Two days on one of Greece’s loveliest islands in the Aegean gives you the chance to explore remarkable archaeological sites, sunbathe on the famed Black Beach and watch the stunning sunset. Our 48-hour guide will help you make the most of your trip here.
Santorini as we see it today was formed by one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history, in the 16th century, and is blessed with awe-inspiring, ethereal landscapes. In combination with its rich history, it’s a hub of natural wonders and cultural activities.
Start your first day on Santorini on the southwest coast. Here, you’ll find one of the most important archaeological sites in the region, as well as the island’s most popular and impressive beaches. Take the public bus (KTEL) from Fira or rent a car to reach the village of Akrotiri. The main draw here is not the charming village itself, but the ruins of a Minoan Bronze Age settlement, nicknamed Santorini’s Pompeii, after it was dstroyed during the Theran eruption in the 16th century. Excavations in the late 1960s shed light on life in this prosperous prehistoric settlement, which was one of the most affluent societies in the Aegean. Look out for the intricate frescoes on the walls, the well-preserved remains of multistorey structures and the elaborate drainage system.
Take a boat from the White Beach to visit the volcanic sands of the Black Beach. Perissa, at the foot of the Mesa Mountain, is more accessible than the White and Red Beaches and attracts a larger crowd. This is a well-equipped beach, with bars and restaurants as well as watersports centres. Have lunch or snacks at Tranquilo, a colourful vegetarian restaurant-bar by the sea, done out in a style inspired by owner Alexandros Bardas’s travels, but with Greek cuisine at its core. “We try to share our passion for travelling, aiming to get our guests into Santorini’s real culture, music, art and food customs,” says Alexandros. “We attract a mixed crowd of travellers, artists and musicians.” There’s a small organic garden at the back of the restaurant, and, as he explains, “We love having guests going into the garden and picking vegetables straight from Santorini soil.” Once you’ve tasted the traditional Greek dishes here, you can cross Santorini’s three most impressive beaches off your bucket list and prepare to head north for a complete change of scenery.
Built on the slopes of the caldera, 300m (984ft) above sea level, the charming village of Imerovigli has been dubbed the Balcony to the Aegean. Grab a table on the terrace of Bar to Navagio or at the Buddha Bar Beach Sunset Lounge and watch a magical sunset with a cocktail in hand. Bear in mind, that there is no direct public transport from Perissa to Imerovigli. You can get here either by car or taxi, or travel to Fira by bus, then walk or get the bus to Imerovigli.
At night, the heart of the action is in Fira, the island’s capital. Less than a 10-minute drive ( or 30-minute walk), from Imerovigli, Fira is the ideal place to spend your first night. With numerous upscale restaurants, fancy boutiques and stylish cocktail bars, it’s a truly cosmopolitan town. Take a walk through the narrow cobblestone alleys and browse the artisan souvenir stores and clothing shops. Kick off your night with a glass of champagne at Tango Bar. “Tango was one of the first bars to open on the island i the 1980s,” says owner Dimitris Polimenakos. “The crowd here gathers around 9pm to warm up for their night out.”
You need to book a volcano tour in advance, with boats departing from the old harbour on the northwest coast of the island. No matter which tour option you choose, you’ll have the chance to explore the volcano on Palea Kameni island and relax at the hot springs at Agios Nikolaos Beach on the island of Nea Kameni. Most tours last around three hours.
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Have lunch at a traditional vineyard and combine it with a wine-tasting tour led by the island’s most knowledgeable wine connoisseurs. Vassaltis Vineyards, in the village of Vourvoulos, is a 15-minute drive from Santorini’s old harbour. “We create customised experiences for our guests and love to organise personalised tours,” says Fay Angelopoulou, the winery’s hospitality manager. The tour starts with a stroll around the vineyards, followed by a stop at the winery and the cellar and concludes with wine-tasting and food pairing. “We wanted to create a quiet place, away from the crowds, where we could introduce travellers to the island’s eclectic wine varieties and local produce.” The menu is based on traditional cuisine, but each dish is elevated with a modern twist.
Spend your evening in Ammoudi, Santorini’s picturesque port, which lies 300 stairs below Oia village. Yes, you’ll have to walk down there, but it is well worth it. Here, elegant restaurants and luxury cruise ships give way to traditional tavernas and small colourful wooden boats. Perched on the northwestern tip of the island, this charming bay has preserved a traditional atmosphere – a visit here is like stepping back in time to the Santorini of the 60s. Savour a glass of ouzo and a plate of mezeat the Katina fish taverna and watch the sun setting below the horizon.
After Fira, Oia is the island’s most vibrant evening hotspot. If you’re in the market for a last-minute cultural adventure, pop into one of the town’s art galleries or make a stop at the Maritime Museum. Stroll through Oia’s narrow alleys and take a look at the blue and white churches and typically Santorinian whitewashed houses. For your last drink on the island, settle in on one of the many bar terraces here – Sun Spirit Bar comes highly recommended – and complete your two-day trip with a view over the Aegean.