There are many good reasons why Santorini is one of the most popular vacation islands in the Mediterranean. Whether you want to relax on the beach, sip fine local wines, admire the beautiful scenery, or search for Atlantis, you’ll find something to keep you entertained. Here are 5 of the most unique experiences you can enjoy.
#1. Enjoy a Sunset Cruise
Any boat trip into the Santorini Caldera is a unique experience. In the evening, you can experience a stunning sunset over the Aegean Sea while eating a delicious traditional Greek meal and sipping cocktails from the open bar. Or during the day you can enjoy breathtaking views of the cliffs surrounding the central caldera and visit remote tranquil coves.
However, the most unique experience you can enjoy during a boat cruise in Santorini is a swim in a volcanic hot spring. The 2 islands in the centre of the caldera, Nea Kameni and Palia Kame, feature sulphuric gas vents and underwater hot springs. The Santorini volcano is still active, so lava under the seabed heats the water which emerges as a spring in a shallow cove on Palia Kame.
The orange-tinted water provides a temperature range between 300C (860F) and 350C (950F). Bathing in this mineral-rich water is reputed to offer therapeutic benefits. Many of the cruises around the Santorini Caldera also provide the use of snorkelling equipment so that you can have even more fun in the water.
#2. Explore the Volcanic Seabed
Santorini offers perfect conditions for scuba diving adventures, so grab your scuba gear for some underwater fun. The Aegean Sea features warm water, a mild current and average visibility of 130 feet. There is a selection of diving centres around the island that offer beginners’ lessons, more advanced training toward the Open Water Diving License, and equipment hire for experienced divers.
The seabed is covered with unique volcanic step formations created during the many eruptions of the Santorini volcano. Underwater caves add an extra dimension to your adventures, and there is even a shipwreck.
The wreck is a 110-feet-long tourist boat that sank in the harbour and now lies 40 feet under the waves. Even beginners can enter the steel skeleton of this underwater playground and swim through its coral-encrusted passages. However, what you should really be watching out for is the mythical underwater island of Atlantis.
#3. Explore the “Real” Atlantis
Some of Greece’s most fascinating classical ruins are found in Santorini. The island has seen the passage of many civilizations, from the Minoans to the Byzantine Empire. Ancient Thera on Mount Messavouno was first settled by colonists from Sparta in the 9th century BCE. The city remained important during the Roman Empire and continued in use until 725 CE when it was abandoned following a volcanic eruption.
However, the most interesting archaeological site in Santorini is the Bronze Age city of Akrotiri. This was a Minoan port city buried under volcanic ash in the 17th century BCE. This well-preserved settlement is reminiscent of Pompeii but over 1,500 years older! The excavated remains are protected by a bio-climatic roof and visitors walk over the site on suspended walkways to explore the 2 and 3-story buildings.
The earliest settlement on the site dates back to the Late Neolithic (the last period of the Stone Age) circa 4000 BCE. Around 2000 BCE, the settlement became a significant urban centre covering 20 hectares. Despite its great antiquity, the city features a complex drainage system, multi-story structures, water cleaned toilets, and hot and cold running water (the water heated using geothermal heat). The artefacts uncovered around the city prove a wide area of influence including Syria, Egypt, Cyprus, and mainland Greece.
The city was abandoned following earthquakes and a massive volcanic eruption. However, what’s truly interesting about this city is the impact that its destruction may have had on other nations. The level of culture found at this site is far superior to contemporary settlements elsewhere in Greece, but the society collapsed, and the city disappears virtually overnight. This would have led to stories amongst Ancient Greeks about an advanced civilization that disappeared. Many believe that Akrotiri is the city that inspired Plato’s story of Atlantic.
#4.Sample Unique Wines and Tour a Winery
Santorini is home to an ancient tradition of wine-making that dates back to at least 1,000 BCE. Local wines are made using the indigenous Assyrtiko grape variety supplemented with the introduced varieties of Aidani and Athiri. Wines produced using Assyrtiko grapes are unique because the vines are ancient and survived an epidemic that destroyed many other grape varieties in the 19th century.
The most famous local wine is Vinsanto (holy wine) which is a strong and sweet aged dessert wine. Its unique flavour is attributed to the sun-dried Assyrtiko grapes from vines grown in mineral-rich volcanic soil. When Santorini was part of the Republic of Venice, Santorini’s finest wines were exported worldwide.
If you enjoy fine wines, you’ll love the Santorini Wine Museum in the Koutsoyannopoulos Winery. The museum and associated winery are inside a cave. The exhibitions inside explain the history of wine production on the island from 1660 to the present day. During your visit, you’ll have the opportunity to sample 4 of the winery’s best wines.
#5. Appreciate Santorini’s unique scenery
Santorini is considered by many people to be the most picturesque island in the Mediterranean. From the heights around the village of Imerovigli, you can admire panoramic views of the caldera. In the capital of Fira, you can explore a maze of ancient streets lined with white, cube-shaped houses and beautiful blue-domed churches. This unique urban landscape attracts photographers from all around the world.
The cliffs along the coast rise dramatically from the sea, providing spectacular views. Below, many of the beaches feature unique colours depending upon the local rocks, such as the Red Beach of Akrotiri and Perissa Black Beach. Both Fira and Imerovigli are great places from which you can watch a sunset over the Aegean.