The beaches of Santorini are a blessing on this enchanted island. It managed to survive all kinds of calamities, and despite its appeal to millions of tourists from all over the world, it stays true to its beauty in the azure of the Aegean.
Seven thousand years ago the Santorini as travelers know it today was a vastly different human habitat. What must have begun as a collection of Stone Age fishing and farming villages, soon became a trading center between Minoan Crete and Cyprus sometime after 3000 BC.
Scholars think that ancient Santorini became significant because of its strategic location first, and later because of critical trading with goods like copper. For these and other reasons, Santorini and its most famous ancient settlement of Akrotiri must have been a shining example of culture and civilization. Today visitors can still see remnants of paved streets, a cutting edge (for the time) drainage system, multistoried buildings, and artifacts of indescribable beauty and innovation. As part of the Minoan Civilization, Akrotiri and ancient Santorini flourished for more than 500 years, until the catastrophic eruption of Thera sometime between 1642–1540 BC.
Archaeologists estimate the first settlements on the island date back to the Post Neolithic Period. Akrotiri today is a kind of time capsule, not so different from the Roman city of Pompei, where the volcanic matter that covered the city and the whole island ended up protecting and preserving the buildings. Some historians contend that Santorini was the inspiration for Plato’s story of Atlantis, as mentioned in his dialogues Timaeus and Critias.
When visiting the island, travelers should be aware there are actually two settlement sites from ancient antiquity. Akrotiri is the oldest known settlement, but Ancient Thera (Αρχαία Θήρα) on top of Messavouno dates to the time of the Spartan settlers who came to the island during the 8th century BC. It is from this high dwelling place that Santorini tourists will capture the most stunning views anywhere on the island.
We also recommend visiting Fira, where you will find several museums that are worth seeing. First, the Prehistoric Museum holds many exhibits from Akrotiri and other archaeological sites on Santorini. There’s also the Archaeological Museum, that presents findings and artifacts from Ancient Thera. Also, a must-see is the Gyzi Megaron and the Museum of Local History, situated in the Kontochori Quarter.
Finally, there is indeed something magical about Santorini, and something more than the visual of a vanishing sun in the West. Certainly, the dramatic landscape of jagged hills plunging into the blue Aegean is stunning, and the picturesque whitewashed houses with blue roofs create a living postcard for visitors. Great people and remarkable cuisine make the island special too. However, one cannot help but sense there is something more here. Something magnetic that compelled those adventurous settlers to make the journey into what would become the new world.
Maybe an ancient Greek myth serves to explain the island’s distinctive character. According to old Greek stories, Santorini was formed out of a miracle connected to the famous Argonaut expedition. According to the legend, Jason and his shipmates were on their way home, when they landed on Anaphe, a small island of the Aegean Sea.
It was here that Euphemus had a vision of making love to a nymph, a siren who was the daughter of the messenger of sea god Triton. After their union, the woman told him she had become pregnant with his child and chided him over how her father would be angered. She begged for a place to hide so that she might escape the wrath of the god, to which Euphemus responded by throwing a clod of dirt into the sea. This speck miraculously re-emerged from the vacant sea and turned into an island. Euphemus named it Calliste, which means the most beautiful, but the name “Thera” is from his son of the same name, who was born there. And so, it seems clear that Santorini has been beloved by the gods from the dawn of times.
Santorini is famous for its iconic landscape that looks ethereal under the colorful tones of the sky at sunset. The island is on almost everyone’s “bucket list” of places to see. But glorious sunsets are just happy endings on days so full of potential. Among all the treasures of Santorini, five castles still stand to tell the tale of a glorious past of bravery and endurance.
Santorini is the iconic Greek destination with the most fascinating sunsets and postcard-pretty cliff houses carved on the slopes of the caldera, coated in sparkling white, which contrast with the light cobalt blue of the church domes and with the vivid magenta of the bougainvillea in bloom. It’s an island with a rich past, albeit checkered at times, a brilliant example of human endurance in challenging conditions. So, we’ve rounded up eight of the must-see museums in Santorini that show some of the historical trials that make the island great.
Christmas on Santorini? Why not? The island is delightful when the tourist crowds return to their homes. It is peaceful and romantic, nothing like the Santorini you may experience in the warm months.
Oia looks somehow deserted around Christmas time, but you can still enjoy Santorini if you find accommodation in Fira, which is the capital of the island and its largest city. Here there are still hotels catering to tourists as well as several restaurants and cafes that serve the local population.
But what is Santorini truly like at Christmas? As famous as the sunsets may be, the sunrise on Santorini is equally spectacular, especially in winter. Some of the most beautiful celestial spectacles take place when the tourists are far from the island. This is the best time to visit Santorini armed with a professional camera. Shots like these are rare, especially when you want them unperturbed by chatty foreign visitors.
Although not a tourist attraction during the Holiday season, Santorini does decorate in joyful Christmas colors to celebrate. There will be huge Christmas trees, and even donkey figurines dressed up like Santa to make you giggle.
The best winter activities in Santorini are nature hikes. The weather is cold, but not unbearable. The freshness of the air powers up the active traveler who loves discovering new itineraries.
“You will have the chance to see some of the most impressive views that are not blocked by crowds, and this also means there are lots of good photo opportunities,” explains Santorini photographer Anna Sulte.
Are you planning to visit Santorini for Christmas holidays?
Keep in mind that the average temperature in Santorini in December is 13°C. Ferries and boat trips depend on weather conditions. Most hotels are closed for the season and on Christmas Day in many bars and restaurants that remain open, you can enjoy a Christmas meal with traditional cuisine and drinks.
