While Santorini certainly gets its fair share of overnight visitors, many travelers arrive on a cruise ship. If you are wondering whether one day in port is enough to experience a taste of what makes Santorini so iconic, rest assured that it is. Many cruise ships arrive in the afternoon to take advantage of the island’s legendary sunset views, but if you are on an itinerary that arrives early in the morning, there is still plenty to see and do. We’ve rounded up some of the best ways to spend your eight hours in Santorini, whether you’re into adventure, are a food traveler or you are just looking to relax for a bit.
Take in the Views at Oia
Before the sun starts setting, you’ll find Oia packed with people looking to snag that epic sunset photo. However, if you are on a ship that departs prior to sunset, you can still experience the views from Oia, with far smaller crowds. If you go first thing in the morning when you arrive, you might even have the scenic town to yourself. Depending on the season, there may be some morning fog, but it makes for some pretty photos as it starts to burn off.
Hike the Volcanic Crater
If you’ve packed for outdoor adventure on your cruise, consider hiking to Santorini’s volcanic crater. Santorini is a sunken caldera that formed after a massive volcanic eruption. Subsequent eruptions created Thira, which is the main island seen today. From the main town of Fira, you’ll head down to the port area and take a boat over to the crater. Hiking Santorini’s crater takes about 30 to 60 minutes, depending on how fast you go. You’ll have an opportunity to stop for photos along the way and at the top of the crater itself. Relax afterward by taking a quick dip in a nearby hot spring on your way back to the main island.
Learn About Santorini’s Indigenous Wine Grapes
If you’re an oenophile you might already know that Santorini is home to a number of different wine grapes, some varieties dating back to prehistoric times. The island is home to the oldest vines in the world. Because of the volcanic soil, they were saved from the phylloxera outbreak in the late 19th century that destroyed many of Europe’s most prized vines. If you’re in search of one wine to try, look for Assyrtiko wine. To protect the vines from the strong northerly winds commonly seen on Santorini, the grape vines grow in a wreath shape along the ground rather than vertically like other vineyards around the world. There are wineries where you can learn about how the grapes are grown and then sit down and sample some of Santorini’s extraordinary wines.
Work on Your Tan on a Black Sand Beach
If you’re in the mood to kick back, relax and enjoy the Greek sunshine, head to one of the island’s black sand beaches. You’ll immediately notice that beaches in Santorini are different because of the island’s geological features. One of the most famous is Red Beach, where you’ll find black and red volcanic pebbles with steep cliffs directly behind.
Visit a Bronze Age Settlement
If you’re into Greek history and archaeology, you can head to the southern tip of the island to visit the remains from the Minoan town of Akrotiri. They are relatively well-preserved, and some people speculate it might’ve been an inspiration for Plato’s Atlantis. Akrotiri was destroyed during the massive volcanic eruption, but unlike Pompeii, no human remains were found. Researchers believe the Minoans were able to evacuate prior to the eruption after a series of earthquakes, even having time to take valuables since was very few valuables have been recovered during excavations.
Have Lunch Overlooking the Caldera
Santorini’s main town of Fira is perched high above the sea on the main island of Thira. This is an ideal spot to grab a bite to eat overlooking the water, Santorini’s volcano and your cruise ship down below. One recommended pick is Assyrtico, spelled with a C instead of a K like the wine. It can get windy up there, but the views are worth it. Assyrtico uses many local ingredients central to the cuisine on Santorini, including many Greek Protected Destination of Origin (PDO) products. Don’t miss the Fava Pantremeni, made with local Santorini fava beans and cherry tomatoes, or the Saganaki, made with Gruyere cheese from Mytilini island. Be sure to order a glass, or bottle, of Assyrtiko wine, and enjoy a leisurely meal before heading back to the ship.