If you’re looking for the best travel tips for Santorini, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, you’ll learn how to plan a trip to Santorini in a sustainable way, thus not contributing to the island’s overtourism.

Probably the most popular destination in Greece, and for good reason, Santorini is groaning under the weight of mass tourism. This is why we can’t look away and simply list the practical information and travel tips for Santorini you need to plan a trip there without addressing the issues the island is facing and suggesting easy ways to not contribute to this mess.

Then, you might wonder, if overtourism is destroying Santorini, is visiting Santorini even ethical nowadays or would it be better if people stopped adding it to their Greece itineraries? Deciding not to go to Santorini doesn’t help solve any of the problems the island is facing. Not to mention that you’d be missing out on the opportunity to marvel at one of the most beautiful destinations in Europe.

So, the short answer is yes, visiting Santorini can be ethical and you’re about to read how.

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This image shows the iconic view of Oia Town at sunset. There are many whitewashed former cave dwellings that are now turned into hotels and B&Bs. Staying in a cave hotel is one of our top travel tips for Santorini.
Beautiful Oia at sunset

Where Is Santorini

Probably the most photographed island in Greece, Santorini is situated in the southern part of the Cyclades, off the coast of Crete. The volcanic island is near Naxos and a few less travelled Greek Islands such as Anafi, Sikinos and Folegandros.

Travel Resources For Santorini Island

Sustainable Travel Tips For Santorini

If you’re worried about the effects of overtourism in Santorini but can’t escape the desire to visit the island anyway, here’s our sustainable Santorini travel guide, true to the principles of responsible travel in Greece.

1. Best Time To Visit Santorini: The Off Season

The island of Santorini is a sight to behold and boasts good weather almost all year long. Therefore, there’s no reason to visit Santorini during the peak season when everyone else is there and the weather can get excruciatingly hot.

After all, Santorini isn’t your typical beach destination. Swimming in Santorini is not among the island’s biggest draws. Santorini’s famous beaches, like Red Beach, White Beach or any black sand beach, such as Perissa Beach or Kamari Beach, are more like sightseeing spots that you can enjoy any time of the year rather than summer swimming spots.

The best time to visit Santorini is during the off-season. Visiting Santorini outside the summer season means that you can support the local economy when it needs you the most without contributing to the island’s overcrowding.

Moreover, travelling to Santorini in the quieter months offers you the opportunity to spend more quality time in Santorini, mingle with locals and enjoy the island’s beauty, mild weather and top-notch services in a more immersive and meaningful way.

The high season in Santorini goes beyond the summer months. It includes May and September, which are considered shoulder seasons in other destinations.

Therefore, the best months to visit Santorini are March, April, October and November. Keep in mind that some great restaurants or the best Santorini hotels may not be open in March and November. If that’s a deal breaker for you, aim for either April or October.

We wouldn’t recommend visiting Santorini in the winter months. December through February are the coldest months on the Greek Islands and very few businesses remain open then.

This image shows Pyrgos Village with its whitewashed houses and blue-domed church. In the foreground, there's a set of blue quintessentially Greek table and chairs. It's a cloudy day in late October and there are absolutely no people around. October is one of the best months to visit Santorini.
Pyrgos Village in the low season

2. Spend As Many Days As Possible in Santorini

Some travellers visit Santorini on a day trip from nearby islands. Please don’t do that. Day trip tourism doesn’t support the local economy in any way. It only adds to the negative effects of overtourism. When it comes to popular destinations like Santorini, slow travel is the only way to go.

What’s more, Santorini may be a small island but it’s filled with treasures. A day trip or a couple of nights isn’t enough to take in the island’s magic. We’d recommend spending at least four full days in Santorini to appreciate everything that it has to offer, including some of its well-hidden gems. Here’s our article about what to do in Santorini in 4 days.

