Santorini may be one of the world’s most photographed islands, but it’s also home to some of the Aegean’s most impressive beaches. The island’s wild beauty emanates from the caldera, an active volcano that has also shaped the island’s black-sand beaches, giving them a bruised, rocky look. From the popular and loud to the concealed and quiet, these are the most beautiful beaches in Santorini.
In southeastern Santorini, Vlychada is an unusual and almost lunar landscape, thanks to the surrounding pumice cliffs. The dark sand and grey and white pebbles add to the beach’s rough allure, while its little caves invite bathers to scour the sand for gems. Accessible by car or bus, Vlychada is part organised, with sunbeds and an elegant, cave-hewn beach bar, and part serene and isolated. If skinny-dipping is your thing, walk to the far end of the beach to join other like-minded free spirits.
The outlandish, yellow-green waters of Palea Kameni’s hot springs will draw you in, and may even cure your back pain. Formed by a volcanic eruption in the first century, this islet floating in Agios Nikolaos cove guarantees the most memorable swim. The island and its beach are only accessible by boat. Daily tours from Mesa Gialos – capital Fira’s old port – will take you to Palea and Nea Kameni (a second volcanic isle). Don’t wear your favourite white swimsuit, though – the sulphur will ruin it.
Located near the southern village of Akrotiri, the popular Red Beach is known for its red sand and striking red and black boulder-like rocks. The beach is naturally sheltered from the wind, and fairly unspoilt, with just a few sets of umbrellas. You can access it by boat from Akrotiri port, or by car followed by a short, downhill walk. Before descending, grab a snack at one of the two canteens. Right next to Red Beach lies White Beach, its quieter counterpart, boasting white rocks and black sand.
A natural continuation of the much busier Perivolos beach on the island’s eastern shore, Perissa is where adventurers and water sports aficionados gather. Accessible by car or bus, this long, black-pebbled, Blue Flag beach is ideal for bold dives and fun activities such as canoeing and windsurfing. For those looking to relax, there are plenty of sunbeds to choose from, as well as an array of beach bars and restaurants, including the serene, seafood-specialising Demilar, where you can tuck into fresh calamari or snapper.
On the east coast of Santorini, very close to Fira, lies Monolithos. With dark sand and crystalline, shallow waters, and easily accessible by car or bus, this beach is a great bet for families. Its name (meaning “one stone”) nods to the big rock upon which the island’s Agios Ioannis church is built. Part of Monolithos has sunbeds, umbrellas, a lifeguard tower and even beach football, basketball and volleyball courts – more than enough to keep the kids busy. But you can also relax under the trees on the secluded side of the beach, if you’re after a quieter spot.
Somewhere between the scenic villages of Oia and Imerovigli, you will find Mouzakia (if you know where to look). Utterly sequestered, it can only be accessed by boat, and is not included in any organised tours. A favourite among boat and yacht owners, Mouzakia is as private as it gets in Santorini. Its waters are mirror-like, and there’s also a little chapel on the beach (Agioi Epta Pedes), semi-hidden in a cave. If you don’t have your own yacht (nope, us neither), hire a skippered boat for the day from Fira’s old port and set off in search of mystical Mouzakia.
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