Santorini, Greece – Best Beaches and Sites
Note: This is a segment of a larger post I wrote about my 10-day trip to through Athens, Mykonos, and Santorini a few years ago.
Fira and Superjet – Fira is the capital of Santorini, and the port of entry if you arrive by water transport (which I highly recommend). The Superjet passes directly beside the volcano, and heads up to the caldera cliffs with the white-washed villages of Fira and Oia hanging off as if they’re about to fall into the Mediterranean. The Superjet drops you at a bus, which drives you up the caldera switchbacks to Fira. We watched the famed Santorini sunset over the volcano from Fira, and it did not disappoint.
Oia – Oia is gorgeous, but a bit touristy. We spent part of one day there, and our favorite part was hiking down the 300 steps to the tiny port of Amoudi Bay. Surrounded by the steep caldera cliffs and the Mediterranean, the area features a semi-demolished hiking path and a few tavernas serving the catch of the day. There isn’t a beach or swimming area in the bay, but the hike and views are stunning.
Kamari – We stayed at Hotel Orion Star in Kamari since it was centrally-located and affordable. Kamari boasts one of the black sand beaches of Santorini. The beach has a long boardwalk that reminded me of Myrtle Beach, which is why we spent very little time there.
Red Beach – Exploring Red Beach and nearby White Beach was my favorite part of the trip. One should plan to spend a few days here since it encompasses a number of areas. First, there’s Akrotiri Village, an indoor excavation site for one of the most important Aegean prehistoric settlements, which is right off the bus stop. Near the entrance for Akrotiri is a cove that houses a few cafes, restaurants, and other small shops. We had dinner at a restaurant in this cove one evening. We were fortunate enough to land the lone table at the end of a pier, where we had wine and Mediterranean cuisine while watching the sunset.
To get to Red Beach, you hike up and over a smallish rocky cliff. Before you descend, you capture the first glimpse of the massive red cliffs, steeply jutting into the blue-green Mediterranean to create a small, rocky beach dotted by tiny beachgoers. We swam and took in the sites at Red Beach for hours. One thing to remember is that Red Beach is completely covered in volcanic rock. I would be sure to bring water shoes, and arrive in the morning to increase your chances of being able to rent a chair. The water at Red Beach is warmer than at most other beaches, so we enjoyed swimming here.
There are orange water taxis that float up every fifteen minutes and offer to take beachgoers to White Beach. It’s a short, picturesque ride to White Beach, which can only be reached by boat or foot. White Beach is tiny, covered in smooth, reflective lava rocks, and surrounded by white cliffs. The water is very warm (the warmest of all the beaches) and clear. We spent a lot of time swimming out and around the white cliffs before taking the water taxi back to Red Beach.
Perivolos Beach and Perissa – These are the best black sand beaches on the island. Located on the southern end, they are within 3 kilometers of one another, and easily within walking distance. Perivolos has a number of bars and restaurants, yet is tranquil and picturesque. We watched a sunset there, and caught a cab back to our hotel since buses stop running in the early evening.
Santorini Wine – I have to close this piece out by discussing Santorini wine. Not only is it excellent, but it is very cheap, and readily available. Most grocery stores have barrels of wine outside and allow you to fill water bottles of varying sizes for 1.20 Euro. I took a bottle with me everywhere, and am still lobbying US groceries to jump on this bandwagon.