Apart from its iconic incredible views and sunsets there are many other things to do on Santorini as well. The caldera of the volcano is the epicentre of the island, and its neighbours, and provides an abundance of things to do including sailing, watersports and beaches but there are also world famous Santorini wineries, ancient ruins and villages and a vibrant cafe, bar and shopping scene.
There are some incredible places to stay and no lack of things to do on Santorini, and it caters for all ages and all budgets.
The best apartments in Airbnbs in Santorini
3 days in Santorini – a complete Itinerary
PLANNING A TRIP TO GREECE?
Whether you’ve been before or it’s your first time it can be hard to process all the information out there. Be sure to check out our complete Planning Guide as well as our FREE 13-page downloadable itinerary.
If you are feeling really overwhelmed you might like a Trip Consultation.
And come join our private Facebook Group where you can ask questions and get advice from real travellers!
Are you planning a last-minute trip to Santorini?
It will be no surprise that Santorini is popular especially in Summer and Spring. There is a lot of accommodation and tours to choose from but it can be overwhelming.
Here are a few quick tips:
Top Tours in Santorini
- Luxury Small Group Catamaran with lunch or dinner and Open Bar ( top rated!)
- Volcano and Thirassia Island Sunset Dinner Cruise
- 4 hour sunset wine tour
- Sunset Sea Kayaking and Snorkel with Dinner tour
- Horse Riding on the beach
- Private photo shoot with a professional photographer
- Best of Santorini private tour by minibus
- Cooking Class in a traditional restaurant and wine-tasting
Top Places to Stay in Santorini
- Old Castle – Oia
- Filotera Suites – Oia
- Andronis Luxury Suites – Oia
- Above Blue Suites – Imerovigli
- Tholos Resort – Imerovigli
- On the Rocks – Imerovigli
- Kastro Suites – Fira
- Homeric Poems – Fira
- Panorama Boutique Hotels – Fira
- Kokkinos Villas – Akrotiri
- Hotel Matina – Kamari Beach
- Daylight Hotel – Perissa Beach
Villages and towns of Santorini
The most photographed and iconic village on the island Oia is at the very northern tip and is where everyone wants to get those sunset shots. Especially popular with honeymooners this is also where most of the expensive accommodation is.
To get to Oia you will need a car transfer from both the port and the Airport.
Fira is the capital of the island and the biggest and most cosmopolitan settlement of Santorini. It is located in the western edge of the island, opposite the volcano. It is the busiest part of the island with tour buses and groups and is where you are most of the nightclubs and backpackers are as well as services such as banks.
You can access Fira by foot or cable car from the Port or by road from the Aiport.
Imerovigli means “The balcony to the Aegean” and it is built on the highest point of the caldera cliffs, about 300 meters above sea level in between Oia and Fira. Its position provides a magnificent view of the famous volcano, the sparkling Aegean Sea and the sunset.
A notable attraction of the village is the huge rock called Skaros that lies on the seaward side. It is was once one of the five fortresses of Santorini and the most significant one.
Perissa is a coastal village, located on the southeastern edge of the island, 13 kilometers from Fira. Itis lcoated at the base of Mesa Vouno mountain and is believed to be the place where the ancient city of Elefsina used to stand.
Perissa has a popular black sand beach that gets very busy in summer.
It is also the highest point of the island and has amazing views from all sides.
A sea village at the foot of Mesa Vouno mountain Kamari is also home to the islands most popular beach.
Close to the airport there is a long street with many shops, restaurants, taverns and cafe-bars and often live greek music too. Its is also home to the islands only cinema.
See the highlights of Santorini
Watch the sunset from stunning Oia.
Visit the archaeological ruins of Akrotiri, see sugar cube houses and blue-domed churches.
Explore Emporio, one of the oldest traditional villages and discover Venetian castles and the remains of Minoan civilizations. Taste Santorini’s distinctive wines and stop off at the highest peak of Santorini.
You dont necessarily come to Santorini for the beaches. They aren’t the best beaches in Greece but in saying that the best beaches on Santorini are quite unusual and its still worth looking at one or two.
Probably the best known beach on Santorini lies on the southernmost part of Santorini near Akrotiri village, 12 kilometers south west of Fira.
It is very distinctive and quite unlike any other beach in the world with huge red volcanic cliffs leading right down to the sea where the sand and pebbles are also red/pink. The beach is semi-organized with white sunbeds and umbrellas and there are a couple of small shops to buy supplies at the beginning of the path.
There are no facilities or water sports at Red beach but you can snorkel. Red Beach is sheltered from the wind which makes it very popular all year but that also means it can get very hot in summer.
ps. Red Beach has been closed for the past two years due to landslides. Check with the locals before visiting. Viewing from the safety of a boat is a the best option.
