Best Things to Do on Santorini Island

Updated August 14th, 2021 by Travel the Greek Way

Santorini island is the most impressive Greek island and one of those places on earth that you should visit at least once in your lifetime!

How did I fall in love with Santorini?

I remember standing on the Caldera edge on an April years ago, feeling the warm Mediterranean sun on my face, looking at the incredible sight of the Santorini high cliff, the blue Aegean Sea, the whitewashed houses around me, and I thought I was in paradise!

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Interesting Facts about Santorini Greece

  • Santorini island and Anafi are the southernmost islands of the Cyclades
  • Santorini is an active yet dormant volcanic island along with Milos, Nisyros, and Methana in Greece. The last volcanic activity in Santorini was in 1950
  • Permanent residents are 15.550 people
  • Santorini has the oldest vineyards in the world and makes excellent wine, with very special flavor. Assyrtiko, Nychteri, and Vinsanto are some of the most popular varieties. There are at least 20 wineries in Santorini and they are all great at winemaking. Whichever you pick, you will have a good wine-tasting.
  • Santorini island can be very windy during July and August
  • It can be very crowded during July and August – visitors may reach 2 million
  • Even if you travel off-season, make reservations in advance for everything

When is best time to visit Santorini?

The best time to visit Santorini island is between April to June and September to October, the shoulder season.

This is the time when the weather is warm enough for any outdoor activities including swimming, the tourists are fewer – that means you can find the best spots for sunsets and night outs – and prices are more reasonable.

July and August are the busiest months in Santorini island.

You can visit Santorini during the winter but be prepared for a quiet island. There are going to be a few shops and taverns open for the permanent residents of the island as well as a handful of hotels for the adventurous visitors.

Caldera View from a Satellite

All the big semi-circular part on the western side of Santorini has been lost to the massive earthquake and all that remains are the few scattered islets. The crescent-shaped part of the western Santorini is the famous sunset caldera where all the action happens!

What is the number one thing to do in Santorini?

Santorini is one of the best places in the world to watch the most spectacular sunset!

Santorini caldera offers dramatic sea views and that’s why Santorini is considered to be a beautiful and unique vacation destination.

Greek tip: The most popular spot to watch the sunset is Oia’s Castle but there are many other equally beautiful places to admire the sunset like Imerovigli village.

Is Santorini Good for Honeymoon?

Yes, Santorini is one of the best places in the world to have your honeymoon! The island is so romantic that having here your honeymoon will be a fantastic, memorable time of your life.

Make sure you stay in the part of caldera so that you have sunrise and sunset views every day:

  • Amazing Santorini Caldera Boutique Hotels where the view is breath-taking, the service is top, everything is luxurious and you literally don’t want to go anywhere else on the island! Check prices and availabilty on Booking.com HERE

How Many Days do I Need?

I have stayed for 5 days in a row in Santorini which is more than enough to see the island.

I believe that 3-4 days offer ample time to witness the magic of Santorini, explore the local culture and have the time of your life!

Is Santorini Expensive?

Yes, Santorini can be expensive as there are quite a few luxury facilities on the island.

That doesn’t mean that visiting and enjoying Santorini is only for the filthy rich. I am definitely not rich – not even close! – but I always manage to have a great time while visiting the island trying to balance expenses.

If you are thinking of your budget and how best to save money in Santorini you may be interested in my dedicated post for the best budget hotels in Santorini.

Is the Island Wheelchair Friendly?

Santorini gets better and better every year for the mobility-impaired people. By this, I mean that there are vehicles that can pick you up from the airport or the ferry and the main pedestrian street in Oia is basically flat and smoothly paved with large slabs of marble tiles.

But most importantly in Perissa and Kamari beaches, they have installed the Seatrac system so that people with mobility issues can have independent access to the sea.

Accommodation suggestions with available rooms and amenities for the mobility impaired:

  • I highly recommend Costa Grand Resort & Spa, a fantastic 5-star hotel, reasonably priced, located right in front of the beach and a few minutes far from the SeaTrak Mechanism. Check availability and prices in Booking.com HERE
  • Meltemi Blu is an amazing 5-star hotel, fresh and modern with hospitable hosts and with great mountain views, 15 min walk far from Perissa Beach and the Seatrac swimming system. It has 2 rooms on the ground floor, with easy access amenities for people with disabilities or on wheelchairs. Check availability and prices on Booking.com HERE

Find more info on SeaTrak here

What are the Best things to Do in Santorini?

