Santorini is the spot most people think of when they dream about the Greek Islands: brilliant white Cycladic houses and blue-domed churches clinging to dark volcanic cliffs, hot sun illuminating an endless panorama of Aegean Sea, the salty goodness of fresh feta, and the unexpected bray of a donkey.
This crescent island formed from the rim of an ancient caldera offers all of this and more. It’s home to black-sand beaches, prehistoric ruins at Akrotiri, vineyards producing refreshing whites and rosés, and two wildly photogenic cliff-hugging towns called Fira and Oia. Whether you window-shop for trinkets, soak up some scenery and sun, or savor the island’s cuisine, a day on Santorini will not disappoint.
Try Greek-style crepes. - Photo by Corner Crepes & Waffles
Breakfast: Corner Crepes & Waffles – Enjoy a quick bite at this corner eatery near the main square in Fira that specializes in “lalages,” or Greek-style crepes. Choose from an array of fillings — from feta to banana — and pair it with strong Greek coffee.
Lunch: Feggera – Make time for lunch at this inviting rooftop restaurant in Megalochori, an unassuming village about 10 minutes by taxi from Fira. Owner John Apostolakis and Chef Andreas Sourdas offer “Aegean cuisine:” Santorinian fava, grilled sea bass, and lamb spare ribs accented by fresh organic produce from Santorini and Crete, in a light and healthy preparation. Feggera, which previously only served dinner, will open for lunch in the summer of 2014 and now also offers cooking classes by appointment.
Sunset seen from Oia. - Photo by WitR / Thinkstock
Dinner: Strogili – An evening meal on Santorini isn’t just about fresh, delicious Greek food — it’s also about being seduced by the view as sunset envelops the caldera. Enjoy both at this rooftop restaurant in the center of magical Oia. The menu is full of local favorites — incredible Greek salads, zesty tzatziki, tender octopus, melt-in-your-mouth eggplant — and the atmosphere is casual and unrushed. Order a bottle of island rosé and linger as long as you can while you drink it all in.
Dessert: Lolita’s Gelato – Before heading back to your ship, grab a creamy scoop of fresh homemade goodness (we suggest the baklava flavor) from this shop, conveniently located next to the bus stop and taxi stand in Oia.
The Akrotiri excavation. - Photo by Jupipterimages / Thinkstock
For Everyone: Akrotiri – The year 2012 marked the completion of a lengthy renovation of this impressive archaeological site, a Minoan village dating to the Bronze Age — about 4,000 years ago. A maze of mud-hued homes and passageways lost in time after a volcanic explosion in the 17th century B.C. buried it in ash. Akrotiri is best explored with a guide who can detail its multistory houses, elaborate drainage system, and colorful fresco remnants. The main site is shaded by a massive roof and equipped with ramps for easy access. To see what’s been removed, visit the Museum of Prehistoric Thera (the Greek name for Santorini) in Fira.
For Couples: Santorini Food and Wine Tours – Sign up for the four-hour Semi-Private Wine Road tour, during which you’ll visit three wineries and learn about the unique viniculture necessitated by the volcanic soil as you taste 15 wines and fresh local meze. When you’re done, make your way to romantic Oia for a 75-minute massage with hot volcanic stones for two at Caldera Massages Studio’s cavelike treatment room or a blissful 150-minute couples massage on its open-air terrace (book ahead).
The black sand beaches of Santorini. - Photo by Gianluca Figliola Fantini / Thinkstock
For Families: Perissa or Perivolos beaches – It’s easy to enjoy two of the island’s photogenic black-sand beaches, located a few miles apart on the southeastern coast. Both have umbrella-shaded sun beds for rent, some with bar service from the restaurants that skirt their edge. The water is generally placid, but wear sandals (bare feet burn in the black sand) and pack plenty of sunscreen.
For the Adventurous: Volcano Island – Explore the island on a boat ride. Hike up Nea Kameni — source of the devastating 1600 B.C. explosion — and dip in natural hot springs during an active, nature-based excursion departing from Fira’s Old Port.
The public bus that runs every half hour in summer between Fira and Oia is cheap (just over 1 euro each way), comfortable, and reliable. Unless you’re in a hurry to get back for “all aboard,” it’s a great deal — a taxi is about 12 to 15 euros.