White beach (Akrotiri)
Just around the cove south of Red beach is White beach. It is very similar to the Red beach, with black pebbles on the shore, but the surrounding cliffs are white. This beach is accessible by boat or on foot from Red beach.
It is less popular than the neighbouring cove and therefore much quieter. It doesn’t have facilities, except for some umbrellas and sunbeds along the coast, although the surrounding rocks do provide shade and again it is generally sheltered from wind.
Kamari is the most popular and touristic of the beaches on Santorini and the promenade next to it lined with bars, tavernas, cafes and shops. 10 kilometres southeast of Fira and close to the airport its a very family friendly beach and its possible to stay right in the village at some of the small hotels.
Despite being so popular Kamari is a very clean beach and there are many facilities such as sunbeds, toilets and even a lifeguard. There is also a number of water sports to choose from including a Dive Centre.
You can get to Kamari by either bus or car and there is a large car park near the beach.
Eros is a small beach at the southern end of Santorini that few people know about. Its really one of the islands hidden gems.
To get to it you need to drive down a dirt road to a small car park next to a surprisingly good beachfront Taverna. There are a small number of umberellas and sunbeds for rent and the water is clear and generally safe to swim. There are huge imposing white cliffs around the beach which really make it quite special.
Santorini Boat Tours
There are many small boats that offer sailing trips out on the Caldera which is very worthwile.
Most will visit the active hot springs in the middle of the Caldera for a swim and possibly some of the smaller beaches and villages around it as well.
If you go in the afternoon you can enjoy an early BBQ dinner on board and take in the sunset from the water.
Not only will you avoid the crowds up in the towns above but the view over the water is absoultely mesmerising and something you will never forget.
Tours often book out in summer so ask you hotel to organise this as soon as you can. If they are fully booked often some of the local fisherman will happily accomodate for a reasonable fee.
There are many operators on the island with a vast array of different types and sized boats. They are all good but some stand out above the rest. I our opinion these are the best for:
Group Sunset Cruise with swim stops & Dinner
Romantic Sunset Cruise – Luxury small group
Group Day Cruise to Volcano with swimming
Traditional Fishing Trip with lunch
Diving in Santorini
Despite the water in the caldera being very deep and dark there is actually some good diving to experience on Santorini.
There are a number of underwater reefs to explore as well as a couple of shipwrecks! We recommend a tour with Atlantis Oia who have many years of experience. They will take your to two dive spots ( subject to change depending on weather) where you will be guided by professional instructors. The underwater lava formations are quite incredible!
Wine has been made on Santorini since ancient times and in fact many believe the world’s first vineyards were here.
The island has a very special and unique terroir ( soil/conditions) as a result of the volcanic soil, the strong winds, the sea salt and the climate. Despite there being very dry conditions the volcanic soil is able to absorb a lot of moisture, particularly from the night fog.
There is a also a unique way of growing the grapes on the Cyclades islands. Due to the wind the vines are shaped into circular wreaths on the ground instead of on trellises and this, and some low stone walls, protect them from the strong summer winds.
Most people agree some of the best wines in Greece come from Santorini and in fact the often win awards and accolades all over the world today.
The indigenous white grape varieties Assyrtiko, Athiri and Aidani are the most popular but there are vines from other areas used as well.
Covering over 30 hectares Argyros is one of the largest wineries on Santorini. Now run by Mathew Argyros, the fourth generation of his family since the winery was first founded in 1903.
The wines feature a wide variety of native grapes including, Assyrtiko, Athiri, Aidani, Mandilaria and Mavrotragano and ONLY native grapes are used. In fact many are exported to wineries around the world, including Australia.
There is a bus stop right outside the winery but otherwise a private tour is easy and great value.
Perched on the cliffs above the ferry port near the traditional village of Pyrgos at one of the the highest points on the island Santo has a state-of-the-art winery with high tech machinery and modern facilities, along with the Oenotourism Center, which offers educational sessions and videos on the winery and wine making process.
Their tours of the winery and very interesting too.
With incredible views across the island Santo is a fabulous place to not only do some wine tasting but also to enjoy a bite to eat and, if you’re lucky, listen to some live music too.
Visit 3 wineries with a local Sommelier!
Explore three estate wineries on this wonderful small group ‘Santorini Wine Roads’ package tour with a maximum of 10 participants. Accompanied by a renowned sommelier you will learn about the soil and microclimate, the indigenous grape varietals and cultivating techniques, and more.
Hiking in Santorini
Santorini is world-renowned for its stunning sunsets, caldera views and unique landscapes. Hiking in Santorini is one of the most popular activities and is a great way to really absorb what this island is all about.
