Santorini (Thera) is one of Greece’s most famous and most popular islands. Situated in the Cyclades, Santorini is unbelievably beautiful. The moment you step off the boat or the plane, it feels like you walked into one of the iconic postcards from Greece and its islands: whitewashed, sugar-cube houses with intense blue doors and shutters, blue-domed churches, and picturesque winding paths against a gorgeous backdrop of the Aegean’s royal blue.
The uniqueness of Santorini (Thera) doesn’t stop there. One of the four volcanic islands of Greece, it is certainly the most famous one. The historic eruption of Thera which, in effect, majorly contributed to the fall of the Minoan civilization 3,600 years ago, changed the course of history. It is also said to have inspired the myths of the Titanomachy, the big battle between the gods which established Zeus on the throne of Olympus and began the era of the Olympians.
Aside from the destruction, Santorini’s volcano has also offered something eerily gorgeous to the island, making it even more iconic and unique: its black sand beaches.
Black sand can be found in a lot of Santorini’s beaches, but there are a few that are solidly black, giving the impression of an alien landscape which fuses with the familiar beauty of the gorgeous seaside.
When you find yourself in Santorini, you must visit and enjoy each of these remarkable beaches.
Why is the sand black?
When the volcano erupted in that devastating explosion 3,600 years ago, the entire island was covered in pumice, volcanic ash, and lava. These ingredients are what give the black sand beaches their onyx color.
In reality, the sand is mixed in with the pumice, the volcanic ash, and the ground-down bits of solidified lava. Every beach in Santorini has that volcanic mix, but not at the same percentage. The level of concentration of this mix determines the shade of black for every beach.
The Black Beaches of Santorini
Though every beach has the volcanic sand mix, only those with the highest concentration of it have the privilege of being called ‘black beaches’. Here is a list of the blackest beaches of Santorini, each of them a gem and a must-see:
Kamari is one of the blackest and biggest beaches on the island. Kamari is located on the southeastern coast of Santorini, a few kilometers from Fira. Access to the beach is very easy, by car, bus, or taxi.
Kamari beach is a Blue Flag beach, which means it is extremely clean and well organized for sustainability. It is also well organized for tourist support, so you will find an abundance of sunbeds, umbrellas, and other amenities, including a lifeguard. There are also trees offering their shade.
If you are a fan of water sports and other water activities, Kamari beach should be top in your list: you will find a diving center where you can even take snorkeling lessons, several available water bikes, canoes, surfboards, and a lot more. When you need your rest and refueling from the days’ activities and adventures, there are plenty of restaurants and café’s for every taste!
Kamari beach is extremely popular, so make sure that you go early. During the night, there’s lively nightlife with clubs and restaurants, and there is a lovely promenade for your nighttime stroll.
Right next to Kamari beach, separated by the Mesa Vouno mountain, you will find the gorgeous Perissa Beach.
Perissa’s dark black sand is iconic in the sheer contrast it has with the rich blue of the crystal clear waters. The beach is very cosmopolitan and organized, so there is an abundance of amenities and luxuries you can find there, from wide sunbeds and comfortable umbrellas to a wide selection of various water sports. Everything you may want to do is there waiting for you: canoes, surfs, boats and water bikes, even parasailing and windsurfing, as well as banana boating and other activities.
Just like Kamari, Perissa beach is also a Blue Flag beach. Its added bonus is there is a fully functioning water park there, complete with waterslides and pools. It’s open to children and adults alike and makes for an unforgettable experience.
There are also several restaurants and cafés in Perissa beach, as well as a vibrant nightlife with clubs and beach clubs, so make sure you enjoy them all!
Yet another stunningly black sand beach, Perivolos is about 12 km from Fira and only 3 km away from Perissa, at the southeast coast of Santorini.
Like all of Santorini’s black beaches, the black lava gives the sand a shiny tiny while the sparkling, crystal clear waters become a deep, lush blue. Perivolos is highly organized just like Perissa, so you will have all of the possible seaside resort amenities available to you. There are sunbeds, umbrellas, water sports, beach bars and clubs, and an abundance of restaurants and other venues.
But one of the highlights of Perivolos beach is its daily beach party! There are many famous DJ guest appearances when the beach parties are thrown. Thanks to the abundance of beach bars, there is always one!
There are also other events and happenings, such as beach volley events, cocktail parties, bonfire parties, and a lot more.
Perivolos beach is very popular with young people but that doesn’t mean families and older fans of making merry at the beach are excluded! Perivolos is an ideal beach to enjoy cocktails and lounge in while you enjoy the various shows.
Vlychada beach’s black sand is a dark pencil gray rather than total black, but it more than makes up for the lighter shade with the alien, otherworldly look it has.
Its characteristic, oddly shaped cliffs and the dark gray-black sand make it feel like Vlychada beach is located on a different planet or the moon rather than on earth. This effect is thanks to the volcano’s activity coupled with the famous Cycladic winds.
Vlychada is organized but tends to be less crowded than the beaches of Perissa and Kamari. You still get luxury sunbeds and umbrellas and all the basic amenities and services of an organized beach.
There is also a Sailing and Yachting center very near Vlychada with excellent fish taverns and a lovely small port and marina.
If you are looking for a more authentic, non-organized beach, then Columbo is where you want to go. Its sand is a dark black-gray and its secluded nature promises a lot more relaxation and individuality in how you enjoy your stay there.
Unlike the other beaches, Columbo’s waters are warm thanks to the existence of a crater created in 1650 when the underwater volcano Columbo, after which the beach is named, erupted. The volcano is still active and keeps the waters warm.
Columbo is 4 km from Oia village and can only be accessed by car or taxi as there are no bus routes there. This adds to Columbo’s seclusion and allows for activities such as nudism. Columbo beach has a surreal, eerie atmosphere to it and the promontory that juts out, offering some shade during midday, adds to the alien feel of the landscape.
It’s unlikely to find crowds in Columbo so if you are looking for privacy and relaxation, Columbo won’t disappoint. Just make sure you bring your own essentials to the beach as there will be no sunbeds or umbrellas.
If you are skilled and a fan of snorkeling, Columbo beach will satisfy you with its undersea cave called Seal Cave and the underwater crater from the underwater volcano.
Mesa Pigadia beach
Yet another isolated gem of a black sand beach, Mesa Pigadia is located near Akrotiri.
Mesa Pigadia has dark sand and pebbles and is surrounded by eerie, imposing dark volcanic cliffs. There are also cave-like formations called syrmata built by the fishermen to protect their boats during winter which adds a touch of heritage and culture to an otherwise wild landscape.
The beach is semi-organized with some sunbeds and umbrellas, but you should come prepared to rely on your own supplies. There is also a cave that leads to the White Beach of Santorini if you are feeling up to exploration or simply want respite from the sun.
There is a family-run tavern if you are feeling like fresh fish and other traditional dishes.
Mesa Pigadia is equivalent to privacy, relaxation, peace, quiet, and the music of the sea waves splashing and rolling pebbles.
Planning a trip to Santorini? You might also like:
How many days do you need in Santorini
How to spend one day in Santorini
A 2-day Santorini itinerary
A 4-day Santorini itinerary
The best villages to visit in Santorini
The archaeological site of Akrotiri
Things to do in Fira, Santorini
Things to do in Oia, Santorini
Islands to visit near Santorini