Very few places on Earth can compete with Santorini in terms of looks and glamour - if any. The whitewashed houses, blue domes matching perfectly with the sea, and enchanting sunsets in Oia will leave you spellbound minutes after arrival. There’s something ethereal about this Cycladic island - with dozens of secluded beaches, dreamy windmills, heavenly vineyards, unique beauty, and upscale restaurants, Santorini is the ultimate destination for a romantic getaway. With so much to offer, it can be pretty easy to miss out, which is why a luxury charter cruise is the best way to experience the allure of this Cycladic island to its full potential.
The cliff top towns of Oia, Fira, and Imerovigli provide ravishing views of the caldera - the crater that was created after the volcanic eruption in 16 century BC. The island, whose official name is actually Thira, is situated in a water-filled caldera of the huge volcano that probably ended the Minoan civilization, but in turn, created the peculiar terrain and unmatched scenery of Santorini. The volcano was also responsible for the colorful beaches found here - you’ll find coves in all shades of black, red, and white.
Best towns to visit in Santorini
The island that was previously known as Kalliste (the most beautiful one) offers several picturesque villages and towns to explore. It can be quite difficult to choose just one as your base, but your luxury charter itinerary will include the best spots to visit so that you never miss out.
Perhaps the most famous town of this Cycladic island, Oia is also known as the Mediterranean capital of sunsets. Located on the northern tip of Santorini and built in the rocky cliffside, the town is flocked by glitterati who come for the enchanting views and cosmopolitan atmosphere.
White-washed houses and blue domes of the traditional churches blend in perfectly with the sea - anywhere you look, you have the perfect Instagram shot. The second best sunset viewing location (right after your charter yacht’s foredeck) is the Castle of Agios Nikolaos. This 15th century Venetian castle was built to protect the village from incessant pirate attacks, built high above to ensure a good observation point. After the 1956 earthquake that devastated the island, most of the castle was ruined, leaving not much but the Goulas watchtower behind.
Like most places in Santorini, Oia has a rich maritime history and reached a peak of its financial prosperity in the late 19th century thanks to its merchant fleets that traded goods with Russia and Eastern Mediterranean. As you stroll through the village, you’ll stumble upon many neoclassical mansions from this era, one of which was transformed into the Naval Maritime Museum, where you can see rare figurines, old naval equipment, art depicting old sailing ships, and models of old Theran vessels.
More vibrant than its neighbor Oia, Fira is the main town of the island and can even be reached with a hike from the sunset village, or even a donkey ride if you want the authentic traditional experience.
Situated on the west part of the island, the pretty town opposes the volcano and volcanic islands of Palaia Kammeni and Nea Kammeni. With sweeping views of the cobalt blue seas and the caldera that leaves all visitors speechless, Fira is a must-see on your Santorini adventure. The town offers a perfect mix of natural beauty and bustling city life, with many great bars and more chic boutiques than Mykonos has in total. If you feel like adding some statement pieces to your wardrobe, you’ve come to the right place. Visit the Fabrica Shopping Center or stop by Noi for a curated selection of the trendiest designer pieces.
The culture vulture will find plenty to do in Fira. The Megaro Gyzi Cultural Center is definitely worth the visit and organizes concerts, theatrical shows, and art exhibitions in a stunning 17th-century mansion. The Archaeological Museum of Thera and Prehistoric Museum have superb displays of rare artifacts, while the Folklore Museum in the neighboring Kontochori village provides a glimpse into the costumes and traditions of the island.
If you don’t mind walking, make sure to take the 587 steps from Fira to the Old Port and you’ll be rewarded with fantastic views of the caldera. Even though it’s a downhill walk, it can be quite challenging, so make sure to bring a water bottle. You can take the cable car on the way up and save yourself some trouble.
Situated on the highest point of the caldera, the picturesque village of Imerovigli is often seen as the most elite destination of Santorini. If you’re looking for the sunsets of Oia, minus the crowds, this upscale town is perfect for you. Tucked away between Fira and Oia, 300 meters above sea level, Imerovigli is famous for its views of the Nea Kameni volcano, caldera, and sea. The village is most famous for Skaros Rock, the large promontory that was formed through volcanic eruptions and earthquakes and that due to its elevated position and unobstructed views was often used as a fortress throughout history. Imerovigli is much more serene than neighboring villages and offers a serene atmosphere and unhurried Mediterranean tempo.