I have compiled a sample itinerary, easy to follow, based each time at a specific area of Santorini. You can travel using public transportation but I would suggest you get your international driving license with you and rent a car or a scooter.

Greek DrivingTip: The roads in Santorini are narrow, there might be a bump or two that you have to be a bit careful.

Get your Travel Insurance: traveling abroad can be tricky sometimes. Better be prepared. Insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations.

What are the Cave Hotels in Santorini?

A Cave hotel is a luxurious hotel with elegant cave rooms and suites. The caves were discovered on the cliffside (Caldera) of Oia and archaeologists identified them as ancient cave houses and lodgings.

Those spectacular cave hotels have different levels for each customer offering privacy, tranquillity and breath-taking views!

Best Cave Hotels with Caldera Views:

What is Oia Famous For?

  • Oia is the very symbol of Santorini, the most beautiful photographed destination on the island
  • Walk Oia’s endless stairways, whitewashed houses and hidden paths that lead to one pretty spot after the other
  • Shop from the local crafts: Discover gorgeous pottery, jewellery, linen shirts or beauty products with local ingredients like volcanic stone and olive oil.
  • Visit the Main Oia church – Panagia Platsani, an elegant church

Fantastic Accommodation Suggestions in Oia:

Amoudi Bay

Amoudi Bay is, quite literally, underneath the picturesque village of Oia. It used to be the old port of Oia in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Today,  you can swim in the azure waters of Agios Nikolaos beach, enjoy the most sublime sea view and have a seaside lunch or dinner in one of the local taverns.

How to get to Amoudi Bay from Oia? Walk down the 214 steps from Oia’s castle or take that rental car/scooter to the main road that connects Ammoudi with the rest of the island. 

Animal Compassion Tip: Please avoid using the overworked, overloaded poor donkeys and mules

Oia Sunset

A fantastic place (and equally popular) to watch the stunning sunset in Santorini is from the castle of Agios Nikolaos in Oia.

Find a good spot, get this bottle of the local variety, Assyrtiko wine out, and feel alive and happy while watching the sun going down in the most majestic colors.

What are the Infinity Pools?

What is better than an infinity pool all for yourself with a killer view on Santorini island?

You may ask, what is an infinity pool?

An infinity pool is when the top of the water is at the same level as the edges surrounding the pool, creating the illusion that the pool waters are merging with the blue of the Aegean Sea or Greek blue sky.

Santorini’s Beaches

Get the rental car/scooter and go to Katharos (in the northwest), a lively beach with sand and small pebbles.

Do you like swimming swimsuit-less? Only 4 km from Oia is Koloumbo Cape, mostly with very young people, no umbrellas, and an underwater volcanic crater.

Take drinking water with you, hats, and sunscreen. Swimsuit, optional!

Very close to Koloumbo is another popular beach, Pori on the east side of Santorini, a sandy beach that locals love.

Sail around Santorini

Grab your walking shoes, swimming gear and a bottle of water and hop on board a local boat.

 One of the stops is Nea Kameni island where the Santorini volcano’s crater is.

Don’t miss the hot springs that heat the sea below and feel the difference in the sea temperature.

Best view of Santorini Tip: The best view of Santorini is on Thirasia island, one of the stops that your tour makes. Alternatively, you can take by yourself the ferry and visit just Thirasia.

Visit SAWA Group

Image by SAWA

The Santorini Animal Welfare Association – SAWA is a non-governmental, non-profit organization, founded in 1992 by active and devoted animal lovers of the Greek island of Santorini.

In cooperation with the Municipality of Thera and the local vet, SAWA neuters treats and re-homes the stray animals of the island.

Moreover, SAWA oversees the implementation of the “Code of Practice” for all donkeys and mules engaged in the Bay of Fira and is constantly making efforts towards the mitigation of their health and working conditions.

At SAWA shelter there are currently around 120 dogs, 20 (retired and overworked or broken) donkeys, and mules, 4 horses, 2 pigs, 3 goats, and a sheep.  Visits and dog walks are at 9 am and the shelter can only be reached through a 1,5 km dirt road!

Taste Santorini’s Best Cuisine

Fava spread variations

Taste the local Santorini delicacies and mouth-watering dishes!

