Santorini, Greece cruise holidays
When you arrive by sea, there is no confusing the island of Santorini. Dazzling white houses cling to the edge of vertical, rocky cliffs against azure blue waters. The most southern of the Cyclades islands, it is surrounded by Thirasia and Aspronisi, which were once part of a large volcanic island. Considered by many to be the site of the "Lost City of Atlantis", this magical little island glimmers from the fading sun as many watch its decent from the numerous bars and cafes at the water's edge.
The sail-shaped island of Santorini lies in the shimmering Aegean Sea to the southeast of Athens and north of Crete. The circular Santorini Caldera – part of the Cyclades group of islands – was created around 3,600 years ago after the eruption of a huge volcano. The visible parts of its partially submerged crater now form the main island of Santorini and the smaller islands of Therasia, Aspronisi, Nea Kameni and Palea Kameni. Today, tiny Santorini is a big attraction in the Cyclades – the perfect example of an idyllic Greek island; as white and blue as the national flag, with azure domes on bright-white buildings in a blue sky with the blue sea all around.
At the foot of the cliffs around 300 wide steps down from Oia village, Amoudi Bay is a superb spot for snorkelling and swimming. It’s also the perfect place to taste the local fresh fish at your choice of taverna along the water’s edge, and you’re really spoilt for choice here when it comes to dining. Just remember not to over-indulge if you plan to make it back up those steps. Fear not, though, as Amoudi Bay is also accessible by road.
Discover Santorini’s unique wines made from grapes grown in volcanic soil at traditional wineries. The black-sand beach town of Kamari on the east coast, for example, is home to the sweet dessert wine Kamaritis. It’s made from luscious red grapes grown locally and is almost as strong as a port. Even the sweet white wine Vinsanto has an amber colour because of the sun’s heat when drying the grapes. At some of the island’s wineries, you can explore the labyrinthine caves where wine is made deep below the ground and enjoy tasting a few varieties. For each of the many homegrown labels – mainly white – there’s a delicious Greek dish to pair with your choice and enjoy in Santorini’s sunshine.
Things To Do
So Much to See in Santorini
How will you spend your time on Santorini? How about hiking up a volcano or sunbathing on the black-sand beaches at Kamari or Perivolos? Dining on delicious Greek delights at a lovely waterside taverna or riding the cable car up to Fira for fantastic views over the Aegean? Maybe you’d like to go wine tasting in the cool caves and learn about the island’s rare variety of white Assyrtiko grape? For history lovers there are ruins, archaeological treasures and sites such as the 11th-century Panagia Episkopi church that has withstood earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and raids by pirates. You might prefer a boat tour to Nea Kameni, or to enjoy the brightly coloured thermal springs of Palea Kameni. It’s fascinating to think these islands were formed in 1,650 BCE when the volcanic eruption rocked the region, creating Santorini’s dramatic caldera.
Dig into Archaeological Sites and Museums
Among the surprising variety of things to do on Santorini, ancient Akrotiri is a main attraction. Here, your knowledgeable guide can escort you through the ruins of this unearthed city, believed by some to be the famous Lost City of Atlantis. One of the most important prehistoric settlements in the Mediterranean and now preserved by volcanic ash, it’s often called the Minoan Pompeii. Nearby you can enjoy breathtaking views from Santorini’s highest point on the Mountain of Prophet Elijah, 567 metres above sea level. To delve deeper into the island’s history, you’ve also the Archaeological Museum of Prehistoric Thera in Fira, with fossilised olive tree leaves dating back to 60,000 BCE, Minoan ceramics and 17th-century gold figurines.
Santorini’s Red (Kokkini) Beach is so called for its famous red sand, formed from the red volcanic rock cliffs that look to be aflame along the shore. But don't worry, this beach is a safe and enchanting highlight of the island. Located on the south coast, Red Beach is a lovely place to swim in the Aegean Sea, which is a perfect temperature from May to late October when the sun-kissed sands heat the shallows lapping the shores of Santorini. Red Beach is located near the ruins at Akrotiri village.
