14 Things To Do in Santorini
Santorini is a relatively small island, and driving from North to South by car takes roughly 45-minutes. The island is part of the Cycladic Islands that are located between Athens and Crete. Despite its size, there are still many things to do in Santorini. Below are our top recommendations.
1. Wander the streets of Oia
Oia is without a doubt the most beautiful town in Santorini. One of the best things to do is stroll up and down the many white steps, through the narrow streets, discovering cozy taverns. Get ready to grab your camera, as around every corner is a new surprise. The bright white houses and blue domes are truly iconic to Greece, and Oia certainly won’t leave visitors feeling disappointed.
It doesn’t take long to explore Oia, as a return journey from the boulevard to the sunset point will only take about 30 minutes. Enjoy a delicious lunch while you’re here, as there are plenty of choices for food and drinks.
Because it is arguably the best thing to do in Santorini, it can get crowded in the narrow streets, especially during sunset. However, a visit to Oia is really worth your time.
Tip: It’s recommended to wear proper shoes as the streets and paths can be slippery and uneven.
2. Oia’s unforgettable sunset
If there’s one thing you must do on Santorini, then it’s watching the sunset at Oia. Gather for sunset at the Castle of Oia, where you can sit on the castle wall. Alternatively, sit closer to Agia Ekaterini for the iconic views that are found on every Greek postcard. Please note that it can get jam-packed during the high season, so we recommend you take a spot at least an hour before sunset.
3. Discover Fira in Santorini
Fira (Thira) is the capital of Santorini and also one of the island’s most visited spots. There are loads of great restaurants and a shopping area. However, the real eye-catcher is the narrow back streets and hidden chapels to explore—for example, the Saint Minas Holy Orthodox Church and the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist.
On the cliffside, there’s a cable car going up (that’s impressively steep) from the old harbor. This is where the cruise ships dock. Unfortunately, donkeys are still being used here to transport the cruise people up 500 steps. Please use the cable car, or the steps, instead of riding on these beautiful animals.
After passing the cable car point, you will enter Firostefani – a smaller, much more laid-back town directly attached to Fira. Walk to this viewpoint overlooking the church, with the three bells. This town is good to base yourself in, as it is the center of the island. This means you’ll have all the things to do in Santorini within a 30-minute drive.
4. Hike from Fira to Oia
Santorini has an incredibly scenic hiking trail along the cliffs, 10.5 kilometers long (6.5 miles). The trail runs from Fira to Oia, with many height differences and climbs, and can take anywhere from 3 to 5 hours to complete. The path is meant for pedestrians only, which means it’s beautifully peaceful.
Situated at the highest point on the cliffside of Santorini Island is Imerovigli. This tranquil and picturesque village is far less visited but just as impressive as Oia, particularly as it also has white chalked houses, churches, and blue domes. What’s more, it has endless views of the shimmering sea and looks directly onto the imposing rock of Skaros and volcano. To top it off, you’ll find many delicious restaurants with an unforgettable sunset view.
Good to know: Imerovigli is located in between Fira and Oia.
6. Hike up Skaros Rock – One of the Best Things To Do in Santorini
Skaros Rock is a large rock formation that overlooks the entire area. Whilst visiting Imerovigli, it takes only 15 minutes to hike up to Skaros Rock. Once there, you will find the ruins of an old Venetian fortress, which was once considered the capital of Santorini.
On the backside of Skaros is a beautiful white church overlooking the sea. Finally, if you’re looking for the most spectacular view, climb to the peak of Skaros Rock.
7. Explore the island by ATV or motorcycle
A refreshing breeze, the smells of the salty sea, and the feeling of freedom; what’s better than discovering all the things to do in Santorini on a motorcycle or ATV/quad? It is the ideal way to discover the island because you have the freedom to drive wherever you like and park pretty much anywhere. This makes it a great alternative to a rental car.
Locals say an ATV/Quad is much safer than a motorcycle; however, if you’re comfortable and used to a motorcycle, the prices are much lower. Personally, we also find these easier to drive. One great plus about the ATV/Quad is that it usually has a large trunk to pack your bags while traveling around the island.
Prices for renting an ATV/Quad or Motorcycle on Santorini
Renting can be done through your hotel or directly at one of the many rental shops. Depending on the season you can expect to pay anywhere from 18 to 30 euros a day for a motorbike and 30 to 45 euros for an ATV/quad. The more days you rent it for, the more discount you can expect to receive.
