It’s only one of the most drop-dead-romantic places on Earth so you may well know it’s incredibly beautiful, romantic, historic and has just about the most famous sunsets in the world. Loved-up couples travel from the four corners of the globe just to get married here. But just in case you haven’t already been there, or you’ve been living on Mars for most of your life, let us tell you all the best bits about it.
Santorini is unique. To start with it’s a volcano – or rather it’s what’s left of the one that exploded some 3,600 years ago. What’s left is a cluster of 5 islands forming a caldera around a giant lagoon. The villages and towns, all whitewashed houses, sit on cliff tops with incredible views. Below, at sea level, you’ll find red, white and even black sand beaches. The word ‘stunning’ doesn’t really quite do it justice.
Unless you can catch a direct flight the best way to get there is via Athens – 40 minutes by air or a ferry trip lasting between 5 and 9 hours depending which boat you get. We certainly wouldn’t put you off the boat trip – approaching by sea is spellbinding and the dirve up to the main town, winding along the cliff roads, is truly memorable.
Is it the Best of Greece? Many would argue it’s the very best – certainly you can come for a long-weekend or stay a month and have a brilliant time. Then want to come back again because Santorini gets under your skin – it’s a place you’ll never forget.
So the volcano blew its top around 36 centuries ago rather disrupting the lives of the population for hundreds of miles around. The blast was apparently felt as far afield as Scandinavia and research shows the ash reached Asia Minor and even California. The resulting Tsunami reached the shores of Crete. Luckily these days the volcanoes are pretty dormant and well worth a visit.
The first signs of settlement date back to the 4th millennium BC! The island is riddled with History and excavations have uncovered archaeological sites all over the island. Santorini has changed hands numerous times and been ruled by Minoans, Spartans, the Venetians and then the Turks. All of them have left their mark and a bit of their culture behind.
The Minoan civilization ruled the area for 1,500 years and has left a significant stamp on the Island. Signs of their culture are everywhere and there are indications that the islanders exported products such as cloths and wine. There are also signs that the early residents of this spectacular island were one of the most sophisticated around. With an almost perfectly preserved town on the Southern tip in an area called Akrotiri, we can see that the locals were very wealthy, incredibly well educated and ahead of their time. The town consists of 3 storey buildings, indications that the houses had both hot and cold water. They have fully intact staircases and frescoes all over their walls.
Not surprisingly many people claim that Santorini is in fact the ancient kingdom of Atlantis.
You’re spoilt for choice – you either need to come and stay a good length of time or be selective:
Breath-taking in its sophistication the city, covering some 10,000 square metres, is approximately 4,000 years old. With fully intact houses, remains of an eight metre high perimeter wall, plumbing systems, frescoes, ceramics and furniture, this place is an historian's dream. Without doubt it is one of the most important prehistoric settlements of the Aegean. Due to the fact that the town was covered in lava it is incredibly well preserved. Artefacts show strong ties with the Greek Mainland, Syria, Egypt, Cyprus and other Greek islands.
Ancient Thira Founded in the 9th Century BC by Dorian Colonists this classical city located upon Mesa Vouno. The old Market place, Gymnasium, Theatre, Sanctuaries and Temples are spectacular and persevered areas of the city show both the Greek heritage and the Roman phase of the city.
Although a lot of the history of the island is preserved in the open air there a few Museums on the island where you can view collections of artefacts displayed in air-conditioned buildings.
The Archaeological Museum displays a collection of Sculpture, Inscriptions, vases and clay figurines. Artefacts here range from the Archaic to the Roman period and date back to Geometric to Hellenistic times.
Located in Oia the Maritime Museum is an old Traditional Greek House that has been converted to house a spectacular collection of Seamen's chests, maritime equipment, models of Theran ships, drawings, rare photographs and many other wonderful items.
Thanks to the generosity of a certain Mr Lygnos the Folklore Museum is located in cave houses built in 1861. A little bit of living history you get to walk back in time through a recreation an Old Santorini village.
Finally the Museum of Prehistoric Thera is home to artefacts that have been excavated from sites all over the island.
A number of boat trips operate out of the harbour. Most popular is a cruise on a small boat that tours the volcanoes then takes you for a swim Hot springs which reach temperature of 33 degrees Celsius and contain minerals that are good for the skin!
outings A trip down to Gialos, a small old port that is about 275 metres below the town of Fira town, is a great experience. You can do it the traditional or the modern way by donkey or by cable car. Alternatively you can walk down the 600 stairs by foot.
Wine is an important part of Santorini's culture and history and wine has been made here since around 1,700 BC. There are a number of vineyards which offer tours and wine tasting. The Boutari winery is the best known and produces one of the most popular wines on the island. Other wineries include Canava Roussos, Hazidakis, Domaine Sagalas, and Santo Wines but you may need to book an appointment. Most of the wineries still produce wine the traditional way and the volcanic soils impart some great flavours. Not be missed if you’re an oenophile.
Santorini’s beaches of range in colour, size and in what facilities they offer. Quite unusually you get a choice of white, grey, red and black sands.
