We loved our visit to Santorini, but life moves a lot slower there than we were used to, so we were always looking for more things to do while we were on the island! We traveled during the off season, in November, so about half of the businesses on Santorini were actually closed – which we didn’t mind–we got to see this gorgeous place sans crowds! However, that said, I wanted to make sure this list included things you could do during peak season or off season. Here are ten really fun things you can do on Santorini!
1. Watch the sunset along the caldera (Fira, Oia)
Santorini, it has been said, is the best place to view the sunset in the world. While I don’t know if I completely agree with that, we enjoyed all three sunsets that we were able to see during our visit! They say the best place to watch the sunset in Santorini is in Oia, which is where the picture above was taken, but the sunset from anywhere along the caldera is marvelous.
The most famous beaches on Santorini are the black sand beaches – Perissa Beach and Kamari Beach. We visited Perissa, where we got to enjoy the famous black-pebble sand, turquoise waters, and really tasty seafood! There are many beaches on Santorini, but be sure to visit a black sand one for a unique experience!
3. See the Akrotiri archaeological site
Akrotiri is probably the most scientifically interesting spot on the island, and it’s also really cool. It’s an active excavation which you can explore via wooden walkways throughout the site, which is enclosed in a sustainably-engineered building. The prehistoric city of Akrotiri was destroyed by the eruption of the island in 1627BC, and the volcanic ash preserved the layout of the city and many artifacts – from frescoes to pottery – from this Minoan Bronze Age civilization.
4. Check out the Red Beach overlook
There’s basically a whole rainbow of beaches for you to explore on Santorini, and once you’ve visited a black beach, you can check out Red Beach, Santorini. It’s located quite close to Akrotiri as well. While the sand isn’t actually red, the cliffs over the beach are a brilliant rust color, and the short hike up to the cliffs overlooking the beach will treat you to breathtaking views, even if you’re not inclined to sunbathe on the beach itself!
5. Museum of Prehistoric Thira
The Museum of Prehistoric Thira, in Fira, Santorini, is where you can go to see all of the wonderful treasures that have been found at Akrotiri, like the blue monkeys fresco in the photo above. I remember being particularly impressed with the frescoes, a pretty dolphin design that was painted on much of the pottery, and the mysterious little gold ibex which was unlike anything else found in the ancient city.
This hike is the one thing on this list that we did not actually do, as we thought renting a car was a better way to unwind at the end of our trip than completing a 3-4 hour hike. However, I’ve heard great things about this hike, and I know it would be gorgeous! If we had had one more day, we definitely would have done it. It’s recommended to hike from Fira to Oia, as that’s the more downhill direction, and the other direction isn’t as pleasant! Along the way, you’ll get to enjoy breathtaking caldera views and the architecture of two of Santorini’s coolest cities!
7. Snap that blue-domed church picture – you know the one!
You can’t really leave Santorini without getting a picture of the famous blue-domed church! There are actually lots of churches like that on the island, but if you’re looking for “the church” that’s in all the photos, it’s in Oia! Once you’re in Oia, along the sort of main tourist walking path through the town, it’s really easy to spot it. Then, you just need to get above the church in order to get that photo! If possible, try it at sunset – so worth it!
8. Explore the island on your own via rental car or ATV
Beyond the main cities of Fira and Oia and the gorgeous beaches, there are really a lot of cool spots you can explore on the island. Rental car/ATV agencies are abundant, and it’s a really affordable way to get “off the beaten path” and see more of the island. You can check out different wineries, lesser-known beaches, or other towns. We checked out Pyrgos, which was almost shut down for the winter, but we saw a man with his donkeys bringing goods up the hill, another man harvesting olives, and a woman who ran the only souvenir shop (or business of any kind!) that seemed open on Pyrgos, which was really cool!
9. Shop (or window-shop!) for gold
Grecian artisans have traditionally been known for their beautiful goldwork. The gold in Greece is more affordable than in some places, because the labor is cheaper, and the designs are gorgeous… you can get anything from intricate, Byzantine-inspired pieces to sleek and modern designs. The best place to shop is along “gold street” in Fira, which has a string of shops set opposite wonderful caldera views. I came away from Santorini with a pair of gold and white enamel flower-shaped earrings and a very Byzantine gold pendant set with a ruby (as well as my wallet a little lighter!). There’s jewelry for every budget on Santorini, and even if you’re looking for a different sort of souvenir, you can still enjoy the wonderful craftsmanship of the jewelry in the window displays along “Gold Street”!
10. Enjoy Amoudi Bay your own way
Amoudi Bay is the bay which is encircled by the caldera, which was formed by the volcanic eruption millennia ago. There are a dozen ways to enjoy the bay–whether you want to take the traditional donkey rides or less-traditional cable car from the port to the city, take boat tours out to the bay (you can bathe in volcanic hot springs or visit one of the smaller islands), or even do some cliff jumping! Since we visited in winter, we decided the best way for us to enjoy it was to sit on a terrace, sipping delicious drinks, while watching the sun sink into the sea.
I hope that you have some new ideas for your trip to Santorini! Have you been there? What was your favorite thing to do? Are there any that I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments below!