Houses built right into the cliff face in dazzling white, with deep blue roofs, are common in Greece. Santorini is a great site to see beautiful sunsets, dine at authentic Greek restaurants (try the catch of the day), and explore quaint, old-fashioned towns. Our travel guide has suggestions for exciting activities while visiting Santorini.
One of Santorini’s best-kept secrets is Emporio, the island’s most significant settlement and historic economic centre. Emporio is less than seven miles southeast of Fira and is located at the base of Profitis Ilias Mountain. In this tranquil community, you may glimpse the real Santorini. It’s bursting to the seams with picturesque residences, gardens, boutiques, cafés, bakeries, and old-school watering holes.
A vehicle rental is required if you intend to vent outside Emporio during your stay. The roads of Emporio are largely cobblestone and may become quite twisting and tight depending on where you are staying. Avoid the hassle and rent a compact car, but be aware that you may only be given the choice of a manual transmission.
The historic cave dwellings of Emporio, painted white, are one of the town’s most endearing features. Traditional Greek residences are abundant on the Airbnb marketplace. Staying in one will give you a real-life experience that will have you exclaiming, “We’re not in Kansas anymore!” Many high-end villas in classic Greek architecture can also be found in Emporio. One such complex is Rock Villas, which has a swimming pool, a barbecue area, a garden, and a spa.
Stomp Grapes at Megalochori
Santorini has been producing world-renowned wines from various grapes since Roman times, including the white varieties of Aidini, Assyrtiko, and Athiri and the red varieties of Mandilaria and Mavrotragano. One-sixth of the island is devoted to winemaking, and the volcanic soil used to cultivate these varieties gives its wines a taste of Savoie’s lightness. Santo Wines is a cooperative whose Oenotourism Center, located just above the port, is a fantastic stop for cruise ship guests.
Follow the “wine path” to find lesser-known vineyards away from the hordes of cruise liner passengers. Megalochori is a typical settlement in the southern part of the wine region. Plan your trip, so you arrive in August when the Gavalas family hosts their annual foot-stomping of freshly harvested grapes. Lastly, go to the east to see Art Space Winery in Exo Gonia. The winery’s owner, Antonis Argyros, has turned his underground cave cellars into a museum and art gallery dedicated to the history of winemaking.
Emporio is one of the most incredible places on the island to enjoy authentic Greek food, which is to be expected given the town’s history and character. Of course, Stavros isn’t the only great eatery in Emporio; several others exist.
The Stavros restaurant does not give off an excellent first impression. But, throughout my travels, it is frequently in these establishments that you may sample the finest examples of the local cuisine. Stavros is well-known for its delicious grilled meats, displayed at the front of the restaurant and barbecued on a spit for hours to ensure they are soft and juicy. Massive and cheap, these meat dishes come with pita bread, fried potatoes, tzatziki, tomatoes, and onions and cost less than 10 euros.
The Beach of Koloumbos
The island of Santorini is renowned for its volcanic black sand beaches. Nonetheless, Koloumbos Beach is the place to go if you want privacy. Located about 2.5 miles northeast of Oia, close to the island’s northern extremity, lies Koloumbos, which is framed by magnificent cliffs and a peninsula called Cape Kolumbo. While most tourists are somewhat brazen, nudists frequent the area since it’s a great spot to get your first full-body tan. If you want to avoid the shadow cast by the cliffs in the late afternoon, you should be there early. There are no amenities at all at Koloumbos (the nearest facilities are at Gia Sas beach bar, half a mile west, which charges exorbitant prices).
The active Koloumbo volcano crater (from which the beach gets its name) is located five miles offshore and thirty feet below the surface. The last time it erupted, in 1650, it caused widespread destruction. The waters along Kolumbos Beach are comfortably warm today by currents fed by the vents. You may get here by taxi or quad; the best place to park is near the Soulis Apartments, from whence a path leads directly down to the sand.
Stroll the Streets of Pyrgos
About five miles southeast of Fira, Pyrgos is one of Santorini’s loveliest and best-preserved traditional settlements. It’s also one that most tourists skip. It is a great place to see the sunrise or sunset because of its location on a rocky hilltop on the island’s highest point and expansive views of the iconic blue domes. Its winding streets are lined with old buildings, including churches and palaces, all painted either white or pastel.
Santorini is a romantic and renowned Greek island that tops the list of many vacationers. Yet, if you go out from the stereotypical whitewashed cottages, you’ll find fewer tourists and a chance to take in everything this Aegean treasure offers. Use this guide to see the dawn from a hidden vantage point, spend the night in a cave, and more.
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