Last updated on April 11th, 2024 at 02:53 pm

Why visit Santorini? Is Santorini worth the hype? Is Santorini overrated? We’re almost certain that any or all of the above questions must have popped into your minds while planning or simply daydreaming of a trip to the Greek Islands. We can’t blame you. The infamous hordes of tourists that Santorini attracts are off-putting in their own right. And don’t even get us started on the island’s notoriously high prices.

Seriously, why visit Santorini then? And why on earth would a website with a mission to promote responsible travel like our own, dedicate an entire article to a mainstream and overcrowded destination, inspiring even more people to visit, when Santorini seems unable to hold the burden of the crowds it receives as it is?

Well, to put it simply, because Santorini is worth visiting. In fact, if you had time to visit just one Greek Island in your entire lives, Santorini should be it. And, yes, this is coming from two people who are desperately in love with remote and rugged islands like Amorgos or Donoussa, which are the exact opposite of cosmopolitan Santorini.

This image shows the iconic blue-domed church on the cliff overlooking the calm Aegean Sea.
Who wouldn’t want to be here?

As responsible travellers, instead of crossing Santorini off of our map, demonising it as the ultimate tourist trap and the epitome of overtourism, we’re here to show you Santorini through our eyes, to help you look beneath the surface and plan a trip to enjoy the authentic side of Santorini, without missing out on the island’s top attractions of course.

At the same time, we will explore how a trip to Santorini can have a positive impact on locals. What do you say? Are you ready for a trip to the real Santorini with us? Let’s go!

If you’re planning a trip to Greece, here’s the only guide you need!

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Why Visit Santorini

In one word? Because it’s unique. Literally unique. But we’d like to elaborate a bit on what makes Santorini unique. Here are the top five reasons to visit Santorini.

1. Fascinating History

Santorini’s official name is Thira, from the island’s ancient name, Thera. However, everyone calls it Santorini, the name the Venetians gave the island in the 13th century. In ancient times, Santorini was also named Kallisti, the most beautiful one, for obvious reasons. Yet the island’s very first name was Strogili, the round one. Because Santorini was indeed a round island once.

However, around 1600 BC, Santorini witnessed one of the fiercest volcanic eruptions in recorded history. An event that affected all the Mediterranean people. Due to this eruption, Santorini stopped being round and became the crescent-shaped island we know today, featuring one of the world’s largest calderas. The island was destroyed but was reborn from its ashes.

In the 18th century, Santorini became a commercial and maritime superpower. However, a devastating earthquake in 1956 destroyed the island once more and forced many locals to abandon it in search of a better life. From the 1970s onwards, Santorini gradually became one of the top tourist destinations in the world.

Join an insightful tour that explains how the volcano forged the island’s history.

This image shows ancient ruins scattered on a hilltop location with the windy Aegean Sea as a backdrop.
Ancient Thera

2. Unique Architecture

The Cyclades Islands are renowned for those postcard-perfect whitewashed houses that we all know and love. Although similar to the architecture of the rest of the Cyclades Islands, Santorini’s is even more distinct. If you’re wondering why visit Santorini, the island’s architecture is a valid reason in its own right.

Santorini’s volcanic soil and morphology encouraged the construction of cave dwellings, the so-called υπόσκαφα (iposkafa) in Greek. These were simple two or three-roomed houses carved in the rock, or to be more accurate, in the century-old layers of volcanic ash and sand.

Primarily used by poor people, these makeshift cave dwellings were also popular with the countless sailors who flocked to Santorini when the island became a naval power of its time. Alongside the cave dwellings, the captains’ mansions narrate the island’s maritime past. However, not many of those survived the 1956 earthquake.

Another unique characteristic of Santorini’s architecture is that almost every house had its canava or kanava. The latter was a wine-making and storing area. Nowadays, the vast majority of the once humble cave dwellings and the canaves are converted into luxury hotels and B&Bs.

Explore the island’s architecture during a car tour with a local!

This image shows the cave dwellings of Oia, panoramically built on the cliff overlooking the Aegean Sea. If you're wondering why visit Santorini, the island's architecture is one of the main reasons to do so.
Oia’s unique architecture

3. Special Local Cuisine

Santorini’s volcanic soil renders the island’s products sweeter and richer in taste. Santorini produces the best tomatoes in Greece, alongside excellent fava beans, white eggplants and capers.

Similarly, Santorini’s grapes and wine-making techniques are responsible for some of the best wines in Greece. The island’s vineyards are thousands of years old because the 19th-century phylloxera plague that destroyed most of Europe’s vineyards didn’t touch Santorini’s grapes, thanks to the island’s volcanic soil.

