Sunsets and Sunrises in Santorini
Breathtaking, marvelous, stunning, astonishing, inspirational, heart-stirring, majestic, gorgeous, grandiose, exalting, striking, impressive, uplifting, magnificent, transcendent, sublime, stimulating… these are just some of the many adjectives I’ve overheard from onlookers staring in an unwavering gaze at the incredible sunset of Santorini.
It has been heard from many of people, travel blogs and magazines that the Greek island of Santorini offers some of the most spectacular sunsets in all of the world. In all honesty, a year ago when I was doing my research and planning my trip for the Greek islands, Santorini made the top of my list because of the reviews of the sunset, blue dome churches and its famous caldera. It wasn’t until I dove deeper into the history of the ancient civilizations and volcanic activity, that I discovered just how extremely enthralling this island truly is. Subsequently, as I meet more and more travelers, I find that what stands out in their minds is the picturesque sunsets and white and blue dome churches, not the fact that this is a volcanic island in which the touristic caldera villages are literally built on what used to be the crater of the volcano.
I have become engrossed in this island’s history, geology, culture and traditions. The purpose of this blog, however, is to assist future travelers, seeking the majestic sunset views, on what to expect, where to go, provide dates / times and ensure you make your sunset viewing an unforgettable experience, surpassing what you may have imagined. You may be saying to yourself: “This is a no brainer. Watching the sunset is simple. You simply pick a spot and gaze out into the horizon.” While the mesmerizing gazing process is quite simple, discovering the perfect spot without having massive amounts of people piled on top of each other, can be quite a different story. Not to mention, the trial of trying to get a photograph without the crowds of heads blocking your view.
As you may know, the sun always rises in the east and sets in the west. Depending on the time of year, however, it may rise more or less north or south of east, and set more or less north or south of west, but there's always at least a fair component of "east" in the rising and "west" in the setting. Santorini could not be more magnificently, geographically positioned, providing onlookers with a grand sunset facing the amazing view of the volcano from the caldera side, plus a grand sunrise along the black sand beaches on the east side of the island. At this time of year, as spring is in full swing and the summer is quickly approaching, the daylight hours are getting increasingly longer and longer. As each day passes, the sun is rising a minute earlier and setting a minute later. That is until the summer solstice on June 21st, when the opposite occurs and the daylight hours slowly decrease again. Below, I have listed the most notable spots to enjoy the grandeur of Santorini’s sunsets, following with charts of the dates and times of the sunrise and sunset for this season.
Oia is the village that every travel magazine and brochure will boast for the most picturesque sunset on Santorini. As they are not lying at the beauty to be found gazing the sunset from this village, it is important to keep in mind that because it is the most popular spot, it is also the most densely crowded and therefore difficult to find and claim your spot. Plus, if you desire to watch the sun fully set into the horizon from here, you must venture to the northern tip of the village, close to where the ruins of the Venetian castle are located and plan to claim a spot at least an hour in advance. Then, be prepared to be packed in like sardines and have selfie sticks and cameras reaching over your head for a picture. However, if you arrive early enough and have energy to walk down and up the 214 steps to the Ammoudi Bay, you can situate yourself at one of the 5 fish taverns and enjoy a dinner and/or glass of wine whilst enjoying the glory… or claim our own personal sunset gazing spot from any spot on the port. Also, a little secret that many do not spread, is of a small beach located from walking distance from the Ammoudi port. Hint: it’s located to the right of the Ammoudi port. If you take the road, not the steps down to the Ammoudi Bay, take a right instead of a left to the port. There will you will walk along a path and some rocks until you reach this secluded quiet beach spot. Here, although there are no cafes or restaurants, you may, however, be all alone on a beach to enjoy the sunset with your loved one.