  • Fava, a yellow split-pea purée. Usually as an entree dish
  • Ntomatokeftedes, tomato fritters. They use Santorini specific tomatoes which are a special variety that grows nowhere else in the world
  • Chlorotyri, a local goat creamy cheese that you can only find on the island
  • Capers, as in local very distinct and intense taste capers
  • Melitinia, a sweet cheese pie made with fresh mizithra cheese, sugar and mastiha (mastic) powder.

Greek Food Tip: The further from the caldera you go, the cheaper and more authentic food you will find. I usually check how many Greeks a tavern has. If Greeks outnumber the tourists, that’s the place you want to eat.

Roam Santorini’s Picturesque Villages

Imerovigli

Santorini oia alleys
Image by frag frag from Pixabay

9,5 km from Oia lies Imerovigli village, a comparatively unspoiled, pretty and quiet village. It is built on the highest point of the caldera cliffs, at about 300 meters. Offers majestic photo opportunities and if you are up to a good adventure, you can hike to Skaros Rock!

Alternatively, you can take the 15 minutes downhill walk to Fira.

Value for money Imerovigli hotels:

Fira

Fira is the main town of Santorini and probably the busiest spot on the island as everyone wants to be part of the packed solid shopping area and get “lost” in the maze of winding backstreets.

Fira is a beautiful place to be, full of gorgeous views, picturesque churches and cobbled streets.  Do visit the Archaeological Museum of Thera to get an idea of the great history of Santorini’s.

Open daily between 8:30-15:00. Mondays closed. General Entrance: 3 euro

Megalochori

It is a beautiful and traditional settlement, with historical mansions, old Cycladic houses and pirate hideaways.

If you have time, go to the main square and have a cup of Greek coffee under the tree-shaded area, see the bell-towers, the vineyards and swim at the not-accessible by car remote beaches of Plaka and Thermi.

Where to stay in Megalochori:

Akrotiri Archaeological Site

At the southwest area of Santorini lies an exceptional and highly important prehistoric settlement covering 4th millennium BC Neolithic to 16th century BC Bronze Age.

There is an entrance fee of 12 euro pp.

Since you are in the area don’t miss to visit Akrotiri Lighthouse, a gorgeous point to see.

Where to stay in Akrotiri:

  • Avant Garde Suites, a unique futuristic luxury experience, world-class service with caldera views, private jacuzzi and a gorgeous terrace.
  • CAPE 9 Villas & Suites, an exceptional hotel with a big pool, private Jacuzzi hot tub and spectacular view over the caldera
  • Earino Suites and Villa, another fantastic superior accommodation in Akrotiri with beautiful cave suites, pool, caldera vies and amazing service
  • Budget Hotel: Akrotiri hotel, a perfect choice for a quiet stay, in a beautiful traditional Santorini environment and with seaside views

From Akrotiri, you can go to Vlihada black beach for another swim or/and visit the Tomato Industrial Museum.

Traveling towards the east seaside part of Santorini you find yourself to the famous black sand beach, Perissa.

Perissa Black Beach is the most popular beach on the island of Santorini. If you are expecting California-style sandy beaches, just forget it. Black Beach and all Santorini beaches are very unlike them. Remember, this is a place shaped by a huge volcano eruption!

Some people love the extraordinary looks of it while others find it a bit intimidating, uncomfortable and not so pretty. Not far from Perissa lies the ancient Thera, mostly accessible by hiking and with dramatic sea views.

Hike Santorini – Caldera trail

The island’s most scenic trail is a 9.8km stone-paved route that follows the rim of the caldera and connects Fira and Oia.

It is an easy trail but it has no shade so it is best hiked very early in the morning or late in the evening.

The trail starts in Fira and you should start walking towards the north side of Santorini, towards Oia. There are some signposts but don’t count too much on them.

As the trail is uphill, on its higher point you will get to Firostefani, a village so close to Fira that you won’t even realize that you have reached it. While you are there, visit the famous three bells of Fira at Agios Theodoros.

The trail continues into pedestrian zones in Imerovigli but it can get more exciting if you detour to Skaros rock. You need to follow the path to the beautiful chapel Church of Christ, turn left and head to Skaros rock.

Perhaps the most demanding part is the steep uphill towards Oia. However, you will be extra compensated by the magnificent views on top when you reach Oia.

