Santorini Pictures Guide, Greek Islands

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View from Fira on Santorini’s caldera rim with Thirasia island on the left and Oia a distant right. Considering the steep views a steep café tab is acceptable.This is Greece’s most unique island and the heady romance of the place is undeniable especially since it’s all going to end in a big bang and a short slide one dark day.

Santorini Tourism

Santorini caldera view, Greece

The north, west and east sides of Santorini’s caldera can be seen in this picture, though the southern horn is behind the camera. A Fira suburb is on the right and Oia in the distant centre.

Santorini – officially known as Thirais the outstanding Greek island, strange, beautiful, dramatic and enigmatic, it’s the one every visitor to the islands needs to see, even if it’s just a couple of days of soaking in the breathtaking views from one of the two pretty and labyrinthine towns of Fira and Oia.

Fira is the more attractive option as Oia has partially ruined its panoramic spectacle by permitting shops to build on the razor’s edge. One decent shake and a million dollars of jewellery is going for a fast slide and that time may not be so far away, the volcano is by no means dead. Oia (also known as Ia), however, is the favoured sunset-viewing spot as the islands of Kameni and Thirasia interrupt the sight of the glowing orb when see from Fira.

Santorini caldera (volcanic bowl) is the site of Atlantis – or rather the Atlantis legend, because the district/town that existed here was never called ‘Atlantis’. So we Bugheads believe.

Athinias port, Santorini, Greece

Fira old port where ferries still unload and the walk down the zig-zag is bad enough. The walk up. . . but wait! The Greeks have a traditional solution for this, donkeys, though not cheap of course.

Santorini weather

The best time for moderate heat and bearable crowds is May-June and September-October. Mid summer is survivable but book hotels well in advance and be prepared for heat, sun and other people.
Avoid December to March when many businesses are closed and the weather is likely to be cold, wet and windy.

Things to do on Santorini

Santorini church roofs and caldera, Greece

The view from Oia across to one of the smaller towns, perhaps Imerovigli.

• walk along the caldera rim from Fira to Oia at least, timing it to get sunset at Ia (Oia). The walk from Perissa beach to Kamari beach along Ancient Thira route is also recommended.

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Oia buildings are in pole position for clear sunset views and celebratory drinkies.

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Oia (also known as Ia) town and its thick adobe walls poised over the glistening Aegean Sea.

• hit the beaches, but you’ll have to tolerate hot stones and cool water, apart from Red Beach where they take the trouble to lay wood shavings on the pebbles. Kamari has a pleasant promenade environment, Red Beach is the fashionable one and near to Akrotiri ancient site while other isolated beaches await the adventurous. You’ll probably need your own transport. Beaches pictures and more information.

• Driving around to visit villages though we were very disappointed by much touted Pyrgos, the highest point in the island (Picturesque? No. Friendly? No. Interesting. No. Great views? No. etc. etc. ) and see some delightful modern adobe architecture.

• Cycling. Nope, biking is not so good here as the landscape is hilly, there are no dedicated bike trails and rentals are few and far between

• visit Akrotiri ancient Minoan site, preserved by volcanic ash from the massive eruption about 3, 500 years ago that arguably spawned the Atlantis legend. If the ruins and frescoes ring your bell then you could also visit the Museum of Prehistoric Thira in Fira to see a lot more recovered artefacts.

Akrotiri ancient site, Santorini, Greece

Archaeologists are still excavating Akrotiri, a Minoan site in the far south of Santorini that was buried in the massive volcanic eruption in 1640BC. Building remnants reveal beautiful frescoes and a very sophisticated society that had street drains and inside toilets 3, 500 years ago – not a feature in Europe until 100 years ago. Photo by K. P. Kapoutsis.

• take a ferry/excursion across to Nea Kameni and/or Thirasia islands for a short hike and long view or even to Palia Kameni for a dip in the hot springs.

• tour the wineries and taste locally grown wines. Mesa Gonia and Megalochori both have a couple of wineries that welcome tourists.

• Scuba dive the caldera. There are several dive shops on Santorini, including on Kamari, Perissa and Caldera beaches. All scuba centres dive in the same location to protect the environment, though not at the same time! Visibility is extremely good but fishy life forms quite limited, other than octopi that are thriving. The main sights are a wreck near the volcano and a popular wall dive.

• Snorkelling. Again, very clear, warm waters and some extravagant rock formations though not a lot of fish. Caldera Beach near Akrotiri is popular, as are Perissa and Perivolos beaches and Potamos beach off Thirasia island.

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Shopping in Fira after dinner.

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A very interesting Deco-Dali house design in the centre of Santorini island.

It’s well worth hiring some transport and taking a drive around the island or even staying outside the main towns and just visiting the caldera edge.
Some guidebooks recommend visiting Pyrgos, the highest point on the island. We did and were very disappointed. It was charmless, unfriendly and unattractive. However, there are quite a few spectacular modern buildings scattered around the island that make an afternoon cruise a treat.

Santorini hotels

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Note that exploring Santorini caldera edge will require plenty of step climbing. Some hotels hanging onto the caldera slope can only be reached by severely steep steps such as the one below in Imerovigli. If you have walking problems but still want to visit San torini ensure you book a hotel with few or no steps.

Make sure that you book hotels in Greece – and especially Santorini – well in advance for the summer months including June and September. If you want a room with a magnificent view then you should expect to pay extreme rates. The further you go from the edge the lower the rates.

Santorini is still terrific in May and October but advance booking is not necessary and crowds will be way down. Even so we’d suggest the best time to visit Santorini is June or September, with less crowds and less heat.

Caldera ferry view, Santorini, Greece

An inter-island ferry seen from Imerovigli between Fira and Oia.

Santorini Beaches

Red Beach

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Santorini’s Red Beach.

Tourists do not come here for the beaches! They visit Santorini to see the spectacular sight of two pastel painted towns clinging to the edge of a sleeping volcano, encircled by the Aegean Sea. And then there’s the Atlantis legend. . .

This is not an island blessed with great beaches since volcanic material is black and holds the heat, unlike our favourite powdered coral sand that does not.
The best beach on Santorini is Red Beach, which is not saying much at all, though it’s conveniently near the Akrotiri excavations that are definitely worth a look.

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Very different from other beaches in Greece due to its red volcanic stones, Red Beach is hardly a great place to hang out but the only other options in Santorini are generally characterless black sand/pebble beaches.
At least Red Beach has some good looking rocks around, crystal clear water, good snorkelling and locals have taken the trouble to cover the hot little stones with wood shavings so barefeet don’t shrivel and die. At the far end of the beach is a little café. The beach is quite a few miles from the island’s main attractions around the caldera’s (volcanic bowl) lip so private transport will be required.

Kamari Beach

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Kamari Beach, too hot to trot but the water is cool and clear.

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Kamari Beach close-up. Those stones are cooking!

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Kamari beach promenade. That’s a thumbs up, even if the beach is a foot-frying horror.

Perissa Beach

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Perissa beach. Not unlike Kamari though less comforting surroundings. Apparently the snorkelling is good near here and the walk across to Kamari also worthwhile.

Other Santorini beaches we didn’t visit but heard about…

• Perivolos in the southeast has a good selection of beach bars and restaurants and is the place to go when the north wind is blowing.
• Agios Georgias, near Perivolos is very lively with beach bars and water sports.
• Baxedes is a large beach in the far north of Santorini, still with black pebbles but peaceful, except when the north wind is blowing.
• Amoudi is not a beach but a rocky swinmming area with a couple of bars and restaurants near Oia, accessible by a road around the back of Oia.