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Your guide to Santorini
All About Santorini
Santorini is an 11-mile-long island in the Aegean Sea, southeast of mainland Greece, and is the largest among a group of small, volcanic islands called the Cyclades. Officially known as Thira (Thera, in ancient Greek), Santorini has been inhabited since the Bronze Age. Its 20 or so villages exist atop one of the largest calderas — volcanic craters — in the world; the eruptions throughout its history helped create the dramatic black-sand beaches across its coastline.
Evidence of Santorini’s prehistoric past is on display at the underground Akrotiri archaeological site, where you can see the intricacies of the ancient civilizations who developed multi-floored buildings and drainage systems. The ruins seen today are the result of a volcanic eruption in the 16th century BCE that covered the village in lava and preserved elaborate wall paintings, dwellings, and pottery.
Santorini’s culture is also embodied in its food and drink. Wineries stretch across the countryside, where you can try the island’s native Assyrtiko white wine. Aromas from traditionally prepared coffee fill the cobble-stone streets, brewed with Greece’s specialty briki pot and enjoyed as a social activity. Local dishes prepared with Santorini’s local white eggplant and chlorotyri goat’s-milk cheese make for a dining experience you may not find anywhere else in the world, thanks to the island’s rich volcanic soil and distinct farming.
The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Santorini
You will find accommodations, including Santorini villas and rural retreats, across the island. During Santorini’s comfortable, warm spring months you can make the 6-mile hike from Fira to the village of Oia and ruins of its 15th-century castle while passing blooming wildflowers like lupins and corn poppies along the way. Mild weather in the fall brings the height of the grape harvest, making it an ideal season for trying one of the nearly 20 wineries scattered across the island.
Take advantage of the hot summer months by visiting some of Santorini’s swim-friendly beaches like Perissa or Kamari Beach. The island also hosts the Santorini Jazz Festival in July and the Ifestia (volcano) Festival in August, featuring fireworks and live music shows. During the colder months, you can take a wintertime dip in the thermal hot springs on Santorini’s smaller, uninhabited island, Palea Kameni.
Top things to do in Santorini
Some of Greece’s ancient history is on display atop the mountain of Mesa Vouno, accessible by a 4.5-mile hike or a drive to the ancient city of Thera, named for the volcano that famously erupted near it thousands of years ago. Ancient Thera sits at more than 1,000 feet above sea level; once you reach the peak, you will have panoramic views of the Aegean Sea while you stand among ancient ruins, founded in the 9th century B.C.E. and inhabited until 726 A.D.
You can experience one of Santorini’s famous black-sand beaches at Vlychada. This swim-friendly beach on the southern coast is surrounded by towering cliffs. The best time to visit Vlychada Beach is later in the day for a beachside picnic and sunset.
Megalochori is a village on the southwestern coast of Santorini whose white-washed walls and bell towers tower over cobblestone streets as a former defense against pirates. The village is surrounded by Santorini’s wine country, making it a great place to try some of the island’s most-loved wines like the sweet, amber-colored Vinsanto and the crisp white Assyrtiko. Megalochori also hosts classical Greek music concerts throughout the year.