As far as how to get there, you can find ferry rides from Piraeus, Athens to Thira Direct flights are also available during Christmas and New Year. The simplest way is to book a direct flight from Athens.
The Santorini spring is one of the best seasons to enjoy the famous sunsets over the Aegean Sea and the landscapes of Greece’s most popular island.
Summers are busy on the island, with tourists roaming all over the place. They are so many, that the jewel of the Greek islands is overcrowded, with an average peak of 18000 cruise ship visitors daily, too much for the small destination to handle. They all flock to Oia, to see the sunset, transforming the otherwise tranquil village into a hubbub of voices and laughter. In summer, you cannot walk down the streets of Oia without rubbing shoulders with at least a hundred strangers in a hurry to get to the next sought-after sunset viewing spot.
But winters are different in Santorini. The crowds miraculously vanish as November creeps in, and, while the weather may be nippy at times, cold and rain have never stopped true nature lovers from seeking the next great adventure outdoors. Granted, most resorts, including Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa, will be closed, and there is virtually no beach life unless you count the occasional lovers walking hand in hand by the sea. Many restaurants are closed too. But the island is not deserted.
There are definite advantages to visiting Santorini in the “low season.” The best place to stay on the island is Fira, the capital. Here you will find good hotels, as well as cafes, restaurants, and bakeries that stay open. Exploring the city will also lead you to some shops that stay open, or, the locals, will be happy to share some “insiders'” tips for entertainment.
Winter in Santorini is a great season for people who don’t like crowds and for couples who enjoy privacy. You can always rent a car to get around the island, as public transportation is scarce. Bring enough cash, as even ATMs may be closed for the season. Finally, prepare to face the moody weather. A sunny day can turn into a nightmare of stormy skies and merciless winds in a flash. But if you are a nature lover, this is the time to take in some of the most spectacular vistas in the world.
Perissa Beach, famous for its black sand, is out of this world in the winter. It’s well deserted, and, with no tourist in sight, you can enjoy the spectacular blue of the skies in contrast with the charcoal of the shores till you capture that perfect Instagram moment to share with your friends.
The same is true all over the island when you spend the winter in Santorini: when the crowds are gone, the island finds is soul and peace, rewarding the fortunate few who visit it this season with landscapes beyond compare. You can still go for a wine tasting at one of the famous wineries of the island. You can even find a nightclub or two in Fira. But winters in Santorini are for poets, artists, and lovers. But don’t worry if you cannot come to see the magic of Santorini in the low season. Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa is your “far from the madding crowd” summer destination, offering you privacy and comfort even when the rest of Oia is flooded by tourists. So plan your summer vacation with us.
If anyone asks when is the best time to visit Santorini, we are always happy to answer: anytime you like. Because Santorini reveals its beauty every season. When the heat of the summer subsides, the locals turn to their favorite pastimes enjoying the peace the follows the last of the tourist crowds.
1. Mild temperatures allow you to have more fun outdoors
Autumns are mild on the island, with temperature averages of 24°C in September, 21°C in October, and colder – 17°C in November. The water is still warm enough to swim in September, while the rest of the season when the weather is fine (no rain), the temperatures are perfect for hiking and other outdoors activities made uncomfortable by the heat of the summer.
2. Better prices for accommodation and food
For September and October, most businesses still keep their doors open, lowering prices, to attract the last hurrah of tourist interest. We have excellent discounts at Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa. You can reserve your room already, as special offers tend to sell fast. Keep in mind that our hotel does not offer views of the caldera, but the sunsets are still magical in the privacy of your veranda, sipping wine and relaxing in a jacuzzi.
3. Autumn months are still full of entertaining events
October, on Santorini, is as rich in happenings as the summer months. We have highlighted some of the most important activities of the year in this blog post: Here’s Why You Should Visit Oia in October.
4. Meet the locals
As most tourists return home, you will discover the true spirit of the island, the genuine hospitality of the locals who, happy that their lives return to “normal” will share with you their traditions as if you are one of them. Try to explore the villages surrounding Oia. Talk to us about organizing a custom tour to see the traditional listed settlement of Tholos, for example, or the settlement of Armeni.
5. Visit the local art galleries
It’s nicer to visit the local art galleries when the tourist rush subsides because the owners will take their time to cater more to your needs. You will meet the artists, learn more about their craft, and find pieces that escaped the tourists who always hurry to get to the next attractions.
6. Catch a sunset reading at Atlantis Books
Regarded by many travel guides and experts as the best bookstore in the world, Atlantis Books is still as authentic as authentic gets. It managed to keep its identity without becoming a “tourist trap.” It’s well worth it to visit it any season. Check out their Facebook page for special events prepared for the autumn. Sure, you can catch the spectacular sunsets anywhere else on the island. The serene setting makes falls a good choice for romantic sunset gazing for couples.
7. Let us pamper you at our spa
The onsite spa at Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa, the Revival Luxury Spa, is a haven of peace and relaxation that radiates serenity for all our guests. We have excellent autumn packages to pamper our guests.
There’s more to do if you visit the island in the autumn: the museums are still open, you can still catch a cultural event at the Santorini Arts Factory (SAF), there are many religious, authentic Greek celebrations that will impress you in the white and blue churches of the island. We hope we inspired you to visit Santorini in the fall.
The simple answer to the question is you can visit Santorini when it is most convenient to you, but keep in mind that most hotels are closed off-season and it’s hard to find suitable accommodation.
This is a post by our guest, award-winning travel journalist Mihaela Lica Butler. It is the first of a series we intend to bring to you in the near future, to show you just how much Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa means to our cherished guests.