8. Visit villages
Besides beautiful Fira and Oia, there are other, much less visited, villages that are well worth a trip during the daytime.
Get lost in the alleyways of Megalochori, famous for its beautiful architecture, mansions, and caves houses, as well as the iconic churches with blue domes! Within the village’s main square, you will find many traditional taverns and cafes.
About 8 kilometers away from Fira is the small and slightly undiscovered village Pyrgos. Here you can find a stunning castle, narrow picturesque streets, and panoramic viewpoints. In fact, Pyrgos is at the highest point of the island, providing a great view of both sides of Santorini.
Lunch tip: Have lunch at Brusco, a well-decorated cafe in the middle of town.
9. Visit Red Beach
Santorini’s Red Beach is one of the unique beaches Greece has to offer. The red color comes from the red volcanic cliffs that slowly break down. The beach is not necessarily great for sunbathing, but it’s worth the trip to the south part of the island. To get there, you will have to pass through the village of Akrotiri before eventually reaching the parking lot where the small chapel is located.
Keep in mind that there’s a slight danger of falling rocks, as many signs will tell you. Accessing the beach is, therefore, at your own risk. Alternatively, you can visit Red Beach during a boat trip.
10. Go on a wine tour
The assyrtiko wines of the Greek Islands are well-loved for their unique taste. Instead of growing the vines vertically, they are grown in baskets on the ground. This allows the vines to tap into the volcanic soil that contains moisture instead of needing to be watered (water is a scarce resource on the island).
The yield of wineries is low, making it a more exclusive wine. Growing them in this way also provides more coverage against the island’s notoriously strong winds.
We booked a wine tour on Santorini at Gaia Wines, and it was much more interesting than initially expected. Besides having a tasting experience, we also learned about harvest and the chemical reaction during the wine-aging process. The wine tastings can be paired with a platter of local cheeses and bread at their uniquely located terrace – right by the sea under the shade of trees. Bliss!
11. Perissa Beach
Have you done all the things to do in Santorini? Or maybe you’re simply wanting a day of relaxation? Head over to the black sand beach, lined with umbrellas, named Perissa Beach. The beach is a long stretch of sand with many comfortable beds, sat below the restaurants situated on the other side of the street. Perissa village is a popular seaside resort that mainly attracts young people and backpackers.
Either rent a bed for the day or pick a free spot to put your towel down. Once you’re comfortable, sit back and enjoy the sunshine and a refreshing swim in the Santorini sea.
12. Archeological sites in Santorini
Santorini Island has two major archeological sites from different times in history. The first is the ancient and well-preserved city of Akrotiri. It is the most important site found on the island and in the entire Eastern Mediterranean. Akrotiri is protected by a modern roof, which provides shade for those visiting during the daytime.
Ancient Thera is the second archeological site of Santorini, located on the top of the Mesa Vouno Mountain. Here, you can find the remains of a church, temples, shrines, and a theater.
Both sites are perfect things to do in Santorini on a day trip with your rental car or ATV.
13. Ammoudi Bay
A great thing to do in Santorini is to visit Ammoudi Bay. This small port is tucked away below Oia, and fantastic seafood restaurants are lined along the clear waters. It is famous for romantic sunset dinners, and it is also the starting point for many boat tours that visit the Volcano and Hot Springs.
Getting to Ammoudi Bay can be done via the 280+ steps going down next to Oia’s Castle or by car or taxi. When using the stairs, it’s recommended to wear proper shoes as each step is wide and the surface mostly uneven. A third option offered is riding on the back of a donkey, but we highly discourage this.
14. Santorini Volcano and Hot Springs
A huge volcanic explosion happened a long time ago on Santorini Island. As a result, the island’s center sank and, ultimately, reshaped the island into a crescent. This is the reason why the island has these extreme cliffs.
There is still a volcano near Santorini that you can visit on a day trip. It’s a short 10-minute boat trip, followed by a walk to the active craters. (Book a volcano tour here online)
Because of the volcano, there are natural hot springs to be found nearby. Here, you can swim in the sea and experience the unusual feeling of the warm hot spring water mixing with the normal sea temperature.
Where to eat
It’s true that Santorini is definitely not cheap, but when it comes to going out for dinner you have a lot of options in every kind of price category. For vegetarians, and sometimes vegans, there are also plenty of options available at most restaurants.