Join a cooking class with wine-tasting!

4. A Photographer’s Dream

What is Santorini famous for if not its epic sunsets, iconic blue domes, dramatic clifftops and stunning caldera? Santorini is one of the most photogenic places to visit in Greece. If you’re into travel photography, get ready to be swept off your feet. But even if you’re not that into landscape photography but always dreamt of a flying dress photoshoot in Santorini, you won’t be disappointed either.

Book a private photoshoot to create memories for life!

This image shows the caldera of Santorini. Taken from the hiking path, this photo shows the island's crescent shape. In the distance, we can see Imerovigli perched atop the cliff and Skaros Rock, one of the best things to see in Santorini.
Santorini offers unique photo opportunities

5. Romance & Luxury

When it comes to enjoying a romantic and/or luxurious getaway, few places can beat Santorini. First of all, with its breathtaking scenery and gorgeous architecture, Santorini is almost unbearably romantic. It’s one of the best Greek Islands to propose or get married in style.

Splurge on a romantic private catamaran cruise!

Secondly, Santorini is the ideal destination if you want to experience a luxury vacation like no other. Santorini is abundant in fine dining options, alongside luxury villas with private pools and 5-star hotels where you can be pampered to your heart’s content.

Live the ultimate luxury sailing experience!

This image shows luxury hotels overlooking the Aegean Sea in Santorini. In the background, we can see the caldera of Santorini and the island's dramatic cliffs.
Luxury hotels in Akrotiri

How To Travel Responsibly To Santorini

If you’re worried about the effects of overtourism in Santorini but can’t escape the desire to visit the island anyway, there are a few very easy ways to enjoy Santorini while staying true to your sustainable travel principles.

1. Don’t Visit Santorini On a Cruise

Cruise tourism is the worst kind of tourism for saturated places like Santorini or Venice. Cruise ship passengers flood these destinations for a few hours, while local economies don’t benefit in any way from this sudden influx of visitors. Moreover, cruise ships are extremely harmful to the environment.

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

2. Don’t Visit Santorini On a Day Trip

Similarly, you shouldn’t consider visiting Santorini on a day trip from another island. Day trip tourism doesn’t support local economies in any way. It only adds to the negative effects of overtourism.

3. Plan a Trip To Santorini in The Off-Season

Santorini enjoys mild weather almost all year long. Therefore, there’s no reason why you should visit Santorini during the high and peak seasons. Planning a trip to Santorini in the off season is important for two reasons.

First of all, visiting in the off season means that you can enjoy Santorini’s beauty and top-notch services without the annoying crowds. Secondly, you’ll be supporting the local economy when it needs you the most.

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 off-season

4. Choose Independent Local Businesses

It’s not always easy to know who runs a hotel, tour company or restaurant but it’s worth doing a bit of homework to make sure that you spend money on independent businesses run by locals rather than on branches of multinational companies. Moreover, avoid all-inclusive resorts in Santorini and try to shop from locally owned stores.

This image shows two black-and-white cats resting lazily on a set of whitewashed steps in Thirassia.
And give the local cats some love

5. Don’t Ride The Donkeys

Donkeys are indeed part of Santorini’s history and culture. Due to the island’s morphology, donkeys used to be the only means of transport and of carrying goods and building materials in the past. The keyword here is used to. Nowadays, there’s no need to ride a donkey to get from place A to place B 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 way is to ride the cable car.

However, we would advise against using the cable car. The reason is that the Foundation that runs the cable car pays the donkey drivers a percentage of the ticket price in order to help this tradition to 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.

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 that there’s no actual terminal and cruise ship passengers arrive at the Old Port by tender boats.

That said, if you still want to visit the Old Port, there’s a third way to do so that some Santorini travel guides fail to mention. Yes, it’s your feet. Alternatively, you can catch beautiful views of the Old Port from the boat that will take you to the volcano, like we did.

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.
Santorini Old Port

6. 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 an uncommon sight to see people climbing on churches and private rooftops or stepping inside private terraces to take a photo. Please, don’t be these people. Just imagine how annoying it would be if total strangers climbed on your rooftop whenever they wanted.

20 Fantastic Things To Do in Santorini

1. Hike From Fira To Oia

Hiking the path that leads from Fira to Oia tops the list of our favourite things to do in Santorini. This 10-kilometre trail is one of the most scenic hiking routes in Greece. A combination of paved roads, pedestrianised streets and dirt paths, this route may be long but isn’t too strenuous.

