Last updated on June 14th, 2024 at 11:10 am

Why visit Santorini? Is Santorini worth the hype? Is Santorini overrated? Any or all of the above questions must have come up while planning or simply daydreaming of a trip to one of the best Greek Islands.

And who can blame you? The infamous hordes of tourists that Santorini attracts are genuinely off-putting. Then, why visit Santorini? Simply put, because it’s a truly unique place of rare beauty that you just can’t miss. Actually, if you could only visit one Greek Island, it should be Santorini.

Without further ado, here are the top five reasons why Santorini is worth visiting.

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Why Visit Santorini: Top 5 Reasons

1. Fascinating History

Santorini’s official name is Thira, from the island’s ancient name, Thera. However, everyone calls it Santorini, the name the Venetians gave the island in the 13th century. In ancient times, Santorini was also named Kallisti, the most beautiful one, for obvious reasons. Yet the island’s very first name was Strogili, the round one. Because Santorini was indeed a round island once.

However, around 1600 BC, Santorini witnessed one of the fiercest volcanic eruptions in recorded history. An event that affected all the Mediterranean people. Due to this massive volcanic eruption, Santorini stopped being round and became the crescent-shaped island we know today, featuring one of the world’s largest calderas. The island was destroyed but was reborn from its ashes.

In the 18th century, Santorini became a commercial and maritime superpower. However, a devastating earthquake in 1956 destroyed the island once more and forced many locals to abandon it in search of a better life. From the 1970s onwards, Santorini gradually became one of the top tourist destinations in the world.

Top Places To Visit For Santorini History

  • Akrotiri Archaeological Site: Often called the Pompeii of Greece, the archaeological site of Akrotiri is a beyond-words impressive ancient site that allows you to wander around the streets of a once thriving city that was buried under tons of volcanic ash for centuries. That explains why some of the old city’s buildings remain almost intact to this day, forcing your imagination to run wild to times gone by. Buy your skip-the-line tickets here.
  • Archaeological Site of Ancient Thera: After Santorini’s tremendous volcanic eruption, the island was abandoned for centuries. However, Ancient Spartans recolonised it. They built a grandiose city atop one of Santorini’s highest points, now offering visitors the opportunity to gasp at spectacular views.
  • Archaeological Museum of Thera & Museum of Prehistoric Thera in Fira: The best places to admire findings that date back to the island’s ancient past.
This image shows ancient ruins scattered on a hilltop location with the windy Aegean Sea as a backdrop.
The windswept Ancient Thera hides the island’s rich history in its ancient ruins

2. Unique Architecture

The Cyclades Islands are renowned for their postcard-perfect whitewashed houses. Although similar to the architecture of the rest of the Cyclades Islands, Santorini’s is even more distinct. If you’re wondering why visit Santorini, the island’s architecture is a valid reason in its own right.

Santorini’s volcanic soil and morphology encouraged the construction of cave dwellings, the so-called Iposkafa or υπόσκαφα in Greek. These were simple two or three-roomed houses carved in the rock, or to be more accurate, in the century-old layers of volcanic ash and sand.

Primarily used by poor people, these makeshift cave dwellings were also popular with the countless sailors who flocked to Santorini when this small island became a naval power of its time. Alongside the cave dwellings, the captains’ mansions narrate the island’s maritime past. However, not many of those survived the 1956 earthquake.

Another unique characteristic of Santorini’s architecture is that almost every house had its Canava – or Kanava – in the past. The latter was a wine-making and storing area. Nowadays, the vast majority of the once humble cave dwellings and wine storage areas are converted into luxury hotels and B&Bs that offer guests the opportunity to partake in the island’s cultural heritage by sleeping within their walls.

