Santorini is one of the most iconic Greek islands, as well as one of the most popular summer destinations in Europe. It is famous for its fine sand beaches, pristine scenery, good food, and vibrant nightlife – a few things that draw hordes of tourists to its shores. Thinking of it as a winter destination is uncommon, but the truth is that Santorini in winter can be just as charming as it is in warm weather.
Its mild Mediterranean weather and lack of mass tourism in winter make it a perfect choice for couples, solo travellers, tourists on a budget, and all those who hate the crowds. Perhaps you won’t be able to swim or hit the dance floor in a bar, but the island still offers plenty of amazing things to see and do.
If you’re up for an adventure, check out our suggestions below to create the perfect Santorini winter itinerary.
Santorini weather in winter
Like most of southern Europe, Santorini enjoys a Mediterranean climate with hot summers and mild winters. The off-season lasts from late October until mid-April (Greek Easter) and is characterised by average temperatures between 10°C and 15°C.
January and February are the coldest and rainiest months. Thermometers can drop under 5°C/41F, and winds tend to be sharp. Snowfall is a rare event though.
If you hate summer-hot weather but don’t want to freeze either, the best months to visit Santorini in the off-season are November and March. Nights are still cold during these months, but daytime temperatures often exceed 15°C. More sun and less rain also make these months perfect for hiking and sightseeing.
Where to Stay in Santorini in Winter
The pace of life on Santorini slows during winter, but the island still offers off-peak accommodation to cater to all budgets and needs.
The best choice for budget travellers, Tataki Hotel, is situated in the heart of Fira, Santorini’s capital. All rooms benefit from air conditioning and free WiFi, private bathrooms, satellite TV, and a balcony or terrace. Some rooms offer scenic views of the caldera cliffs or the sea. The location also ensures easy access to local shops, restaurants, and bars.
Also located in the heart of Fira, Aroma Suites hotel is easy to define as an oasis for relaxation. The mid-range accommodation comprises a selection of rooms with stunning views of the Aegean Sea and the volcanic island of Nea Kameni. Depending on your budget, you can stay either in a standard room or a cave suite with an indoor jetted tub.
Luxury travellers looking to explore Santorini in winter may find the perfect accommodation at the Winery Hotel 1870 in Fira. Strategically located close to most points of interest, the hotel offers quick access to the Archaeological Museum of Thera and the Orthodox Metropolitan Church. Accommodation options vary from cosy rooms with a balcony and pool view to a king suite with an indoor plunge pool that can easily satisfy your desire to soak in Greek waters.
Those who love quirky stays will undeniably love Milos Villas’ traditional windmill suite. Like the other accommodations open in winter, Milos Villas are located in Fira. Set in an original Greek windmill, this split level suite comprises a bedroom, living area, and a small kitchenette for self-catering. It also comes with free WiFi and parking and offers views over the entire island of Santorini.
The best Airbnb in Santorini in Winter
If you would prefer to stay in private, fully self-contained accommodation then Airbnb, of course, is the place to go. That said many places are not available in winter due to lack of cleaning staff and many owners choose this period to do their annual maintenance and improvements.
Our choice of those that are open are Villa Cloud – with its heated plunge pool and hot tub overlooking the Caldera which is perfect for couples. For families and groups, Canava Villas Winery State is open year-round and is the perfect country retreat.
Best Things to See and Do in Santorini in Winter
As one of the most popular islands in Greece and indeed, the world, there’s a huge array of things to see and do in Santorini catering to everybody. Whilst a popular honeymoon destination Santorini also has plenty of things for families to see and do as well as singles and even large groups travelling together.
Discover Prehistoric Akrotiri
Winter isn’t the season to sunbathe and swim in Santorini, but it certainly is the right one for discovering the island’s rich history. And where better to get started than the prehistoric site of Akrotiri?
Believed to be the home of legendary Atlantis, this prehistoric settlement was abandoned by its inhabitants due to a powerful earthquake then buried by mud and volcanic ashes during the famous eruption of Santorini’s volcano in 1627 BC.
Protected by layers of magma, the settlement has been preserved almost intact over the centuries and resurfaced in the 1960s when the Greek archaeologists discovered it.
Here, you can admire astonishing frescoes that still maintain their original bright colours as well as a variety of artefacts, including pottery, weapons, and domestic items. The archaeological site is perfectly connected with Fira even in winter and easily accessible by public transport.
Visit Akrotiri Lighthouse
After learning more about Santorini’s history at the archaeological site, don’t miss a stop at Akrotiri lighthouse. This is the southernmost tip of the island, opposite Oia, and the perfect place for soaking in the stunning views of the dramatic coastline.
Climb to Skaros Rock
A protruding rocky headland and the medieval capital of Santorini, Skaros Rock is another unmissable landmark to see during your stay. Like most medieval settlements, it originally had defensive purposes, a function that explains its location atop a cliff overlooking the rest of the island.
The medieval town used to be densely populated, but the people gradually moved to Fira due to earthquakes.
Today, you can admire the remains of this once flourishing settlement and discover the Chapel of Panagia Theoskepasti, a hidden worship place that is impossible to spot from the mainland.
A stone’s throw from Skaros Rock, Imerovigli is the island’s most elevated town and one of the best places to explore in Santorini in winter. Without hordes of tourists crowding its alleys and stairwells, you can get lost in the maze of narrow paths and admire the characteristic architecture and slow pace of local life.
