It's about a half-hour moped ride from one to the other through some spectacular scenery from the highest points on Santorini. Monolithos Beach, near the airport, is popular among locals.
It's a bit touristy, but taking a donkey ride is a real kick.
This is a total tourist move but heck, you're on holiday. At the base of Fira is a set of steps leading to the cruise ship port. Donkey rides are available from the top or bottom. It's best to walk down the steps and ride back up. It's a bit smelly and donkey droppings litter the path, but where else can this be done? (Well, okay, the Grand Canyon.) Take a swim break at the bottom before forking over a few Euros for the uphill adventure.
A good beer or other refreshing beverage break can be found at Kastr Cafeteria, which is not a cafeteria at all but a twin-level taverna and bar with a corner view of the volcano. It's one of the many taverns at the Cable Car entrance, directly across the street from the sign. The cool breeze and cozy chairs are the perfect companion to parched throats and tired feet.
Hiking "The Breast"
A trail leads to the peak of this cliff and there are steps to the sea.
Looking toward the town of Oia from Fira is a large mountain in the shape of a female breast. It has a hiking trail and a couple of churches where locals and some tourists in the know alike make wedding vows. To find it, go to the very end of Firastafani. At the top of the hill; you will notice a pathway. It takes about an hour to reach the summit. It's a bold leap to reach the top and there's no net to catch you if you miss, but dozens flock here to watch the sunset. Take a flashlight for the return journey after dark. There's also a path that leads down to the sea but it's nearly impossible to find unless you are with someone who has trekked it in the past.
The volcano dominates the view; you can go on it and swim, too.
The PubClubbers on top of the volcano.
Still active, the volcano remains a mystery. It exploded with a fury in 1628 BC but thankfully is quiet today. It can be visited up close as travel agencies offer day trips. This consists of a boat ride, a swim in the chilly "natural hot springs" and a climb up rocky terrain. It's an okay way to spend an afternoon and enjoy a sunset on the water.
Akrotiri Ruins, Yes Or No?
If you listen to the travel agents this is one of those "must-do" Santorinni adventures. Akrotiri is the excavation of what archeologists believe to be the lost city of Atlantis, buried when the volcano (yes, that volcano) exploded. Frankly, there's not a lot to see. Girls seem to enjoy it somewhat while men plot to sneak off to the closest taverna..
Dining in Santorini
Fine Food is Part of the Greek Experience
How's this for a table at a taverna wiht a view!?
The Caldera is covered with restaurants offering sensational views. Most serve fresh seafood and cater primarily to tourists. So, expect to pay tourist prices, at least by Greece standards (30-50 Euros, for fish, for example).
If you want to eat where the locals go, the place is Naoussa (about a five-minute walk past the Coo Club, towards Firastafani).The Greek food is plentiful and inexpensive, served in an atmosphere so friendly the owner passes out free wine while diners wait for a table. Ousteria, along the caldera, is another great spot for Greek food.