What to see & Do:
My favourite place in Santorini, as you might have guessed by now, is Oia. For me, it is the best show-stopper village on the island, most beautiful and pristine. So the “To do list” mentioned below, is based out of Oia.
One and only Oia:
To begin with, just roam around the village, Oia. That is the best way to see it all. It’s fairly small and can be explored by foot easily. Divulge in the street spectacles that it has to offer. Go beyond the hoard of tourists and discover off the beaten paths. Just follow your instinct and wander around. You will be amazed to find many beautiful houses and hotels, many quirky shops, beautiful art displays; a spectacle in white and blue.
Watch the Sunset:
If it is your first day in Santorini and you have explored the village and its shops the full day. The next best thing to do is to watch its beautiful sunset. As unarguably, the island offers you some of the best looking postcard sunset images, you should probably be hunting for a place to watch the sunset by now (Guess what! Everyone else is doing that too and you need to grab a place ASAP). Let me just clue you into the many places that you can go:
1) Just do what everyone else is doing. Hang on to the alleys of the village with a clear uninterrupted caldera view. If you get a free spot, just hang onto it. Grab an ice-cream or wine and you are all set.
2) Sunset from the Byzantine castle: This is the old Venetian castle, now in ruins, but offers a spectacular 360-degree view of the open sea and the village around. Not much to see in itself, but the place is a magnet for photographers and couples alike. Same situation here too, you need to find a place soon enough before the crowd and hundreds of tripods arrive.
3) Another way to watch the sunset is to catch one of the many sunset cruises and catamarans. They offer food, drinks and sometimes live music on-board. This is a great way to watch the sunset in a relaxing way. The cruise also offers a view of the island and its villages which you can’t get from the island itself. The view of the houses perched on top changing colours with the changing colours of the sunset hue is a spectacle in itself.
4) For an even private sunset endeavour, you can just book a hotel room with a sunset view. Huh! Not so surprising you say? But, here is the secret; some of these rooms even have hidden plunge pools attached to the room where you can dip in the warm water, sip your wine and watch the sun go down the horizon.
5) If you are a lover of the sunset by the beach, you can go down to the Amoudi Bay. Either take the 300 stairs down or catch a cab to reach the place. Be sure to grab a good chair in one of the many restaurants and café nearby, or best enough, help yourself to the sandy beach.
Hike Fira to Oia:
When you have explored Oia to your heart’s content, the next best thing to do is a hike. The cliff-side stretch between Oia and Fira is spectacular. This is a bit challenging hike and does need you to be in a more than an average shape. The stretch is a total of 10 km and takes about 4-5 hours to complete at a relaxed pace. The trail goes via Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli, and finally reaches Oia. This trail is not stroller friendly and may not be suitable for people afraid of heights.
A few suggestions:
1) Try to start the hike from Fira. So if you are in Oia, you can catch a local bus and reach Fira, and make your way back to Oia. The Hike starts from a square in front of Hotel Atlantis in Fira.
2) Part of the stretch is not paved and becomes very narrow in between. So, good hiking or running shoes are recommended.
3) Carry a snack and a few bottles of water, lots of sunscreen and a hat. Imerovigli can be a good stop for reloading, as you wouldn’t find many options on the way.
4) In summers, you should start the trek early to beat the high heat.
Amoudi Bay is situated just below the town of Oia. To watch the sunset from the bay, overlooking the crystal clear water just makes it a special experience or makes for a pleasant break from the crowds in the village. To access it, you need to take either stair, hire a cab or drive to it. You can visit the place in the morning for a nice dip, a bit of swimming or indulge in some famous cliff/rock jumping. It is less of a sandy beach though but more like a rocky patch, with a handful of restaurants, cafes, and taverns. Don’t be mistaken, like every other place in Santorini, the bay too gets very crowded by the afternoon. It is frequented by many cruises, which stop by the bay and use it as a spot to watch the sunset.
Akrotiri excavation site:
Exhibit in Akrotiri showcases the real settlement of bronze-era, which was destroyed by the volcanic eruption around 1600 BC. The Minoan civilization was buried under the volcanic ash after the massive eruption, which preserved many frescos, artworks, and items belonging to the era intact.
Kamari and Perissa Beach:
The crescent-shaped black sandy beaches of the island of Kamari & Perissa are connected by bus from Fira. The village itself is pretty flat and navigable by foot.
This is the largest settlement for permanent residents of the island. The village has quite and narrow streets with almost no tourists most of the time. Strolling along its alleyways offers a different perspective to the island.
Activities to indulge in:
a) Catch a relaxing Sunset cruise or catamarans which offer food, live music, and drinks onboard.
b) Visit one of the many famous wineries in Santorini. This rugged island produces one of the finest wines you can taste. The rich mineral laden volcanic soil is the mother of a very special and unique grape variety Assyrtiko; a very sweet inimitable desert wine, unique to Santorini, “Vinsanto”.The wineries offer tours to groups and individuals followed by a wine- tasting degustation overlooking the wonderful caldera.
List of some of the famous wineries in the area:
c) Take a boat trip to a still active volcano and hike to walk its gravel terrain on an uninhabited island of Nea Kameni, followed by a dip in the thermal springs of another island PaleaKameni.