The Very Best Things to Do in Santorini
Santorini is a stunner. Here's what to do while you're there
The island of Santorini is one of the icons of Greece, blessed with gorgeous natural landscapes, picturesque towns, dramatic beaches, and a history which might just include the mythical lost city of Atlantis. There’s something here for you, whether you prefer to spend your afternoons sipping ouzo in a taverna or swimming in an enormous volcanic crater. To truly get the best out of the island, you’ll want to stay in a home that’s just as remarkable as the scenery, and we here at Plum Guide are ready to provide. We go above and beyond to ensure that our accommodation is as high quality as our advice, so you won't have any unanswered questions once you're done with this guide. Here’s our pick of the top things to do in Santorini.
- Watch the sunset in Oia
- Discover the real Atlantis
- Take a trip to Pyrgos
- Explore Zoodochos Pigi Cave
- Embark on a night hike through Fira
- Travel back in time at Ancient Thera
- Sip wine at Domaine Sigalas
Watch the sunset in Oia
You simply can’t have a list of things to do in Santorini without having the sunset in Oia at the top. It’s the most famous activity to do on the island, and for good reason - the sight of the sun slowly dipping beneath the oceanic horizon off the coast of Santorini is something that everybody should see once in their lifetime. The cascade of white buildings, blue domed churches, and windmills bathed in the golden hour light is truly breathtaking. That said, it would be highly advisable to book a table at a bar or restaurant where you can relax with a glass of wine while the sun does its thing.
At dusk the streets of Oia are packed with tourists armed with cameras, and we know you’re not the type of person who wants to stand among the packed masses. Our home Iremia is just minutes from the centre of Oia for convenient sunset viewing, yet removed enough from the action that you’ll finally be able to get some peace (if your kids will stop playing videos at full volume, that is). With a plunge pool, a view of the Mediterranean sea, and clean, white painted walls throughout, it's a serene escape from the world.
Discover the real Atlantis
Around 3,000 years ago, Santorini was at the centre of one of the biggest volcanic eruptions in the world. The eruption was so large that the effects of the resulting ash, lava and tsunamis were felt around the world. It turned most of the island to dust which sunsequently disappeared into the ocean, creating an enormous crater - making Santorini the half moon shape that it is today. So when you’re swimming in the surrounding sea, note that you’re paddling in water fathoms deep, above a dormant volcano that one day will erupt again. Brrr, now you’ve given yourself the shivers.
It’s even been suggested that the Greek island where you’re spending your hard earned holiday was the location of the mythical lost Atlantis. To get a sense of what life was like in those times, however, you don’t need to discover Atlantis - you can visit the Akrotiri Archaeological Site. Discovered in the 1860s, it dates back to the 17th century B.C (think about that next time you find another grey hair). Once a thriving port town, it’s one of the most important prehistoric settlements in the region. Looking at the multi level buildings, pottery, and drainage systems as you stroll through the town, you’ll almost be able to imagine yourself living here. Fascinatingly, it’s thought that the former residents left in advance of the huge volcanic eruption, as almost no personal effects were ever found.
Take a trip to Pyrgos
If you’d rather spend the day exploring an actual village, as opposed to a prehistoric one, a trip to Pyrgos can’t be missed off your list of things to do in Santorini. The largest preserved village on the island, it’s exceedingly pretty, and a charming way to while away the hours. Perched on top of a hill, the village itself is a labyrinth of winding streets, steep stairs, and fortified walls. There are a number of cute cafes (we recommend getting a coffee frappe) and shops selling local items, and the whole town has views in every direction. This is the perfect place to buy gifts for those hard-to-please relatives who turn up every Christmas. Don’t miss out on visiting Pyrgos Castle at the very top of the hill either, for a combination of history and beauty.
Explore Zoodochos Pigi Cave
From visiting the very top of the hill to making your way below the rocks - it’s time to head underground. Zoodochos Pigi Cave offers a unique experience on the bright, vibrant island, giving you the opportunity to discover the one and only source of fresh water in the entirety of Santorini. The entrance to the cave is at the end of a small hike, which would be fulfilling enough if that was your only plan, and sits near the Zoodochos Pigi Church (how do you think the cave got its name?). Walk through the dark entrance (a light source is recommended) and marvel at the stalactites and stalagmites all around you, before spotting the natural spring.
