Black, Red, White… oh my!
When most people think of Santorini, their minds tend to imagine the amazing cliffside, known as the famous caldera, and the plethora of white buildings and blue-domed churches perched along its precipice. While this gorgeous volcanic island has the magnificent caldera stretched across its west coast, offering a splendor of layered colors representing its rich volcanic history, it is important to note the magnitude of gorgeous beaches outlining the entire south and east coast of the island.
Actually, the catastrophic volcanic explosion that occurred 3,600 years ago, which broke the island of Thira into 3 pieces, also expanded the east coast outward approximately 2 kilometers, giving Santorini it’s many black sand beaches. The beaches in Santorini are much different than other beaches in Greece due to their special geographical features. Red and black volcanic pebbles lay the shores of Santorini beaches and steep cliffs provide a picturesque ambience. White, red, gray or black sand, crystal clear deep blue waters, red and black volcanic lava rocks, this is the picturesque ambience one can expect to encounter on Santorini’s many beaches. Many travelers will agree that Santorini offers some of the finest beaches in the Mediterranean!
The purpose of this blog is to provide you with an extensive look at all of the beaches on Santorini that can be found and what to expect. So, whether you are seeking a family friendly beach with organized activities, or a private, more secluded romantic setting that may be clothing optional, this blog will guide you in the right direction. First off, Santorini is known for its black sand beaches. With the sand being dark in nature, one can expect it to also be very hot. So, be careful of your bare feet as I’ve seen many tourists yelping as they run towards the cool water for relief. Also, while this “sand,” which is volcanic pebbles cover the beaches, they are typically small and still make for a soft lounging experience if you are only laying on top of a towel or blanket on the beach. If you have never been to a volcanic island before, this may be a bit misleading. It’s not really fine black sand, it is more so small back volcanic pebbles that vary in size. Some are so small that they are similar to a thick type sand, whereas most of the beaches feature the small pebbles like pictured below.
Most beaches will offer an array of choices to use sunbeds from the simple to the luxurious. Plus, not all places will charge you to rent them, yet they are only available to customers. So, if you are looking to be served food and drinks on the beach and enjoy a comfortable sunbed, then this is the option for you. If you prefer a more secluded, unorganized beach setting, then a towel upon the thick layer of extra small black pebbles is more than comfortable enough. One will come across some larger stones, but for the most part the beaches are covered with a thick layer of this sand-like pebbles which provide plenty of cushion with just a towel. Continue reading for a list of each beach you will find on Santorini with a description of exactly what to expect.
The votes are in!
A poll was taken at the end of the 2016 season and travelers from all over voted on their favorite beaches. The results are as follows:
• Best Beach of Santorini: Perivolos / Perissa. These are basically the same long 4km beach, also including St. George beach. It is also known as the famous Black Beach of the island.
• Best Beach for Families: Kamari. It offers lots of amenities for kids and is also a black pebbled beach.
• Most Unique Beach of Santorini: Red Beach. This beach is not ideal for everyone as it takes a short hike to get to the beach, the swimming space is very narrow and it can be very crowded.
• Most Romantic Beach of Santorini: Vlychada and Eros.
Beaches by geographical location:
Perissa, Perivolos and Agios Georgios, Vlychada, Red beach, White beach. Perissa, Perivolos and Agios Georgios are in the touristic areas of the island and offer lots of hotels and rooms, taverns, cafes, bars, watersports and beach bars. The Red Beach, near Akrotiri, is in a quieter area, but also attracts many people. Thanks to its unique color, it is the most famous beach of the island. White beach is also accessible by boat and less crowded.
Kamari, Monolithos, Pori, Vourvoulos, Koloumbo. Kamari is the main beach on the East part of Santorini, featuring black sand, which is quite developed with lots of restaurants, tavernas and bars. Monolithos is less developed, offering shallow waters, suitable for families with children. The rest are less or not at all developed for those preferring privacy.