Walking along the rim of the magnificent caldera is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and this is not just another cliché. It’s true. As for the views, neither words nor photos can do them justice.

Hiking from Fira to Oia (or vice versa) allows you to explore almost half of the island on foot. And this is exciting in its own right. The trail passes through some of the island’s most picturesque towns, such as Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli, and Oia, alongside some lunar landscapes of red or black volcanic soil.

This image shows the main pedestrianised street in Firostefani. The last houses of Firostefani are right next to the first houses of Imerovigli. Therefore, the two towns look like one.
Wandering around Firostefani

It’s best to start the hike in Fira and end in Oia because, if you do it the other way round, the uphill parts are more difficult. The hiking trail is marked. It starts from the main pedestrianised street in Fira and ends on the main pedestrianised street in Oia.

Once you’re past the various towns and out in Santorini’s bare landscape, there are a couple of points along the route where there are seemingly two directions to follow. If you find yourselves unable to decide which path to follow, remember to always keep the sea and the caldera to your left (if hiking from Fira to Oia and not the other way round). It’s impossible to get lost this way.

This image shows Maria walking along the hiking path that leads from Fira to Oia. The scenery is stunning as the caldera of Santorini is visible at every step. To the left, the Aegean Sea looks magnificent.
Hiking from Fira to Oia

Wear sunscreen, sunglasses, good hiking shoes or trainers and always carry water with you. Once you’re past Imerovigli, the next stop where you can buy water is a canteen on the road, about an hour from Oia. There’s literally zero shade along the path. Therefore, try to choose a cloudy day for your hike. Under no circumstances should you walk this trail at noon in the summer.

If you prefer, you can hike from Fira to Oia in the company of a knowledgeable guide!

This image shows the final part of the hiking path that leads from Fira to Oia. There are some hikers along the path. In the distance, Oia awaits to welcome them.
Reaching Oia

2. Walk To Skaros Rock in Imerovigli

Hiking to Skaros Rock is yet another fascinating experience. You can walk to Skaros Rock as a detour on the longer Fira to Oia hike. If you feel that you don’t have enough time or energy to do both hikes on the same day, you can hike to Skaros Rock on a different day.

Skaros Rock is an impressive promontory that defines Santorini’s iconic landscape. In the Middle Ages, when Santorini was under Venetian rule, Skaros was a thriving fortified town with more than 200 residences. However, due to numerous volcanic eruptions and earthquakes between the 17th and 19th centuries, parts of the town collapsed into the sea and whatever remained fell into disuse and abandonment.

This is a close-up of Skaros Rock, one of the best places to visit in Santorini.
Skaros Rock

Nowadays, there’s not much to remind us of the medieval town’s former glory, apart from the remains of the old fortifications at the top of the rock. However, Skaros Rock is worth a visit for the spectacular views of Santorini and the Aegean Sea beyond.

It takes about 45 minutes each way to walk from Imerovigli to Skaros Rock. Once at the foot of Skaros Rock, there are two paths to follow. The one on the left will take you to the side of the rock and the Chapel of Panagia Theoskepasti. The one straight ahead leads to the top of the rock. Sometimes, it isn’t easy to get to the very top of Skaros Rock due to rockfalls.

This photo shows the Chapel of Panagia Theoskepasti as it ceaselessly overlooks the divine blue of the Aegean Sea. In the distance, Oia looks like icing sugar on a cake.
The Chapel of Panagia Theoskepasti looking out to the seemingly endless Aegean Sea

The hardest part of the Imerovigli – Skaros hike is the way back to Imerovigli as it involves many steep steps to climb up. Before or after your hike to Skaros Rock, take some time to wander around Imerovigli. Often called the balcony of Santorini, Imerovigli is the highest point of the caldera and this is why it offers the most breathtaking views.

This image shows Imerovigli, a town perched at the highest point of Santorini's caldera.

3. Climb an Active Volcano, One of The Best Things To See in Santorini

You haven’t been to Santorini if you haven’t visited the island’s volcano. Apart from being one of the most spectacular places to visit in Santorini, or in Greece for that matter, the volcano is also what forged Santorini, as its eruptions defined the island’s fate throughout the centuries.

Although dormant, Santorini’s volcano is active. It’s situated on the almost-round uninhabited Nea Kameni Island where you can see several craters. Located at the top of the island, Georgios is the most impressive among them, a steaming crater that smells like sulphur and feels hot like lava.

This image shows people walking along the rim of the impressive Georgios crater.
Walking along the rim of the crater

It’s next to impossible to find the right words to describe the raw beauty of the scenery on Nea Kameni Island. Walking around this lunar landscape made entirely of volcanic ash is a surreal experience to remember.