As on most of the Cycladic Islands there are little shops and boutiques in each town mostly offering clothing, local products, jewellery and bits and bobs you can take home with you to remind you of your visit. Also keep your eyes open for the little art stores selling paintings and ceramic bowls, plates – you may even be lucky enough to see the masters at work.
An evening on Santorini begins with a drink or a coffee watching the stunning sunset, most usually in Oia, a beautiful town located at the top of the islands cliffs and known for its incredible views of the Aegean Sea below. Then it’s on for dinner.
Santorini is absolutely full of all sorts of restaurants and tavernas. You can find everything from local food, traditional Greek, Italian, Mexican and much more besides. There are a few local dishes that you should try, especially Fava – a dip made from chickpeas and served with olive oil and possibly possibly sliced onion and delicious as a spread on bread. Domatokeftedes are tomatoes balls fried with herbs and really good with some tzatziki. Also try the white Aubergines and the round Courgettes.
After dinner the island offers a range of bars, clubs and discos. The main town Fira is the heart of the nightlife, you’re spoilt for choice and as on most Greek islands the party goes on until the early hours of the morning. If you prefer a quiet night, stay in Oia for a nice walk around and quiet cocktail with views of the sea. There is also an open air cinema in Kamari - check out if anything good is showing.
Aressana Spa & Suites in Santorini combines tradition with sophistication and family hospitality with professional service, guaranteed to satisfy the most discerning guest. Designed as a quiet heaven, the atmosphere at the Aressana Spa Hotel & Suites is relaxed and calm. The variety of geometric forms and design found on various levels have created hideaways for reading, writing, relaxing with friends, or simply soaking up the culture of this amazing Greek island, Santorini
Dana Villas is a group of studios and apartments located on the edge of the cliff in Fira, the capital of Santorini island, yet, away from the noisy centre, facing the sea and Volcano island offering a breathtaking view that can only be seen in Santorini.
Rocabella deluxe suites & spa Santorini, suspended between the far-reaching seas and glorious skies of the Aegean, is a Santorini hotel that coaxes and entices its guests into a world of relaxation and contemplation.
3 nights from£769 per person incl flights
Reflecting traditional Aegean architecture and overlooking the island’s volcanic crater or caldera, the Andronis Luxury Suites represents the most luxurious, dreamy escape in a Mediterranean setting beyond compare.
Perivolas Suites Santorini is the ultimate in laidback luxury. Poised on the cliff high above the Aegean, this intimate escape is designed as a place where you can let the rest of the world slip away. Built amphitheatrically, Perivolas’ secluded location combines expansive views with the luxury of absolute tranquillity. It’s just a short walk from Oia, the most beautiful village on Greece’s most romantic and dramatic island, Santorini.
3 nights from £969 per person
Vedema Resort Villas in Santorini is the place where style, emotions, creativity and perfection meets a world of beauty and mythology. Enjoy luxury holidays on the Greek Island of Santorini
On the northwest tip of Santorini, in the welcoming, picturesque village of Oia is one of the finest luxury hotels, Canaves Hotel & Suites, which has also been voted one of the best hotels in Greece.
3 nights from £989 per person incl flights
An icon of hip modern hotels in Santorini, Chromata 5 star hotel in Imerovigli on the most renowned romantic Island in Greece’s Cyclades, which debuted its glamorous contemporary new design in the summer of 2010.
Romance combined with modern chic make this hotel an irresistible destination on this most spectacular of islands.
Located in Akrotiri, a gem of a village, Avant Garde commands magnificent views of both the island and the caldera
Individual exclusive luxury suites in a perfect location crowning a cliff above the dazzling Aegean Sea. Situated in the fine village of Oia on the charming island of Santorini that has stolen the hearts of and inspired poets, painters and lovers.
Villa Megalochori on Santorini Island is the perfect Holiday Villa for a couple looking for a one bedroom traditional & uniquely "Santorinian" small and elegant Villa in Santorini.
Holiday Mansion Santorini Megalochori is a five bedroom luxury villa with a private pool,located in the heart of the traditional village of Megalochori! An ideal luxury villa for larger fammilies and groups of friends wanting to rent a holiday villa in Santorini
Holiday Villa Santorini Imerovigli is a two bedroom Villa built on the cliffs edge of Imergovigli Village Santorini an amazing holiday villa offering breathtaking views from both verandas offering you an truly unforgettable holiday on the world rekowned Cycladic Greek Island of Santorini
Holiday Villa Lighthouse Santorini is a truly amazing luxury Villa with five bedrooms located in Akrotiri very close to the famous lighthouse of Santorini. This holiday villa is designed to make your Villa Holidays in Santorini unforgettable.
Oia Mansion is a luxurious 4 bedroom Sea-Captain's villa in Oia situated on the highest point of the village and it offers unobstructed bird's eye views of the Caldera and the spectacular Oia sunset. A 5-star standard accommodation, it meets the rising expectations of our distinguished guests and simultaneously it retains its original neoclassical character and glory.