This is a drone shot of Kolumbos Beach in Santorini. Visiting remote beaches is one of our top travel tips for Santorini.
Spending more days in Santorini means that you have enough time to discover its hidden gems, like the fascinating Columbo Beach

3. How To Get To Santorini: Plane or Ferry

You can fly directly to Santorini Airport from several cities in European countries, such as London, Barcelona, or Prague. If you’re planning a trip to Greece from the USA though, you must fly to Athens first and then jump on a second flight to Santorini.

However, if you’re already in Athens and time allows, a more eco-friendly way to get to Santorini is by ferry. You can reach Athinios Port in Santorini by ferry from Piraeus Port in Athens. The journey time varies from four to eight hours, depending on the ferry type. Similarly, if you’re already on a nearby island, you can continue to Santorini by ferry.

4. Don’t Visit Santorini on a Cruise

No matter how you choose to travel to Santorini, there’s one way you shouldn’t even consider: a cruise.

Cruise tourism is the worst kind of tourism for saturated places like Santorini. Cruise ship passengers flood Santorini for a few hours, running from one Instagram spot to the next, while the local economy doesn’t benefit in any way from this sudden influx of visitors as cruise ship passengers barely have any time to look for and spend money on family-run businesses.

Moreover, cruise ships are extremely harmful to the environment. More than once, studies have shown that there’s increased air and water pollution in Santorini, caused by the cruise ships that approach the island, jeopardising the health and well-being of locals and visitors alike.

This image shows two cruise ships anchored below Fira in Santorini.
Cruise ships spoiling Santorini’s otherwise dreamy scenery

5. Walk, Take The Bus or Drive

If you’re wondering how to get around Santorini, there are several ways. First of all, you can walk for shorter distances, taking in the spectacular views at every turn. For longer distances, you can use public transport, which is quite reliable and can get you to the main towns of Fira and Oia and several points of interest.

However, if you want absolute freedom to enjoy Santorini at your own pace, the best way to get around Santorini is to rent a car, as long as you’re comfortable with driving on winding cliffside, often narrow, roads.

From an environmental point of view, the impact of renting a car in Santorini is minimal as distances are short, but you can always rent an electric car to achieve zero emissions. Browsing through a website that compares car rental companies makes it easier to choose the best vehicle for your needs.

Alternatively, you can combine it all by booking a fully customisable private ride to do the bulk of your Santorini sightseeing in just one day and then walk or take the local buses for the remainder of your trip.

This image shows Maria hiking along the rim of the Santorini caldera.
Walking – or hiking – in Santorini promises epic caldera views at every turn

6. Don’t Ride The Donkeys

Whatever you do, don’t ride the poor Santorini donkeys. That’s not how to get around Santorini, no matter what some Santorini travel guides might want you to think.

Donkeys are indeed part of Santorini’s history and culture. Due to the island’s morphology, donkeys used to be the only means of transporting people, transferring goods or carrying building materials in the past. Nowadays, though, there’s no need to ride a donkey to get from one place to another in Santorini.

However, riding a donkey in Santorini is still presented as a traditional thing not to miss while on the island. But in reality, there’s nothing traditional about riding a mistreated animal, forcing it to go up and down countless steps under the scorching sun. Unless tradition has a new definition now and it’s a synonym for animal cruelty.

Furthermore, riding a donkey is presented as one of the only two ways to get from the Old Port to Fira and vice versa. The other is the cable car, which brings us to our next travel tip for Santorini.

Tourists on donkeys climbing the uphill stairway to Thirassia's village.
Unfortunately, riding donkeys is a thing in nearby Thirassia, too

7. Avoid The Santorini Cable Car

You may be wondering why it’s wrong to ride the cable car in Santorini. Here’s why. The Foundation that runs the cable car pays the donkey drivers a percentage of the ticket price in order to help this tradition survive, according to the cable car’s official website. Therefore, by riding the cable car, you would unknowingly pay to help the tradition animal abuse live on.

8. You Don’t Have To Visit The Old Port

But the real question here is, do you really need to get to the Old Port? Well, if you’re not visiting Santorini on a cruise – which you shouldn’t anyway – the answer is no. The Old Port is in essence Santorini’s cruise terminal. Only there’s no actual terminal and cruise ship passengers arrive at the Old Port by tender boats and then ride a donkey or take the cable car to Fira.

