Santorini Shore Excursion Reviews

Popular Things to Do in Santorini

When you think of the Greek Isles, you are probably picturing Santorini. It was the site of one of the most dramatic volcanic eruptions in history, which created its stunning landscape of black-sand beaches and craggy oceanside cliffs. Cruisers can check out the main town of Fira on foot, but otherwise, booking an organized shore excursion to places including local wineries, beaches, hiking trails, volcanic ruins and hot springs is recommended -- the island is tiny, but the roads can be difficult to traverse. There are even a few archaeological sites like Akrotiri and Ancient Thera that are worth visiting during your port stop. The Museum of Prehistoric Thera also makes for an interesting stop. Be sure to enjoy a seaside lunch and some wine before heading back to your cruise ship.

Santorini is a breathtaking destination most of the year. July and August are the hottest months, with the months of April through November being the most popular for visitors. The winter months are generally comfortable in Santorini, though not as sunny and with more rain. The official currency is the euro and Greek is the official language, although many people also speak English.

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Santorini Cruise Tips, Activities, and Overview

Food and Drink in Santorini

Avoid restaurants and cafes advertising pizza, toasted sandwiches and other fast-food staples, and seek out a clifftop restaurant with fresh fish on the menu; grilled red mullet is particularly good. Too hot to pig out? Order mezedes -- small portions of traditional Greek food like taramosalata, olives and tsatsiki -- with bread and salata choriatiki (salty feta cheese salad) on the side and a bottle of local wine to wash it down. Sit back, savour the view -- and enjoy.

Fanari Restaurant in central Fira is near the main square and cable car, serves traditional Greek cuisine and also local recipes centered around fresh seafood, tomatoes, white eggplant and zucchini. Fanari has a special offer for cruisers that claims to discount unique delicacies, mezedes, traditional dishes and Santorini wines up to 50 percent or more. The catch is you must have a large party with you. (Fira; +30 22860 25107)

For a quick bite, the light menu of Classico Cafe-Restaurant is in the heart of Fira with wonderful views of the caldera and the chapel of Agios Minas. The cafeteria style is offset by the coziness. The limited choices may include omelets, cheese and Greek olives, grilled pork or seafood plates of shrimp, salmon, octopus and shellfish, as well as fruit salad and homemade ice creams.

It's also worth hunting out some of the restaurants that face inland eg. Metaxis Mas in Exo Gonia (00 30 2286 031323) or Roka in Oia (00 30 2286 071896). The locals will tell you that every restaurant with a caldera view is charging you 50 per cent for the view: the food is much better value and the service less rushed at the non-Caldera-facing restaurants.

Santorini's soil and climate means that local ingredients are few. Even olives, that Greek staple, have to be imported. Ask for dishes that include Santorini fava or sweet tomatoes or the very sweet Santorini egg plant that can be eaten raw.

There are great one day cookery schools run by Selene Restaurant (+30 22860 22249) that explain Santorini's cuisine.

Don't Miss in Santorini

In Fira you'll find cobbled streets, whitewashed houses and churches, lots of jewelry and craft shops, a small archaeological museum open 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day except Monday (Fira Santorini 847 00, near the cable car station; +30 22860 22217), clifftop restaurants and cafes with terrific views of the sparkling seas below.

Also worth visiting is Oia (pronounced Eeh-Ah), a pretty village of pastel-tinted and whitewashed houses set into the cliffside. Here you'll find leafy squares, picturesque restaurants, art galleries and decent craft shops -- good for a browse and a pleasant lunch. There are also paths down to two black-sand volcanic beaches.

Go up any of the streets facing the cable car station and you'll find yourself on the shop- and restaurant-lined main thoroughfare, Erythrou Stavrou. Here you can book a local excursion from one of the numerous travel agencies, or shop for jewelry and designer goods. But your best bet if you're in search of the offbeat is simply to follow your nose down cobbled alleyways, some of which contain quite upmarket shops. If you're buying several things at one store, it's worth asking for a bulk discount -- but this isn't the place for really serious haggling.

The beaches at Kamari, about 10 kilometers southeast of Fira, and Perissa, about 15 kilometers southeast, have amenities for rent, such as sun chairs, umbrellas and water-sports equipment. There are plenty of restaurants, bars and cafes, too.

Looking for something a bit different? Take a ferry trip (bookable either on the ship or ashore) to the tiny volcanic island of Palaia Kameni, famed for its therapeutic thermal mud baths in which visitors are welcome to wallow. A range of "caldera cruises" are offered by Nomikos Travel in Fira (+30 22860 24940).

Akrotiri lies at the southwestern tip of Santorini and is Greece's answer to Pompeii. Though covered in a sea of lava by Thera's cataclysmic eruption (four times the strength of Krakatoa) in 1450 B.C., it has now been partially excavated, revealing some beautiful frescoes and buildings dating as far back as the 16th century B.C. Amazingly, many of these remain intact -- including some huge clay storage jars that survived the eruption. Open Tuesday - Sunday 8 a.m. - 3 p.m. (south of modern Akrotiri; +30 22860 81366)

Wine Road: There are 10 wineries that make up the Wine Road. Seeing the sunset from Amoudi (the only place on the island where from sea level you can see the sun disappear beneath the horizon) is such a "Santorini thing to do" that it borders on clich? but still worth it. Book a quayside table at Dmitri's Taverna (00 30 22860 71 606), in advance.

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