Built on the slopes of a hill just 15 km from Fira, this small village of Akrotiri is not only as gorgeous as the other villages on the Santorini but hides one of the most important archeological sites on the Cycladic islands. The fascinating prehistoric city of the Mionean civilization that was destroyed after the volcanic eruption in 16 century BC is much like Italy’s Pompei and is thought to be the inspiration of Plato’s story of Atlantis. The Bronze Age settlement proves that the city was one of the most crucial Minoan centers and is incredibly well-preserved thanks to volcanic ash - when you visit, you’ll be able to see frescoes, furniture, ceramics, multistorey buildings, and an advanced drainage system. Even those not that keen on history become fascinated by the intricate remains of this progressive civilization, who in its heyday had a wide network of communication with distant cultures in Syria and Egypt.
Best beaches in Santorini
When deciding where to spend your beach day, you might become overwhelmed with options. With different beaches in almost all shades of the rainbow, Santorini offers dozens of different beaches to cater to all tastes.
Perhaps the most impressive beach of the island, Red Beach is located just minutes from the ancient site of Akrotiri and mesmerizes visitors with the crimson and black volcanic rocks that create a somewhat surreal scenery. Don your charter yacht’s snorkeling gear to explore the out worldly rock formations underwater - the sea here is quite hot and is said by some to have therapeutic qualities.
With black sand, translucent water, and stunning scenery, Kamari is one of the most popular beaches in Santorini. It’s well organized with plenty of beach cafes and restaurants serving drinks, refreshments, and complimentary parasols. Many choose to linger long after their beach day to observe the volcanic rocks that glow in the dark and dance the night away to the beat of music played in one of the trendy bars that line the coast. Walk to the left side of the beach to see the massive Mesa Vouno rock rising from the sea that made this beach so famous.
Similarly to Kamari Beach, the main attractions of Perissa Beach are the Mesa Vouno and volcanic rocks that shine in the dark. The beach stretches for 7 kilometers on the southern coast of Santorini - thanks to its size, it never gets overcrowded.
If you’re planning a family beach day, make sure to visit Monolithos, a sublime oasis with soft volcanic sand, transparent, shallow sea, and sculptural rock formations. There’s also a basketball court here and a play area for kids - this beach is pretty popular among locals and is an ideal choice for a laid-back day of fun in the sun.
Those who like to escape the crowds and have the beach all to themselves should definitely take the time to visit the tranquil beach of Cape Columbo 8.5 kilometers from Fira. there are no bars and shops, just endless sights of the sea, the red volcanic rocks, and rugged landscapes. This is also a great spot for those who want to test the water toys provided by the charter, as the beach gets quite windy. The sea is very hot and perfect for long swimming sessions.
Best Restaurants in Santorini
Santorini abounds in elegant restaurants that will tempt you to book a table at the same place every night. But please, resist the urge: with so many incredible options, you should try to explore as much as you can.
The iconic restaurant in Fira just celebrated its 35th anniversary and has become synonymous with the culinary scene in Santorini. Located in a converted monastery, the upscale Selene offers both a lavish setting and an unparalleled level of fine cuisine that will impress even the best traveled of hedonists. Book a wine tasting here to visit the antique wine caves of Selene with direction from one of the world’s most skilled sommeliers.
If you gave a special occasion in mind, book a table at the romantic Pyrgos restaurant to indulge in mouthwatering Greek cuisine with a twist. Botargo is located in the 19th-century neoclassical mansion and serves modern dishes in an old-world glamour setting. Whether you choose to sit inside and marvel at the stunning frescoes or choose to have an outdoor table, you’ll enjoy the breathtaking atmosphere and innovative cuisine.
For a more casual evening of fantastic Greek cuisine, head to this authentic taverna in Vlichada that serves authentic Mediterranean dishes with a marvelous view of the old fishing port. The sea urchin salad is simply to die for and is beautifully paired with local Santorini wines.
The restaurant with one of the most breathtaking views on Earth, Lycabettus is an awe-inspiring seaside gem in Oia. No words can describe the vistas from the terrace - it’s almost like you’re floating above water while indulging in culinary alchemy at its finest. Make sure to try the lobster stuffed with scallops and ginger - but definitely book ahead because it can be challenging to get a table here.
Kapari Wine Restaurant
Nothing beats a sunset dinner in this upscale Imerovigli restaurant - Kapari is located in a traditional whitewashed house that overlooks the sea and offers stellar dishes in a truly unbeatable setting.