Santorini, Greece, exudes a certain sexiness and romantic appeal that can’t be duplicated. It’s home to one of the most photographed sunsets in the world, and the village of Oia (pronounced ee-ah) is one of the most booked honeymoon destinations. The white buildings crowned with their royal blue domes cascading down the multicolored volcanic formed cliffsides is certainly a must-see in a person’s lifetime. But this Greek island (one of just 9,000+) offers more than what meets the eye.

For the average traveler, Santorini is typically a short stop between days of island hopping, to get an up-close view of the island's picturesque Caldera. But Santorini’s people, its stories, culture and history, are what truly make this Greek destination come to life. 

If you’re the type of traveler that likes to get to know a destination beyond its surface, here are some ways to explore Santorini beyond its touristy hotspots. 

Book your stay at Magma Resort Santorini 

Magma Resort Santorni infinity pool

Opened in August 2022, Magma Resort Santorini—the first resort in the Unbound Collection by Hyatt in the Greek Islands—is a luxury property secluded from all the busyness that Oia and Fira bring. Yet, you are only a short car or taxi ride away.

Magma Resort features 59 rooms and suites, many with private pools or jacuzzis, perfect for a little alone time with your significant other or some R&R after a long day of exploring. The Earth-toned hues of the decor, set against the blue Aegean Sea in the backdrop, sets this resort apart from what you may typically find in Santorini. And, it is said to have the longest pool on the island.

There’s a poolside bar and restaurant—Magma by Spondi—with a menu curated by a two starred Michelin chef. You can order meals to your room, and there’s an option for a more upscale tasting menu that features locally-inspired dishes such as: olive covered sea bass with bok choy and rock cooked scallops. 

The resort has an on-site spa, Lava Spa, offering everything from traditional massage to a unique technique that uses hot shells for deeper muscle relaxation. After your service, you can sit by the in-spa pool and enjoy a cup of hot tea or utilize the steam room and sauna. 

Check out the nearly two dozen local wineries

Domaine Sigalas winery. Image: courtesy of DeAnna Taylor.

Beyond tourism, one of the island’s main industries is wine. With nearly two dozen wineries currently operating across the Santorini, you can spend a day winery hopping or even book a food and wine pairing for lunch.

Domaine Sigalas is one of the largest growers in Santorini. The long-running brand has several vineyards as well as a tasting room in the village of Oia. Santorini specializes in mostly white varieties, because of the volcanic terrain and humid climate, but there are certainly a few reds and even dessert wines as well. True wine nerds will take interest in the unique growing techniques as well as taste of the island’s wines, and you may end up bringing a few bottles back home.

Explore the traditional villages and learn the history of the island

Small café in Emporio Village. Image: courtesy of DeAnna Taylor.

What most travelers don’t know is Santorini’s tourism industry is still fairly young, starting in the 1960s. So, most people flock to the villages of Oia and Fira because it's the areas that have been developed for tourists, and it's where the cliffside hotels and many of the island’s restaurants are. 

But, smaller villages like Pyrgos and Emporio tell the real stories of the island—and it's where more locals live and operate. You can explore the villages on your own, or you can book a guided tour guide with Maria Kyvernitaki, who is well-versed on everything from how villagers once lived together within the walls of the castles as a means of protection for pirates to the real reason that Santorini’s villages were built with white buildings and narrow stone walkways. 

Visit a local farm and participate in a traditional cooking experience

Local dishes made during cooking experience. Image: DeAnna Taylor.

Nothing allows you to truly connect with a destination like sitting down with its locals and experiencing the cuisine their way. And what better way than by visiting a locally-owned and operated farm.

Petros, which translates to Peter in Greek, owns a large farm near the southern part of the island. He allows visitors onto his property and takes them on a walk to show how he, and generations before him, harvested the land. Depending on the season, you’ll be able to try the Santorini cherry tomato as well as the watermelon— all organic and straight from the ground.

After your walk with Petros, you’ll head to a small kitchen to meet Anna of Anydro Tours, where she will show you how to prepare a traditional meal made with ingredients sourced directly from Petros’ farm. From tomato fritters and seasonal veggies, to wine produced from grapes picked just steps away— it’s almost like you become a local for a day. But beyond the food, the best part of this experience is being able to sit down with Anna for an exchange of cultures. It’s a very fulfilling moment to not only learn about her life, but to share a bit about your own life and culture, too.

Go back in time with a day on Thirassia Island

Church on Thirassia island. Image: courtesy of DeAnna Taylor.

Thirassia is often said to be the replica of Santorini, before tourism happened. A small neighboring island, you can hop on the ferry from Ammoudi Bay and be transported in time in just 5-minutes. Of course, Thirassia is nowhere near as bustling as Santorini (or many of the other larger islands), but it is interesting to see the juxtaposition. 

The best way to explore and understand Thirassia is with a walking or e-bike tour hosted by Yannis Daskalkis and his wife Nicole. The only tour operators currently on the island, you’ll be able to visit the old Greek cave houses (many of which have been destroyed by earthquakes) as well as visit several of the white and blue domed churches on the tiny island. At the end of the tour, Yannis and Nicole invite you to join them for a homecooked meal consisting of Greek salad, locally-sourced sausage, as well as samples of their award-winning wines grown on their land. 

As a bonus, head back to Ammoudi Bay for lunch one day. The views mixed with the calming glass-like emerald green water of the bay cannot be missed.