That said, if you still want to visit the Old Port, there’s a third way that some Santorini travel guides fail to include in their lists of the best travel tips for Santorini. Yes, it’s your feet, as long as you can handle the steep uphill steps on the way back to Fira, especially on a hot day.

Alternatively, for a scenic small harbour that you can easily get to without riding a donkey or, opt for Ammoudi Bay in Oia instead.

This is a panoramic view of Ammoudi Bay with its red cliffs.
Ammoudi Bay is equally if not more picturesque than the Old Port

9. Opt For The Right Volcano Tour

Even if you’re not a cruise ship passenger, you may think that you have to get to the Old Port to catch a boat tour to the Santorini Volcano on the islet of Nea Kameni. After all, walking on an island that was born of a fierce volcanic eruption is one of the top reasons to visit Santorini in its own right.

Indeed, most boat trips to the volcano start from the Old Port of Santorini. But they’re not the only ones. Some leave from the New Ferry Port of Santorini (Athinios) instead and you should opt for one of these as it’s easy to get to the new port by car or public transport rather than a donkey ride.

We’ve handpicked this volcano boat trip for you. It includes hotel pick-up and drop-off, a climb to the Santorini Volcano, a dip in the nearby hot springs and a visit to the rugged island of Thirassia. By joining this boat tour, you can also catch beautiful views of the Old Port from the best vantage point: the water.

This photo shows the Old Port of Santorini. There's a castle-like building carved on the rock and a small whitewashed building on the shore. This photo was shot from the excursion boat on our way to the volcano.
View of Santorini Old Port from the water

10. Choose Your Accommodation Wisely

Deciding where to stay in Santorini can be a daunting task. This is why we encourage you to read our useful Santorini accommodation guide with its overview of all the best places to stay in Santorini, depending on your travel preferences.

One of our favourite travel tips for Santorini is that it’s worth choosing a cave hotel for your stay in Santorini. These once humble dwellings carved in the rock are now turned into elegant suites – sometimes with private infinity pools – that promise an unforgettable hotel stay.

When choosing a cave hotel in Santorini though, make sure that it’s an original cave-dwelling that has been restored rather than a newly built luxury hotel that looks like a cave hotel. Especially if it’s on the caldera side of the island.

Moreover, try to avoid the newly constructed gigantic resorts on the rim of the caldera not only because they most probably don’t belong to locals, but also because new buildings on the caldera edge pose a threat to the preservation of this unique yet frail landscape.

As a rule of thumb, avoid all-inclusive resorts in Santorini and pick small boutique hotels instead. Last but not least, refrain from booking an Airbnb in Santorini to minimise the negative effects of Airbnb on the lives of locals.

Click here for a selection of the best hotels on the island.

This image shows a cluster of cave dwellings in Oia.
How’s that for your neighbourhood in Santorini?

11. Devour All The Veggie Food in Santorini

Santorini’s sunny climate and volcanic soil are responsible for some of the most precious fresh produce in Greece. From locally grown tomatoes renowned for their sweetness to excellent fava beans, capers and eggplant, Santorini features several plant-based dishes doused in extra virgin olive oil, a true treat for your tastebuds.

Some of the best veggie dishes to try in Santorini are fava puree, tomato fritters and moussaka with white eggplant from Santorini if you can get your hands on a delicious plant-based version. Learning how to turn Santorini’s fresh produce into delicious veggie Greek dishes during an insightful vegan cooking class can never be a bad idea.

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Of course, all this should be washed down with the island’s top-quality wine. By the way, wine tasting is one of the top things to do in Santorini if you want to delve into the island’s unique culture.

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12. Where To Eat in Santorini: Our Top Picks

As with most mainstream tourist destinations, Santorini has quite a few overrated restaurants that aren’t always worth the hype. A general rule is to try and see where locals eat. Moreover, remember that the best views don’t necessarily mean quality food. It’s better to eat well at a hole-in-the-wall kind of place and then enjoy a drink at a bar with a view.

