Exploring Santorini's 6 Coolest Villages: What to See & Do
The perfect trip to Santorini doesn’t exi—oh, please. It does exist, and with the help of our friends Andreas and Kyriakos (two of EF Ultimate Break's Greek Tour Directors and the most knowledgeable Greek locals we know), we’ve picked out the six coolest villages on the island to prove it.
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You don’t need me to tell you that Santorini is one of the most beautiful places in the world. You’ve seen the photos, you know about the sunsets, and you’ve been dreaming about a cliffside wine tasting since before you ever had a sip of wine. And when it comes to what to do in Santorini, a sunset glass of wine is a great start—but Santorini is a big place, with lots to see. At EF Ultimate Break, we’re all about easy and stress-free travel, which is why I’m here to give you the inside scoop on the best villages and towns of Santorini.
If you have time to visit all of this island’s villages, by all means, go for it. But maybe you’re Greek island-hopping (nice) and you’ve only got a day or two to figure out what to see in Santorini. With the help of some very knowledgeable—and very Greek—EF Ultimate Break Tour Directors, I’m about to take you on a little journey through six Santorini villages you don’t want to miss.
Oia Village. MarinaD_37/Shutterstock
Ah, yes. Oia (pronounced ee`yah). Without a doubt, this is the most popular village in Santorini, which also means it’s the most crowded. Don’t be surprised if you have to wait in line for that iconic Instagram shot. But in our opinion, it’s totally worth it. As Greek Islands expert and EF Ultimate Break Tour Director Andreas puts it, “Oia offers spectacular views and it’s really famous for its sunset. Definitely a must visit, but it’s not the only village worth your attention.” So, if I’m hearing this right… go for the sunset, get the perfect photo, and then move on—there’s more to see!
Fira Town. Top: Vasilii L/Shutterstock | Left: Roman Sigaev/Shutterstock | Right: Ivan Mateev/Shutterstock
If you’re in Santorini, chances are you’re itching to experience the nightlife. And nowhere else is this easier than Fira, the island’s bustling capital. But before you hit the bars and clubs, Tour Director Andreas says Fira is a great place to have “a nice dinner with more reasonable prices than Oia.” Thanks for the tip, Andreas! And if you’re only in Fira during the day, you can walk the busy streets to explore the cafes and shops—I’m sure someone back home would appreciate a souvenir.
Skaros Rock, Imerovigli. Abdiefff/Shutterstock
Who wouldn’t want to go somewhere nicknamed “The balcony of the Aegean?” This cliffside village is situated nearly 1,000 feet above sea level on the northern part of the island, and offers magnificent views of the caldera and surrounding Aegean Sea. Want the pic without the people? The selfie without the swarm? Imerovigli is a great alternative to the much busier Oia. Plus, you’ll get to combine beautiful vistas with some Greek history at Skaros Rock, where you’ll find the remains of a 15th century fortress that helped protect residents from pirates. Thankfully, there are no pirates around these parts anymore, so if you happen to see someone walking around with an eye patch and parrot on his shoulder, it’s safe to assume it’s just some guy in a costume.
Featured Trip: Ultimate Greek Islands
17 days. 7 cities. Paradise served with extra pita.
Pros: a Zeus-sized serving of 5 distinct (but equally dreamy) islands, a side order of ancient Athens, and all of the late-night gyros.
Cons: there is a strict “one Santorini sunset pic per traveler” rule. Nah just kidding, take as many as you want!
As quaint as they come, Megalochori is a charming village full of white-washed buildings, impressive churches, and the cobbliest of cobblestone streets. You’ll feel as though you’ve accidentally stumbled upon Santorini’s hidden gem, and that’s because you have. Trust me when I tell you, if there’s one place you actually want to get lost, the narrow, winding streets of Megalochori is it. As EF Ultimate Break's Greek Tour Director Kyriakos puts it: "You’ll find neoclassical mansions as well as the typical Cycladic white-washed houses here. It may not have the breathtaking views of Oia, but it has a character with all its colorful doors and windows, narrow streets, and little restaurants and cafes... it’s where you would want to go and relax after a day in Oia or Fira."
And all the walking around with your jaw on the ground sure will make you thirsty. It’s a good thing Megalochori is “home to some well-known wineries,” according to Kyriakos. Say no more, Kyriakos.
Akrotiri Lighthouse. Ventura/Shutterstock
It’s quiet, it’s picturesque, and of course, it’s entirely possible to see a breathtaking sunset from this southern village. Arguably the most popular spot is the Akrotiri Lighthouse, located on the southwestern tip of the island. Built in 1892, it’s one of the oldest lighthouses in all of Greece, and totally not haunted, I promise. In addition to the lighthouse, Tour Director Andreas recommends a visit to the archeological site of Akrotiri, where a volcanic eruption covered a prehistoric settlement in ash some 3,500 years ago. Right about now you may be thinking to yourself, wait a second, I’m on a Greek island, shouldn’t I be lying on a beach? Lucky for you, there are two fantastic beaches nearby: Red Beach and White Beach. Please note that EF Ultimate Break is not responsible for any unwanted tan lines travelers receive on tour.
Church of Agios Nikolaos in Pyrgos. fokke baarssen/Shutterstock
Last, but certainly not least: Pyrgos. Slow down the pace with a visit to Santorini’s former capital, perfect for those in search of a little more tranquility. Fun fact: this village sits at the highest point in Santorini, which means you’ll score some pretty amazing panoramic views. Greece expert Kyriakos likens the narrow streets in this village to a “snake going up around the little white houses.” Grab a seat at a hillside café, watch the locals go about their daily lives, and take a moment to stop and reflect. Yes, it’s perfectly acceptable to reflect on the feta cheese you had at lunch. The stuff is amazing, I get it.