List of individual beaches with descriptions:
Type: Red and Gray Pebbled, Partly Organized
The red beach is arguably one of the most famous and beautiful beaches of Santorini. Soaring red lava cliffs, which drop straight down to the sandy shore and into the clear blue sea make for a majestic setting and one to enjoy. It is located only some steps away from the ancient site of Akrotiri. The small size of the beach creates a very crowded atmosphere and there are many days where most of the visitors choose not to make it all the way down to the beach and instead admire this unique landscape of red and black volcanic rocks from the headland.
The access to the beach is a short hike across a rocky dirt path and includes some steep rock steps that can be up to 2 feet high. The path is not very difficult unless you have mobility issues, yet I do advise to wear something other than flip flops while making the trek. You can leave your car at the parking space and continue on foot all the way down, which takes about five to ten minutes. As you gradually get down to the beach, you will be impressed by the magnificent colors upon the cliffs. During high season, many sunbeds and umbrellas cover the dark sand and the seashore offers an array of colorful pebbles to enjoy. Snorkeling is highly recommended due to the interesting rocks and large boulders, providing more marine life. If you would prefer not to take the trek by foot over to the beach, you can also access the beach by a small tender boat that departs from Akrotiri port.
Type: Sandy, Family Friendly, Lifeguard, Organized, Diving Club, Watersports
Kamari is a tourist hotspot situated on the southeast side of Santorini, approximately 10 km southeast of Fira, the island's capital. The area is famous for its beautiful beach that has been awarded the Blue Flag, which extends all the way to Monolithos and for its green landscape. On the beachfront you can find hotels, restaurants, bars and many shops that can please all tastes and budgets. Quite similar to the landscape of Perissa, the beach is covered by black sand, while on the right side of the beach is an enormous rock, called Mesa Vouno that rises from the sea. The area is extremely attractive, especially at night when the rock shines in the dark. The beach of Kamari is fully organized, offering a wide range of facilities like sunbeds, umbrellas and various types of water sports.
The traditional houses that line the village of Kamari offer a beautiful view to the sea and visitors can take a nice stroll along the waterfront. Due to the modern amenities including hotels, restaurants, snacks, cafes, bars and night clubs, the village becomes quite popular with tourists during the peak season. Plus, before enjoying a relaxing day at the beach here, one may want to start their morning by taking the long winding road up from Kamari to the ruins of Ancient Thira, where you can wander through the ruins of this ancient settlement.
Type: Pebbled, Family Friendly, Organized, Diving Club, Water sports
Perissa has been voted Santorini’s best beach. A beautiful beach situated 15 kilometers southeast of Fira that features stunning characteristics like thick black sand or pebbles, crystalline waters and various beach facilities. A feature that makes Perissa so unique is the fact that it is the best protected beach from the summer Aegean winds, called "Meltemia" in Greek. Perissa lies right next to the Mesa Vouno mountain, totally protected from the North. Additionally, Perissa is part of the 3 beach villages that make up the longest continuous black sand beach on the island, popularly known as Black Beach, which extends on for more than 4 kilometers on the southeastern side. Perissa is a lovely tourist resort witnessing a huge tourist movement that starts from the middle of the summer season. The village offers a great variety of hotels for all tastes and budgets, restaurants, taverns, cafes and bars. The area is extremely developed with modern amenities and quite inviting, while still retaining its strong traditional character. From Perissa, a small path crosses up the mountain and leads to a small chapel, Panagia Katefiani and then to the top to the ruins of Ancient Thera. You can also visit the chapel of Agia Irena from the16th-17th century, located at the base of Mesa Vouno, near the beachfront.
Type: Sandy, Family Friendly, Well Organized, Water sports
The picturesque beach of Perivolos is part of the famous Black Beach and longest black sand beach on Santorini. This beautiful beach lies on the southern end of the island, between Vlychada and Perissa. Perivolos is the place to have a great time in the well-organized beach bars and restaurants. Beach bars here are lots of fun! They combine a day club scene with swimsuits, beach volleyball and social gatherings. The beach is distinguished for its sparkling azure blue waters and tranquil atmosphere. On the beachfront there are numerous taverns, pubs and restaurants serving fresh fish and local delicacies.