Santorini Wine Tasting

There are about twenty or so wineries on the island (almost all of them open to visitors), and you’ll be able to discover indigenous varieties that are cultivated here, such as Assyrtiko, Athiri and reds like Mavrotragano and Mandilaria.

I am a great fan of Sigalas wines, and their Assyrtiko is one of the tops in Greece. You can have a wine tasting in their winery but need to contact them first to check availability and prices:

Sigalas Winery: Baxes, Oia, Santorini  +30 2286 071644 or email them at sigalaswinetasting@gmail.com

Island Hopping from Santorini

From Santorini, you can hop on a ferry and an hour, more or less, can find yourself roaming another beautiful Greek island!

  • Mykonos Island – > you get there in 2-3 hours, depending on the boat you will get. Check fares on FerryHopper
  • Crete island (Herakleio) – > you will need about 1 hour and 50′. Check availability on FerryHopper
  • Naxos island – > You will get on the island in 1,5 – 3 hours, find the fastest ferry on on FerryHopper
  • Tinos island – > This is a bit far, you will need 4 hours but that also means that you are closer to Athens port. Check fares on FerryHopper
  • Syros island – > there is only 1 ferry going there (worldchamion and takes 2,5 hours. Again FerryHopper has not only modest fares but also a lot of info for the island

Getting Around Santorini

As suggested before, it would be best to rent a car or a scooter. The prices are reasonable and you get to all the important spots of the island on time avoiding at the same time the huge crowds.

If you don’t want to rent a car, you can use the local Santorini bus. The central station is at Fira.

Cable Car in Fira: This is your alternative to donkeys and steps if you want to visit Mesa Gialos, the old port of Fira, where a lot of caldera cruises start.  tel +30 22860 22977.

There is no Uber or Lyft on Santorini. Taxis are plentiful on the island but better discuss the price in advance before getting in.

How to Get to Santorini

There are direct flights from Athens to Santorini. However, the Santorini airport is in slight disrepair and chaotic during busy months.

If you take the ferry from Piraeus, try to get the high-speed ferry (there are no cabins on the ferry) which trip normally lasts from 4 hours to 5 hours with and the average ticket cost is 40€ (one way). You better have purchased your ticket in advance as in the peak months you might not be able to find one. F

Greek overnight choice tip: Alternatively, you can purchase a ticket with a cabin on an overnight ferry. That way you have a nice meal in the restaurant, you go to sleep and wake up all fresh like a daisy on the island. You save money because you did not need a hotel and you are not exhausted by sitting on a chair for hours.

Solo Female Travelling to Santorini

Are you contemplating venturing Santorini and the other Greek islands all alone or with a group of female friends and wondering if Greece is safe for solo female travelers?

Greece is a perfectly safe country for everyone regardless of age, gender, race, or sexual orientation. In addition to that, Greek people are gene-programmed to be hospitable and are always eager to offer directions to your destination or any other advice, so ask freely.

Naturally, common sense and gut feeling should always be trusted so if something looks suspicious or sketchy, go in the other direction.

Ethical Travelling

  • Please leave no rubbish behind you, no plastic bags or other items. Use the bins and if there aren’t please take the rubbish with you
  • At no circumstance should you light a fire to bake or for any other reason on Santorini
  • Don’t remove any shells, rocks, fossils or sand from the beach
  • The animals shouldn’t be annoyed and they are not here for our entertainment. We respect their natural habitat. Serpents, turtles and snakes are shy creatures and avoid human contact as much as they can. If you come across one of them, change your route and leave it alone.
  • If you open a gate in one of your hikes please close it behind you. It is closed for a reason, the most usual of which is keeping animals inside. Shepherds get really annoyed if they have later on to search for their goats all over the place if the door is left open
  • Refrain from visiting private properties because it is a “great” spot for a “great” Instagram shot. You wouldn’t like it if this was happening in your house. We respect the locals
  • Please don’t step on the roofs of the churches to take your photo, it is highly disrespectful.

Which Greek Islands have an airport?

AstypalaiaChiosCrete-ChaniaCrete-HerakleionCrete-Rethymno
Crete-SitiaCorfuMilosNaxosParos
MykonosSantoriniSyrosSkyrosKalymnos
KarpathosKasosKosLerosRhodes
KastellorizoLemnosSamosLesvosIkaria
KefaloniaZakynthosKytheraSkiathos

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