Visiting Santorini might be on almost every single person’s Greek bucket list. Known for its sunsets, tourists flock to this small island every summer to enjoy views of the classic blue-domed churches in Greece. They are VERY popular!
I was surprised to learn that, even though this island is one of the most popular in Greece, there aren’t many people who actually inhabit the island. Many people come from the mainland, from cities like Athens, to work in Santorini for the summer. They’ll work through the summer and return home during the off-season. So you can imagine how busy this island must be in the summer months!
That being said, towns such as Fira and Oia are picture-perfect. They are literally screensavers! I understand why the towns are flooded with tourists every year! But, how much of Santorini have you actually seen? After my visit to Santorini this spring, I was surprised at how small these towns actually are. They are only a small portion of the island!!
There is a lot more to this island beyond these two towns. Sometimes people forget that when they think of Santorini, they simply imagine Oia. But there is quite a lot of the island left to see! On one of our last days in Santorini, before heading back to Athens, we made sure to leave time in order to visit all of Santorini.
Here are some experiences you must try when visiting Santorini!
Tips on visiting Santorini!
🚗 One thing I do want to mention is that joining a tour or renting a car is probably the best way to visit more of Santorini beyond the main towns. The buses in Santorini, although were reliable and I had no issues using them, they offered limited access to some of the spots on this list. This is something to keep in mind while reading and planning your trip! If you do not have access to a car, consider taking a tour!
🏨 I highly recommend staying in a cave hotel! Santorini houses are built into the rock and they are a super unique way to visit the island! We stayed with Anemi Villas and it was BEAUTIFUL! We had our own little house and had a private sitting area where we could watch the sunset! Couldn’t have asked for a better place to stay in Santorini! You can check out the hotel here!
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1. Traditional Greek Cooking Class
This was my FAVOURITE experience from our visit to Santorini. We went on a small group cooking class booked through Airbnb. A local Greek grandmother, who retired from running a restaurant, hosted a cooking class in her home to share some of her favorite recipes. It was the PERFECT way to spend a morning! We learned how to make Moussaka, horiatiki (Greek salad), tzatziki, stuffed eggplant, and fava.
She was absolutely adorable and shared the recipes she has been making for ages. I was surprised to learn how relatively easy the food was to put together! And it was my FAVOURITE meal from the entire trip! She shared about her life and her family and of course her cooking tips and tricks. I really loved this experience and highly recommend giving it a try!
If you’d like to know more about the experience, you can find it on Airbnb here!
2. Walk the cliffs from Oia to Fira
Fira, the capital city of Santorini, and Oia, the go-to tourist spot on the island, are actually linked by a hiking path. The trail walks along the Caldera cliffside offering fantastic views of the sea and the rocky landscape of Santorini.
It’s not the easiest hike in the world as it follows the natural contours of the island. It is a hilly trail that is roughly 10.5 km long. But following the trail, you will have the chance to explore smaller villages such as Imeroviglion and Firostefani. You also have the chance to admire the stunning views of the island.
It goes without saying that if you’re visiting Santorini in the summer months, that is a very hot and sunny destination. Hiking during these conditions can be quite tiring, so be sure to bring water and proper shoes!
3. Explore the small town of Pyrgos
Pyrgos is a very underrated small town nestled in the hills and I highly recommend stopping by when visiting Santorini! Pyrgos is the highest village on the island and offers great views of Santorini! It is a very cute, traditional village on the island that many people tend to skip. They have tonnes of cute shops, cafes, and a wide range of restaurants to choose from. Making it the perfect place to spend an afternoon or evening!
What to do in Pyrgos? Well, there are a monastery, castle ruins, a few churches and even a museum about Santorini you can visit! One of the main things this village is known for is its food options so I would definitely spend ample time exploring the town and finding some traditional food!
4. Admire the view from the Monastery of Prophet Elias
Not too far from Pyrgos you can stop by this relatively well-known Monastery. By visiting the Monastery you are gifted with the best panoramic view of Santorini. It is the highest point on the island! It is one of the oldest on Santorini and was originally built as a school to teach Greek language and literature. Nowadays, it has its own museum inside! During our visit, the museum was closed so we didn’t get to go inside but I can attest the view is quite impressive!
5. Enjoy the black AND red sand beaches
This was what surprised me the most when visiting Santorini. I knew about the active volcano in Santorini, being that it is one of the top things to visit on the island. The volcanic history of Santorini is actually really important to the island’s development! One of the largest volcanic eruptions took place in Santorini around 3,600 years ago and as a result, the entire shape of the island evolved to what we know it as today!
However, I didn’t piece together that as a result, there are some pretty beautiful volcanic beaches on the island! When visiting Santorini you must pay a visit to the Red Beach and Perviolos Beach! Red Beach is one of the most known because the beach is secluded underneath a wall of red volcanic rock. Perviolos Beach is one of the few black sand beaches on the island that has really great energy and a pretty awesome restaurant nearby!
Interested in visiting the Santorini Volcano? Here are some tour options for you:
6. Visit the Lighthouse of Akrotiri
Another great viewpoint on Santorini is on the opposite side of the island from Oia. It is one of the first lighthouses in Greece and sits on the very tip of the island. One of the main reasons why I would visit this spot is to admire the view AND the sunset. Most people will flock to Oia but from what I’ve heard, this spot is another great, less crowded viewpoint to witness the famous Santorini sunsets!
7. Visit a winery
If wine is your thing, you must pay a visit to one of Santorini’s wineries! The island has a history of winemaking for more than 3,500 years! This is mainly thanks to one of the largest volcanic eruptions in history that left Santorini with rich, volcanic soil making it a very unique wine region. Something I learned recently is that there are even some indigenous grapes found on the island!
There are several wineries that you can pay a visit to! I personally have heard great things about Santo Wines and Gavala’s Winery. Domaine Sigalas is also very accessible from Oia making it another popular spot to visit!
Here are some tour options you for you check out:
Ready for you visit to Santorini?
I hope this list has given you plenty of ideas on how to spend your time in Santorini OUTSIDE of Oia! If I’m being completely transparent, Santorini wasn’t my favourite island in Greece. It is a destination that I think was extremely overhyped for me that in the end I kind of left disappointed. Not because the island wasn’t beautiful but because my expectations were so high that no experience could have matched them.
I still think visiting once in your life is a must. There is something so special about watching one of the most famous sunsets in the world. Or finally getting to see those iconic blue domes! I would advise visiting during the shoulder season because the crowds of tourists do kind of sour the experience of the island. And when you do, don’t forget to venture outside of the towns.
Want more tips on visiting Greece? Check out these 7 things you need to know before visiting Athens!