About Santorini beaches
Santorini’s extraordinary shape can be traced back to around 1600BC, when a massive volcanic explosion blew out the middle of the island, creating the impressive sea-filled caldera (crater). Today, Santorini is one of Greece’s most glamorous island destinations. The upmarket settlements of Fira and Oia, which are perched upon the reddish-black cliffs that plummet 300m (980ft) into the deep-blue waters of the caldera, offer sophisticated boutique hotels and gourmet dining. For many people, the quintessential Santorini experience is watching the sunset from Oia, an evening ritual during high season, when crowds gather around and applause as the sun sinks into the horizon.
Santorini’s busiest beaches are the black-sand-and-pebble beach of Kamari in the resort of the same name on the east coast, and soft black volcanic sands of Perissa and Perivolos on the southeast coast. Both Kamari and Perissa have umbrellas and sun beds for hire, which are often reserved in advance through high season, as well as decent watersports facilities. The black sands can be very hot underfoot, so sandals are recommended. In addition, the Kokkini Paralia (Red Beach), backed by terracotta-coloured cliffs on the southwest coast, below Akrotiri, makes a memorable day trip.
Beyond the beach:
The cliff-top towns of Fira and Oia, overlooking the caldera, are must-sees for their postcard-perfect, whitewashed, cubic buildings and blue-domed churches that are typical of the Cyclades. Santorini’s top archaeological site is Akrotiri, an ancient Minoan town buried beneath lava in 1600 BC. It is currently closed for restoration, and looks unlikely to reopen before 2011. However, beautiful ancient frescoes and ceramics from Akrotiri are on display in the Museum of Ancient Thira in Fira. Santorini produces some of Greece’s best white wines, and several vineyards, including Santo Wines and Boutari, both near Pyrgos, are open to the public for wine tasting sessions and tours.
Santorini is orientated more towards couples than families. Families are best catered for in the beach resorts of Kamari and Perissa, where many hotels have outdoor pools, and the beaches are equipped with watersports rentals. Also near Perissa, the Santorini Water Park (www.santoriniwaterpark.gr) has three pools, three water slides and a kids’ playground. Note that some of the exclusive west-coast hotels overlooking the caldera do not accept guests under the age of 16.
Popular excursions from Santorini include boat trips around the deep-blue caldera, where visitors can explore the tiny uninhabited black volcanic islets of Palea Kameni (with hot springs and therapeutic muds) and Nea Kameni (home to the smouldering volcanic crater). On the opposite side of the caldera, the island of Thirassia hosts several seafood tavernas affording fine views back to Santorini. East of Santorini, the unspoilt island of Anafi, with a pleasant south-coast sand beach, can be reached by ferry.