After dreaming about it for years, I finally visited Santorini last summer. My Pinterest boards were filled with “wish I was there” Santorini pictures and I was ready to go. We arrived in Santorini around noon, the sun was bright above us and the ocean – endless. We were greeted at our lovely hotel with a glass of Santorini dessert wine, Vinsanto, and took everything in. There is one thing you should know about Santorini – you don’t choose your hotel based on how fancy it is, you choose it according to which one has the best sunset view because Santorini sunsets are the most stunning you’ll ever see and will take your breath away. Santorini is perched on the edge of a submerged volcano, looking over a stunning caldera.
Because I’m in a loving mood (hey, it’s Valentine’s Day!) I’ve prepared this lovely list of the best, most romantic, most magical things to do in Santorini.
#1 Fira–The award for best sunset goes to Fira! It was a close call, but we have a winner. Santorini is renowned for having sensational, breathtaking sunsets and most visitors make their way to the village of Fira, which is often considered the best place to see the sunset on the island. Fira is the largest town in Santorini, it’s busy and fun, and if you walk up the narrow streets to the edge of the cliff, you will see many people staring at the mesmerizing sunset. Just make sure you get there early enough so you can save yourself the best seat in the house, near the low wall.
#2 Oia – Best overall magical, stunning destination. Situated on the north side of the island, Oia is the epitome of your Greece fantasies – white houses, blue roofs, and windmills. It is almost overwhelmingly beautiful and picturesque. On your way down the hill and towards the beach, you will see the village’s most charming feature – wooden blue doors that open up to cliff edges, stairs, and stunning views. At the bottom of these stairs you will find the port and a few taverns that serve fresh seafood, right on the waterfront.
#3 Akrotiri Lighthouse (Faros) – A more secluded destination which offers the sublime opportunity to watch a spectacular sunset without the other tourists and crowds. In fact, you could quite possibly be the only person here on any given evening, and the lighthouse which was built over 100 years ago, makes for a very romantic sight.
How to get to Faros Lighthouse: Faros is at the very southern tip of the island. If you are without a car, the best way to reach the lighthouse is by taking a bus to Akrotiri, from which point the lighthouse is a 6km taxi ride away.
#4 Red Beach – Santorini is a volcanic island, which means the terrain is quite different to other tropical destinations. The beaches are fascinating and awe-inspiring. The Red Beach is the most unique, given the spectacular appearance of the beach and surrounding area. Large boulders are scattered along a vibrant stretch of red sand with majestic cliffs towering high above the pristine clear waters of the Aegean Sea. The warm waters combined with a pleasant atmosphere make it a picture perfect location for some romance.
The Red Beach is a short 20-minute drive south of Fira Town and can be reached easily by rented car or taxi. Alternatively, you can take a local bus just past the town of Akrotiri.
#5 Nea Kameni- Nea Kameni is an island located in the middle of a giant caldera. No one lives on the island itself, but it possible to take day trips in order to climb to the top of the 130-meter high extinct volcano. It is often referred to as being a “lunar landscape” with no forms of life and minimal signs of vegetation, though in many ways, the emptiness of the scenery is what makes it so interesting. The hiking is relatively easy (moderate) and with stunning panoramic views of the blue ocean, it is a serene experience like none other.
How to get to Nea Kameni: The only way to get to the island is by boat. Excursions to Nea Kameni caldera can be organized from the Old Port in Fira.
#6 Santorini Winelands – Santorini’s wineries are known for producing the most sensational blends in the world. It is possible to take an organized tour of the region, but if you have a rented car, it gives you a nice opportunity of traveling through the beautiful landscapes leisurely. As with most wine tours, you will first have an opportunity to walk amongst the beautiful vineyards, but many of these wineries also offer a demonstration in which you can enter the wine cellar and learn all about the winemaking process. The volcanic nature of the land and favorable climate ensure a very unique taste for the local wine.
How to get to the Santorini vineyards: organized tours will feature many of the wineries but the best way is to visit them by car. Most of the farms are located in Central and Southern Santorini in the villages of Mesa, Exo Gonia and Megalochori.
#7 Akrotiri – When was the last time you walked amongst the remains of a settlement from 17th Century BC?
Step back in time to the Bronze Age and walk the streets of Akrotiri, a pre-historic town on the coast of Santorini. This ancient city is literally jaw-dropping, and with the assistance of a guide, you can stand back and watch as they bring the city back to life.
Many remnants of the village are still intact so you can expect to see houses, stores, and many parts of the society which are still recognizable today. A trip to Akrotiri offers an experience unlike any other, and the quaint town next to the old settlement is a nice place for an overnight stay where you can experience an authentic Santorini village.
How to get to Akrotiri: To the south of the main square in Fira, you can take a bus to Akrotiri. It is a short ride and the bus departs between 7 am – 10 pm.