When you see pictures of Greece you usually see the famous white houses and blue domes. Those photos were almost always taken on the island of Santorini. Cruise Port Santorini is a highlight of a Mediterranean cruise. This beautiful Cycladic island enchants you with its beauty. From the glorious sunsets and dizzying multicolored cliffs with whitewashed buildings and picturesque streets. With the high caldera with the white houses, Santorini is absolutely blessed with a unique landscape. Its beauty makes it one of the best and most romantic places to visit in all of Greece. Your jaw will drop when you see the beautiful blue domes and gorgeous little villages on top of the caldera. But there are also so many more things to do and attractions to see. These are the must-see highlights. The answer to your question; What to do in Santorini.
The eternal beauty of Santorini Greece attracts many cruise ships every year and it is no wonder that the island is one of the top tourist destinations in the world. The rugged cliffs, the wild volcanic landscape, the wild nature, and the beautiful beaches, but of course the iconic cobbled streets are unforgettable. This in combination with the rich history and traditions makes Santorini the pearl of Greece.
A little history
Santorini got its current crescent shape around 1650 BC. There was a serious volcanic eruption. In ancient times the shape of the island was round and in fact, a myth says that Santorini miraculously emerged from the sea. However, due to the intense volcanic eruption of 1650 BC, about half of the island disappeared. It also covered the Minoan settlement of Akrotiri in the south of the island with ash. It also caused high waves that even reached the northern coasts of Crete. The Minoan cities were even destroyed, including the famous Knossos Palace.
Today, half of Santorini’s caldera is underwater. This makes it the only sunken caldera in the world. The volcano of Santorini is still active and over the centuries many eruptions have occurred. The last time was in 1956 when small volcanic islands emerged from the bottom of the caldera. In one of these eruptions, the island of Nea Kameni popped up, directly opposite the caldera villages. We visited this volcano island by sailing boat excursion but you can also go there by jet ski. It is a must-see in Santorini. You will literally get hot!
The most special and striking thing about Santorini is the architecture of the villages. These are built on and on the edge of the caldera. These picturesque villages are distinguished by their whitewashed houses, cobbled streets, beautiful churches, and above all, the breathtaking view from the caldera, on the Aegean Sea.
From your cruise ships’ tender, you arrive at the capital Thira. You arrive at the bottom of the caldera in the old port and you can go up via the cable car or via a long winding road. The caldera stretches all the way toward Oia on the other tip of the cliff. The cable car costs €6 one way per person. We do not recommend you to sit on the donkeys up. For the sportive cruise lovers, it is possible to walk up!
20 THINGS TO DO IN SANTORINI
1- Take the scenic walk from Fira to Oia
For unforgettable sunsets and scenic views, take a hiking trail that connects the towns of Fira to Oia. The 9-kilometer course of scenic paths and lanes has been called the most iconic thing on Santorini. And not without reason! As you walk along the rim of the caldera, you pass quaint villages dotted with pearly white buildings and the famous blue domes like in Firostefani and Imerovigli.
You’ll also get the chance to see beautiful views of rugged coastlines and raging waves. And of course a beautiful view on your cruise ship down below in the clear blue sea! It takes about four to five hours to walk the trail.
You take the most beautiful Instagram-worthy photos and capture lifelong memories. You can choose to first take a taxi to Oia and walk back to Fira or of course the other way around. There are also boat tours available from the old port to Oia.
2- Wander through ancient Thera (or Fira, Thira)
Ancient Thera is located on a ridge of the Messa Vouno mountain. It is an ancient city with beautiful archaeological artifacts and a street that extends up to 800 meters. A meeting place, also called Agora which means meeting place, is the main square of the city. The street branches off to temple grounds, homes, shops, and other facilities. The road eventually ends at the highest point of the mountain. There are the ruins of a beautiful courtyard building that was believed to have been the residence of a commander.
Wandering through ancient Thera will give you a glimpse into the life of the ancient Greeks who once lived here and, of course, it’s great shopping. You will find many jewelers and silver shops in addition to of course all the souvenir shops and restaurants.
3- Hike to the top of a volcano Nea Kameni
Nea Kameni is a volcanic island that is part of the Santorini archipelago. Hiking to the top of it is one of the best things to do in Santorini! You can book a great Catamaran boat trip for this in the old port of Fira. The boat trip itself is great fun and you even get the opportunity to jump off the boat into the clear seawater. We went on an organized sailing boat trip by Seabourn and it was amazing!
4- Taste Santorini wine
Santorini is famous for its wine and wineries. Many wineries offer tours and wine tastings, but you can also book a tour where you visit multiple wineries. Many are small and difficult to find if you do not know the island well. The Santorini wineries with the best Caldera views are Santo and Venetsanos. Most tours will definitely visit these. The best Santorini Winery Tours: Santorini Small-Group Wine Tour.
