Think of Santorini and you picture white-washed villas sitting on clifftops, breathtaking views and hours of hot sunshine – it's one of those spots on everyone's bucket list. It's a celebrity favourite, too; everyone from Beyoncé and Angelina Jolie to the Kardashians have stayed on the idyllic Greek island.
If you're after a dreamy getaway this summer, Santorini definitely ticks the box. Named after Saint Irene, the Cyclades island sits in the Aegean Sea, southeast of the Greek mainland.
The white-washed buildings of Oia
It's particularly fascinating as the island was the site of one of history's largest volcanic eruptions about 3,600 years ago, which left a huge caldera surrounded by volcanic ash deposits. You can even swim right past them!
Santorini has so much to offer – bask on your sunlounger admiring the turquoise hues of the caldera one day and explore an ancient architectural site the next.
HELLO! visited the Greek hotspot and we're bringing you our must-see and must-do tips below…
Oia looking out over the caldera
Where to see the sunset in Santorini
It's all about the sunset in Santorini, so securing the best vantage point for those gorgeous holiday selfies is crucial.
The Venetian Castle of St Nikolas is in the bustling picture-perfect village of Oia, which lies on the North West edge of the island and is the place to be for the money shot. The 15th-century castle is perched high up amongst Oia's famous white architecture and gives you a magnificent 360-degree viewpoint of the caldera.
The beautiful view from Oia village
Oia is the island's most-visited village so prepare for a fair few tourists ambling through its narrow streets.
We adored the vibrant colours of the Santorini architecture
Despite its popularity, we adored the pretty village – be warned, though, you may leave significantly poorer due to the fabulous clothing shops and restaurants dotted along the charming passageways.
Such a cute sign!
Historical sites to see in Santorini
Another chance for taking in those dramatic caldera views is a hike to Skaros Rock, a rocky headland off the picturesque village of Imerovigli.
After descending many steps from the village, the Ekklisia Theoskepasti trail takes you past the remnants of the13th century fortress and up to Skaros Rock. You'll also see the beautiful Theoskepasti Church with its blue dome – a must for that photo opportunity.
A view of Skaros Rock
Sadly, the castle was destroyed in a 19th-century earthquake so what we see now are its ruins. Nevertheless, it's a fun hike, and the steps on the way up are the ultimate leg toning exercise. You'll earn that sundowner cocktail!
Another must-visit is the archaeological ruins of Akrotiri, also known as the Greek Pompeii. The prehistoric settlement is one of the most important sites in the Aegean, formerly a Minoan port town which was covered by ash from a volcanic eruption. The settlement was preserved and has since been excavated, much like Pompeii.
Excursions to do in Santorini
You might not associate Santorini with winemaking but the island is actually Greece's premier destination for wine with over 20 wineries. The island is known for its grape Assyrtiko so we had to sample a few.
We booked on the Vassaltis Vineyard tour and wine tasting - such a treat of an afternoon. In a stunning coastal location, the vineyard is a must for wine-lovers who fancy a relaxing outing sampling Santorini's best wines.
The wines we tasted at Vassaltis Vineyard
The in-house chef creates tailor-made dishes for each wine and guests can try the pairings at a lunch sitting with the tasting menu. The Aidani Vassalitis white wine was a particular favourite of ours.
The best way to see Santorini is undoubtedly from the sea, so we booked a catamaran cruise with Caldera Yachting.
Wow, what a day! From the boat, we saw the island's famous red and white beach, the black beach and the vast piles of volcanic ash beside the caldera. You can even swim in the Santorini hot springs – a fantastic experience.
A catamaran cruise is a wonderful way to see the island
Lunch on board was a spread of delicious local dishes. It was tough leaving for land when we docked later.
Where to eat in Santorini
You're really spoilt for choice when it comes to eating out in Santorini. The island has a plethora of stunning restaurants and tavernas to choose from with spectacular views – will you dine beside the caldera at Oia or in a quaint village square?
The scrumptious seafood moussaka
A special memory is a supper we had at the traditional tavern Anogi, which was abuzz with locals and not an empty table in sight – always a good sign. The seafood moussaka was a delight and what can I say about the desserts? Orange cake, chocolate pie with vanilla cream and baklava rolls with pistachio ice cream… we tried them all.
Greek desserts at Anogi restaurant
Inevitably, our night moved on to cocktails and we stumbled across the small-yet-fun Bar to Navagio. If you're after a happy, friendly crowd and nostalgic tunes, this is the spot.
Where to stay in Santorini
If you're looking for a boutique feel with incredible views, the Atoles Retreat is your go-to hotel, sitting on a clifftop in Imerovigli village looking out onto the mesmerising caldera.
You can book a room at Atoles Retreat on booking.com
The hotel combines simple design with understated luxury – marble, stone and artisan details and splashes of colour reflect the character of Santorini. You'll find six signature suites, including a two-bedroom villa, and each has its own terrace and plunge pool. It's a peaceful hideaway amongst the bustling island life.
The hotel team also arranges daily activities for guests to experience – from winery tours to sailing trips, as we enjoyed above. The Atoles Retreat is part of The Epoque Hotel Collection.
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