1. Take a day to enjoy the beautiful town of Oia
Out of all of the cities on the island of Santorini, Oia is by far the most beautiful. There is so much to do and see in this gorgeous town. Whether it is eating at a bayside restaurant with freshly-caught seafood, gazing at the turquoise waters of Amoudi Bay or watching a breath-taking sunset, Oia is your place. There are also many locally-owned shops with unique and handmade goods which are always fun to peruse. The views of the quaint, white houses over the red cliffs with sapphire water down below is almost magical. There no town like this one in the entire world and is a MUST-see when coming to Santorini.
2. Red Beach
Red Beach is located in the Akrotiri area. Because Santorini is a volcanic island, the volcano caused many different colors of sand and rocks on different parts of the island. (There is a black, white and red beach on the island). Red Beach is definitely a little bit of a walk from the parking lot, but it is worth it. If you are looking for an easily accessible, sandy beach then this isn’t the beach for you. Come to Red Beach with a mindset of exploration and climbing the rocks to get down to the bottom will be fun. Even though it is a little bit of a hike, the scenery waiting for you at the end is extremely rewarding.
There were a couple beautiful abandoned doors nestled into the cliffs like this one
We couldn’t get over how clear the water was! Also if you have rock shoes, bring them. The bottom of the beach is more rocks than it is sand.
Just playing around in the water
3. Climb the “steps”
Ahh…the steps. The steps are located in the town of Oia. When going through the town just follow the signs for Amoudi Bay and you will eventually run into them. (If you don’t see the signs you can just ask a local, they are typically very nice and friendly). We probably climbed up and down these things ten times upon leaving. Climbing the steps is definitely a little bit of a challenge. The steps are crooked, large, jagged, plentiful and all different lengths which is what makes it so difficult. Some people pay to take donkeys up and down which I will talk about later. The reason I recommend taking the steps is because there are many pretty places along the way to admire the view or snap a picture and of course, the good old feeling of self-accomplishment. The good thing is you can go at your own pace and it is a beautiful view for whenever you decide to take a break. Waiting for you at the bottom is the beautiful Amoudi Bay. The views down by the bay are beautiful. The water alone is worth seeing. It was a beautiful turquoise, emerald color when we went. There are also a couple tavernas to relax and enjoy fresh seafood caught by local fisherman. You can also take a catamaran tour out of the bay or go jump of the cliffs.
4. Have lunch with a view
There are many places to eat in Santorini, but you might as well take advantage of your location and eat somewhere with a view! Dining while gazing over the houses and cliffs out onto the water is unreal. Here, we dined at the Nocturna Cafe in Oia. The food was decently priced and tasted great. It was mostly American/Italian cuisine but we were craving that after having been away from the states for so long. The service was fast and the interior decor was very chic. It made us feel like we were at a very expensive resort. They even had a little button that they gave you to buzz the waiter.
Tip: If this is your first time traveling to Europe, they typically don’t split checks so if you are going with a couple of friends, just make sure you have some extra euros.
5. Ride a donkey
Okay so this was one of the scariest things that I did the entire trip. Let me preface by saying, if you don’t like a little thrill then don’t do this. Or just ride the donkey down the steps and climb back up on your own. You can ride the donkeys in Oia, but we rode them in Fira. We paid 10 euro for both ways (up and back down). Otherwise, it’s 5 euro each way. Going down was a little awkward feeling but the donkeys were calm and stayed in a straight line. For us, the journey back up was where the excitement was. It is basically a free-for-all for the donkeys and they just kind of race up the steps in no particular order. They are all bumping into each other and you don’t really have any control. Even though it can get crazy and a little bit scary, you don’t want to miss out on this fun Santorini tradition. It’s definitely a great adventure to add to the books!
Below is a pretty accurate visual representation of events of how things went from good to crazy
6. Take a cruise to the volcano/hot springs
Cruises to the volcano and hot springs typically run somewhere around $100. This was really neat because we got to hike up the volcano and see points where it was still releasing hot fumes. There was also magma and lots of lava rocks produced from the volcanic activity over the last 3,000 years.
The hot springs were also pretty neat. The blue water surrounding the springs was very cold, but as you get closer and the water gets brown and cloudy, the water gets warmer. There is a high sulfur content in these volcanic springs which are said to have many healing qualities!
One of the craters in the volcano
The funky sulfuric water in the springs
7. Take a hike
Because Santorini is very mountainous and rocky, it is the perfect place for scenic hikes! We went on a trail that was located just beyond Red Beach. Just keep going past the main beach area and you will eventually see the trail. We went on to find another beautiful secluded beach with white cliffs. Near the beach, there was a little locally-owned restaurant/snack stand. I ordered some french fries and the woman serving me said, “It will be about 30 minutes because I have to peel the potatoes.” Needless to say they were the freshest french fries I have ever tasted.
8. Go Cliff Jumping
You can’t go to Santorini and not jump from the famous cliff down by Amoudi Bay. For directions and more details, see my post . At first, we were all being wimps and jumping from the smaller rocks closer to the water until the most cautious, timid girl out of our group ironically convinced us to try it from the highest point. It was pretty scary at first because the water is so clear that it looks very shallow. Just make sure that you get a running start and jump out away from the rocks. For directions on how to get there check out my post Cliff Jumping in Santorini .
Disclaimer: This can obviously be very dangerous so use your best judgement and don’t do it if you think you can’t jump out past the rocks. There are also lower points you can jump from which are much safer and still fun.
9. Pay a visit to Black Beach
Black Beach is yet another courtesy of the volcano. As you can see, the sand really is BLACK. Black beach is a fun hangout because it has many restaurants and is good for relaxing. It isn’t comparable with the beauty of Red Beach but it is definitely something to check off the list. There are lots of lounge chairs set up at certain venues and you can use them as long as you order a drink or a meal from the venue. I would recommend doing this because the sand gets very HOT, especially in the summer time. Choosing a restaurant isn’t too hard because almost all of them have really great views and are right on the water. Just know beforehand that you will probably be spending some money if you go to this beach.
A cute little bug with a tribal design that I saw near one of the shops
We ate at one of the restaurants lining the beach . I got a greek salad and it was pretty good. Check out that chunk of feta cheese!
10. Catch a sunset
Before coming to this island, I had heard that Santorini was famous for sunsets. I can definitely see why. You can get a good view of the sun setting behind the volcano from Fira (pictured above), as well as the town of Oia.
Above is the sunset from Amoudi Bay
Here is another picture of the sunset over Fira
This was the sunset view from a rooftop restaurant where we ate on our last night in Oia. As you can see, it was the perfect grand finale.