Fira, Santorini’s capital and the location of the old port in which many cruise ships bring their passengers in by tender boats, is just as beautiful of a spot to capture the setting sun. The huge advantage of this village is that the entire sun setting process can be fully viewed from any spot along the caldera, which offers a magnitude of choices of dining and relaxing. Since Fira is a bit larger as well, you have a much greater chance of finding your own special spot to gaze out into the horizon, overlooking the volcanic islands of Nea Kameni and Palaia Kameni, plus the sister island of Thirassia. Additionally, the panoramic view from Fira spans 11 miles or 18 kilometers, providing you a widespan viewing pleasure from the southwest tip of Akrotiri to the northern most tip of Oia. My personal suggestion is to arrive about an hour prior to the sun setting and choose one of the many portico doors, which seem to be perched right on the cliff’s edge. As you enter one of these portico style door entrances, you typically will descend a few stairs to a quaint, romantic spot perched right upon the caldera’s wall to enjoy a relaxing sunset gazing evening while enjoying a delicious Greek coffee or a Santorinian local wine. If a cafe hanging unto the cliff’s edge isn’t your taste, then do not hesitate to wander the many cobblestone pathways along the caldera’s edge and find your own private viewing spot. Again, since Fira is much larger in its caldera viewing capabilities, finding a private spot of your own is much more likely here than it would be in Oia.
Pyrgos village, also known as the “Tower” is not situated along the caldera, however, because this village is situated at a higher altitude, the sunset can still be beautifully enjoyed from this point. Also, since it is not one of the top touristic villages, you would get a lovely sunset in a more traditional village on the island. A romantic, intimate evening with your family, small group of friends, or that special someone, would be to arrive in Pyrgos an hour or two before the sunset time and enjoy wandering the small labyrinth pathways throughout the village as you slowly ascend to the top of the village where the ruins of the Venetian castle is located. Up at the castle (castelli) is a cute café named Franco’s Café & Bar. It is situated along the fortress walls of the castle and makes for a perfect place to enjoy watching the sunset, while enjoying your favorite beverage and relaxing to classical music. Another notable spot in Pyrgos for watching the sunset is at the restaurant named Selene’s. Selene’s is located just on the outskirts of the concentrated “tower” village, near the public parking area or around the corner from the Icons and Relics Museum. If you have a few nights to enjoy Santorini’s magical sunset, then an adventure off the “beaten track” of the highly touristic villages and into a more traditional setting is certainly worth it. It is only in a more traditional village that one would get more of an authentic feel to the local lifestyle of Greek island living. Talk with the locals, ask them where they have dinner and their favorite spots to go on the island. Trust me… it is only in experiences like these, that you can uncover the true hidden beauty of this mystical island and its people.
Faros Akrotiri Lighthouse
I find lighthouses in general to bring on a romantic, warm feeling. Yet, this feeling is only intensified when gazing the sunset at this quiet, remote spot on the southern tip of the island. The lighthouse near Akrotiri, which is called Faros, is beyond stunning in the warm light and colors of the setting sun and even more lovely under the pinkish, violet sky before night completely falls upon the island. The lighthouse here, does not have the typical Greek island appeal as it was renovated by a French trading company in 1892, yet it screams stunning with the splash of colors from the setting sun. Plus, not too many people know about or realize the beauty of the sunset at this point, so finding your own personal rock to sit upon, without the hassle of fighting the crowds, while listening to the singing of the seagulls above, make Faros Lighthouse a spectacular spot for your sunset viewing pleasures.
The village of Imerovigli is situated on the highest point along Santorini’s famous caldera. It is approximately 350 meters above sea level, providing travelers a glorious, panoramic view of the island’s lagoon, volcanic islands and our sister island of Thirassia. Imerovigli has also coined the name the “Balcony of the Aegean,” as in its name “mera” meaning day and “vigil” meaning viewing or lookout point. If you are lucky enough to be staying in a villa or hotel in this village, then you have also landed on the best balcony from your own room to view the gorgeous sunset of Santorini. If this is not your resting place, however, there are a few lovely restaurants in which you can relax with food and drink while enjoying the views. Or, just meander through the small pathways of steps and find your own gazing spot to quietly enjoy the view.