Top Places To Visit For Santorini Architecture

  • Oia: The most photographed town in Santorini, Oia boasts some of the finest examples of traditional cave dwellings built alongside grand captains’ mansions. You can almost hear Oia’s rich maritime past being whispered in your ears as you walk along the town’s alleyways.
  • Emporio: Slightly different than Oia, Emporio is equally if not more entrancing. A silent castle town that has survived the relentless passing of time, Emporio is a fine example of medieval defensive architecture. Emporio has the power to turn every visitor into an eloquent storyteller, ready to share the village’s magic with the entire world.
This image shows the cave dwellings of Oia, panoramically built on the cliff overlooking the Aegean Sea. If you're wondering why visit Santorini, the island's architecture is one of the main reasons to do so.
Oia’s unique architecture

3. Top-Quality Local Products, Delicious Cuisine & Superb Wine

Santorini’s volcanic soil renders the island’s products sweeter and richer in taste. Santorini produces the best tomatoes in Greece, alongside excellent fava beans, white eggplant and capers.

As a result, local cuisine is one of the top reasons to visit Santorini in its own right. With mouthwatering Greek veggie dishes like smooth Santorini fava puree or juicy tomato fritters, Santorini is one of the best culinary destinations in Greece.

Similarly, Santorini’s grapes and wine-making techniques are responsible for some of the best wines in Greece. The island’s vineyards are thousands of years old. That’s because the 19th-century phylloxera plague that destroyed most of Europe’s vineyards didn’t touch Santorini’s grapes, thanks to the island’s volcanic soil.

You can’t miss Santorini’s exquisite white wines made of the indigenous Assyrtiko, Aidini and Athiri grape varieties. A special mention should be made to Santorini’s famous dessert wine, too, the exquisite Vinsanto.

Top Places To Visit For Santorini Products, Cuisine & Wine

  • Metaxi Mas in Exo Gonia & Anogi in Imerovigli are among the best restaurants in Santorini to try local dishes, prepared with love and the freshest locally sourced ingredients, alongside several staples of Greek cuisine.
  • Santo Wines: Founded in 1947, Santo Wines is the island’s union of cooperatives. Near Pyrgos Village, Santo Wines welcomes you for a wine tour or wine tasting with the best views of the Santorini Caldera. While there, you can also visit the on-site shop where you can shop not only delicious wine but all the other local products Santorini is famous for, such as canned tomatoes, capers and fava beans, all perfect Greek souvenirs to bring back home with you.
This is a close up of cans of tomato paste stacked on top of each other.
The local tomato paste is one of the best things to buy in Santorini

4. Epic Sunsets & Scenery

Santorini is famous all across the globe for its epic sunsets, iconic blue domes and dramatic caldera cliffs. Therefore, if you’re into travel photography or if you just appreciate beauty in all its forms, you shouldn’t even be wondering why visit Santorini.

Santorini is one of the most photogenic places to visit in Greece. Simply strolling around its traditional villages or hiking through its raw lunar landscapes, taking in the unfathomable charm of its steep cliffs and barren landscapes at every turn, is one of the main reasons to visit Santorini.

