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 Best Places to Visit in Santorini

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Santorini, Greece Travel Guide  
 

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 sample Santorini.

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" has spread along the edge of the island's cliffs.  At first, Santorini appears to be a 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.

The easy way up or down in Santorini

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 modest thrill.

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.

 

 

A classic view of whitewashed houses and blue domes in Santorini, Greece

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 ruins at Akrotiri are one of the most impressive of Santorini's treasures

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 Thera Foundation for more details.

 

Museums

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).

Additional Resources

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 paradise

Additional information on travel in Greece can be found at Visit Greece, the official tourism website for the country.

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 our Destination Guide Index or Googling the web.


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Santorini is a volcanic island rimmed with white houses From a distance, the dwellings on Santorini look like snow scattered on the rim of the island.

 

Steps. steps and more steps will haunt your Santorini visit. The only problem with arriving via boat is that you have to get to the top of the cliff

 

More of Santorini's stairs, but the view makes climbing them worth it More stairs, but the view is spectacular

 

 

Santorini is a particularly beautiful island Exquisite views are everywhere on Santorini

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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