One of the most remarkable places to enjoy our world known sunset is from the top of the Skaros Rock, situated right in front of the village of Imerovigli. Not only are you walking on the same path that the locals did in the early 12th century, but this is also the famous spot of Santorini’s first Venetian castle and capital, constructed in 1207. Skaros was a fortress originally known as “Epano Kastro”. During a 19th-century earthquake the castle was destroyed and today there are only ruins, which one may completely miss unless purposely seeking its remains. The landscape here is incredible. At sunset, the rock resembles a castle or dark fortress lit up by the red basking light of the sunset. If you wander down in front of the rock, there is also the lovely little Chapel of Theoskepasti, facing the caldera, which is also another fantastic spot to gaze into the horizon and take in the glory of the sunset. Please keep in mind, though, that it is a 20-minute hike from the village of Imerovigli to the top of the Skaros rock. The hike is rated as medium difficulty as it takes you across many rocks and a path that has many ups and downs. Plus, if you stay for a while after the sunset to enjoy the magnificent colors spread throughout the sky, then make sure you pack a flashlight for a safe return to the village above. This is a sunset spot for the adventure seeker and one who finds intrigue and resonance in walking on historical settings.
For an entirely different sunset viewing spectacle, jump aboard one of the many boats offering sunset excursions and delight in the majestic beauty of the rich colors that bounce off the bountiful, multi-colored layers of the caldera. Upon watching the sunset from a boat, you get to see more than you would from any of the spots along the caldera or on the island. From the sea, you can gaze upon Santorini’s white villages illuminated in a violet haze, orangish glow and pink mist. Witnessing the entertaining array of colors from below the caldera on a boat is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Plus, one could not ask for a more quiet, romantic, intimate setting. Most sunset boat excursions are either offered as private tours or as small groups on a private catamaran. This means that you and your loved one will certainly have a comfortable, peaceful, impressive experience and be pampered with snacks and drinks as you embrace each other, rocking softly with the water and gaze the majestic views.
Wine lover? Like to taste and learn about the indigenous wine varieties of Santorini? All the while, sitting at a perfect location along the caldera with a magnificent view of the sunset? Then a winery situated right along the caldera is the spot for you. There are 15 wineries throughout the island of Santorini and our vineyards are known as the Jurassic Park of vineyards… the oldest in all of Europe and many parts of the world. Our grapes are beyond special. From how they are grown to the flavors they produce. Whether you visit a winery at the time of the sunset or at any other time of day, it is, in my opinion, one of the highlight destinations to truly immerse yourself in our island’s glory. If you want to take a wine tour and learn about our wine making history and follow that with a wine tasting, sitting along our famous caldera, then there are a couple spots that I know for sure to recommend for you. First, and my personal favorite, is Venetsanos Winery. This was the first industrial winery on Santorini in which Mr. Venetsanos utilized gravity to produce his wine in a time before electricity was fluent throughout the island. This is a family owned and operated winery and a place that is not only picturesque but also serene, quaint and romantic. Upon your visit here, you can first expect to be given a tour of the wine museum where they explain to you the history and process of wine production while taking you from level to level showing you precisely their unique method. To conclude, you will choose your perfect table along the caldera in which a wine expert will bring you and explain the flavors of 5 different wine varieties. Not only does Venetsanos produce some of the highest quality wines on the island, they are also economical. Another top choice for wine tasting while enjoying a spectacular view is from Santo Wines Winery. Here, you can also choose to have a tour of their winery and be given the history of the wine production. Following, choose from a magnitude of seating options for your wine tasting pleasure. The view from Santo Wines is beautiful as with Venetsanos, however, Santo Wines is a bit more pricey and commercial, so the feeling here is a little different. Just depends on what suits your fancy. Cheers! Enjoy your wine with the gorgeous sunset.
Below I have included tables that will show you the dates and precise times of the sunset for this 2017 summer season. Please keep note, that as of October 28th at midnight the clocks change and will be set forward one hour.
Have a glorious time taking in our island’s majestic sunset and sunrise! These are the moments that will stick with you for a lifetime!