The ultimate guide to Santorini 2020

By Sreesha Ghosh

IMPORTANT INFORMATION:

Municipality: +30 22 8636 0100
Police Station: +30 22 8602 2659
Port Authority: +30 22 8602 8702
Healthcare Center: +30 22 8636 0300

An island in its own league, Santorini invariably tops most of the world’s must-visit lists. Renowned and revered for its natural beauty, Santorini is one of the most popular destinations worldwide for weddings, and it doesn’t take more than a look at a sunset there to know why.

But Santorini has much more to offer than its aesthetics: it’s buried in historical and cultural significance as well. One of the Cyclades, Santorini is an archipelagic complex of islands comprising of Thira, Thirassia, Aspronissi, Palea and Nea Kameni. One of Santorini’s trademarks is that it remains an active volcano—in fact, it was actually the site of the Minoan eruption which occurred 3,600 years ago and was widely considered to be one of the biggest in all of recorded history. As a result of the eruption, the island’s geological caldera was formed (water-filled crater).

Santorini’s geological landscape comprises a giant central lagoon surrounded by incredibly high, steep cliffs (300m) on three sides, of which one holds the capital, Fira. According to legend, the mythical kingdom of Atlantis lies in this very lagoon.

The actual history of Santorini is rich and extensive. Excavations in the 1960s made Santorini (or Thera, as it is sometimes known) the best-known site of the Minoan civilization outside of its homeland in Crete. Other famous archeological sites across the island complex include Pyrgos, Karterades, Emporio, Ammoudi, Finikia, Perissa, Perivolos, Megalohori, Kamari, Messaria and Monolithos, and Messa Vouno. Learn more about Santorini’s history at the Museum of Prehistoric Thira or the Lost Atlantis Experience Museum in Megalohori.

Museum of Prehistoric Thira: +30 2286 023217

Lost Atlantis Experience Museum: +30 2286 085076

Santorini is also famous for its agricultural products—including cherry tomatoes, white eggplant, fava and goat cheese, and of course its wineries—which can be visited by the public should you feel like it.

But above and beyond any historical, traditional or cultural significance, Santorini is most revered for its paradisiacal aesthetic—the multicolored cliffs that soar out of a sea-drowned caldera, topped by drifts of whitewashed buildings. With its reputation for dazzling panoramas, romantic sunsets and volcanic-sand beaches, there’s no denying the uniqueness and allure of this destination. Here’s what you need to know if you want to join the millions of tourists that go to Santorini annually.

WHERE TO SWIM

When it comes to beaches at Santorini, you’re utterly spoilt for choice. The best beaches across the island—Perissa, Perivolos and Ai-Yiorgis—coincidentally also happen to be the busiest. If you don’t mind swapping out a little peace and serenity for some of the most breathtaking views you’ll ever see, this is the way to go. But if you do, fear not—there are many, many more equally stunning beaches that can also give you the kind of isolation you want. Vilhada, for example, features a magnificent landscape while Theros actually resembles Bali.

The Red Beach is another famous one —with its red pebble layers and umbrellas, it is veritable eye candy. On the northern side of the island, there is the Baxedes beach, and the Koloumbos, an alternative for the more free-spirited.

WHERE TO STAY

Four-star Loucas Hotel is a strong contender, located at the very heart of the caldera, with stunning views of sunset and sea. Vassalos in Perissa is another excellent choice—as is Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa. Holding 57 suites and villas, 5 outdoor pools, and award-winning spa and the award-winning Alios Ilios restaurant, there is little left to be lacking.

Loucas Hotel: +30 22 8602 2480

Vassalos: +30 22 8608 1068

Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites and Spa: +30 22 8660 0630

WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK

Santorini is infamous for its gastronomy and its alcohol—in particular, wines of the Assyrtiko variety. Widely planted in the arid volcanic ash-rich soil of Santorini, this grape wine similar to Sauvignon Blanc characterized by its citrus flavors and high acidity.

The island’s most popular restaurant is called Selene—champion of Cycladic heritage and mothership to a growing culinary empire, Selene overlooks the Santorini vineyards of Akrotiri and Megalohori. Their menus put a high-end spin on traditional recipes such as tomato fritters and fava beans while their accompanying taverna, Selene Meze & Wine offers a simpler, all-day approach, with a deli that sells covetable Greek products and cooking courses run in association with the island’s cultural village.

Other places to potentially visit include—Pelican Kipos, the ideal location to relax and enjoy a coffee, a drink, or a meal at any time of day. You can also book a wine tasting tour at its 400 year old wine cellar for a tasting of some of Santorini's most distinctive wines, as well as local and Cycladic cheeses. There is also The Athenian House at Imerovigli, offering traditional Greek dishes with a modern twist—follow along on a gastronomical journey through the different regions of Greece, within the vintage aesthetics of white pure porcelain, silver cutlery and sparkling crystals.

You can enjoy delicious Mediterranean cuisine, dishes made from the freshest local raw material and cocktails concocted by expert mixologists at Yalos Gastronomy. Other places to consider include Psaraki in Vlihada Beach, Aroma Avlis and Metaxi Mas in Exa Gonia village and Dimitris in the picturesque port of Ammoudi.

Selene: +30 22 8603 3349

Pelican Kipos: +30 22 8602 3433

The Athenian House: +30 22 8603 6420

Yalos Gastronomy: +30 22 8602 5816

Psaraki: +30 22 8608 2783

Aroma Avlis: +30 22 8603 3794

Metaxi Mas: +30 22 8603 1323

Dimitris: +30 22 8607 1606

NIGHTLIFE

The village of Fira is the centre of nightlife; Oia, on the other hand is quieter, more intimate and more romantic. The island’s biggest nightclubs are Enigma and Koo but you can have equally riveting experience across bars in Fira, like Tango, Momix, Casablanca Soul and the historic Franco’s for classical music.

WHAT TO DO

  • Book a cruise! There are several cruises being offered around Santorini—you can try zooming around the island via the Spiridakos Sailing Cruises (+30 22 8602 3755). Should you opt for a daily cruise, you will be provided with guided sailing tours, leisure activity and fine dining and local wine, completing the authentic Greek experience.
  • Explore the Lost Atlantis Experience Museum (+30 22 8608 5076). An immersive experience that takes you across a highly unique building spanning 7,500 square feet near the village of Megalohori, you’ll learn about the myth of Atlantis, its connection to Santorini and experience its destruction through multiple digital installations.
  • Visit the AK Art Galleries (+30 22 8602 1506) . Hosting the oeuvre of some of the most significant contemporary Greek artists in four discrete spaces, the AK experience investigates the boundaries between man, nature, light, art and architecture, offering a unique proposal in the plastic arts created in Greece. Featuring the top artists of Santorini, like Christophoros Asimis, Eleni Kolaitou and Katonas Asimis, the galleries stand out as some of the most significant art spaces in all of Greece.

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©Thanassis Karatzas

©Thanassis Karatzas