5- Explore the Akrotiri archaeological site
This archaeological site of Akrotiri in Santorini contains ruins of the city of Akrotiri. This city was buried by a volcanic eruption in 1700 BC. The first occupation dates back to the late Neolithic (4th millennium BC). You can explore the huge visitor-friendly site where walkways lead you around the entire perimeter. There are not many placards or informational pamphlets. So if you want to know the full history during your visit, hire a guide. The surrounding village of Akrotiri is also beautiful and I would definitely go and see this one.
6- Take a Caldera Cruise
A caldera is a large bowl-shaped crater formed by volcanic activity. In fact, the entire interior of the volcano has exploded, leaving a horseshoe-shaped rim. The caldera that lies in the bay is beautiful and sailing around it is a top activity on Santorini. This especially at sunrise or sunrise. There are plenty of tours that will book you on an unforgettable cruise.
These two are the most popular and highly rated:
Santorini: Catamaran Cruise with Lunch and Open Bar
Santorini’s Five-Hour Catamaran Cruise
And for the lucky ones having a late depart sail-away, there is a gorgeous Santorini Sunset Cruise
7- Lunch with a view
When you are in Greece you should at least eat real Greek. Many traditional Greek dishes include salads with Feta or delicious moussaka or souvlaki! A Greek salad is one made with the ingredients Santorini is known for: capers, sun-dried tomatoes, and cucumbers. You will find a delicious lunch menu at Volkan on the Rocks. This restaurant with a great terrace with a view can be found between Thira and Imerovigli. Watch your cruise ship way below in the clear blue sea is special! Order a delicious Greek wine and you will be impressed by the unforgettable view. This will be a moment to remember and a place to return to.
8- Walk the steps from Oia to Amoudi Bay
The bay and port of Amoudi are located on the northwestern tip of the island of Santorini, on the seafront below the town of Oia. The white buildings of the Amoudi town built into the blood-red slope of the caldera cliff look very picturesque.
Amoudi Bay is one of Santorini’s many gems and is a hidden gem. This harbor is easily accessible by boat from Oia but you can also walk down the 278+ steps in about 15 minutes. The total rise of the stairs is about 120 meters. Getting to the harbor is a bit of a challenge! You have to trust your intuition because there are no signs and cards. Wear your best rock-solid shoes, walk the weathered paths and after a few wrong turns, you reach Amoudi Bay.
Another way to reach Amoudi Bay is by road with ATV, car or of course a taxi. In Amoudi Bay you can admire the interesting red volcanic rocks built from ignimbrite. Ignimbrite is an igneous rock, formed as a result of a volcanic eruption and the falling out of pyroclastic materials (pieces of rock in solid form). They get bonded together with hot, liquid volcanic ash. It is a highly porous, sedimentary, and acid rock. Another name for ignimbrite is hardened tuff.
In the port of Amoudi Bay, we will find numerous restaurants serving primarily seafood and fish caught by local fishermen in the surrounding waters. Grilled octopus is a delicacy of the restaurants in Amoudi.
9- Swimming on a red sand beach
The red beach is one of the most scenic and interesting beaches on the island. It is located near Akrotiri village. The reason for its popularity is, you guessed it, its color! This small beach has various shades of red that can be easily seen from the headlands. That is if you decide to take the rocky path along the mountain to reach the beach.
Red Beach is without a doubt worth a visit as it is a rare sight and probably unique in the whole world. Red is the dominant color of the beach. It is enclosed by steep red hills that create a captivating, wild landscape. When you get to the top, you will see huge volcanic rocks in the sea. You will find small pebbles and sand in different colors, but mainly red along the beach and attractive clear and dark blue water. This beautiful palette of contrasting colors will enchant you. Another natural wonder created by the volcano.
The beach is semi-organized and there are white sunbeds and umbrellas available. The two canteens that you can find just before the start of the path, provide the necessary supplies. There are no facilities or water sports on this small beach. But you can enjoy snorkeling as there are interesting rock formations and rich marine life.
Red Beach is naturally sheltered from the wind, so it can get quite hot. From there you can go by boat to White Beach, another distinctive beach. There you can encounter small caves for exclusive diving. This incomparable landscape and the images of natural beauty it richly offers are not to be missed.
10- Views from the Akrotiri Lighthouse
Akrotiri Lighthouse is located on the southern peninsula of Santorini Island in the beautiful, peaceful village of Akrotiri. There you will find the famous lighthouse, 18 kilometers from the capital Thira. It is considered one of the best and most beautiful lighthouses in the Cyclades.
