If you’re planning to visit Santorini Greece, the chances are it’s the famous Santorini caldera that has tempted you there. It’s what Santorini island is best known for: classic Santorini sunsets, white churches, blue domes, islands silhouetted on the horizon.
The caldera of Santorini is absolutely unmissable. But we found many other things to do in Santorini during our recent visit, especially exploring the numerous Santorini beaches around the coast.
The best beaches in Santorini are spectacular, made up mainly from black sand and pebbles. You won’t find miles of golden sands like many of the best beaches in Greece. The beaches on Santorini have more of a dramatic kind of beauty, the vivid volcanic cliffs coming in shades of red, black white and more.
Our guide to the best Santorini beaches takes you all around the coast, including to the one elusive caldera beach. Some of them may even make great bases for your Santorini holidays.
OUR PICK OF THE BEST BEACHES IN SANTORINI FOR FAMILIES AND FACILITIES – PERISSA BEACH
Perissa is probably the best-known black sand beach Santorini has. If you’re happy staying away from the caldera, Perissa is also one of the best places in Santorini to stay. It also has the widest choice of Santorini hotels outside the caldera villages. The Fira to Perissa bus service is one of the most frequent on the island, so it’s easy to reach.
Perissa beach Santorini is the most ‘organised’ beach on the island, with a good selection of bars, cafes and restaurants along the strip. Each of these runs an adjacent section of the beach. If you order drinks or food, you can use the umbrellas and sun loungers free of charge. Otherwise you pay a flat fee of 15 euros for the day. There are also sections of free public beach between some of the paid sections.
The setting of Perissa beach is beautiful. It’s on a flat section of land with a dramatic cliff at the northern end, rearing out of the sea. If you like your beaches fairly busy, it’s well worth including in your Santorini trip.
The black sand Santorini beaches are composed of gets incredibly hot, so bring some footwear to walk around the beach.
Perivolos Beach is the southern continuation of Perissa beach. Like Perissa, it’s one of the best Santorini beach resorts, with a laid-back vibe and plenty of bars, restaurants and beach umbrellas to choose from.
We visited in summer, and it wasn’t quite as busy as Perissa. As well as soaking up the sun, sipping on cocktails or supping on a cold Mythos beer, there are some more strenuous Santorini activities on here. You can jet ski Santorini waters – a great way to get a different view of the Santorini coast.
OUR PICK OF THE BEST SANTORINI BEACHES FOR SCENERY – RED BEACH SANTORINI
Apart from the caldera, one of the most popular Santorini attractions is the Akrotiri Red Beach on the south of the island.
It’s the most beautiful beach in Santorini, with much of the appeal the contrast between the red sand and cliffs and the clear turquoise sea.
The beach is easy to reach, with regular buses from Fira stopping at Akrotiri beach, a ten-minute walk away.
The one drawback is that the beach is prone to landslips. Nobody has been hurt – yet. We go into a lot more detail on the safety of the beach in our article on Red Beach Santorini here. I opted not to visit the beach itself, preferring to enjoy one of the best views in Santorini from the cliff path instead.
BLACK BEACH SANTORINI
All the beaches on Santorini have black (some would say pencil grey) sand, and this remote beach has long been named after the colour of its sand.
Mesa Pigadia beach is a few kilometres west of Akrotiri, on the south coast of the peninsula. It’s one of our favourite things to see in Santorini, but one of the hardest to reach. Only four buses a day pass nearby, and even then, there’s a 1 km walk down a dirt road to the beach.
All this combines to make this one of the best places to get away from the crowds in Santorini. There’s a taverna on the beach, a dozen or so umbrellas and sunbeds for hire, and a restaurant on the hill above. A dramatic white cliff dominates one end of the beach. Just beyond this is White Beach Santorini, which is only accessible by boat.
CALDERA BEACH SANTORINI
Every beach we’ve mentioned so far is either on the south or east coast of Santorini. The topography of the caldera isn’t conducive to the formation of beaches, but there is one – Caldera Beach – you can reach.
It’s below Akrotiri, one of the main Santorini villages, down a steep road with two tight hairpin bends. The final stretch reveals a classic Santorini caldera view, sweeping north past Megalochori and Fira to Oia in the distant north of the island.
There’s a stretch of 150-200 metres of black sand and pebbles, and another area that serves as a small harbour. The water is crystal-clear, and Caldera Beach is on e of the best places for snorkelling in Santorini. Unsurprisingly, Santorini Dive Centre are also based here.
VLYCHADA BEACH SANTORINI
If you love beaches, one of the best things to do in Santorini is to visit Vlychada – sometimes spelt Vlichada – beach.
It’s situated in the south of the island, at the end of a long sweep of black sand, backed by a line of spectacular cliffs. The rocks have been weathered and contorted into some fantastic formations. It’s a true Santorini must see, and on balance, possibly all round the best Santorini beach.
Vlychada is just about off the beaten path Santorini. The beach has just one café bar, nestled into the corner beneath the cliff. There are two paid sections, with acres of free sand to roam and set up wherever you wish, all with the amazing rocky backdrop. There’s also a picturesque fishing harbour at the eastern end of the beach, and a former tomato canning factory that’s now the Tomato Industrial Museum. There are also a couple of clifftop tavernas selling fresh seafood caught by the boats directly below. One of the top beaches in Santorini, for sure.
AKROTIRI BEACH SANTORINI
Akrotiri beach doesn’t feature in many a Santorini guide. It’s a mile or so (2 km) south of Akrotiri village, on the south coast of the island. It’s 100 metres down the hill from the Akrotiri prehistoric village site, and barely a five-minute walk from Red Beach.
Akrotiri beach tends to get overlooked because most visitors there have come to see Red Beach. The buses for Red Beach terminate at the roundabout right next to Akrotiri beach, and the passengers tend to head straight there.
You could never claim that Akrotiri beach is the best beach in Santorini, but it does get overlooked more than it should. It’s like most other Santorini black sand beaches, a mixture of sand, pebbles and rocks. It also has a great selection of tavernas above the beach, including Dolphin taverna, which also cater for visitors to Red Beach.
David Angel is a British writer and photographer who has been travelling and photographing the world for over 25 years. His work is regularly featured in worldwide media including the BBC, the Guardian, the Times and the Sunday Times.