Along the way, admire the superb coastal views and stop in one of the few tavernas or restaurants that stay open during the low season if you want to have a taste of authentic Santorini food.
Watch the Sunset in Oia (and Visit the Atlantis Bookshop)
When you think of Greece, you see whitewashed houses with bright blue roofs, and when you think of these dwellings, you most likely think of Oia. Featured on the covers of most travel magazines and advertised in many online and print publications, Oia is Santorini’s precious jewel.
A stroll among these picture-perfect buildings is, therefore, a must. And so is watching one of the most spectacular sunsets from one of the panoramic viewpoints scattered throughout the town.
Indeed, the sunset in Oia is more than a sunset. It is a magical event capable of captivating even the toughest souls. Besides the surreal beauty enhanced by the lack of crowds, this is also the perfect place for snapping the perfect shot to post on social media.
And after you’ve recovered from the trance, don’t forget to look for Atlantis Books, a one-of-a-kind bookshop rich in history and boasting precious treasures trapped in the quirky books that populate its old shelves.
Stroll Along Perissa Beach
Santorini – like any other Greek island, as a matter of fact – is synonymous with expanses of sand, crystalline waters, sunbathing, and seaside holidays. Sure, swimming or even sunbathing don’t top the lists of things to do in Santorini during the cold season, but you can still discover the beauty of its beaches.
Of all Santorini’s beaches, the best to check out in winter is Perissa, a dark expanse of volcanic sands flanked by peculiar cliffs on one side. The landscape here looks so otherworldly in winter that for a moment, you might even forget where you are.
Alongside the beach, the nearby Perissa village is also worth your attention. Most shops and restaurants are closed in winter, but you can still visit the whitewashed Timiou Stavro church, a traditional building topped by distinctive blue domes.
Hike the Caldera Trail
Stretching from Fira to Oia, the Caldera hiking trail is the main draw for many tourists who decide to book a winter trip to Santorini. More than a hike, this is a true adventure that gives you the opportunity to discover some of the island’s most picturesque sites.
The hike is about 10 kilometres long and is supposed to take around two and a half hours to complete. It isn’t particularly challenging and is your best bet if you want to admire as much as you can of the island’s iconic views. No doubt, you’ll have a hard time putting the camera down the entire way.
Take a Winery Tour
Greece is not as famous as its Mediterranean peers like Italy, Spain, and Portugal when it comes to wine, but it can still impress oenophiles with the godly nectar produced in Santorini. Indeed, the island is famous for its fantastic wines.
What makes them unique is the special terroir resulted from the perfect combination of the island’s volcanic soil and mild weather all year round.
Archaeological evidence shows that wines have been produced in the region for thousands of years, so a tour of the island’s wineries is a must. This will give you the opportunity to taste the Mavrotragano and Voudomato wines, two robust red varieties particularly suitable for winter.
Other noteworthy local wines include the vintage Nychteri, traditionally produced only after sunset, as well as Athiri, Aidani, and Assyrtiko, three of the most popular white wines.
Those with a sweet tooth should also try Santorini’s Vinsanto, a sweet dessert wine made from the raisins of grapes left to dry in the sun. Connoisseurs will particularly enjoy the differences between Santorini’s Vinsanto and the wine of the same name produced in Tuscany.
Discover Emporio and Pyrgos
Oia might be Santorini’s most popular destination, but not the only one worth visiting. Emporio and Pyrgos are two beautiful villages that beg to be explored.
Emporio is officially the biggest village on the island, built in the traditional “castle settlement” style. All houses are built next to each other in a circle, and there is only one way in and out. It goes without saying that this architectural style served defensive purposes, but it is still amazing to see.
While most buildings here sport the characteristic whitewashed facades, the village also boasts a Venetian tower and a few windmills. Furthermore, the Byzantine ruins just outside the settlement attract those with an interest in archaeology.
Situated about 7 kilometres from Fira, Pyrgos is the highest village in Santorini. Its architectural style was originally similar to Emporio, but many of the dwellings here were destroyed by an earthquake in the twentieth century before being demolished.
Like many of the old houses in Santorini, the remaining dwellings in Pyrgos are built partly underground. Strolling along the cobbled laneways and up the representative steep steps will give you the opportunity to admire them in all their splendour.
The ruins of Pyrgos castle overlook the entire island from the highest point of the village and give you the perfect spot for observing the slow, quaint rhythms of Santorini in the cold season.
Indulge in Local Delicacies
In winter, most of Santorini closes down, including some hotels and touristy restaurants. And this only means one thing; the restaurants that stay open are local favourites, the places where you can taste Santorini’s authentic cuisine.
Among the many delicious dishes to taste during your stay, don’t miss the Greek moussaka made from ground meat, potatoes, and other vegetables. The roasted Greek lamb and fava me koukia should also be on your list.
Gyros is a popular street food you should also give a try if you like meat, or go for the tomato gefthedes if you’d like a vegan alternative.
Restaurants apart, don’t hesitate to enter one of the many bakeries that stay open throughout the winter. Besides delicious desserts, here you can also taste traditional cheese pies and other savoury pastries that will make you fall in love with Santorini’s culinary scene.