Part of the Cyclades cluster of islands, croissant-shaped Santorini is located about halfway from Crete and Athens. Officially known as Thira (or Thera), the island suffered a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago, causing a deep crater (caldera) in the centre. The caldera today is one of the biggest draws.
Stylish, sensuous and incredibly beautiful, Santorini is the cream of the crop when it comes to the Greek islands. Come for the world-renowned sunsets, volcanic sand beaches and seaside villages where tradition has been kept alive despite decades of exposure to international travellers. It's no surprise that the island welcomes 1.5 million vacationers annually. Package holidays in Santorini are a great way to experience the island.
What to know before visiting Santorini?
The island is served by the Santorini (Thira) International Airport (JTR), which lies just 6km from the city centre. A flight from London or Manchester to Santorini is easy. Most European capital cities are connected as well.
British nationals do not need a visa and can stay for up to three months. The island is two hours ahead of United Kingdom, and the official language spoken is Greek. Basic English is spoken at most establishments. Learn a few basic phrases - they'll come in handy during your weekend in Santorini.
When is the best time to visit Santorini?
The best time to visit Santorini is between April and June and in September and October. The weather is milder at these times, and Santorini package holidays are on offer at attractive prices. The high season commences in April around Greek Easter and heats up during the summer months. Your flight to and hotel in Santorini are best booked in advance in peak season.
Summer is a splendid time to visit Santorini for its unending lineup of festivals. Greek and international artists assemble each June at the Santorini Jazz Festival in Kamari, followed by Ifestia Festival in September, which features music and a volcanic fireworks spectacle. Art of Motion in October brings together the world's free runners and parkour athletes, who show off their grit and moves. Religious festivals such as Easter, the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, and the feast of the Transfiguration of Christ and Pentecost are celebrated with much fervour. Every village has its own festival, often marked by candlelit processions and songs.
What to do in Santorini
Spend time at Fira's Old Port (Fira Skala), where most passenger cruise ships arrive. The atmospheric harbour is lined with tavernas and shops, all offering fabulous views from the caldera cliffs.
Kamari, a black pebble beach, and the east coast's Perissa are ideal escapes for those seeking more traditional city breaks in Santorini. Beachside fish taverns, sun lounges, water sports and a pretty promenade keep vacationers busy. Snorkelling, diving and scuba diving are recommended.
Step off the beach trail to discover Santorini's inner vineyards and traditional villages. Pyrgos, Santorini's highest point, is a winner for it winding backstreets, neoclassical mansions, pretty vineyards and tavernas. Nearby, on Mount Profitis Ilias, stands a monastery dedicated to the prophet Elijah and a museum hosting a fascinating exhibition, 'Vanishing Santorini'.
The island's most astonishing sunsets can be experienced at the town of Oia, where you can spend the day exploring little paths, lunching at a fish taverna and then settling into a waterfront bar for the grand finale – a flaming Santorini sunset!
Santorini's legendary nightlife encompasses it all, including sunbed parties, intimate bars on the caldera and nightclubs hosting world-class entertainers. Santorini's capital, Fira, is where the action is. Give in to the night during your weekends in Santorini.
Places to visit in Santorini
Commence your sightseeing at the Museum of Prehistoric Thera, which houses artefacts excavated from Akrotiri, a glowing gold ibex figurine from 17BC, and fossilised olive tree leaves dating to 60,000 BC. Also important is the Archaeological Museum of Thera, located near the cable car station. It's home to detailed clay statuettes and intriguing pottery from Akrotiri and Ancient Thera.
Perched majestically upon Fira's caldera edge, the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral is visible from most of Santorini. Look out for original frescoes painted by Santorini native Christoforos Asimis here. The cliff-perched capital city of Fira is just a 30-minute walk from Imerovigli, which is the highest point on the caldera's edge. The scenic path is filled with terraced restaurants and endless photo opportunities.
Finally, no city breaks to Santorini are complete without a trip to Ancient Akrotiri, where visitors can walk through an ancient Minoan city buried in the massive eruption of 1613 BC. The remains of three-storey buildings, roads and drainage systems are stunning. More history awaits at the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine ruins at Ancient Thera.
What to eat in Santorini
Santorini specialities include white aubergine moussaka, traditional fried tomato balls (domatokeftedes), and fava bean mash (fava me koukia). Fuel up on the island's juicy pomegranates and pistachios, and don't miss out on the globally feted Greek salad, a concoction of veggies, feta cheese and olive oil. There's an old saying that Santorini has more wine than water. Sample some of the local drink, such as Vinsanto, a sweet dessert wine.
What souvenirs can you find in Santorini?
Santorini's one-of-a-kind boutiques and indie shops are a great place to pick up local arts and crafts such as jewellery, wooden objects, evil-eye key chains and petrified lava stone candles. Stock up on local wines, Santorini tomato seeds, white eggplant seeds, marmalade, traditional Greek sweets, olives, and Santorini raki (an alcoholic drink). A pair of Greek leather sandals makes for a great souvenir as well. Consider a flight to and hotel in Santorini for your next getaway.