These are the most popular routes to take:
Fira to Oia ( or reverse)
The stretch between the towns of Oia and Fira is perfect for all levels of hiking experience. Due to its accessibility, incredible views and easy terrain it is considered one of the best things to do in Santorini.
Some sections of the route are cobblestone, some is paved footpath and other sections are dirt track. The hike itself scales the steep cliff tops along the coastline, offering several spots for unbeatable photos.
Many people do this hike from one end or the other and then catch a taxi or bus back. Some do both ways which of course takes twice as long!
There are places to stop and buy water, and food, along the way but be sure to pack plenty just in case, as well as sunscreen and a hat.
Length: 10.5 km
Duration: 3.2 hours
Skaros Rock/Panagia Theoskepasti
The short hike to Skaros Rock passes by the church of Panagia Theoskepasti can only be accessed from Imerovigli. The path itself leads you down a narrow path to an isolated viewpoint on the edge of a cliff face.
From Imerovigli, there are approximately 10 minutes of stairs going downhill to reach the official entry point next to the Church Agios Georgios.
The path itself is considered to be dangerous and should be taken with caution. You will have incredible views of the surrounding islands from this point but be able to take stunning photos of Church Panagia Theoskepasti.
Duration: 30 minutes
Kamari to Ancient Thera
The Kamari to Ancient Thera (Fira) hike is a back trail offering hikers unique scenery and viewpoints not commonly witnessed by general tourists to the island. The path follows a cobblestoned road from the town of Kamari and ascends along the northeastern slope of Mesa Vouno Mountain and through the Mesa Vouno Pass.
Ancient Thera is the remains of a settlement dating back to the 9th century. This is the second most important archeological site on Santorini and was built by the Spartans due to the natural protection it offered from two small mountains and a ridge.
You can also extend this hike by starting in Perissa, the neighbouring beach town to the south of Kamari. This adds an extra hour.
Duration: 2.5 hours
PYRGOS TO ANCIENT THIRA
Hike from the charming medieval village of Prygos, in the interior of the island, to Kamari.
This trail starts on the cobblestoned streets of Pyrgos and then onto a tarmac road and more cobblestones. It passes by the Ancient Cemetery of Thira which was once a refuge for Thireans during pirate attacks, and the Monastery of Profitis Ilias, built in 1711. At Ancient Thira you can also see the remains of the Temple of Apollo Karneios.
The hike ends at Kamari beach where you can be rewarded with a swim in the sea!
Duration: 1 hour
Further reading: Hiking in Santorini
Cooking classes on Santorini
Wineries, a cooking class and lunch
Visit 2 wineries and sample the island’s delicious wines as well as traditional Greek aperitifs such as Raki and Ouzo. Learn how to cook like a Greek under the guidance of a local chef at a traditional restaurant.
There are a number of professional photographers on Santorini who can capture your precious holiday memories in the most beautiful possible way.
Not only do these people take great shots but they also know the best secret backdrops, where to get to the best vistas and how to make the most of the weather and the day. Some even do novelty type shoots.
You can also join workshops to hone your own photography skills.
1 hour walking photo session for up to 2
Shopping on Santorini
The main villages are filled with small boutiques, souvenir shops and specialty stores and there is a large Hondos Shopping Mall in Fira as well. The island is especially known for its incredible jewelry and Odos Ipapantis (Gold Street) is lined with them. If you are new to Greece you will be amazed by the vast array of evil eye jewelry and trinkets which are believed to ward off evil spirits. Some jewelry is also made from volcanic rock and petrified lava.
Poniros is a family run business and they have two stores at Fira and Oia. They are famous for their exquisite high end pieces particularly their Volcanic Flower and Windmill ranges. Synonomous with luxury and style women from all over the world make sure to visit Poniros when in Santorini.
Take deep pockets!
Located on the main pedestrian street of Oia Atlantis was founded by a coupe of American college student on holiday in 2002.
A book lovers paradise there are books piled to the ceiling in this quirky little shop which is also full of philosophical and literature quotes. Its become one of the most famous bookshops in the world.
Located in the heart of Oia Fine Art this modern gallery specialise in photography and contemporary handmade Jewellry.
Exhibition change regularly but most are free to admire so pop in and have a look. The art work is carefully curated and each piece is very special.
Bloom Greek Design and Deli room
A small delicatessan, coffee shop and concept store located at 25th Martiou street in Fira. They do a great brunch and brunch and make some of the best coffee on the island.
They have a lovely selection of locally designed homewares and fashion items as well.
Santorini Arts and Culture
Santorini Arts Factory
Located at the south of the island near Blychada Marina the Arts Factory was once a tomato canning facility and is now both a museum and a venue for art exhibitions, music and dance performances and other cultural events.
