Santorini's beaches are pristine; black volcanic sand, cool blue waters and dramatic landscape are characteristic of this tiny Aegean island. Well-known are the cosmopolitan beach resorts of Kamari, Perissa and Perivolos, and the rugged Vlychada, Red and White Beaches.
Kamari, a thriving hub of shops, cafes and local residents, was the first to welcome tourism in the 1970s. Consequentially, it is more organised than other destinations. Perissa and Perivolos, the longest stretch of uninterrupted beach on the island, is a mix of beach bars hosting summer happenings and family-friendly establishments. These two areas rest on either side of Mesa Vouno, the site of Ancient Thira.
Situated near the Akrotiri excavations, the Red and White Beaches are without facilities, save sunbeds and umbrellas for hire. Take snacks and water with you. Alternatively, there are a couple of canteens at the top of the cliff before the descent path. White Beach, which is excellent for snorkelling, is approached by boat from Red Beach.
Vlychada, famed for lunar cliffs traversing the beach, is popular with locals and visitors alike. Yachts and fishing boats moor at the marina, and there are traditional tavernas for lunch. Vlychada is home to the Santorini Arts Factory, revamped from the old tomato factory. The Vlychada area includes Eros Beach. Scenically similar, the beach is secluded and exclusively serviced by Theros Wave Bar.
Karterados (East Breeze Bar)
Santorini has many out-of-the-way coves and beaches; Koloumpo, Pori, Paradisos. Some are virtually untouched, while others have just one or two restaurants or cafes. In that category fall Karterados beach (East Breeze Beach Bar), Exo Gialos (Yalos Bar) and Katharos beach in Oia (Katharos Lounge.)
Many spots with umbrellas, sunbeds and wooden walkways are extensions of beachfront cafes, furnished and serviced by them. You are expected to order from the bar. There may be a surcharge for general use (ask before you sit.) Others, outside the purview of local businesses, have a fixed charge (umbrella and sunbeds only.) If this is not your cup of tea, there is ample free space to park your towels.
A rich catalogue of extreme watersports is available: jet ski safari, parasailing, water skiing, wakeboarding, kayaking and more. Scuba diving centres offer underwater experiences at every level of proficiency.
*Monolithos is semi-organised and has the shallowest waters. Below Oia, picturesque Ammoudi port (known for fish taverns) has a path leading to a sunbathing spot. From there you can dive and swim to a tiny islet and the Chapel of Agios Nikolaos. The water is deep and only suitable for strong swimmers.
Exo Gialos (Yialos Bar)
Six beaches in Santorini are recipients of the prestigious Blue Flag Award for 2021. Award eligibility is reviewed each year. Criteria requirements are many and strict: water quality, cleanliness, organisation, safety, protection of coastal natural wealth, environmental awareness and so on.
Blue Flag: Agios Georgios, Vlychada, Kamari 1, Kamari 2, Perivolos, Perissa.
Blue Flag is operated by the non-profit Foundation of Environmental Education (FEE) with the aim of promoting sustainable tourism worldwide. Blue Flag is amongst the most respected eco-labels in the world.