Our favorite restaurants in Santorini were:
- Pelican Kipos in Fira (Greek, European)
- Paradox in Oia (Thai food)
- Salt & Pepper in Fira (Greek)
- No Name Grill in Firostefani (Seafood, Greek)
- Karma in Oia (Greek)
- Katharos in Oia (Vegan Meze Bar)
- Forno in Kamari (Pizza & Pasta)
- Tranquilo in Perissa (Vegan)
- Brusco in Pyrgos (European)
How to visit Santorini
There’s no surprise that Santorini, and all its many things to do, attract a lot of visitors. In 2019 alone, the small island, with a population of only 15,500 people, received over 2 million tourists!
Getting to Santorini
Santorini Island is well connected with daily ferries from the mainland (Athens) and many other nearby islands like Milos or Mykonos. The ferries are fast, comfortable, and generally faster than flying from nearby destinations (especially, if you count the time it takes to check-in). During the high season, from March to October, there are also direct ferries to other popular islands.
Flying to Santorini is another option, as there are many direct flights to/from other European cities outside of Greece. For example, Paris or Amsterdam. Thira Airport is located on the east side of the island, and a taxi from the airport to Fira costs about 20 euros.
Getting around Santorini
Santorini is the perfect holiday-sized island, particularly as you can drive from North to the South in about 45-minutes. This allows you to explore the island in just a couple of days, however, we would recommend 4-nights/5-days as the perfect length for all the things to do in Santorini.
Public transport in Santorini
A great, and definitely the cheapest, way of getting around Santorini is to use the local buses. You can get a bus to pretty much anywhere on the island but you always have to use Fira (capital city) as the hub for all transfers. Therefore, if you’re planning to use the bus, we recommend getting a hotel in Fira too.
A one-way ticket costs about 2 euros and the timetable per destination can be found on the operator’s website.
ATV or Motorbike rental
The most versatile way to get around Santorini is by renting an ATV/Quad or motorbike. It’s a fun way to explore the island as you can get anywhere, and it’s relatively cheap as well. The downsides are that it’s less safe, and on long drives you’ll get way too much sun.
Depending on the season, you can expect to pay anywhere from 18 to 30 euros a day for a motorbike and 30 to 45 euros for an ATV/quad. The longer you rent it, the more discount you can expect to receive.
Santorini car rental
If you’re more comfortable driving a car, this is a great option too. Additionally, cars will come with AC, which is an advantage over being exposed to the sun on the ATV. There are many car rental locations on Santorini Island. For example, Santorini Airport, the port, or within the larger villages.
It’s recommended to book a rental car ahead of your trip, particularly during the high season. During this time, if you leave it until the last minute, you might not find an available rental car.
Although we wouldn’t recommend exploring the island by taxi, they are useful to get to the ferry port, to the airport, or to get from one town to another. Generally, a taxi from the harbor to Fira (15 minutes) is about 25 euros.
Your Budget for Santorini
Santorini is definitely one of the more expensive islands of Greece, especially between June and August when the price of accommodation and flights double. Credit cards and European cards, like Maestro, are widely accepted. Because of this, it’s not necessary to carry a lot of cash on you.
- Hotel: 50 – 500 USD / night
- Hostel: 15 – 80 USD / night
- Price per meal: 25 USD / person
- Transport: 10 – 50 USD / day
Best Santorini Hotels
The best area to stay on Santorini is close or in Fira, the capital. It is close to all the things to do in Santorini and additional you have to option to use the local bus. We stayed at in this hotel.
As for hotels in Santorini, you can go as crazy as you like. Prices of the hotels range from 50 to 500 USD on average with the extremely luxury easily exceeding that. Don’t worry, there an option for every kind of budget. (See all hotels on the island)
Budget hotels (~70 USD/night)
Mid-range hotels (~130 USD/night)
Luxury hotels (175+ USD/night)
Best Time to Visit Santorini
May to June, or September to October, is the best time to visit Santorini. The weather is usually around 20-25 degrees, with a cool breeze flowing over the island. At this time, prices haven’t reached their highest point, and there are far fewer tourists on the island.
Please note: If you’re visiting between November and April, many restaurants and hotels will still be closed. However, this could be a great opportunity for you to see a quiet Santorini.