Top Places To Visit For Santorini Sunsets & Scenery

  • Oia: The indisputable queen of Santorini sunsets, Oia can get unbearably crowded. Especially on and around the ruins of the town’s Venetian Castle, the most popular sunset spot on the entire island. So, when everyone heads to the Castle for sunset, pick a caldera-facing café or a seaside restaurant at Ammoudi Bay instead to enjoy the sunset without hundreds of people blocking your view for the sake of that perfect Instagram shot.
  • Palia Kameni Bar in Fira: Probably the most picturesque bar in Fira, PK Cocktail Bar is one of the best places to see the sunset in Santorini. Order a bottle of Santorini wine and stand in awe as the red sun dives into the depths of the ancient volcano. It’s wise to make a reservation.
  • Santo Wines: The aforementioned wine bar is yet another of the best sunset spots in Santorini.
  • Akrotiri Lighthouse: If you prefer to watch the sunset surrounded by nothing other than the glistening Aegean Sea – and, inevitably, a few more romantic souls – head to the scenic Akrotiri Lighthouse for a sunset to remember.
  • Sunset Cruise: This isn’t a specific place, but joining a Santorini cruise at sunset deserves to be on this list of the best spots to enjoy the island’s beautiful sunsets and scenery. A top-rated sunset cruise is probably the best way to take in the beauty of the caldera and the otherworldly Red Beach and White Beach as they’re dyed in the colours of the golden hour.
  • Profitis Ilias: The highest point in Santorini, Profitis Ilias offers panoramic views of Santorini and the Aegean Sea any time of the day. Yet, sunset is its most magical moment.
  • Santorini Volcano & Hot Springs: If you’re looking for the most extraordinary scenery in Santorini, you can’t miss a boat trip to the island’s famous volcano. At the top of the uninhabited Nea Kameni Island, Santorini’s volcano is dormant yet exciting. Its raw landscape is a sight to behold and one to keep in your memory for life. The same boat tour will then take you to the volcanic islets where the famous hot springs are located. There, you can admire yet another mesmerisingly unique landscape or even jump in the crystal clear waters to swim to the nearby sulphur springs.
  • Vlychada Beach & Columbo Beach: Both of these beautiful beaches feature spectacular white rock formations that will instantly remind you of the lunar landscapes you’ve seen in sci-fi films.
This image shows the caldera of Santorini. Taken from the hiking path, this photo shows the island's crescent shape. In the distance, we can see Imerovigli perched atop the cliff and Skaros Rock, one of the best things to see in Santorini.
There’s nothing quite like Santorini’s scenery

5. Unparalleled Hospitality Focused on Romance & Luxury

There’s no doubt that Santorini is the most romantic Greek Island. It’s also one of the best-developed tourist destinations in Greece. This has proven to be a blessing and a curse for the beautiful volcanic island.

That said, if you choose your accommodation, fine dining venues and other services wisely, you can enjoy a unique stay in Santorini, without contributing to its overtourism. Some things to keep in mind include choosing family-run hotels, avoiding international chain hotels and opting for local businesses.

Santorini is the perfect place to enjoy a romantic or luxurious getaway, preferably in one of its cave hotels with infinity pools that will add a special touch to an already remarkable stay in one of the most romantic settings. If you want to learn more about where to stay in Santorini, you can read our article about the best places to stay in Santorini.

Top Places To Stay in Santorini For Romance & Luxury

  • Imerovigli: The highest point on the caldera, Imerovigli is known for its elegant accommodation options. Apart from breathtaking caldera views, the best hotels in Imerovigli promise an exclusive stay, away from the hustle and bustle of the towns of Fira and Oia.
  • Akrotiri: Combining high levels of hospitality with a more low-key ambience, Akrotiri with its caldera-facing luxury hotels is for anyone wishing to enjoy a romantic escape with fewer crowds.
This image shows luxury hotels overlooking the Aegean Sea in Santorini. In the background, we can see the caldera of Santorini and the island's dramatic cliffs.
Luxury hotels in Akrotiri

It may strike you as odd that a website with a mission to promote responsible travel in Greece would dedicate an entire article to a mainstream and overcrowded destination, inspiring even more people to visit. Especially when Santorini seems unable to hold the burden of the crowds it receives as it is.

However, travelling responsibly to Greece doesn’t mean that destinations like Santorini should be excluded from your map. There are easy steps to follow if you want to visit Santorini in a sustainable way. For instance, you can go to Santorini outside the high season, definitely not the best time to visit Santorini anyway. You can find out more by reading this comprehensive Santorini Travel Guide next.

For now, we hope we answered a fundamental question for you: why visit Santorini? Well, because it’s the fairest of them all, a Greek Island that looks like no other and deserves your time, no matter the evils that have fallen upon it in recent years because of overtourism. Don’t miss our Santorini 4-day itinerary that includes all the top reasons to visit this gorgeous island.

This image shows Katerina and Maria sitting at their cave hotel terrace, enjoying the view and smiling for the camera.
Why visit Santorini? For the picturesque views and wide smiles! Cheers!

Travel Resources For Santorini Island

WORDS & EDITING: Maria
IMAGES: Katerina

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