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Look for Santorini on Instagram and Trover and the shots that really stand out are the famous Santorini sunset. It’s a magical time for a magical place, bringing out the best in the island’s rugged coastline and clifftop villages of west-facing whitewashed houses. If you’re visiting the island with a loved one, there’s no better time to make a grand gesture (wink wink).
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Thanks to social media, everyone knows that the village of Oia has the scenery to make your friends jealous. But that isn’t your only option, and I’ve got the list to prove it. Some of the following places to watch the sunset in Santorini are a bit out of the way or require some effort to reach, but that means you’re more likely to get the view to yourselves!
The northern village of Oia (pronounced “ee-a”) is undoubtedly the most popular place to watch the sunset in Santorini. One prime spot can be found near the old castle to the west, overlooking the iconic blue domes of the Agios Spyridonas and Anastaseos churches in the middle of town. Others can be found by the famous windmills in the north or along the hiking trail leading east. With the more famous spots, you’ll have to get there well in advance to claim the best position, and you’ll still have to compete with hundreds of other photographers and selfie-seekers. Some say the crowds ruin the experience, but the view is easily worth 1 evening of slight discomfort.
The lighthouse on the southern tip of the crescent that makes up Santorini’s west coast is quite a squat, boxy, tough-looking building. It makes for an impressive silhouette at sunset, and the view is beautiful enough to keep quite large numbers of people coming here every evening. The lighthouse is at the end of a very narrow and fairly rough road, with only a tiny car park right by the building. You’ll need to come early if you don’t want a stressful drive. With only a short break during the Second World War, the lighthouse has been running ever since it was built in 1892. This makes it one of the oldest in Greece, but also means that it is still an active naval facility, so don’t expect to be able to go inside.
Prophet Elias Monastery
The fortress-like Moni Profiti Ilia (Prophet Elias Monastery) sits at the highest point of Santorini – about 565 metres above sea level – so you can see almost the entire archipelago from its balconies and walkways. Despite the outstanding view offered by the extreme elevation, this spot is still generally quiet at sunset, probably because all the facilities are long-closed by that time. Built around 1711, the monastery was once very wealthy and powerful. Its influence may have waned, and the beautiful Cycladic buildings may have been damaged by the 1956 earthquake, but they still house some remarkable frescos, rare religious artefacts and ancient Byzantine sculptures. Open: Daily from 10 am to 4 pm Phone: +30 2286 031210
Rooftop bars in Fira
Sunsets in Fira are best enjoyed from the comfort of a rooftop restaurant or bar. Being Santorini’s main town, you’ll unfortunately have to put up with relatively high prices, especially for places with a knock-out view. Among the best sunset spots is PK Cocktail Bar, just off Theotokopoulou Square. Fully named Palia Kameni Bar, it’s a stylish, high-end sort of place, with the look and view to match. Further north, by the steps down to the old port, Argo Restaurant is a bit more casual but has a breathtaking view and a great menu of Greek seafood. Be sure to try their ouzo mojito. Further north still, near the famous Three Bells of Fira, Mama Thira Thaverna is a 2-level Greek restaurant with a homely feel and a great wine selection.
Skaros is a rocky cape just outside the village of Imerovigli. It’s difficult to imagine by looking at it, but the rock was once the site of a 13th-century fortress and village which was, at one point, the largest settlement on the island. With its elevated position overlooking the bay, steep sides and limited overland access, the fort withstood numerous raids and attacks over the centuries but was finally defeated by Mother Nature. Earthquakes caused by the Santorini Volcano becoming active in 1650 eventually led to the fortress being evacuated and it eventually disappeared into ruins, few of which remain. Today, it’s just a very cool viewpoint at the end of a short, well-marked hike. Incidentally, Imerovigli itself is often overlooked by sunset lovers, despite having a nice view. It makes for charming village scenery without the crowds you get in Oia.
Of all the remarkable vineyards on Santorini, Santo Winery stands out as the absolute best for sunsets. Just outside Pyrgos, it’s in quite a central and unique location. You have the islands in the caldera ahead of you, the villages of Fira and Oia to your right, the Akrotiri Lighthouse to your left, and the port below you. The view goes down well with a glass or two of Santorini wine. Made with the native Assyrtiko grape, which is grown on vines pruned into an unusual bowl shape to protect them from the wind, the wine is quite dry, with a distinctive fruity flavour and earthy tones. Drop into the Oenotourism Center to see a short video about the winemaking process at Santo Winery. Location: Pyrgos 847 01, Greece Open: Daily from 10 am to 7.30 pm Phone: +30 2286 022596
A boat on the Santorini caldera gives you a 360-degree sunset experience. To the west, the sun sinks into the Aegean Sea, silhouetting the other islands in the archipelago. To the east, the whitewashed buildings of the coastal villages glow in the dying light. Many of the cruises offer dinner and drinks which, with the gentle rocking of the boat, creates quite a romantic atmosphere. Departing in the early afternoon, well before dusk, you also get to check out some of the more remote sightseeing attractions in the area, like the hot springs and Red Beach.
I am kind of cheating with this one because Therasia is not actually on Santorini. It’s the neighbouring island in the archipelago, to the west of Santorini itself but the sunset there makes it all totally worth it. Therasia is extremely rocky and rugged and is known for its wild beauty and tiny local villages. The hilltops offer a great view back towards Santorini, and you can watch as the whitewashed houses of Oia and other coastal villages turn orange, pink and red as the light from the setting sun changes. If you want to see this magical view, you’ll have to book a room on Therasia since the last ferry back to Santorini leaves before sunset. Accommodation is limited, so book in advance.
Sunset-view hotels and villas
This one is kind of obvious and a sure-fire way of avoiding the crowds, even in Oia, is to enjoy your sunset from your hotel – either from the terrace, the pool or, in some cases, your own room. Excellent choices include Andronis Luxury Suites and Charisma Suites in Oia, or Homeric Poems and Alta Vista Suites near Fira. There are plenty of others all along the west coast. Most are quite small places, with a very limited number of rooms in each, so be sure to book well in advance to secure your dream view.
Franco’s Café in Pyrgos
The quiet village of Pyrgos has special protection from the local authorities to prevent it from being overwhelmed by the tourism industry, so it still has a great local vibe. Being up in the hills, it also has a fantastic view for sunset. The best place to enjoy that fact is Franco’s Café, which is up near the beautiful St George Church and the ruins of Pyrgos Castle. You can enjoy wine, cocktails, snacks and classical music, as well as a famously friendly atmosphere, with views across most of the western side of the island. Location: Epar.Od. Pirgou Kallistis – Profiti Ilia, Pyrgos Kallistis 847 00, Greece Open: Daily from 10 am to 10 pm Phone: +30 2286 033957
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