You can get to Santorini’s volcano on a boat tour from Fira. Once there, there’s an uphill path that leads to Crater Georgios at the top. Make sure you enjoy the scenery at every step you take because it’s literally one-of-a-kind.

This image shows a path on Nea Kameni Island with Palea Kameni in the background.
The otherworldly scenery of Santorini Volcano

4. Swim in The Hot Springs

Nea Kameni and Palea (or Palia) Kameni, Santorini’s two volcanic islets, are surrounded by hot springs with warm waters rich in sulphur. You can visit the hot springs on the same boat tour that will take you to the volcano. After you visit the volcano, the boat tour will continue to the hot springs of Palea Kameni Island.

After you jump into the emerald waters of the Aegean Sea, swim towards the hot springs with their, admittedly uninviting, brown waters. The closer you get to the shore, the warmer the water becomes, until you’re suddenly in the warm embrace of a surreally brown sea. The whitewashed tiny church of Agios Nikolaos that sits above the brown waters only adds to this overall otherworldly experience.

Keep in mind that the closer you get to the hot springs, the less transparent the water gets, to the point that you’re not able to see the seabed or the submerged part of your body, for that matter.

If you find this as disturbing as I (Maria) do, please don’t let this feeling keep you from living this unique experience, which tops the list of the best excursions in Santorini. Take it from someone who’s terrified of swimming in anything but the clearest waters. Was I on the verge of freaking out? Yes, I was. Would I do it all over again? Yes, I would.

TIP: If you tend to freak out when the water isn’t transparent enough for you to see what’s on the seabed, perhaps it might help if you wear water shoes. This way, you won’t get (too) startled when you inevitably step on the rocky seabed without being able to see what you’re stepping on.

This image shows the whitewashed chapel of Agios Nikolaos, which is built on a pile of rocks in the sea. The water is green and it becomes brown closer to the shore. There are people swimming in the hot springs.
Santorini’s surreal hot springs

5. Don’t Miss a Single Sunset

We’re stating the obvious here, as Santorini’s spectacular sunsets made the island famous in the first place. Therefore, make sure you don’t miss a single sunset during your trip to Santorini. However, this doesn’t mean that you should spend every sunset of your Santorini holidays in Oia.

Unlike what most people think, Oia isn’t the only place to witness fantastic sunset views in Santorini. In fact, it might be one of the worst if you plan to head to the ruins of Oia’s Venetian Castle for sunset.

Not because this place isn’t worth the hype. Far from that. But because the castle and the surrounding streets get so unbearably crowded just before and during sunset, the magic is kind of spoilt. Therefore, you’ll be better off watching the sunset from your hotel terrace or a café in Oia.

This image shows several people gathered to watch the sunset at the castle in Oia. Most - if not all - of them look at the sunset via their smartphone cameras. In the centre of the photo, there's a girl playing and dancing, probably the only person in this shot that lives the moment rather than record it.
The Castle of Oia at sunset in the off-season

In our opinion, Fira is an equally, if not more, amazing place to enjoy the sunset in Santorini. You see, the sun in Fira looks as though it drops into the crater of the volcano rather than dive into the sea as it does in Oia. We find this a lot more exciting. Imerovigli and Firostefani are also perfect during sunset. The same goes for every place on the caldera side of the island.

This image shows the sun set behind the volcano. The photo was shot in Fira.
Sunset in Fira

For the romantic souls that love a lighthouse as much as we do, another popular sunset spot in Santorini is Akrotiri Lighthouse. Built by a French company in 1892, the Lighthouse in Akrotiri is one of the oldest in Greece and it provides the perfect backdrop for a sunset to remember.

Alternatively, you can visit three wineries and taste 12 wines during an exciting sunset wine tour!

This image shows people sitting on the rocks, watching the sun dive into the sea. The photo was taken from Akrotiri Lighthouse, one of the most romantic places to visit in Santorini.
Watching the sunset from the lighthouse in Akrotiri

6. Take in The Beauty of Oia & Ammoudi Bay

No trip to Santorini is complete without a stroll or more around the postcard-perfect Oia. A beyond-words enchanting town, Oia flourished during the 19th and 20th centuries. The neoclassical captains’ mansions that line the upper part of the town are a testament to that glorious past.

However, the 1956 earthquake hit Oia ruthlessly. In the years that followed, the Greek National Tourism Organisation managed to gradually restore Oia and turn it into a world-class tourist destination.