In tune with the rest of the island, it is an admirable building with the typical whitewashed walls perched on the edge of a high cliff right above the sea. It is definitely an idyllic setting. There is no public access in the building. You can enjoy it by sitting on the stone outer wall or on the rocks by the sea around. The fascinating view is unforgettable.
The lighthouse is easily accessible by road from Akrotiri village and the route is already beautiful. It is really worth a visit as the sight and views you get to see are pure magic.
11- Helicopter over the island
Well, it’s not the cheapest. But it doesn’t get much more bucket list-worthy than flying in a helicopter over the scenic landscapes of Santorini and the surrounding sea! Soar high into the sky and enjoy panoramic views of the epic blue-domed rooftops, picture-perfect beaches, and volcanic caldera. You can check out some of the best helicopter rides here.
12- Photograph the Iconic Blue-Domed Roofs
From Agios Theodori Church to small chapels in Oia, the photos of the iconic blue-domes of Santorini is the quintessential shot found on plenty of postcards. Don’t miss them and here’s where to find them.
13- Drive an ATV
For those who are somewhat adventurous, there are also some nice ideas. To explore the island independently, there are a few transport options. One of the most popular (and most fun) is renting an ATV. For about 50 euros a day you can sail with the wind in your hair on the roads. The island is not very big so you get the chance to explore a larger part. It is not that difficult to find a rental shop.
There are one or two on the main street of every city or village. You can recognize them by the row of quads parked in front of the door. Be careful in traffic with the steep and sometimes obscure roads and of course pay attention to the delicious Greek wine!
14- Santorini Wine Museum
Wine is an important part of Santorini and also has history on this island. The Koutsoyannopoulos Wine Museum has everything a visitor could want to know about winemaking. And of course, it is located in one of the most unique places on earth.
With the Koutsoyannopoulos family knowledge and historical exhibits, you will get a glimpse of what life was like here as a winemaker.
The only one of its kind in Greece, the Wine Museum is housed in a natural cave. It is eight meters underground, 300 meters long, and has a labyrinth-like shape.
The wine museum presents the history of wine and the life of the winegrowers in Santorini from 1660 to 1970. You will learn about the history of wine by viewing semi-mobile and still-life figurines.
An automatic audio guide is available in fourteen languages (Greek, English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Russian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Turkish, Romanian, Bulgarian, Portuguese, and Brazilian Portuguese). A guide is also available in twenty-two languages.
At the end of the tour, of course, comes the most important thing. You will be invited to try the four best wines made in their own winery. You will enjoy every taste in the special wine-tasting room with an ambiance that will certainly contribute to a great experience.
15- Walk to Skaros Rock
After all the wine and delicacies, you need to burn some calories again. So we go back to the activity. Sitting on the edge of Imerovigli and jutting out into the Aegean Sea, Skaros Rock is hard to miss. The large rock, which was created by volcanic eruptions, was a former fortress with two castles. Rock and Kato Kastro.
You can make the half-hour hike to the top and here’s a quick guide on how to do it. Keep your camera handy – there will be plenty of photo opportunities along the way!
Start at the Grace Santorini Hotel in Imerovigli and pass by the Church of Agios Georgics. This is a small church and you will probably see a lot of photos taken on the roof if it is later in the day. You will see the path leading to Skaros. There isn’t really good signage, but it’s pretty easy to figure out!
The path leading to the left goes down the mountain. You will walk down for a while. Enjoy that for a while but also prepare yourself for a little surprise at the bottom.
There you will find another church, and that is, of course, no surprise in Santorini! Here you will find a beautiful view and I am sure you will take many beautiful pictures here!
Yes, we also started very fanatically on that path that goes straight up to the top. It looks less difficult than it is but, of course, it turned out to be much more intense. We quickly read online that it was vague, so we opted not to do this after all. Even the first part was quite a job, especially because of the heat. So by the end of our trek, we were pretty exhausted!
And… of course, ready for a refreshing glass of wine!
If you want a really active day, you can include this trip to Skaros in your walk from Fira to Oia. Then stop for a while and do this walk. This one takes about an hour and has considerable height differences so it is a bit of a climb. Still, I definitely recommend this walk for great views and as a fun alternative to the classic walk to Oia! But you need a bit longer and so start earlier on the day. We started too late for it this time.
Good walking shoes,
Water (the heat can be intense)
I always recommend going early if you can to have fewer crowds and heat!
16- Visit the Tomato Factory Museum
D. Nomikos’ Tomato Industrial Museum is housed in an interesting, modern, multi-purpose art space. The Santorini Arts Factory is located on the striking Vlychada Beach. This unique landscape resembles the lunar landscape. To book your tickets go here.