Perivolos beach is easily reachable from Perissa. In case you don't have your own vehicle, there are local buses and a small beach locomotive that will take you there. Those who like to walk can also choose to stroll down the beach road, slowly taking in all that Black Beach has to offer. Perivolos is surely one of the most well- organized beaches of Santorini offering a plethora of exciting water sports facilities, like windsurfing, scuba diving and jet skis.
Agios Georgios or St. George
Type: Sandy, Partly Organized, Water Sports, Family Friendly
One of the most famous black beaches of Santorini, Agios Georgios receives many tourists. It is located on the southern tip of the island, about 3.5 kilometers away from Perissa and provides an exciting option for all visitors. It is the final of the 3 beach villages that make up the longest black sand beach, called Black Beach. Numerous facilities are available such as umbrellas, sunbeds, hotels and bars that fit every budget. Water sports and beach bars are available, providing visitors a choice among a variety of activities in the water or out at the beach.
Many restaurants and taverns are gathered along the waterfront, covering all tastes. The beach is a haven for water sport enthusiasts, offering them a wide range of water activities to choose from, including jet skis, scuba diving, windsurfing, paddle boats and banana boats. Agios Georgios beach is clearly an ideal holiday destination and perfect spot for those preferring a solitary swim, avoiding the massive crowds.
Type: Sandy, Partly Organized, Nudism Friendly
Vlychada beach was voted one of Santorini’s most romantic beaches. Upon entering the beach, there are some sunbeds available for rent, however, the majority of the beach is unorganized without the typical touristic restaurants and service on the beach. This is what adds to its romantic appeal, as it is less crowded and you can choose your own special spot to lay out beach blankets and bring your own picnic. You will notice as you approach, two large chimneys, which are the remanence of old tomato factories. One is directly behind the beach and one nearby, but don't worry as this factory is no longer in use and the brick structures are quite pleasant to look at. This beach is quite long, covered with dark grey sand or pebbles that one finds all over the island. There are several sun loungers here and if you wander down further from the entrance to this beach is where you may encounter some bare bodies, as this area is known for nude sun bathing. One of the most interesting aspects of Vylchada, is the cliffs of volcanic ash, located right behind the beachfront, that have been weathered throughout the centuries. This unique landscape looks most like the surface of the moon and these pumice stone hills keep it calm and quiet. Vlychada is the last beach in the row of Perissa and Perivolos before Akrotiri. Before you reach the beach, you will pass the small harbor, which is full of small traditional boats. It is a perfect spot for those wishing to avoid the big crowds, where meals and snacks can be found at a nearby cafeteria on a boat. At Vylchada, you can also visit the Santorini Arts Factory, located on the beach in the old tomato factory, which is a fully renovated old industrial complex of a tomato production company. After the donation of Nomikos family, this museum hosts a tomato museum and various events and exhibitions throughout the year.
Type: Pebbled, Unorganized, Secluded, Nudism Friendly
Koloumbo beach is the most isolated spot on Santorini. It is located 10 kilometers from Fira, the island's capital. To reach Koloumbo you can park on the headland in two different positions and make your way down through a narrow path. It may look like quite a walk from where you park, but trust me, it is well worth it. The impressive, dramatic landscape that surrounds will amaze you! The enormous red cliffs offer enough shade and because of its secluded, private location, it is also known as a nude beach. East of the beach at a distance of about 4 kilometers and underwater at a depth of 18.5 meters is located an active crater of the volcano that gave forth the 1650 eruption and caused several disasters on the island. This active crater today leaves the waters quite warm. Make sure to bring your own supplies as there are no options to buy food or drinks near this beach. So, if you want to get away from the touristic beach scene in other areas and choose more peace and quiet, Koloumbo is the place to go.
Type: Pebbled, Partly Organized, Semi-Secluded, Family Friendly
The beach of Monolithos is close to the beach of Kamari in the area near the airport of Santorini. It is quite popular among the locals and especially families. It is long with black sand, shallow waters and organized in places with sunbeds, umbrellas, beach volleyball and a lifeguard. This beach reveals a pleasant atmosphere, which is why it is often crowded with children. The area is surrounded by various hotels, rooms, restaurants, cafes, changing rooms, showers and public toilets. There is a football field, basketball court and a nice play area for children. There are also trees at the back of the beach for shade seekers.