The museum is one of the world’s only tomato museums and features original equipment and goods used in the former factory.
There is a small shop that showcases a the work of a number of Santorini’s artist and produce makers.
The business also offers a number activities such as these ;
- Tour of the Tomato Industrial Museum and learn bout the history of Santorini, its culture and agricultural life. Then taste the famous tomato paste.
After the tour choose one of the old labels from the factory and seal your own can, using the old canning machine.
Tour duration: 30’
Movie duration: 30
Seal your can: 10’
- Cooking homemade Tomato Paste
A visit to the Tomato Museum can be combined with an interesting cooking session. Learn how to make homemade tomato paste and sauce.
- Meze Tomato Plate
An enjoyable and delicious break, filled with flavours of tomato.
Fresh tomatoes, sun-dried and finely chopped tomatoes, tomato paste dip, combined with olives, capers, caper leaves from Santorini, traditional greek rusk, and local Assyrtiko wine.
Attend a Greek Wedding!
Don’t miss the hilarious and super fun Greek Wedding Show in Fira!
You will join other attendees as guests of a traditional Greek Wedding set in the 1940’s, with singing, dancing, plate smashing and more.
This is an outdoor event set in the garden of the Papadopoulos Family and guests are encouraged to join in, although it is by no means mandatory. It’s a very professional show and great fun for the whole family.
Includes appetizers, wine and water and lots of laughs.
Architecture & history
The architecture of the Cyclades islands is famous the world over but Santorini particularly is one of the most recognisable in the world.
There are two reasons all the buildings are white. Once upon a time whitewash was a cheap disinfectant that helped to keep cholera at bay. These days it acts to reflect light keeping the houses cool inside and the blue trims and church domes reflect the colour of the sky and the Aegean see.
All the villages are interesting to see from an architectural perspective and there are several buildings of interest to view.
- Cave houses or yposkafa ( often now hotels)
- Farmers houses – usually with central courtyards
- Agios Nikolaos Marmaritis Chapel at the entrance to Emporio Village
- John the Baptist Catholic Cathedral in Fira
- Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral in Fira
- Profitis Ilias Monastery with its unusual, much photographed steeple
- Agios Nikolaos Monastery near Imergovigli which is still a convent
- all five of the Venetian castles
Santorini unsurprisingly also has a long and colourful history and the museums on the island are all quite fascinating.
- the Archeological Museum
- the Wine museum
- the Maritime Museum
- the Museum of Prehistoric Thera
Many people are surprised to hear that there are several significant archological sites on Santorini.
Akroriti is the most important and is Greece’s versions of Pompeii, only 4000 years older! In Mythology it is also believed to be Atlantis which is why you will see many things referring to the mythical underwater city around the island including the popular 9D Lost Atlantis Experience, an interactive museum that is very popular with kids.
Further reading: A Complete Guide to Akrotiri
Day trips from Santorini
Directly opposite Santorini and made from the same caldera (mouth) of the Volcano Thirassia is still largely undeveloped for tourism and in many ways is the polar opposite of its famous neighbour.
The capital is the town of Manolas and Agrilia is the largest and oldest village. The island has a population of around 300 people.
There are 21 churches and from the monastery of Koimiseos you can see the whole island.
Most of the homes are cave house style, built into the rock. The views are just as spectacular as those on Santorini but of course without the crowds.
You can access Thirassia by boat from Santorini from Ammoudi Port in Oia for just 1 Euro. The boats stop at the main harbour of Riva and at Korfos.
If you get off at Korfos, you will only be able to reach Manolas on foot or by Mule.
Depart Ammoudi Bay ( under Oia) 8:00, 12:45 & 17:20
Depart Riva, Thirassia 7:45, 12:30, 17:10
Depart Korfos Harbour, Thirassia 12:15 & 17:00
Tickets: 1 Euro each way
Day Trips from Santorini to other islands
Being the southern-most island in the Cyclades Santorini is fairly isolated from many of the other Greek Islands.
It is possible to visit a few on a day trip using the public ferries but many are too far to make the trip viable and there are no flights between islands.
The closest islands are Ios and Folegandros which are both less then an hour away on the Superjets. Mykonos and Crete are around two hours each way and can be more depending on the ferry.
Athens is at least 5 hours and is best done at least overnight.
” Despite the reports of over tourism and crowds I still think everyone needs to see Santorini at least once.
There really is nowhere else like it on the planet. The key is to get out and about early, retire to your hotel or villa once the cruise ships arrive and re-emerge when they’ve left late in the afternoon.
And there really is no need to jostle for a sunset view in Oia with the masses.
Do a late cruise out on the Caldera and view the sun setting over the water whilst enjoying a BBQ dinner on board. It really is spectacular!”