One Day in a City Itinerary – Santorini…
First tip for visiting Santorini is that if at all possible, plan to be in Santorini with enough time to see the sunset. I’ll get to more on the sunset later.
For such a small island, there is lots to see and do in Santorini, the impossibly beautiful Greek isle – such a wondrous place, in fact, that it’s rumored in legend to be the lost city of Atlantis.
Most people arrive to Santorini via water and that should be the start of your experience in Santorini. Get outside and to the edge of the boat once Santorini comes into view and stay there for the entire ride in as you’ll most likely be sailing between the caldera and volcano, offering incredible views of both. The now mostly submerged volcano erupted thousands of years ago and the eruption was so powerful it resulted in most of the island falling into the ocean and producing the caldera, on which many of Santorini’s most picturesque towns perch.
Fira is the main town in Santorini and will probably be the first you hit during your time in Santorini (usually via riding a donkey, cable car, or a steep climb – more on that coming in a later post). It lacks a lot of the charm the other towns and villages of Santorini have and is a bit of a tourist trap so plan on getting out of there right away.
The best way to get around the island? Rent a scooter or 4-wheeler in Fira. I’ve rented a car while in Santorini, too, but prefer the former due to the extremely narrow roads of the island. Scooters or 4-wheelers are very inexpensive to rent for the day and the process is very quick. The visitor center in Fira can give you a map of the area and point out where the rental shops are.
Here are the main sites to see once you leave Fira: The Red Beach, one of the black beaches, Oia, the sunset!
While you may not have time to lie on the beach if you only have one day in Santorini, you should still visit them because the beaches there are pretty remarkable due to the volcanic ash. The Red Beach is my favorite. After a climb over some rocks (note it is a bit of a hike to get there from the town of Akrotiri so may not be ideal for some people) you descend upon a narrow piece of beach with red pebbles and a red and black rock backdrop cradling a little alcove of turquoise water. It’s a stunning sight.
Santorini has a few black beaches – called so due the volcanic ash permeating the sand and giving it a black tint. Perissa Beach is easily accessible and a good choice if you want to visit one of the black beaches. Keep in mind the black sand means walking on it is extra hot so be careful stepping on it without shoes. If you’re hungry after your beach jaunt try one of the restaurants in the area and enjoy the beach view while you eat. Don’t dawdle too much at lunch as you’ll probably want a few hours to spend in Oia once you’re there. Oia is a tiny town, but it lures you into its charm and makes it hard to want to leave.
During the drive up to Oia, you can pass some of the vineyards and wineries. If wine tasting is your thing, stop for a tasting, otherwise, keep going so you’ll have more time at the other sites. Many restaurants also serve wine produced in Santorini so you can try the local wine with lunch or dinner to help save on time.
Oia is built into the side of the cliff with some definite gravity defying buildings hugging the edge of the caldera. The precarious looking nature of the architecture results in some jaw-dropping views. Walk around the many paths winding through Oia and enjoy the views of the volcano, ocean, white-washed buildings, and blue domed churches. And keep an eye out for donkeys running through – or leaving behind some surprises on the ground! Oia is my favorite place in Santorini and it’s hard not to fall in love forever with the island while wandering around it.
Watching the sunset from Oia is ideal. However, for some people who have ferries or cruise ships to catch shortly after it sets, getting back from Oia in time isn’t ideal and can be risky if you have to rely on public transportation due to needing to find a taxi or take a bus if your scooter or car has already needed to be returned. In that case, head to the north part of Fira and eat at one of the several restaurants situated along the caldera there that are perfect for dinner while you watch the sunset. Make a reservation or get there early in order to get a prime sunset viewing table. Had an excellent dinner and view at Zafora restaurant: www.zaforarestaurant.com.
And why is it so important to have a perfect view for the Santorini sunset and make sure you don’t miss it? I’ll let this picture below do the explaining:
Need more proof? Check out this picture of another Santorini sunset. The sunset is even more glorious in person, of course, and casts a glowing hue over the entire island.
The above sightseeing is if you have a completely full day in Santorini. If you’re really short on time in Santorini, I recommend just visiting Oia – it is quintessential Santorini and what most people have in mind when they dream of Santorini.