“Greece is more than a country. It is an experience.” Unknown
Looking to see the best of Santorini? These activities give you an idea of what the whole island has to offer. From an ATV self tour of the island to a sunset cruise, this insight will help you to plan and book ahead in busier months and see more of what this popular Greek island has to offer besides the overpopulated tourist spots.
- Fira to Oia hike
Feeling fit and want the best views of the island? Hike the 10km caldera path from the capital Fira to Oia, or in reverse depending on where you are staying. The route, which starts outside the Hotel Atlantis in Fira, takes you through the villages of Firostefani, Imerovigli and finishes in Oia where you can continue down to Ammoudi Bay if you have the energy. The route takes you along mountain paths with some steep inclines and declines and various terrains along the way, watch out for the downhill gravel section as it’s very slippery. The stunning views are totally worth the aching legs.
If you are in Santorini in the summer, plan to go as early as possible. We left at 8am and the sun was blistering hot by 11am. Take plenty of water, wear good walking shoes, a hat and pack your sense of humour, mine was disappearing fast in the final stretch where there wasn’t shade. A drinks shack is located along the way that serves (overpriced) fresh juices and water etc but it’s not always open.
Read more about the hike HERE
- ATV Self Tour
Hire an ATV from one of the many rental shops dotted around the island and take yourselves on a self-tour. Highly recommend this activity as the best way to explore the whole island and visiting all the coves, beaches and little towns. Head to the East coast to visit Perissa and Kamari which are located on either side of the Mesa Vuono mountain. We had coffee in Perissa on the beach promenade and headed to Kamari for lunch overlooking the volcanic black beach and ocean.
We hired our ATV from santorini-rentme.com
- Santo Wines
Volcanic soil, intense sun and high winds mean the island produces unique wines including the sweet dessert wine ‘Vinsanto’ which is a derivative of the name Santorini. There are several wineries on the island, we choose to visit Santo Wines which is located in Pyrgos.
Visitors can choose to take a winery tour followed by wine tasting served on the terrace with its fantastic sunset views (book in advance to reserve a table at sunset). The tasting flights include a selection of white, red and Vinsanto wines served with savoury platters and are available as 4, 6 and 10 glass options. You can also book wine tasting without a tour and/or dinner in the restaurant.
Click HERE for more information and to book.
- Sunset Catamaran Caldera Cruise
My highlight of the trip was the sunset caldera cruise that we took with Santorini Yachting Club. This was the best organised boat trip I have ever been on anywhere in the world with fantastic staff but maybe we just got lucky with our crew. Nothing was too much trouble, the bbq was freshly prepared onboard (complete with great veggie options) and the drinks were free-flowing. We cruised the Aegean Sea departing from Vlychada Port, with stops where you can choose to swim and snorkel, at red beach, white beach and the hot springs under the volcano. Snorkeling gear and floats are provided onboard.
Without a doubt the best way to see Santorini is from the water where you get to appreciate the sheer height of the caldera and the towns perched on the top. The sunset cruise finishes in Ammoudi Bay with the only negative being a fear inducing choppy mid-sea dismount from the catamaran to a tender. Transport to and from your accommodation is included in the price.
We pre-booked the sunset cruise via Get Your Guide which was a seamless experience – click HERE to find out more information and book.
- Lunch in Kamari Beach
Away from the much publicised cliff top towns of Oia and Fira lies the coastal village of Kamari on the East coast. Kamari Beach is the second largest beach on the island (Perissa being the biggest) and offers visitors a long promenade filled with traditional restaurants, bars and shops. It’s a great spot for a relaxing lunch and there’s plenty of choice. The black volcanic beach is ideal for sun worshippers with many of the restaurants offering sunloungers. Kamari is known as a lively spot on the island that offers more budget friendly accommodation than the more well-known areas located on top of the caldera.
We had an alfresco lunch at the beachfront Prince Restaurant, Lounge & Bar which is located in the Makris Beach Hotel.
- Sunset dining in Imerovigli
Imerovigli has the best unobstructed sunset views on the island so visiting here at golden hour is a must do. People line the narrow streets and congregrate on the steps to get their deserved spot but the best way to enjoy the sunset, views of the caldera and avoid the crowds is by making a dinner reservation.
If you’re looking for a fine dining experience or are planning a celebration dinner with the best sunset views then Imerovigli is the place. We had anniversary dinner at The Athenian House, a fine dining cave restaurant perched on the caldera that’s more spenny than some but definitely memorable. The multi-level outdoor terrace offers spectacular views of the caldera and sunset while the tasting menu offers a selection of signature dishes. Rumour has it that this restaurant has the best wine collection on the island.
Click HERE to see the menus and make a dinner reservation.
- Ammoudi Bay
Enjoy the quirky Ammoudi Bay, the small port located below Oia at the bottom of the caldera. Sensible people walk down the 270+ steep steps from Oia to Ammoudi and get a taxi back but we did it the other way around and I can confirm walking up was a killer! The wide steps wind up the caldera path where you have to avoid the donkeys and abundance of poop which is everywhere.
There’s a few restaurants and bars with the most famous being the Ammoudi Fish Tavern with its famous hanging octopuses. I pre-booked to ensure we got a table but we were disappointed with the quality of food and slow service. I would recommend looking at other options like Sunset by Paraskevas or Taverna Katina where we had pre-dinner drinks.
The only way to get to and from Ammoudi Bay is either by taxi or by walking up or down the steps from Oia. Taxis are expensive and hard to come by in Santorini so you need to ask the restaurant to call you a car or use the recommendation below. Larger taxi’s reverse the whole way down the steep slope which is certainly an experience!
- If you are visiting in the busier summer months book activities and restaurants in advance before you travel. Some of the more popular bars and restaurants (like PK Cocktail Bar in Fira) do have a few walk-in tables if you go early but if you have your heart set on going somewhere in particular make a reservation.
- If you need a taxi company, use this one that offers friendly, reliable drivers and affordable fares (in Santorini terms) compared to others we encountered. Contact Blue Sky Travel on +306971736964 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- There is a regular bus service on the island which is super cheap but they run to a strict timetable and are jam packed. Buses are overcrowded with passengers standing shoulder to shoulder in the aisles so if safety and close contact is a concern get there early to ensure a seat or take a taxi. We used the service once from Fira to Oia and back which was about 30 minutes each way.
- Avoid Oia and Fira if the cruise ships are in because it’s insanely busy especially in the narrow streets of Oia.
- If you plan on hiring a car or an ATV you need an international driving license which are easy to obtain – click HERE for more info if you are UAE based.
We flew direct from Abu Dhabi to Santorini. Direct flights are available with Etihad Airways and Wizz Air (year round availability may be limited as some are summer routes only).
All views are my own based on my experience. Unless otherwise stated all photos © Jo Brett 2022. All rights reserved.