Santorini is known as one of the most stunning islands in the world. But did you know it’s actually a group of islands created from an active volcano? The west coast of the main island has astounding views over the caldera, an unusual undersea crater where the rim rises from the water. We’ve picked out the best hotels to make the most of this outlook and have asked our Greece experts to recommend eight spectacular things to do in Santorini.
Find the best sunset spot
The sunsets in Santorini are renowned. Head to Oia, Fira, Firostefani or Imerovigli to combine a sunset with spellbinding views over the caldera. Imerovigli is a village on the highest edge of the caldera and perfect for a peaceful stay. It’s the first place on the island to see the sunrise (and gets the best of the sunset views) and a visit to Virgin Mary Maltesa Church or Skaros Rock is well worth the hike for the seriously spectacular outlook. To stay nearby, choose Gold Suites, Grace Santorini, Regina Mare Hotel or Sun Rocks Hotel.
Alternatively, stay in Oia, which we think is one of the most beautiful villages in Santorini. It’s a hotspot for taking in those iconic sunset views – with crowds of people coming to watch as the afternoon draws to a close. It’s a cliffside huddle of cave houses, whitewashed residences, steep staircases and churches with bright blue domed roofs stretching towards a sky of deeper blue. Stay at Canaves Oi Hotel or Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa to be close to the action.
The Lighthouse of Akrotiri, Monastery of the Prophet in Pyrgos and Vlychada Beach are lesser-known spots to see the sunset, but with equally impressive views.
Visit the archaeological site of Akrotiri
The prehistoric settlement of Akrotiri is one of the world’s most important archaeological sites. Around 1610 BC, Akrotiri was a coastal city with over 30,000 inhabitants. It had multi-floor buildings, drainage facilities, stables, food stores and workshops for art, shipbuilding and textiles.
The volcano is estimated to have erupted in 1614 BC, with lava flowing and covering the city. Over 3500 years later, in 1967, excavations started and today you can stroll around the city streets to see the town squares, houses, mills and looms. You can spend a good two hours wandering around here and, if you want to be close by, stay at Ambassador Aegean Luxury Hotel & Suites Santorini. To see some of the excavated artefacts, venture into Fira to visit the Museum of Prehistoric Thira, where you’ll discover original paintings, painted clay pots, tools and jewellery.
Try the local wine
There are vineyards all over the island and many produce Vin Santo, made from sun-dried grapes with a distinctive sweet flavour. The volcanic terrain creates a distinctive location for the grapes, which grow in traditional rolls, and the wines that are produced have been highly acclaimed so be sure to try a glass or two during your holiday. You can visit some of the wineries here, from Gravalas Vineyard, which is continuing a 300-year family tradition; to the contemporary Gala Winemakers, housed in an old tomato factory.
Walk along the caldera
Pull on your hiking boots and follow the path that connects Fira to Oia on a two-and-a-half-hour walk through amazing scenery and stunning villages, with the caldera at your side for most of the way. The six-and-a-half mile trek will take you from pavements to cobblestones and dirt track; and don’t forget to take essentials like water, suntan lotion and a hat. Start early and factor in some time to stop at a café or two (if open) en route.
Sail around the island
Take to the water on a catamaran cruise and gaze at the island’s volcanic landscapes from completely different angle. Choose a daytime sailing and visit scenic beaches, explore the dramatic coast and stop to soak in the therapeutic waters of the volcano’s hot springs. Alternatively, opt for a private sunset cruise for dreamy views of the caldera’s cliffs, a delicious Greek barbecue feast and refreshing cocktails. Although you can plan a catamaran trip at most of our featured resorts, the Ambassador Aegean Luxury Hotel & Suites Santorini offers a range of cruise options that can be tailored just for you.
Visit the volcano
You can visit Palea Kameni or Nea Kameni, the two small islands in the centre of the Santorini caldera. Palea Kameni is less than 2000 years old, while Nea Kameni began to form just over 450 years ago. These are some of the youngest islands in the Mediterranean and can be reached by boat from Fira or Athinios. Sail to Nea Kameni and you’ll be greeted with a desolate, rocky landscape where you can hike to the peak. It’s not often you get to climb an active volcano.
Enjoy Fira's nightlife
If you’re looking for Santorini’s best nightlife, head to the capital of Fira. You’ll find buzzing bars and clubs that can take you into the early hours, with views over the caldera. Stay close by at Sun Rocks Hotel, which is in the quiet village of Firostefani but within walking distance of Fira, so a short taxi ride home. For a more relaxed pace, Firostefani, Imerovigl and Oia are perfect for an evening of chilled drinks and views of the caldera.
Have a Champagne breakfast with a view
Imagine the purest of whitewashed walls set against the turquoise infinity pool and deep blue hues of a cloudless sky and the shimmering Aegean Sea. Take a seat on the terrace at Grace Santorini in Greece and soak up the gobsmacking – and dizzying – views over Santorini caldera. This is the perfect spot for a Champagne breakfast each morning, included in your stay.
This feature was published on 06 June 2018. The information within this feature is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of print.