Type: Unorganized, Pebbled, Semi Secluded
If you drive through the village of Karterados all the way down to the coastline you will come to Karterados beach. There is a long stretch of black sand with a couple of good fish tavernas. The beach is not organized, so bring your own supplies. A dirt road runs parallel to the beach, backed by tall cliffs that takes you all the way to Monolithos. If you are seeking a less crowded, relaxing beach day without all the amenities, this could be the spot for you.
Type: Pebbled, Secluded, Nudism Friendly
The cove right next to the Red beach, on the southern side of Santorini, is known as the White beach. It is very similar to the Red beach in that is a small cove of a beach nestled by tall, surrounding cliffsides. However, the cliffs here are white, not red. Actually, the white beach is covered by black, gray and white sand with large pebbles, surrounded by huge white rocks that increase the sense of isolation. Getting there is only possible by boat from Akrotiri. There you will find some umbrellas and sun beds. It is less popular than the neighboring cove of the Red Beach and therefore quieter.
Type: Secluded, Pebbled, Unorganized
Vourvoulos beach is located 7 kilometers from Fira, at the northeastern side of Santorini. This sandy beach with turquoise blue waters is optimal for relaxation. It is amongst the lesser known beaches of Santorini, leaving it isolated, providing relaxation and privacy. Keep in mind, however, that the sea breeze here is very blustery, making sun bathing at the beach a dangerous venture. Plus, the waves are too large as it is always advisable to be at a safe distance from the shoreline. Vourvoulos beach is ideal for one who wants to spend a quiet day at the beach.
Mesa Pigadia Beach
Type: Partly Organized, Pebbled and Rocky, Semi-Secluded
This is a quiet, wonderful rocky beach, lined by white cliffsides of volcanic ash. It is one of the many hidden spots for swimming, near the extreme nature of the island, in the area of Akrotiri. The beach is not very large and it consists of sand with pebbles and larger stones. It is just 800 meters from the main Akrotiri road and there is a restaurant on the beach, among the several cavehouses called ‘varkadies,’ which means that they are used to host fishing boats during the winter. On Mesa Pigadia it is a little bit more quiet than on some of the other beaches because it is more out of the route. The dirt road leading there is in good condition, as even bikes manage to reach the beach. Or, if you prefer, you can get there on foot. Another way to reach the beach is with the small boats that depart from the Akrotiri area, just in front of the Archaeological site.
Type: Unorganized, Semi Secluded
Pori is another amazing beach on the East side of Santorini, where the rocks have that unique red color, like the ones on red beach. The beach is small, quiet and undisturbed with some nice fish tavernas, one right on the beach and the other is just above with views of the bay. Also, on the hillside are a series of traditional windmills, perfect for pictures. This beach is an excellent choice for those that do not mind walking the short trek of 50 stairs and want a quiet setting. Keep in mind that there are no umbrellas or facilities, so bring your own beach supplies. It is also recommended for strong swimmers as the waters can tend to be a little more rough than other beaches on the island.
Type: Partly Organized, Sandy, Shallow Waters
Baxedes is the main beach at the north part of the island in Santorini. It is located next to the famous village of Oia. Baxedes is a peaceful place, providing guests a look to what Santorini was before the huge tourism movement. It is an excellent beach with black sand and shade, ideal for those liking to avoid big crowds. Baxedes is surrounded by many beaches such as Paradise or Koloumbo. There are some accommodation options here like a couple of hotels and some tavernas, as well as sun beds and umbrellas on hire. The beach is recommended for families with children since the waters are shallow, which is unusual for Santorini. However, due to its location, the beach is affected by the summer northern winds, called meltemia, and it is not the best choice of swimming beaches when the north wind is blowing, as the waters can be dangerous. Access is possible by rented or private car and motorbike as there is a parking area.
