Let’s admit it. Santorini is a dream destination that you should experience at least once in a lifetime.
The caldera views, the picture-perfect alleyways, the white and blue domes, the cave hotels, the gorgeous sunsets, all form an insanely unique setting that blows your mind away. But if you want to really enjoy the island, avoid visiting during high season; in order to escape the crowds that spoil the romantic (and not only) ambiance. Beaches are not the highlight of the island, so you can easily visit in April, May, or October.
Once you step foot on this amazing volcanic isle, here is what you should not miss:
1. Stay in a cave hotel
An unforgettable experience- quite pricey but totally worth it while visiting Santorini. What cave hotels can offer you is magical, a feeling that you are part of the Cyclades, that you are in the heart of the Greek islands. I don’t know if words are capable of describing this greatness, the feeling I had staying in a cave house, where I imagined that time stopped, just enough to enjoy these moments and to embrace my surroundings. Especially in the bedroom, the sensation was completely serene, so I could hang together with Morpheus for hours without a care in the world.
2. Spend a few days in Pyrgos, the most picturesque village of Santorini
If you are seeking peace and stunning views, then Pyrgos it is. A hilltop village built around a Venetian castle, it features tiny whitewashed alleyways and an off-the-beaten-path charm. Moreover, Selene, one of the most highly-rated restaurants in Greece is located here (enjoy the dining balcony during summer).
3. Go hiking from Fira to Oia
This was also one of the most picturesque parts of my trip and the best way to experience Santorini’s natural beauty. This hike is 6 miles one-way and passes through Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli, and Oia. Along the way, you will find spectacular ocean views. The best time to start this trek is in the morning, or in the afternoon, so as to reach Oia at the moment of the sunset. You can start the trail from central Fira or Oia.
4. Find Skaros Rock
Well, it’s not difficult to find it since it’s a wonderful destination for hiking and certainly one of the best spots for photography in Imerovigli. It’s a rock formation and collection of ruins, next to a monastery, known as the Chapel of Panagia Theoskepasti; it remains in use on the cliffs below the rock feature.
5. Wine tasting at Santo Wines
Did you know that even the flavour of wine in Santorini is influenced by the island’s volcanic ground? It creates a unique flavour difficult to find elsewhere. Additionally, vine trees are often formed into circles and grown on the ground to protect the crop from strong ocean winds. Santo Wines in Pyrgos is the largest winery on the island and considered one of the leading vineyards in Santorini.
6. Jump off a boat into hot springs
Every day traditional boats leave from old Fira port for a boat tour to the volcanic island of Nea Kameni surrounded by warm dark waters, the volcanic hot springs are known for their therapeutic benefits. Don’t wear your favorite swimsuit in order to enjoy the hot springs, after a hike around the rim of an active volcano.
7. Visit a Monastery that resembles a fortress
The Prophet Elias Monastery is known for being the highest point from where you can admire an exclusive view of Santorini. The monastery is surrounded by four small chapels, resembling a fortress from the outside. It’s one of the best places to reveal your Insta-famous side.
8. See a movie at an open-air cinema
Open Air Cinema Kamari (or Cinekamari), established in 1987, is actually considered by The Guardian as one of the 10 best open-air cinemas in the world. Surrounded by trees, in a fairytale-like garden with a beautiful bar, you can watch a movie under the stars. Dreamy, right?
9. Visit a unique bookstore
Inside a quirky architectural wonderland that seems like a hobbit home, you can find a paradise for book lovers. Atlantis is not the average bookstore that you have in mind. Having been included in several lists of the most picturesque bookshops in the world, it has book treasures mostly in English, but also in Greek, French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Chinese.
10. Visit Emporio village
Located just 12km from Fira, the largest village of Santorini, overlooking the beaches of Perissa and Perivolos, is a charming traditional settlement with old windmills, blue-domed churches, picturesque little streets, and a 15-century fortress- definitely worth seeing!