Santorini

White-washed homes set against the endless blue Aegean - Santorini brings the Greece of your dreams to life 

Every Greek island is beautiful, but few match the splendour of Santorini

The jewel of the Aegean, this Cyclades isle is revered for its blue and white buildings, rugged coast and ancient monuments. In short, it’s as Greek as they come.

Santorini may be the most cosmopolitan of all the Greek islands, but it retains a slow pace and traditional way of life which captivates all who visit. From exemplary local wines to paradise beaches, there is much to celebrate about Santorini – making it a must-see destination whatever your holiday agenda.

As part of a luxury yacht cruise of the Eastern Mediterranean with Emerald Yacht Cruises, you’ll have the opportunity to visit Santorini and experience its brand of island life. Before you go, here’s a guide to the region’s culture, cuisine, history and must-see sights.

Must-see Sights

With its long, undulating history, Santorini boasts many heritage sites, as well as natural beauty spots, which are well worth seeking out on your visit to the island. Here are a few of our favourites to look out for.

The Santorini Volcano

volcano
Santorini, like a handful of Aegean isles, was shaped by volcanic eruption. Look closely on a map, and you’ll notice that the very shape of the island resembles that of a caldera, which is, thankfully, dormant today. The volcanic eruption of the late Middle Ages forever shaped the landscape and culture of the island, giving it the rugged, sloping appearance which makes Santorini such a beautiful and eclectic destination. A visit to the caldera is a unique experience, its volcanic waters said to bring a wealth of health benefits.

Akrotiri

akrotiri
Akrotiri is Santorini’s most prominent archaeological site, and one of the most significant ancient monuments of the Cyclades islands. Located on the southwestern tip of the island, some nine miles from Fira, the site was rediscovered and excavated in 1967, and is now the main heritage attraction of the island. Archaeologists believe the site was established in the Late Neolithic Period (or the 4th millennium BC), and that by the Late Bronze Age, it had grown to become one of the largest urban centres of the Aegean. In 2012, several conservation works were carried out to ensure Akrotiri remains in a good state of repair; a visitor centre was also built, offering improved access for local and international visitors.

Pyrgos castle

pyrgos castle
Located in the attractive village of Pyrgos – whose assorted mansions and churches alone make it worth your time – Pyrgos Castle is one of several forts built by the Venetians in the 15th century. Pyrgos itself was established in the foothills of Mount Profitis, and is today regarded as one of the best-preserved heritage villages on Santorini, with a wealth of medieval architecture to discover. The village’s castle is part of a string of five erected by the Venetians, with the goal being to offer comprehensive defence against pirates and foreign invaders. A visit to Pyrgos, as well as its beautiful Venetian castle, promises an immersive step back in time, with a labyrinth of cobblestone streets and Santorini’s ubiquitous white-washed buildings providing an atmospheric backdrop.

Exo Gonia

exo gonia
Santorini is dotted with historic churches, from humble structures in the main settlements of Fira and Oia, to commanding vestiges built high on the island’s rugged hillsides. The unusually-named Exo Gonia is of the latter category, its Byzantine-inspired design residing on a steep hillside some five miles from Fira. Established as a monument in 1705, the site played a key role in the Greek War of Independence in 1821, before being dissolved in 1833. In 1893, the existing monastic buildings were demolished, to be replaced by the present-day church, which was built in 1941. As well as its Byzantine design, the church is famous for offering some of the very best views of Santorini and the utopian swells of the Aegean Sea.

Cultural Highlights

Over the centuries, Santorini has cultivated a unique culture, with rich local traditions and a fierce sense of pride in the island’s way of life. From ancient winemaking to colourful festivities, discover the cultural mainstays of Santorini.

Winemaking

wineyard
Despite its hot, dry climate, Santorini has long associations with the grape. Wine has been produced in the island’s shaded valleys for centuries, with grapevines being among the only crops which can endure the year-round heat and dry, hard volcanic soils. Following the excavation of Akrotiri in the 1960s, it was discovered that wine has been produced on Santorini since the 17th century BC – making it among the oldest viticultural regions in the world. This heritage is clear to see in the ‘kanaves’, humble stone wineries close to the settlement of Kastelia, which were once a commonplace sight on the island, and used exclusively by local people as a means of producing their own wines.

Beaches and Coast

coastline
While Santorini’s endlessly-charming villages and fascinating heritage sites can be hard to draw away from, laying your towel on one of the island’s beautiful volcanic beaches is the perfect way to unwind after a morning of sightseeing. There are several beaches on Santorini ranging from the popular tourist sands of Kamari, Perivolos, Perissa and Vlychada, to the isolated bays of Kantharos, Almyra and Exo Gialos. Whichever beach you choose, Santorini’s spectacular landscapes promise an arresting backdrop, while the warm waters of the Aegean are always a welcoming spot to enjoy a rejuvenating swim.

Local customs and festives

traditonal greek customs
Santorini may have emerged as one of the must-see isles of the Aegean, but its traditional way of life and unique customs live on, particularly in the island’s small village communities. Throughout the year, there are several religious and folklore-inspired festivals and holidays, many of which fall under the umbrella term ‘agiomnisia’. If you’re lucky enough to stumble upon one of these local events in full flow, you can expect wonderful dress, spirited Greek dancing, and the opportunity to sample local food and wine. Such events, be it a local wedding or island-wide holiday, remain an integral and enchanting part of local life in Santorini.

A glimpse into Santorini's past

Like all Greek isles, Santorini has a fascinating story to tell. The origins of this beautiful isle trail way back into the pages of antiquity, offering up an incredible and immersive timeline. Explore the key moments in the island’s history below.

Local Gastronomy

Volcanic soil, centuries of culinary tradition and the enduring seafood larder of the Aegean combine to make Santorini a must-visit destination for foodies. Here, we take a look at a handful of local dishes and produce you can look forward to.

Cherry Tomatoes

greek salad cherry tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes may not sound like the most exciting produce to sample on your culinary odyssey of Santorini, but that’s before you’ve tried the island’s impossibly sweet varieties. Tomatoes grow in abundance throughout Santorini thanks to the island’s volcanic soil, which brings wonderful sweetness and depth of flavour to the fruit. Dishes which best showcase Santorini tomatoes include ‘pseftokeftedes’, battered tomato fritters, as well as garlic pasta – thick-cut pasta ribbons tossed in garlic, tomato and olive oil.

White Aubergines

white aubergine dip
Wine is a must on Santorini, and there’s no finer way to while away a sunny afternoon than sipping a glass of local white with a commanding view over the island’s iconic coastline. Indigenous white wines such as Assyrtiko, Aidani and Athiri are dry and bright, owing to the volcanic soils in which they’re cultivated. Red wine lovers are also well catered to on the island, with local varieties like Mandalieria and Mavrotragano offering an authentic taste of the local grape.

Local Wine

greek wine
Wine is a must on Santorini, and there’s no finer way to while away a sunny afternoon than sipping a glass of local white with a commanding view over the island’s iconic coastline. Indigenous white wines such as Assyrtiko, Aidani and Athiri are dry and bright, owing to the volcanic soils in which they’re cultivated. Red wine lovers are also well catered to on the island, with local varieties like Mandalieria and Mavrotragano offering an authentic taste of the local grape.

 

Inspired to visit Santorini and experience the charms of this Greek isle for yourself? Explore our collection of luxury yacht cruises in the Eastern Mediterranean or call us on 0808 163 6226 to book your place today.