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The result of a violent explosion hundreds of years ago, the Cycladic island of Santorini is known for its dramatic caldera views and the bleached white villages that tumble like sugar cubes down to the coast. Home to many a romantic cliffside hotel with soul-stirring views, the island also has beautiful beaches to explore.
Perhaps Santorini’s most well-known coastal spot, Red Beach, also known as Kokkini Beach, is as dramatic as you might imagine. Located on the southern part of the island, in Akrotiri village, the coarse, rust red sand is made up of tiny pieces of volcanic lava and rising behind it in a soaring backdrop are the magenta-hued cliffs. Not unlike a beach you might imagine on Mars, there is definitely an otherworldly feel to Red Beach. However, you can still enjoy coastal pleasures including sunbathing and swimming, plus there is a bar. Bring a snorkel and you can have fun admiring the underwater caverns and rock formations, and watch fish flit in the clear blue Aegean.
In sharp contrast, White Beach, a few coves on from Red Beach on the southern side of the island is characterised by luminous, pearly white cliffs which clash eye-catchingly with the black, volcanic sands, lapped by the iridescent Aegean. A monochromatic delight, White Beach is best accessed by boat, giving it an air of exclusivity and can be a way to break free of the crowds. If you plan to spend the day here, pack a picnic with a few Mythos beers and some spinach and cheese pies from the bakery as once you reach this secluded spot you won’t want to leave.
On the southeastern side of Santorini, 10 kilometres from Fira, a long swathe of black pebbly beach stretches out. Known as Kamari, this popular beach has space for everyone, you’ll find sun loungers here in jaunty yellows and orange with thatched parasols. Spend the day on Kamari and you might like to walk along the pebbly shoreline, dipping your toes in the water, maybe hire a pedalo or paddle board or wander the promenade stopping for ice cream or lunch. In short, Kamari has everything you need for a day on the beach. Handily it’s also near the ancient site of Thera, which resides on the foothills of Mesa Vouno Mountain.
If you’re a fan of the clearest water possible plus prefer to be in easy reach of a cold beer, then Armeni Beach might be the one for you. Conveniently located below Oia, one of Santorini’s main towns and not far from Aficionados’ member Aenaon Villas, Armeni resides at the northern end of the island. Not only does it have one of the best views from a beach of the caldera, it also has a laid-back taverna so it’s easy to while away the day dipping in the sea, drying off and quenching your thirst at the bar. The shoreline can be rocky, but the upside is transparent water. The only trouble will be the 300 or so steps that get you back up to Oia.
You’ll find Vlihada beach on Santorini’s south coast, backed by peculiar formations of rock. Pockmarked and smoothly eroded, the sandstone gives Vlihada Beach a unique look. A sheltered bay, Vlihada is perfect for swimming and with a pick of tavernas there’s certainly a nice spot for lunch too. Interestingly, time spent at Vlihada means finding out about the island’s history before tourism became its main industry. The volcanic soil made the ideal conditions for growing tomatoes, find out more at the – surely only – beachside tomato museum, a former cannery which now showcases Santorini’s affinity with the tomato.