A Guide To Santorini’s Best Beaches

3 July 2014

Santorini is about blisteringly beautiful sunsets, fresh seafood, terracotta-lined terraces, magenta coloured bougainvilleas creeping along whitewashed walls, and endless opportunities to bask in Mediterranean waters. When exploring the harsh beauty of this volcanic island paradise, it’s a good idea to rent a car to travel along its winding rocky cliff faces.

It’s easy to circumnavigate the entire island in a few days; exploring the seaside villages, and sampling earthy wines and flavoursome Santorini cherry tomatoes. In fact, you can drive from one end of the island to the other in around one hour. Of course, each day trip must begin and end with a dip in the Mediterranean.

First things first – write this down – pack a pair of swim shoes, jelly shoes or equivalent. The island’s beaches might be stunning, but their terrain is not soft. Here’s our guide to Santorini’s best places to take a dip.

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Red Beach

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 The striking, contrasting tones of Red Beach

One of the most iconic beaches on the island, Red Beach is located a short walk from the ancient site of Akrotiri in the south of the island. Before you begin winding your way down the volcanic rock path to the oasis beach below, pick up a cool iced drink to enjoy by the beach from the vendor in the car park. Red Beach gets its namesake from the iron-rich sedimentary rocks that make up the beach’s cliff face and the naturally reddish sand.

Hire a chaise lounge or throw down a towel for free; there’s plenty of Grecian beauty to take in here as you watch yachts pull up in the distance and listen to the various accents of the fellow bathers. Swim out to the smooth rocks perched above the water and lay on top, like a mermaid or merman sunbaking under the rich Mediterranean sun.

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Vlychada Beach

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 Epic windswept cliff faces along Vlychada Beach

Just round the bend from Red Beach is Vlychada, a much quieter and more secluded beach set against a mesmerising sandy rock backdrop in which the sea air has created almost carving like etchings. Unbeknownst to many, the right side of the beach is for those keen on enjoying the ocean sans-swimsuit, where on the left hand side it’s more common to keep your top on.

After our swim, we wandered to the one lonely taverna right by the sea. The elderly Greek owner didn’t speak a word of English, but his service was charming, the beer was cold and the seafood impeccable. Everything on Santorini tastes homemade with love, and the sea runneth over with fresh and tasty morsels.

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Kamari Beach

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 Pump up your lilo for a day at Kamari Beach

The little town of Kamari feels more touristy than the aforementioned beaches. The good news is a cold beer or cocktail is never far away, with rows of bars and restaurants lining the beach edge. As an open beach, there are a few gentle waves here to enjoy, but it’s mostly calm floating in the Mediterranean. We picked up a cheap inflatable lilo for 10 euros at one of the many nearby beach accessory stores to enjoy a relaxing float out on the crystal waters.

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Amoudi Bay and Armeni Beach

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 The charming waters of Amoudi Bay

At the base of the 300 stairs leading down from the top sunset position in the sleepy town of Oia is the charming Amoudi Bay. To swim, you must continue past the strip of seafood restaurants sitting on the water’s edge (which will be difficult to do if you’ve not had your lunch) and continue 200 metres around the bend to Armeni Beach. There’s no sand, but there are some lovely rocks to lie out on, before plunging into the turquoise water below. Again, those jelly shoes come in handy when climbing back out of the water.

We took the lilo mattress to float out on the water, but it soon met its fate when it brushed against a jagged rock face – a great idea, but just be careful! After your refreshing dip, it’s time to dine at one of the Amoudi Bay’s famed seafood restaurants. The Sunset Tavern has a picture displayed of one of its celebrity guests: none other than Miss Oprah Winfrey, so you know it’s good. At the end of the jetty sits Dimitri’s – a humble and friendly taverna offering the perfect post-swim meal. Try the classic Santorini fava bean dip and the char-grilled octopus.

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Katharos Beach

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 The town of Oia at sunset = magic

If the top of Oia is the perfect spot to watch the sunset over Santorini, then Katharos Beach is a close second. A great way to finish the day at the northernmost part of the island, pack an afternoon picnic and enjoy the epic auburn hues as the sun descends over the ocean.  A refreshing dip in the ocean and a stroll along the almost deserted beach is mandatory. The setting makes for perfect Greek holiday selfies and capturing your Santorini memories without the hordes of tourists. Opa!

Rachel Surgeoner

A self-confessed 'food-tourist', I take hunting for the world's greatest sandwich very seriously, my quest has taken me from Berlin to Hoboken. Stopping off only for vintage shopping, craft beers and Mediterranean sunsets.