Santorini villa holiday guide
The result of a gigantic volcanic eruption around 3,500 years ago, the island of Santorini (or Thera) is now a crescent of rock rising over three hundred metres from the sea. It curls around the flooded crater, or caldera, and most of the population lives along the crater rim, or on the land behind the cliffs that slopes gently down to the sea on the eastern side of the island. The diamonds in Santorini’s rock tiara are its capital Thira and the villages of Imerovigli and Oia, which perch on the crater’s edge, Away from the caldera, the black volcanic beaches of the east coast are essential stops on a Santorini holiday.
Towns and Villages in Santorini
Santorini’s main town Thira clings to the clifftop. A whitewashed warren of houses and churches piled up right to the edge, it has stupendous views of the lagoon and of the toy-like ships far below. Although its star attraction is its location, it contains three museums—of archaeology, prehistory, and folklore—and a cultural centre. To the north stands the village of Imerovigli, also with enviable views. Beyond that, Oia spills down the cliff face and is, if anything, even more beautiful than the capital – an ideal spot for a romantic villa holiday or honeymoon.
Away from the caldera, Santorini has plenty going for it, all of which can easily be explored as day trips from your holiday villa. The east and south coasts have several beaches of black volcanic sand—Monolithos, Kamari, and Perissa—and one (west of Ecomitis) of red sand, The inland village of Pyrgos is stacked up around the remains of a Venetian castle and the 17th-century Church of the Presentation of the Virgin. In an arc to the east of the town are the island’s three wineries, surrounded by terraced vineyards, and beyond them the tourist-oriented villages of Kamari and Perissa, both with popular beaches.
Arts and culture in Santorini
Given Santorini’s extravagant beauty, it is no surprise that the arts flourish on the island. The renovated Bellonio Cultural Centre in Thira mounts exhibitions, as does the nearby Cultural Centre of Megaro Gyzi. At the end of 2012 a Biennial of Arts was established in Pyrgos—‘Peace Mechanisms’ is the theme for the next one, in 2014. Look out for folk music and dance exhibitions in various parts of the island.
Active pursuits in Santorini
Apart from the steep climb up from Thira’s dock, strenuous activity is mostly limited to swimming and snorkelling. For the more adventurous, there are diving centres in Kamari and Perissa. It is possible, too, to hire mountain bikes in Thira and Oia, and, the walk from Thira to Oia is ten kilometres of scenic pleasure.
Eating and drinking in Santorini
As you would expect, restaurants in Thira and the other cliff-edge towns Imerovigli and Oia make the most of the views, and make the more expensive menu prices totally worthwhile. However, you can also choose to dine in your private villa and enjoy the views at your own leisure. In addition to the usual Greek meat and fish dishes, Santorini is a vegetarian’s paradise, famous for its fava beans, cherry tomatoes, capers, aubergines, courgettes, and fresh goat’s cheese. It is also one of the best-known wine-producers in Greece, so try local wines with your food or pick some up to sip on in your villa rental—rose and blended wines, for example, made from the island’s indigenous white grapes like the Athiri, Aidani and Assyrtiko, and local red grapes like the Mandelaria and Mavrotragano, or sweet vinsanto.
History in Santorini
On Santorini you are sitting on the aftermath of a catastrophe that may have destroyed Europe’s first civilization. When the island blew up in 1600 BC, the resulting tsunami might have wiped out Minoan Crete. Some theories even identify Santorini as the lost city of Atlantis. The pre-eruption Minoan City can be visited south of Akrotiri; post-eruption Ancient Thera on the headland between Kamari and Perissa. Join a minibus excursion or—for the more intrepid—climb up to the site by donkey. There are excellent historical museums, too, in Thira and Oia.
Relaxation in Santorini
There is something about the views from the edge of Santorini’s caldera that calms even the most troubled soul. Our Santorini villas have private pools or Jacuzzis perfectly positioned so you can relax while enjoying these outstanding landscapes. The huge ocean views, the tiny cruise ships below, the distant islands… all impart a sense of proportion and serenity. Sit by the pool, go for slow walks, or head for the beach. Cape Columbo, because of its relative isolation twelve kilometres north-east of the capital, is one of the island’s most peaceful. Feel your pulse slow and your blood pressure fall.
The Santorini Coast
Fancy a break from your Santorini villa to explore the island’s dramatic coastline? To the west, Santorini hunches protectively around its caldera. To the east it turns its back on distant Anafi. The west coast is best viewed from the sea, from the lung-bursting path up from the dock, or from a panoramic cable car. The east coast has popular beaches such as Kamari and Perissa, but do not think golden sand… think black volcanic shingle. A short south coast has accessible beaches (Agios Georgios, Vlichada, and red-sand Kokkina Ammos) where you will avoid the summer crowds —but which have no facilities, so pack a picnic.