Santorini is Greece’s most famous island, beloved for its blue-domed churches, white-bleached buildings and sparkling sea views. It’s more than a Mama Mia! toy town though, this volcanic island was thousands of years in the making – and the best way to approach it is by sea.
Once upon a time, Santorini was just another volcanic island. Then in 1620 BC, there was a cataclysmic eruption – possibly the largest volcanic eruption on earth – that forced the centre of the island to collapse into the caldera. The sea filled it up quickly, leaving the crescent-shaped island we know and love today. The outer edge of the ancient volcano formed the main island, while subsequent eruptions throughout the 16th and 17th centuries created the smaller Santorini islands of Palea Kameni and Nea Kameni. There are hundreds of tours devoted to exploring Santorini’s volcanic history but we’ve cherry-picked three of the best, based on itinerary and value for money.
Santorini: Volcanic Islands Cruise with Hot Springs Visit
This delightful day tour combines volcanoes, hot springs and traditional villages. Setting off from Athinios Port, the boat tour winds around the main island to Nea Kameni, for a quick look at the gaping crater. A refreshing and restorative splash about in the hot springs in Palea Kameni is next on the itinerary. Then it’s onwards to Thirissia, to explore its colourful houses, pristine beaches and centuries-old churches. In Manalos, the island’s capital, you can channel Meryl Streep as you take a donkey around the village too. If that hasn’t sated your appetite for island hopping, you can extend the tour and add on a sunset stop at Oia. From €39 per person.
Santorini: Dream Catcher 5-hour Sailing Trip in the Caldera
Volcanoes aren’t all hiking boots and altitude sickness. Santorini’s caldera also boasts sun-bleached beaches and sparkling swims – and this five-hour sailing trip explores the best of them. Travelling by catamaran, this tour incorporates hot springs, towering volcanic cliffs, swimming, snorkelling and beachside barbeques. You’ll get to sail past the ancient city of Akrotiri, iconic red and white beaches, the Indian Head Mountain and Venetian Lighthouse, to private bays dotted along the picturesque Caldera. In between stretching out in the sun and swimming alongside colourful fish, you’ll get to tuck into a delicious barbeque in a secluded bay. From €109 per person.
Santorini: Akrotiri Tour, Atlantis Museum and Volcano Cruise
If the thought alone of spending a whole day on board a boat makes you seasick, this tour is an excellent option as half of it takes place on land. The trip kicks off at the archaeological site of Akrotiri for a guided tour. The perfectly preserved 2000-year old town was buried under pumice and ash during the great eruption of 1613 BC and it’s still possible to see traces of ancient Minoan life. Then there’s a tour of the new Lost Atlantis Interactive Museum, the only dedicated museum in the world to the lost city. For the finale, you’ll get to dive deep into the volcanic history of Santorini with a short guided boat trip around the island. From €80 per person