The cherry tomato is a typical product of Santorini. It is famous for its characteristic small size, hard skin, juicy flesh, and sweet taste. That’s why he makes great tomato paste. Especially because of the arid, but rich, volcanic soil of Santorini, which gives not only the wine but also the tomatoes a unique taste.
The prominent tomato processing factory of Dimitrios Nomikos used to be on the site of the current museum. He not only produced tomato paste but also cans. His son, George Nomikos, founded the factory in Vlychada in 1945. In 1981, due to the drastic reduction in tomato cultivation on the island of Santorini, this factory closed down for good.
In 2014, some 30 years later, the historic tomato factory was transformed into a modern industrial museum. It puts the cultural heritage of the island and Greece in the foreground. Visitors can take a journey into the past on a guided tour and witness the artisanal growing, processing, and production of tomatoes. In addition, they can admire the various exhibitions dating back to 1890. With a collection of processing machines, old tools, and manuscripts, the first labels ever used, as well as audiovisual material with recorded stories of people who worked in the factory, making the visit worthwhile.
Finally, the beautiful stone building houses a modern gift shop with beautiful souvenirs, clothing, bags, ornaments, handmade ceramics, edibles, and publications. All innovative items are inspired by Greece and made by Greek makers.
17- Get a Fish Pedicure
While strolling through the town of Fira, make a stop for a fish therapy treatment. For hands or feet, you can go to various shops in the capital. Stick your toes into the aquarium and the tiny Garra Rufa fish will gently suck away the dead skin from your fingers and toes, leaving them silky smooth. This technique is primarily intended to help people with dermatological conditions, such as eczema, but can also be very relaxing.
18- Sunbathing on the Perissa black sand beach
What’s wrong with an afternoon relaxing on the beach? Blue roofs and sunsets may be the main reason you travel to Santorini, but the beaches are sure to leave a lasting impression too.
The black sand beach of Perissa is one of the largest and best known. The famous black volcanic sand combined with the deepest blue waters makes it a top attraction on the island. It is located on the lower part of the island. Put on your sunglasses, apply sunscreen and grab a lounge chair so you can spend a relaxing afternoon on the beach!
19- In Greece, Drink as the Greeks Drink!
If you’re a fan of an iced latte, chances are you’ll love a Greek frappé! This coffee drink was invented in Thessaloniki, Greece in 1957. It is usually made with Nescafe instant coffee, ice, water, sugar, and milk. You can find them at most cafes all over the island.
Ouzo is another traditional strong drink that every summer is consumed by the Greeks as an aperitif but also as an alcoholic drink at dinner. It is certainly one of the best-known Greek drinks in the world. It can be enjoyed on its own or as a drink as part of a more complete meal that usually includes seafood. Drink ouzo with ice, the way Greeks drink it, its anise flavor is ideal for refreshing you on the hottest days. Its alcohol content is the perfect detonator to spend a few hours of fun in the company of friends.
In Greece, there are specific places, called “ouzeries“, where they serve this tasty drink along with small plates of food. All you have to do is sitting there and taste ouzo with ice cubes in a small glass, adding cold water eventually, and eating what you just have on the table.
It, however, is not just a drink. It can also be an excellent ingredient for many recipes of the Greek culinary tradition: baked meat, panfish. Trying ouzo liquor in the kitchen becomes an innovative way to present always new and extremely tasty recipes.
“Drink a Donkey instead of riding one”
Because we advise against going with the donkeys from your tender to the top of the caldera, we have a great donkey alternative! Bottles of the locally brewed Donkey beer can be found in many cafes and restaurants around the island. This is made by the Santorini Brewing Company. Of course, you can also go straight to the source by visiting the brewery and tasting their three products: yellow donkey, red donkey, and crazy donkey. Believe me, it’s better than riding one of those poor donkeys! Which Donkey fits you best?
20- Shop for local crafts and books in Oia
Surely it would be a shame to leave Oia without a souvenir. While many shops cater to the general crowds and offer overpriced trinkets, there are also many shops selling beautiful pottery and local crafts. The many small galleries are also worth a visit. Stroll through the small streets and explore Oia enough to find them.
Atlantis Books is a quaint bookshop on the main street in Oia and tucked away downstairs. Hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the cities, it is the perfect place to escape. The genre of books ranges from classic to modern and from English to French to Greece.
The conclusion is easy. This beautiful island is actually not suitable as a cruise port at all! You simply always run out of time to see all facets of her beauty! And if you have a fairly early sail away you might also miss the famous sunset in Oia! This island is therefore typically one where you decide to come back for a longer period of time. To ‘feel’ and experience it even more. But…. you can now cross Santorini off your bucket list!
Have I missed an absolute must-do or visit? Then let me know below!