Sail Around Santorini
Sailing seems the natural thing to do around an island shaped like a spinnaker, and it feels like an epic Greek odyssey. The fact that this caldera, or crater, is a shallow ocean over a mostly submerged volcano makes it all the more extraordinary. Believed by many through the centuries to be the home of the Lost City of Atlantis, Santorini has a truly magical feel. Taking its modern name from the cathedral of Santa Irini in the village of Perissa, there’s a spiritual stillness and simplicity here that’s so rare in our fast-paced lives. Hire a yacht or book a day trip on a smaller vessel for an unforgettable ‘up close and personal’ encounter with the coral and sealife of the blue Aegean.
Food and Drink
Mouth-watering freshly caught seafood and crisp salads with a rainbow of colour to crunch: your plate will be a picture of health in Santorini. Among the well-loved Greek recipes and favourites, you’ll find hearty moussaka, chickpea falafel served with tahini sauce and souvlaki grilled meat skewers with tzatziki. Ask for sides of warm, freshly baked pitta bread, olives and cheeses such as ‘Chlorotyri’ (similar to mozzarella). Look out for ‘fava’ made with yellow split peas, saganaki fried halloumi cheese and ‘domatokeftethes’ – tomato fritters with onions, herbs and spices. No matter which charming taverna you choose around the shores of Santorini, you’ll find Greek flavours to savour. Don’t forget to leave room for a sweet treat like ‘loukoumades’ donuts in honey syrup, rolled in ground cinnamon and walnuts. And why not say ‘Yamas’ to Santorini with a sip or shot of Ouzo, Greece’s famous high-proof, anise-flavoured drink, served with ice and water?
Shopping in Santorini
Take your time when shopping on Santorini and you’ll see so much more than the typical tourist knickknacks you might expect to find on a Greek island. The unique spirit of this stunning island is reflected in the souvenirs you can take home. A magnet for the artistic soul, Santorini has handcrafted wares in every imaginable form, from colourful pottery and gorgeous jewellery to fantastic hats, shoes, clothing and other accessories. Bargain hunters can enjoy browsing for paintings and Greek antiques at the island’s old port capital, Fira, or in nearby Oia village. Each location has fantastic views and a jumble of homes, hotels, shops and swimming pools, all spilling down to the sea together. You’re bound to find something special to remind you of your time in Santorini.
Culture and History of Santorini
Known in ancient Greece as Thera (Thira), Santorini is said to have been renamed by Venetian crusaders after the early Christian cathedral of Santa Irini in the village of Perissa. Excavations have turned up evidence of settlements in the Neolithic era around 3,600 BCE and early Cycladic years 3,200-2,000 BCE. It was around 1,600 BCE that one of the most catastrophic volcanic eruptions known to man occurred, ending the advanced and highly artistic Minoan civilisation and creating the caldera we see today. For many centuries after the eruption, the island was ruled by Romans and conquered by the Venetians, who built its whitewashed villages. The Ottoman Turks then reigned from 1579 up until 1821 and the start of the Greek War of Independence. It wasn’t until 1912 that Santorini was annexed to Greece.
Hiking, biking, swimming and snorkelling; learning about history, wine tasting or simply sitting to admire the beauty of this Greek island – Santorini has something to suit every visitor, mood and moment. It’s a peaceful place of little villages, dazzling white churches with sky-blue domes and tiny twisting streets with shops selling original pottery, paintings and jewellery. But Santorini’s colourful past means there are plenty of celebrations, year-round, to mark historical events. The main one on the calendar is Ifestia (Volcania) in September, which commemorates the huge volcanic eruption that took place here long ago.
Port? What port?! Being a tiny and remote Greek island is a huge part of Santorini’s charm. Cruise guests arrive by tender at Skala, at the foot of the Caldera Cliffs and below the island’s capital, Fira. There’s a cable car to take you up to Fira for incredible views of the blue Aegean all around. And if you’re feeling fit, why not climb the 600 steps up to those rewarding views? Skala Pier has a small selection of restaurants and duty-free shops you can visit at your leisure. With so many arts and crafts makers living on Santorini, you’re bound to find a unique treasure to take home.
The beautiful island of Santorini offers a variety of activities. Take a look at some of the breathtaking destinations you can visit whilst on your Santorini Cruise.