Here are some of our favourite places to eat delicious vegetarian or vegan food in Santorini:

  • Metaxi Mas in Exo Gonia Village, for mouthwatering Greek cuisine with a twist and excellent service.
  • Aktaion in Firostefani, for authentic Greek food with a breathtaking view of the caldera.
  • Anogi in Imerovigli, for local cuisine in a quaint setting.
  • Falafeland in Fira, for hearty falafel wraps when you are on the go.
  • Pizza Edwin in Oia, for takeaway pizza to enjoy at your private hotel terrace.
  • Piatsa Souvlaki in Oia for scrumptious vegan souvlaki.
This is a close up of a cup filled with gelato.
For dessert, Lolita’s Gelato in Oia is the best

13. Shop Locally

One of our top sustainable travel tips for Santorini is to shop locally made products from locally owned stores. From clothes, home decor items and kitchen tools, you can find many locally produced things to buy in Santorini.

However, sometimes the best souvenirs from Greece are those that bring back the country’s tastes – in this case, the tastes of Santorini. In this spirit, consider buying some of Santorini’s local products. These include canned tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, tomato-based sauces, dried fava beans, capers and, of course, wine.

If you don’t have enough room in your luggage for wine or if you’re worried that your precious wine bottles won’t make it back home with you, most wineries can ship wine to your country of residence.

This is a close-up of many cans of tomato paste.
The local canned tomato paste is one of the best things to buy in Santorini

14. Don’t Climb On Churches & Private Rooftops

Santorini is undoubtedly photogenic. However, people often go over the line to snap that perfect Instagram shot. It’s not uncommon to see people climbing on churches and private rooftops or stepping inside private terraces to take photos.

Please, don’t be these people. Even though you might not realise it, this is an act of trespassing on private property that negatively impacts the lives of locals. Just imagine how annoying it would be if total strangers climbed on your rooftop whenever they wanted.

This is a drone shot of Maria and Katerina waving to the camera from atop Oia Castle.
Oia Castle is for everyone, private terraces are not

15. Plan a Multi-Day Trip To The Greek Islands

Slow travel is a synonym for sustainable travel. Therefore, if you’re already in Greece, one of our top travel tips for Santorini is to plan a multi-day trip across several islands rather than just one.

Athinios Port in Santorini is well-connected by ferry to many other islands in the Aegean Sea. You can easily combine a trip to Santorini with some of the other most popular islands in the Cyclades, such as Paros or Naxos.

Alternatively, you can continue your Greek Island adventure to lesser-known gems, like Amorgos, Anafi or Serifos, sprinkling your itinerary with some of the best Greek Islands you can visit without a car, such as Folegandros or Astypalaia. From Santorini, you can even reach Crete by ferry. When it comes to island-hopping from Santorini, the sky’s the limit.

Plan your island-hopping adventure here.

This image shows a ferry anchored at Athinios Port.
A high-speed ferry at Athinios Port in Santorini

Not Another Lost Atlantis

Some say that Santorini is the lost Atlantis, that utopian land doomed to be destroyed by human failings. A fitting analogy if you ask us.

Santorini, like the fictional Atlantis, is perfect in every way, the epitome of utter beauty. Yet it seems to be falling victim to the everlasting desire for profit. With more and more gigantic resorts being built upon its fragile soil, more and more cruise ships polluting its blue waters and more and more people taking advantage of its innocent creatures, Santorini seems doomed to be destroyed by people’s failings.

Yet it doesn’t have to be this way. By travelling responsibly to Santorini, you show the island and its people your love in the most eloquent way, making sure that the magic of Santorini will be there for generations upon generations to come.

Therefore, by keeping these sustainable travel tips for Santorini in mind, not only do you experience Santorini in the best possible way, but also help the island escape the fate of the lost Atlantis.

IMAGES: Katerina

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