Santorini is a firm fixture in people's minds when it comes to Greek Island getaways, but it's not renowned for its beaches. Think Santorini and it's more likely that you'll picture white buildings with blue trims, luxury cliffside accommodation and those famous Santorini sunsets. And while it's true that you'll find better beaches on other Greek islands, that doesn't mean a visit to Santorini can't fulfil your shore-seeking desires. The beaches here are volcanic and run the gamut of colours and types, from rocky coves to classic gold to red and even black sand. To help you plonk yourself on the right stretch of sand, here's our guide to the best beaches in Santorini.
Perissa Beach is a striking strip of black sand one of the best beaches in Santorini for lazy sunbathing. Situated at the base of Mesa Vouno Mountain, it’s easy to get here via bus from the main town of Fira (13km away). Perissa is always popular, and there are plenty of lounge chairs to accommodate all (expect to pay or buy your drinks and snacks from the same place in exchange), as well as lots of facilities, like showers, and a playground for kids. If you're into watersports you can get your fix here, with everything from parasailing to wind surfing and more. Perissa has a range of beach cafes, bars and restaurants and attracts a lively crowd, from families to backpackers.
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Santorini’s Perivolos Beach is essentially a continuation from Perissa, so it’s got a very similar look, with black sand plus deep and clear water. You'll find similar facilities too, from watersports to sun loungers. If anything, Perivolos has a younger vibe than Perissa, with plenty of nightlife on offer. Still, if you’re keen to find a quieter spot, that won’t be a problem, just head downstream from the main drag.
With its vivid blue water enclosed by red rock formations and red-pink volcanic pebbles and sand, Santorini's Red Beach (or Kokkini Paralia in Greek) is definitely one of the most unique and beautiful on the island. It's located close to the village of Akrotiri (there's an ancient Minoan site nearby that's worth stopping at) and just 11km from Fira. The walk down to the beach from the carpark is a little unsteady along a steep gravel path, but it's only for a few minutes and the views you're rewarded with are well worth the effort . Make sure to stock up on food and water before you set out, as there are no facilities at the beach apart from back-to-basics reading, swimming and snorkelling (bring your mask!).
Remember when we mentioned Mesa Vouno Mountain earlier? Well, on the other side of that same mountain you'll find Kamari Beach. Kamari has full facilities and a quieter feel than either Perivolos or Perissa, though there's still has enough beach bars to keep you entertained. For families, it’s one of the best beaches in Santorini, with a promenade that’s great for a stroll lined with shops and restaurants.
Otherwise known as ‘White beach’ because of its unique pale rock formations that look like sculptures in the cliff face, Vlychada Beach is another gem in the southeast of the island and easily one of the best beaches in Santorini. You won’t find any watersports or noisy bars or restaurants here – the vibe is very relaxed. It's well set up for visitors, with sun loungers, umbrellas, and a café, and it’s easily accessible from Fira by bus (13km away).
Not technically a beach, but one of the best swimming spots in Santorini and something a bit different for your time on the island. From the town of Oia take the path down to Ammoudi port, turn left and walk along the water's edge until you encounter a small bay with rocks. These are perfect launchpad for jumping into the clear water – as you'll no doubt see from the many other people doing just that. There's also a small island to swim out to for stunning views of Santorini.
Top image: View over Red beach and the coast © Olga Gavrilova/Shutterstock