Santorini is the jewel in the Agean Sea’s crown – a stunning island with a rugged landscape shaped by a volcanic eruption in the 16th Century B.C, its jagged cliff faces plunge into the turquoise sea while its beautiful beaches are made up of black, red, and white lava pebbles.
It’s not all about the coastline, though, and if you’re prepared to scratch below the surface or take a trip off the beaten track there are even more natural wonders to discover. Booking with travel-agents that specialise in the local area is a great way to get advice on the ‘insider’ things to do, away from the usual tourist destinations.
Here are 3 things you have to do if you visit though:
Check out the Caldera
The caldera is the underwater crater and the partly-visible rim of the volcano that formed Santorini and is one of the island’s truly natural wonders. It’s worth staying in one of the cliff-side villages of Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli or Oia to make sure you have the time to take in this natural wonder.
And although not part of the island’s ‘natural’ beauty, the whitewashed, cubist buildings – some of which seem to be precariously clinging to the cliff faces – are perfectly at odds with the rugged rocks and add to what is a truly unique landscape.
You can even get up close to the caldera and its characteristic volcanic rock smells, by staying in any one of the cave houses, or Yposkafo, that were built by locals to protect against the high winds that sometimes batter the coast but now house luxury tourist accommodation.
If you’re feeling active then taking the seven-and-a-half mile clifftop walk between Fira and Oia is a great way to check out the breath-taking scenery this part of the island has to offer.
Hit the hot springs
You can get an even closer view of the volcano by taking a short boat ride to the centre of the caldera and the small volcanic island of Nea Kameni. Enjoy the stunning views from a different perspective while walking among the steaming craters and take a dip in the hot springs to reap the benefits of the anti-ageing properties of the water.
Experience a sunset
There are few things as beautiful or romantic as a sunset, and the weather in Santorini means you can enjoy breath-taking sunsets all year round from almost anywhere on the island.
If it’s romance you’re after, take a trip out to some of the more remote spots, like the lighthouse at Faros, or Vlihada beach where you can enjoy sundown from the shadows cast by the volcanic rock formations.
Pyrgos is great for sunset seekers as it’s one of the island’s highest points, while the Oia Castle offers one of the most popular vantage points.
Explore the beautiful beaches
The beaches of Santorini are truly unique and some of the best ones can only be reached by boat – White Beach, for instance, is a black pebble beach surrounded by chalk-white cliffs, while Red Beach has red and black volcanic pebbles and is flanked by imposing red rock cliffs.
A trip to Cape Columbo will take you to one of the island’s most isolated and quietest beaches, the only real downside being that this part of the island can get very windy and the waves pretty powerful – and it’s this wind and wave combination that has carved out the rugged coastline at Columbo.