Dramatic Santorini views so perfect they couldn’t be real unfold along the crescent-shaped crater rim that makes up the island of Santorini. Whitewashed cubist houses and blue-domed churches spill down the red cliffs toward the giant blue caldera, their fall interrupted by the occasional windmill. Bright pink and purple bougainvillea flowers shade back alley patios and frame peeling doorways. Cobbled streets wind up and down in a maze through the towns, dotted with cats lying in the sun and dogs snoozing in the shade, unconcerned with the many feet passing them by.
In the intense Greek sun, Santorini views shine bright and white, then glow orange and pink as the sun sets. Slowly, as the tourists leave town, the scene turns to yellows and blues. Then the stars come out, the lights come on, and the cliff-side pools and patios quietly glimmer and glow.
Everyone raves about Santorini, so my expectations were sky-high going in. I’m happy to report, Santorini wasn’t overhyped. It was even more gorgeous in person. I almost couldn’t believe it was real.
To help you make the most of Santorini, and soak up as many of these amazing views as possible, I’ve made a list of 7 ways to splurge on Santorini views!
1. Sleep in a cave house with Santorini views
If you’re going to splurge on accommodation at any point in your trip, Santorini is the place to do it. Spring for a place with a private balcony and caldera views for the full experience. Lots of cliff-side lodging options are cozy, renovated cave houses. A lot of people stay in the town of Fira, as it is the most central for transportation and prices are a bit lower. However, the town is not as charming as Oia or nearby Imerovigli, the two towns I would recommend.
My sister and I spent 3 nights in the 2 person suite at Zoe’s Houses in Oia (the prettiest town in Santorini). We spent half the time gawking at the view and the other half taking pictures of it.
That patio was worth every Euro. My sister and I never wanted to leave.
If you want someplace quieter, head to Imerovigli. When my husband, Garren, came to Santorini, we stayed in this gorgeous apartment with a shaded balcony AND a private rooftop patio with the most incredibly mesmerizing sweeping views of Imerovigli and the caldera.
It was so peaceful in Imerovigli all day long, and we never felt bothered by too many tourists here despite traveling during high season.
The view from our rooftop patio was just so freaking beautiful!
If you want to get away from the crowds and stare out into the blue, this is your spot.
2. Wander the streets
Right after lounging on the balcony and staring out in disbelief at the view in front of me, my second favorite activity in Santorini was walking around the towns of Oia and Imerovigli. Around every turn I was finding new viewpoints, cute doorways, and picture-perfect church domes to photograph.
The streets wove in and out of sweeping caldera views and bright back alleys, carving their way through the simple blue and white palette.
It’s a photographer’s heaven!
3. Walk down to Amoudi Bay
See Santorini from below as you descend down the footpath from Oia toward Amoudi Bay. You can walk all the way down to the water, and you’ll get a unique vantage point of Oia as you go.
On your way down, you’ll likely see Santorini’s famous donkeys, glammed up with beads and charms. This is a great spot for that donkey photo-op you’ve been hoping for. It’s possible to ride them back up, but I didn’t want to. They looked pretty hot and tired.
4. Hike along the crater rim
It’s possible to walk all the way from Oia to Fira with sweeping Santorini views of the caldera the whole way. The trail is exposed so bring plenty of water and wear sunscreen. It’s about a 3 hour walk and it will take you through the town of Imerovigli, which is especially stunning around sunset, and less crowded than Oia. You can take the bus between Oia, Imerovigli, and Fira as well so you only have to walk one way. My friends over at Wander the Map can tell you more about Hiking the Caldera Trail.
5. Go sailing
One really unique way to see Santorini is from the water! Spend a half day or a full day sailing around and inside the caldera surrounded by Santorini’s red volcanic cliffs. You’ll stop at private beaches and swimming coves, get an up close look at the dormant volcano, and it will give you a unique view of the clifftop towns from below.
Private, Semi-private, and group tours are available – there are lots of options depending on your budget! This company comes very highly recommended with rave reviews.
6. Dine with a caldera view
Another way to enjoy those Santorini views is to find a cliff-side restaurant with great views of the Caldera. There are lots of great options in the towns of Oia, Fira, and Imerovigli. Try to get reservations well in advance if you want a table with a view.
If you want to make the most of your budget but still dine with a view, grab take-out souvlaki from a cheap place in town and a couple of beers or a bottle of local wine at one of the mini-markets. Then bring it all back for caldera-view dining at your awesome balcony (see #1). Considering a meal for two in a caldera-view restaurant could easily set you back 80 Euro (about $90) or more, and souvlaki for two plus a bottle of wine is around 20 Euro, suddenly our room with our Santorini views seemed much more affordable.
7. Watch the Sunset in Oia from the castle ruins
Sunset in Oia is the most popular activity on the island, and for good reason. The top spot to watch it is from the Byzantine castle ruins, and it really does make a difference being up high at the castle versus down lower.
Throngs of people pack into the castle ruins and around it just to watch the sun turn Oia warm shades of yellows, oranges, and pinks. People start staking out their spot 1-2 hours before sunset during high season. I got lucky and managed to stake out one of the last spots right along the wall at the castle ruins (and I was there an hour early).
If you hate crowds but still want a taste of this view, go early in the day or about an hour after sunset for a less-crowded version of this iconic Santorini experience. It’s gorgeous any time of day, though there is something extra special about this iconic Santorini view at sunset.
I’ll be sharing more guides for Santorini and other Greek Islands soon, so sign up for the newsletter if you want to get the updates!
Have you been to Santorini? What’s your favorite Santorini view?