Santorini’s iconic caldera vistas, white-washed villages and burnt orange sunsets attract visitors in droves. But beyond the cliches, the island’s vineyards, ruins and mystical chapels offer a more authentic Greek experience.
Go off the beaten path and explore the island’s lesser-known towns. Hike goat tracks and swim at volcanic beaches, eat lunch in low-key tavernas steeped in history and visit family-run wineries.
The fabled village of Oia is famous for its sunset views and whitewashed cave houses and blue-domed churches that cling to the volcanic caldera cliffs. Arrive early in the day to stroll the narrow cobbled streets and visit the vantage points everyone comes here for without the throngs of people jockeying for picture angles.
Whether you’re hungry for delicious Greek cuisine or in search of a unique souvenir, Oia is brimming with restaurants and shops. Browse artwork and photography at Galanopoulos Art Gallery and Mnemossyne Gallery, pick up some new or secondhand tomes at Atlantis Books, or shop for colorful pottery at Canava.
While you’re here, be sure to stop by the Nautical Museum of Santorini. The museum showcases the island’s rich seafaring history and includes shipping instruments, models, photographs, and portraits of historical sailors.
Pyrgos is the largest preserved village on Santorini and was the former capital. It’s that little bit further up from the caldera and has largely avoided being swamped by sunset spotters and cruise ship passengers.
It’s also a great choice for those wanting to stay in a smaller hotel with character and charm. There are several small hotels that offer a really personal experience – for example look at Kastro Mansion and Santorini Dreams Villas for some of the best in Pyrgos.
There’s a bus service from the airport to the capital that stops in Pyrgos, or you can join a highly-rated tour with your accommodation provider and be picked up at your hotel. Alternatively, hire a car to make it easy and convenient to navigate the island’s sights.
The quaint village of Megalochori is a great escape from the busy cliff-side towns and beaches. Its streets are lined with old alleyways and neoclassical mansions that make it an ideal place to take a stroll and soak in the island’s tranquil ambiance.
In the past, Megalochori was a thriving winemaking hamlet, exporting the island’s famous sweet dark Vinsanto to countries far and wide. Although the industry took a hit after the 1956 earthquake, it’s slowly been making a comeback in recent years.
Visit Gavalas Winery, where you’ll have the opportunity to sample the island’s renowned Assyrtiko grape variety while learning about its distinctive terroir. You’ll also get the chance to enjoy a delectable wine tasting accompanied by a selection of local appetizers.
The caldera edge of Oia, Fira, and Imerovigli features hotels with views that inspire marriage proposals and high-fashion photo shoots. But if you look beyond these well-worn paths, you’ll find a diverse island that has unique landscapes, medieval history, family-run wineries, and a far more chill vibe.
During peak travel (July and August), the caldera edge is jam-packed with visitors. But shoulder season (April, May, early June, October) offers quieter hotel rates and less congestion at coveted viewpoints.
Just beyond the caldera edge is Messaria, a village that recalls Santorini’s rich past in viniculture. It’s home to the Argyros Mansion and one of the best villas on the island: Markezinis Santorini Suites, an exquisite traditional boutique property that once was the residence of a Prime Minister.
The incomparable caldera vistas and white-washed towns of Santorini have become famous thanks to Instagram, but there are many more pristine islands to explore in Greece’s Aegean Sea. Some are packed with bustling port towns, while others have serene village life.
Unlike the hot mess of tourist-filled Oia, the inland villages like Pyrgos, Megalochori and Exo Gonia have preserved their easygoing island charm. Wander the cobblestone alleys to discover a harmonic medley of old and new.
Stop in at Art Space, a winery where grapes grow on circular supports instead of long trellises to limit stress from strong winds. Take a tour to learn about the traditional process, then sample some of the island’s finest wines. The cellars are also home to a museum of winemaking equipment and machinery.
Santorini is the Greek islands’ supermodel—it’s a head-turner that’s known for its dazzling caldera vistas and romantic sunsets. It’s also a magnet for newlyweds and travelers seeking Instagram-worthy clifftop views.
Unlike some other Greek island destinations, however, it’s possible to venture off the beaten path and discover hidden gems on Santorini. Check out these lesser-known spots to experience the true spirit of the island.
This 5-hour tour offers a full day of exploration, from the famous excavations of Akrotiri to breathtaking views at the Prophet Elias Monastery. Plus, it includes a visit to the quaint village of Pyrgos and a wine tasting at Argyros. With flexible pickup and drop-off options and a generous cancellation policy, this tour is a great option for those wanting to explore Santorini beyond the mainstream.
The awe-inspiring caldera vistas and white-washed villages of Santorini, along with glitzy Mykonos, steal the show in Greece. But the country’s other gorgeous islands deserve their time in the sun too. Explore them with Goway’s new trip across the Cyclades.
A true hidden gem, Thirasia offers the perfect antidote to crowded Santorini. Once one island, it lies a mere nautical mile from Oia, and has been untouched by modern tourism. Explore abandoned cave houses made of pumice, and a surreal red beach backed by rust-and-fire-colored cliffs.
The UNESCO-listed town of Matera is a firm Europe hidden gem favourite, with its ancient underground living and storied streets. Discover the dazzling Roman mosaics, then head to a nearby national marine park where pristine waters are a playground for Mediterranean monk seals and seabirds.