Top Things to See and Do in Santorini, Greece

© T.natchai / Shutterstock
© T.natchai / Shutterstock
Photo of Judy Cogan
22 September 2021

White-washed houses perched on dramatic cliffs overlooking the Aegean Sea – it’s clear why Santorini is one of the most beautiful Greek islands. Discover its best attractions – from wine tasting to snorkelling.

Santorini, a name given by the Venetians in the 13th century, is a Greek island located in the Aegean Sea. Just 28sqmi (72sqkm), the small island is known for its black volcanic sandy beaches and high-end style. Full of historic sites, quiet beaches and clear, blue waters, it should be near the top of any travel bucket list.

Watch the sunset from Oia Castle

Natural Feature
Map View
© eye35.pix / Alamy Stock Photo
People flock to Santorini on the promise of its glorious sunsets alone. The village of Oia, located on the northwestern tip of the island, is the most popular spot to watch one. It attracts quite a crowd, but join them to enjoy raspberry-hued skies and dazzling panoramas as the sun dips. Built on a steep slope of the caldera, the village’s classic Cyclades white-washed houses will glow in golden hour. If you are crowd-adverse, head up to the quieter hillside just behind Oia.

Hike to the Santorini Volcano

Natural Feature
Map View
EG2AB6 Panorama of the Santorini volcano, Cyclades, Greece
© Juergen Schonnop / Alamy Stock Photo
Did you know Santorini is home to an active volcano? The most recent major eruption happened in 1650BCE, so taking a hike around the rim of the caldera (crater) is a must-do and perfectly safe. This adventure will see you walk along paths trodden for centuries. It comes with sweeping views of the Aegean Sea and a scattering of nearby volcanic islands. Just don’t wear flip flops on your walk – the paths are uneven and rocky.

Discover the Akrotiri Archaeological Site

Building, Museum
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Inside the ancient bronze age Minoan ruins of Akrotiri on the island of Santorini Greece.
© Kirk Fisher / Alamy Stock Photo
The prehistoric settlement of Akrotiri is one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece. During the Bronze Age, it was a thriving and well-connected Minoan port town. Akrotiri is often called the Greek Pompeii by historians, as the whole area was covered in volcanic ash following an eruption on the island. Today, a bioclimatic roof protects the site and walkways are suspended above the remains of ancient buildings, mosaics and artefacts. It is very well preserved and definitely worthy of your time.

Stop by the Tomato Industrial Museum

Museum, Shop
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F01GP9 An Industrial Tomato Museum Nomikos Vlychada Beach Santorini Greece
© ACORN 1 / Alamy Stock Photo
Tomatoes are big business in Santorini. However, this museum goes far deeper than a love of this juicy red fruit. The museum features vintage equipment and machinery from 1890 used in the tomato-canning industry, but also shares the culture and traditions of Santorini’s citizens via recordings, imagery and manuscripts. It’s housed in a former factory close to Vlychada Beach, where there’s also a shop selling local artwork, clothes and handcrafted jewellery.

Snap a photo of the famous blue domed churches

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E1CRA5 Blue domed churches on the Caldera at Oia on the Greek Island of Santorini
© ian woolcock / Alamy Stock Photo
If you don’t take a picture, did it really happen? Santorini has dozens of azure-capped churches, but the most photographed are a trio of domes in Oia that belong to the churches of Agios Spiridonas and Anastaseos. You’ll recognise them from every travel photo of Santorini. In an Instagram-obsessed world, finding them has become a holiday challenge. There are plenty of tips and directions on how to get “that shot” here.

Visit Santo Winery for a tour

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2A8DCDM 31st Oct 2019 - Santorini, Greece. Santo Wines
© AndKa / Alamy Stock Photo
So you thought Santorini couldn’t get any better? SantoWines was founded in 1947, and today it’s run as part of a local, sustainable co-operative, so it can thrive for many years to come. The vineyards are split across terraces and backed by a volcanic cliff. Take a vineyard tour before a wine tasting and learn all about the fermenting process. There’s a shop on site so you can buy a souvenir bottle to enjoy at home.

Take a boat cruise around the caldera

Sports Center
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DH0M6C View of the caldera and a church from the water sailing south in Santorini
© Elizabeth A. Abts / Alamy Stock Photo
Don’t leave this gorgeous island without admiring it from out at sea. Choose your time of day and vessel: a catamaran or a traditional Greek Caique boat perhaps, and enjoy a leisurely afternoon exploring new nooks. The volcano of Santorini, neighbouring island of Thirassia and the Nea Kameni hot springs are great options. Many cruises offer a barbecue or full Greek feast with local wines. Some will swing by a beach for swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing.

Sample traditional Greek food

Restaurant, Greek, Seafood, $$$
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WRK2NX Top down view of Greek food: tomato balls ( tomato fritters, tomatokeftedes), tzatziki sauce with olive oil and grilled cheese with vegetables in Gree
© FotoHelin / Alamy Stock Photo
In Santorini, the local cuisine doesn’t stop at moussaka, Greek salads and tzatziki. Here, you also get fresh local produce from the catch of the day and juicy sweet tomatoes, to olives straight off the tree. There are plenty of seafront, family-run restaurants where you’ll feel more like a guest at a friend’s home than a paying customer. Order the island favourite saganaki – portions of fried cheese in filo pastry drizzled in honey – over and over.

Sunbathe on the Red Beach

Natural Feature
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Red beach. Santorini, Cycladic Islands, Greece. Beautiful summer landscape with one of the most famous beaches in the world.
© Iosif Lucian Bolca / Alamy Stock Photo
Red Beach is like no other. For starters, it’s flanked by dramatic red cliffs on a bed of black volcanic sand. It’s located in Akrotiri, not far from the archaeological site. While it’s small in size, there are plenty of umbrellas and sunbeds to go round, plus it’s a great spot for snorkelling in the crystal clear waters. In the north of the island, you’ll find the peaceful White Beach. It’s a little more isolated with underwater caves and waters full of fish.

Swim in Ammoudi Bay

Natural Feature
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2G4FT2Y Amoudi bay, Santorini, Greece
© Anastasy Yarmolovich / Alamy Stock Photo
Right at the bottom of the village of Oia, you’ll find the charming port of Ammoudi. Reach it by walking down the 200 steps, or take the traditional route and let a donkey do all the heavy lifting. It’s a tiny, beautiful bay with crystal waters and fishing boats. There are no beaches, but a swim out into the deep blue Aegean Sea is essential. Dive from the dock and look up to take in the towering red cliffs above.

Find your perfect base for exploring Santorini by booking one of its best hotels – or go even further and treat yourself to the ultimate luxury stay – through Culture Trip. When there, check out the island’s best beaches and visit it’s most charming towns and villages. Wind down at the end of the day with a delicious meal at one of Santorini’s best restaurants.

This article is an update of one originally by Orfhlaith Kearney.

These recommendations were updated on September 22, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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