Hidden away from the world, this really is the perfect place to reflect and ponder, wondering how different life may have been back in the years when this cave was first discovered. The small cave is only 25 metres long, but that’s more than long enough to get your adventure fix for the day. Back outside, you can capture unforgettable views from the top of the mountain (that’s quite a trend here in Santorini), with sprawling sights of Kamari giving you the most incredible photo opportunity. That’s your new screensaver sorted.
Embark on a night hike through Fira
While exploring a cave is probably not something you would want to try at night, an evening hike from Fira to Oia is something to truly capture the imagination. You’ll see plenty of Santorini when it’s basking in the sun, so waiting for the darker hours is a breathtaking way to see the two settlements in a different light. Avoid the bustling daytime crowds and enjoy a quieter stroll across the world-renowned hiking trail, accompanied by an expert guide to answer all your burning questions. Marvel at the lights gradually illuminating the island as the evening comes to life, and find the perfect spot to catch the sunset (we know we’ve already been over this, but it’s so special it deserves a second mention).
Hiking through Fira at night gives you the chance to enjoy one of the most beautiful parts of Santorini in slightly cooler conditions, and allows you to experience one of the island’s best known areas. Once the hike is complete, you’ll even have the option of dinner and wine (who can say no to that?), which expertly rounds up the evening of a lifetime. This is without a doubt one of the most romantic activities to try in Santorini, so treat the other half to an evening to remember. Lights, views, sunsets, and wine - the perfect evening.
Travel back in time at Ancient Thera
You’re in Santorini, so it goes without saying that the views are going to be special, and at approximately 365 metres high, Ancient Thera offers some of the very best. The views aren’t the main appeal of this attraction, but they certainly could be, with perfect vistas of the seemingly endless ocean, as well as eye-catching sights of the surrounding islands. (Cameras are a must in Santorini.) But here at Ancient Thera, these are all secondary to the fascinating discoveries you can make, with inhabitants known to have been here as early as the 8th century B.C.
Explore the walls, settlements, and artefacts of the intriguing area, and imagine yourself as the Spartan King Theras overlooking the development of your new home (or imagine yourself worshipping him - whatever seems more appropriate). The second archaeological site we’ve mentioned in this guide, Ancient Theras holds more history in its metaphorical little finger than many places can boast at all, so there are few more captivating ways to spend a few hours in Santorini. Situated at the top of Mesa Vouno Mountain, it’s probably worth catching a quick car ride up here, but it is walkable for those of you feeling fit (or those of you wanting to experience life as an ancient civilian, of course).
Sip wine at Domaine Sigalas
To round off this expert guide, we’ve decided to get you off your feet - you’ve done enough exploring (until your inevitable next visit to Santorini). Make your way to the island’s northern stretch and discover Domaine Sigalas, a vineyard and winery to put all others to shame. What is a sunny holiday if you can’t bask in the heat with a glass of something sweet? Found on the outskirts of Oia, this winery offers incredible views of the sea (are you shocked?), and is within walking distance of some truly fine restaurants to indulge in once you’ve satisfied your wine craving. As is common in Santorini, the most regularly used white grape here is Assyrtiko, used either alone or blended, fusing with other varieties including Aidani, Mavrotragano, and Athiri grapes.
The vineyard has been operating for over 30 years, and is widely regarded as one of Santorini’s most impressive wineries, so you can expect quality to match all of our high standards. Embark on a tour of the complex and discover the history behind Domaine Sigalas’ methods, before heading to a tasting session (the part you’ve no doubt been waiting for). Sample a number of magnificent wines, and start planning your next trip - yes, it’s that good. Finish up your time here with a bite to eat, predictably accompanied by some excellent wine, and make your way into Oia for the evening. It’s not a long walk, but it may be a crucial one for you after the day you’ve just had.