Santorini, one of the most popular
travel destinations in Greece, is the southernmost of the Cyclades
chain of Greek Islands. It is approximately 8 hours by ferry from
Athens or less than an hour by air travel. The island's official name is Thera,
but Santorini is the popular name for this amazing destination.
Santorini is known for its beautiful beaches many with black sand
(on the eastern and southern side side of the island), nightclubs and parties. You
can tour the town and see Santorini's main attractions in a day, so a cruise of the Greek Islands is a good way to
If you want to better understand the magnetism of
Santorini, you need to spend some time sunbathing at its glamorous beaches,
enjoying water sports, and participating in the island's active nightlife.
If you tour in summer, be prepared for heat. Plan to spend your
mornings exploring, mid-day at the beach or snoozing in your room, and your evenings eating and
partying. Many say that a day in Santorini doesn't start until 8 P.M.
Santorini is at its glamorous best when viewed from the deck of an
approaching boat. Your first view of the island is a immense cliff of dark volcanic rock towering above
the deep blue Aegean. Tiers of white houses first appear, looking as if "snow"
along the edge of the island's cliffs. At first, Santorini appears to
mirage and, then, as you get closer you begin to see the detail of the small
homes hugging the cliffs. It is as if a crazy quilt of buildings
climbs up to and over the horizon.
A cable-tram runs from the port area at the bottom of the cliffs to the top where you
will find the main island's major city, named Fira. Alternatively, you can walk to the top or ride
a donkey up the steep, zigzag path. The donkey
ride is fun but the walk is more relaxing and lets one concentrate on the
lush setting, rather than worrying about where the donkey is headed. (If you
walk, be sure to look down to avoid the donkey dung.) If you are in a
rush, take the funicular to the top (it is closed during the lunch hour).
If you are in the mood, take a donkey from the top to the bottom for a
Fira is a tourist town and it does not
pretend to be anything else. Its population more than doubles in summer,
but can be crowded during any season. Although the view from the town is
spectacular, the town itself is not remarkable, at least not when the sun is up.
If you are looking for tourist trinkets or trendy boutiques, this is the
place. You will find a number of good restaurants and cafes offering
some relief from the high temperatures in summer.
In some ways, Santorini represents the prototypical
Greek island. White-washed houses, blue domes atop churches, warm
weather, good beaches and brilliant sunshine makes this an idyllic
place to spend some time.
The archeological site at Akrotiri, one of the highlights of a visit to
Santorini, is believed to represent an urban center that became a major
port for the Minoan civilization around the seventeenth century B.C.
Akrotiri has been closed intermittently since 2005 after a section of the
sheet metal roof collapsed, killing one tourist and injuring several others.
A new high-tech, climate controlled environment designed to protect both the
ruins and tourist is under construction. Unfortunately, the construction has been
lengthier and costlier than planned. At the beginning of 2012
there was still no definitive date set for the re-opening of the ruins.
See the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Tourism website on
Akrotiri for more details.
As an alternative, consider
visiting the Museum of Prehistoric Thira, located in Fira. The Museum
houses many finds from Akrotiri and other sites. In addition, you might
want to take a look at the Petros M. Nomikos Center in Fira, which hosts a
permanent exhibition (open only in summer) of the Wall Paintings from Akrotiri. See the website of the
for more details.
Fira has two small museums that are worth a stop if you have the time. You
can tour them in an hour, but the air-conditioning may keep you
lingering. The Archaeological Museum and the Museum of Prehistoric Thera
have a mixture of ancient art from Akrotiri, including frescos and other
treasures from around Santorini. Both museums are closed Monday and
operate from 9 to 3 (approximately).
Santorini does not have an official tourism website, but or more detailed
information about Santorini, visit
santorini.net. Another useful website is
Greeka, it has numerous details on Santorini and other of the Greek Islands.
Both sites provides additional details on the best places to visit in Santorini described above, as well as additional attractions that did not make our list.
Check our recommendations for the
best places to visit in Greece for more details on this vacation
Additional information on travel in Greece can be found at
Visit Greece, the official tourism website for the
For country facts on Greece, as well as travel information related to visas,
driving rules, safety, medical conditions, visas and other travel-related
information, see this page on
Greece Travel from the Bureau of Consular Affairs of the U.S. State
Department. Regardless of your home country, we think you will find the
information provided to be useful when planning a trip to Greece.
If you need information about another travel destination, try
Destination Guide Index
or Googling the web.