Couple’s Guide to Santorini
August 19, 2021
Photos courtesy of
Is there a more Instagrammable honeymoon spot on the planet than Santorini, Greece? Small wonder it’s at the top of so many travel wish lists, either as a solo stop or combined with other islands. Whether you’re going for a day or a week, here’s how to do it right.
Santorini is in the southern Cyclades, accessible by flight or ferry from Athens. What makes the island so stunning is its topography. Way back in the late Bronze Age, the island suffered a volcanic eruption that literally blew it apart, leaving the main island and two adjacent isles ringed concentrically around a crater lagoon. I’ve been all over the world and have seen a lot of beautiful places, but still, my first glimpse of this beautiful island took my breath away.
Of course, the price of beauty is steep and, in Santorini’s case, that means cost (it has the highest hotel rates in Greece) and crowds (tour buses on narrow roads, long lines at taxi stands and people snapping photos around every turn). So, bring your patience and make it a point to get away from the crater from time to time. Santorini’s charms are all over the island, and if you just stick to the cliffs, you’ll miss part of what makes this island so special.
What Not To Miss:
Watch the sunset spectacle.
It’s the number one must-do and with good reason. Sitting on a western-facing terrace, sipping wine while the sun makes her slow tumble into the sea is mesmerizing. Historic Oia is on the northwestern tip of the island and the photographic star, with a gorgeous maze of narrow streets. Bustling Fira is the island’s capital, with loads of shops, bars and restaurants and is an ideal sunset position above the cruise port. Imerovigli is smaller and less crowded, just north of Fira and has the highest crater cliffs. Whichever town you choose, know all have loads of restaurants with terraces overlooking the caldera. They all get packed in the hour before the show starts, so get there early to find your perch.
Wine is a must.
Santorini’s wine industry is one of the most unique in the world. The star grape is Assyrtiko, which makes citrusy whites with great minerality. Gaia Wines is set in an old brick factory with an alfresco tasting room overlooking Kamari Beach, plus resident cats and tasty rose. Venetsanos Winery is located on a cliff near the town of Megalochori, with a small on-site museum and a gorgeous flagstone terrace that overlooks the sea. On a tour with Santorini Wine Roads, you’ll visit at least three wineries for tastings.
Cruise the crater.
As fantastic as the view is from the cliffs, it’s also amazing to view the island from the sea. Sign up for a catamaran cruise that includes stops for hot springs and snorkeling, along with lunch. Or, do a shorter sunset sail with wine and cheese to accompany your views. Sunset Oia Sailing Cruises has small-group excursions and private charters you can customize for two.
Hit the beach.
Don’t resist the chance to swim in the crystal waters of the Aegean; just know that the beaches are dark-hued and pebbly, reflecting the island’s volcanic roots. Perissa Beach is the prettiest black strand, lined with open-air beach clubs. Aptly named Red Beach sits in a cove just below the ancient town of Akrotiri, reachable via a steep, somewhat treacherous path. Vlichada Beach is off the beaten path, thanks to its lack of services, which means it’s also a good spot to avoid crowds.
Bring an extra bag.
White cotton and linen clothing are the top buy here in the form of floaty dresses and coverups for her and airy button-down shirts and pants for him. But, you’ll also find great jewelry from top Greek designers, every style of Grecian sandal imaginable, colorful silk caftans and local artwork galore. Bibliophiles will love popping into the cavernous Atlantis Books in Oia.
Where to stay:
On the crater.
Set in beautiful Oia, Katikies Hotel has 31 sumptuous suites carved into the cliffside. Enjoy two infinity pools, an oh-so-romantic restaurant, a Champagne bar and fantastic service that earns “world’s best” raves year after year. The honeymoon suites come with open-air jetted tubs overlooking the sea, so you can enjoy the sunset without the crowds, then pop up to explore town when the urge hits.
At the beach.
Istoria Hotel opened in 2018 to acclaim as the island’s first Design Hotels™ property, with a minimalist, mid-century vibe that recalls Palm Beach mod, only alongside a black-sand beach. The 12-suite hotel has a stunning infinity lap pool, sand-bottom restaurant and beach chairs and food service on a reserved section of beach. Every room has a terrace overlooking the sea; the best have plunge pools or Jacuzzis as well.
Located in the tiny village of Megalochori, Vedema, a Luxury Collection Resort, feels like a respite from the island’s bustle. Every room is unique, with separate living rooms, oversize tubs and outdoor space. It’s small (46 rooms), but has all of the resort amenities you’d want, including a fitness center, spa, two restaurants and free shuttles to Fira and the beach. Alati restaurant is a standout, set in a 400-year-old wine cellar.
Photos courtesy of (in order of appearance): Katikies Santorini (1st & 3rd); Nige Levanterman (2nd)
This article first appeared in Destination I Do’s Spring/Summer 2019 Issue.