Type: Sandy and Pebbly, Partly Organized
Exo Gialos is beautiful, quite sandy and pebbly beach with stunning rock formations. It is located at about 4 kilometers from Fira, at the east part of Santorini and is kind of considered the beach of Fira town. It is quite isolated with natural beauty and a contrast of the blue sea and black sand. A small fishing boats port exists here. An interesting feature are the storage areas, known as ‘syrmata’, built into or under the volcanic rock. They are used for housing boats during the winter months. The beach is partly organized with umbrellas at 3 euros per person. There is also a canteen for snacks, beer and refreshments and a tavern for lunch.
Type: Pebbly, Unorganized
Kambia is one of the less known beaches of Santorini in the area of Akrotiri at a distance of about 13 kilometers from Fira. It can be reached by car or bike from the road that leads from Akrotiri to Faros. It is a quiet beach with large black pebbles on the shore and a view of the lighthouse at Faros. It is not an organized beach. The surrounding rocks do provide some natural shade. There is a small shop for tourist goods and a small taverna serving refreshments and food from June till September.
Type: Sandy and Pebbly, Unorganized
Agia Paraskevi is located south of Monolithos beach towards Kamari village. It is a black sand and pebble beach and unorganized. There are some umbrellas and sunbeds, mostly in front of some hotels and tavernas located there. The area is named after the church located there.
Type: Sandy and Pebbly, Partly Organized
Avis beach is located south of Agia Paraskevi and north of Kamari, on the east coast of the island. It is a quiet black sand and pebbles beach, partly organized with umbrellas and sunbeds. There is a restaurant and some shops for drinks and snacks.
Type: Pebbly, Unorganized
Bella Bay beach is a quiet, unorganized beach with pebbles, located next to Akrotiri beach. It is located at the area of Akrotiri, at the entrance of the village, when you head for the direction of the Faros lighthouse next to a small parking lot, where people can park their cars to enjoy the breathtaking views over the caldera. The beach is reached by descending the steps.
Type: Pebbly, Unorganized
Akrotiri beach is located next to ancient Akrotiri at the southern coast of Santorini. It lies next to Red Beach and White Beach. It is a quiet, long pebbly beach with quite large pebbles, rocks and deep water. There is a taverna for drinks and snacks. Also, on the beach, there are some cavehouses cut into the rock, which are used for storing fishing boats during the winter.
Type: Sandy and Pebbly, Unorganized
Katharos Beach is a quiet black sand and pebble beach, located in the area of Oia village. It can be reached by car from the road to Ammoudi. This beach is characteristic of the two rocks that stand in the middle of Katharos. There is a taverna at the start of the path leading to the beach. Katharos is unorganized and there are no sunbeds or umbrellas. It will take you about 3 to 5 minutes to walk to the beach from the parking place.
Type: Organized, Family Friendly, Romantic, Sandy and Pebbly
Eros is located north of Vlychada beach at the south part of Santorini. It was voted alongside Vlychada beach as the most romantic beach on the island. It can be accessed by car, as it has a parking lot. To get there, follow the sign to Theros beach bar from the road to Vlychada. The beach is organized with umbrellas, sunbeds and beach volleyball.
Tou Christou Ta Thermi / Thermi Beach
Type: Secluded, Pebbly
A unique beach in the area of Megalochori, inside the caldera. It is a secluded beach that can be reached only by foot through a narrow pathway or by boat. It is a pebbly beach and best for those in good physical condition. The way getting back up is kind of tough. You can expect to encounter black pebbles, pumice stone, red volcanic rocks and geothermal sources with ruined baths, which had formerly been a natural hot spa. If you see the beach from a boat you will impressed by the church of Christ Tou Christou Ta Thermi, which is carved into the rock. Next to the church, several old cavehouses’ entrances exist.
Type: Secluded, Pebbly, Diving
Armeni is the old harbor of Oia and has a small beach. It is located below the village, down the steep caldera and connected by approximately 300 steps, which begin at the newer marble street of Oia village. You can walk or take a donkey or mule. Going down the steps may not be so difficult, but climbing up is hard, for sure harder than its sister port of Ammoudi. Armeni is also accessible by the small boats leaving from Ammoudi port. Armeni is a nice, quiet place with a small taverna. Finally, diving is possible here. Nowadays, only small boats or private yachts anchor at Armeni which is ideal for swimming. There is a small beach here with pebbles with deep blue water.