This is an aerial shot of Oia. Perched atop the volcanic cliff, Oia is one of the most gorgeous places to visit in Greece. If you're wondering why visit Santorini, Oia is definitely a valid reason to do so.
The wonder that is Oia

Walking around the narrow streets and admiring the unique architecture is the best thing to do in Oia. As explained above, the Venetian Castle of Oia – or what remains of it to be more accurate – may not be ideal to visit during sunset but you shouldn’t miss it any other time of day. We particularly enjoy it at sunrise and after the night falls.

This drone shot shows Katerina and Maria waving at the camera from atop the castle of Oia. It's very early in the morning and there are no other people around.
All alone at the Castle of Oia right after sunrise

While in Oia, don’t forget to savour the best ice cream in Santorini at Lolita’s Gelato and drink a glass of wine at any bar overlooking the caldera.

This is a close-up of a cup filled with delicious Lolita's Gelato in Oia.
Who can resist?

One of the best things to do in Oia is to visit Atlantis Books. Housed in a traditional cave building, Atlantis Books is one of the prettiest and quirkiest book shops you could ever dream of. Apart from doing the obvious there – buying books, that is – it’s worth stepping inside Atlantis Books even if it’s just to read the funny post-its on the walls or enjoy the mesmerising scent that only books have.

Here’s a list of some of our favourite novels set in Greece.
We’re sure you’ll find some of them at Atlantis Books!

This image shows the facade of Atlantis Books. There's a blue window and a tiny blue door next to it that reads English books in many languages. There are also books painted on the wall.
Atlantis Books

Ammoudi Bay is Oia’s seaport and it’s probably the most picturesque tiny port you’ve ever laid eyes on. It’s the ideal place to enjoy a romantic lunch or dinner by the sea. If you’re not driving, you can get to Ammoudi from Oia by walking down about 300 steps.

Enjoy a 1-hour walking tour of Oia with a private photoshoot!

This is a panoramic shot of Ammoudi Bay with its seaside tavernas and the red rocks hovering above.
Beautiful Ammoudi Bay

7. Explore Fira

Home to two of the island’s best museums, the Archaeological Museum of Thera and the Museum of Prehistoric Thera, Fira is the vibrant capital of Santorini and the best place to experience the island’s nightlife.

Other things to see in Fira include the beautiful Roman Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and the Gyzi Megaron in the Catholic district of Fira and the quintessentially Greek churches of Agios Minas and Agios Stylianos.

This is a close-up of the Roman Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Fira. The bell tower is beautifully painted in yellow, blue and white.
The Roman Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Fira

Wandering around the quaint backstreets is one of the most amazing things to do in Fira and the optimal way to appreciate the charms of one of the best towns to visit in Santorini. Once you’re done walking, the best place to enjoy a bottle of local wine with the most jaw-dropping views in Fira is the quaint Palia Kameni Bar.

Join a walking tour of Fira, nibbling on local delicacies along the way!

This image shows Fira at sunset.
Blue hour in Fira

8. Fall in Love With The Lesser-Known Villages

Fira, Oia and Imerovigli may be the most popular places to visit in Santorini, but they’re not the only ones. Santorini is home to several lesser-known villages worth exploring and we’re here to show you around our favourite among them.

Situated in the centre of the island, Messaria is one of the largest villages in Santorini. What we love about Messaria the most is its captivatingly rugged quality that comes into contrast with the rest of the towns and villages in Santorini that feel so polished and shiny. When in Messaria, don’t miss the chance to take a tour of Argyros Mansion, the only mansion in Santorini that’s open to the public for visits.

This is a close up of the facades and courtyards of houses in Mesaria. There's a line with clothes hanging at one of the houses.
The rugged charm of Messaria

Another low-key yet charming village is Akrotiri. Home to one of the best archaeological sites in Greece (more on that further down) and the iconic Lighthouse of Santorini we’ve already mentioned, Akrotiri is also ideal for an evening spent among locals.

This is a panoramic shot of Akrotiri Village. The houses are built around a small castle in the centre.
Akrotiri Village

One of the places not to miss during your trip to Santorini is Pyrgos. Built on a hill under the shadow of a Venetian Castle, Pyrgos is a gorgeous whitewashed village that boasts spectacular views. Still untouched by the effects of mass tourism, Pyrgos is regarded by many as the prettiest village in Santorini. Allow us to disagree.

This image shows the whitewashed village of Pyrgos on a cloudy day.
Pyrgos Village

For us, the most beautiful village in Santorini is the medieval Emporio. If you’re into castles as much as we are, you should know that the best-preserved and most enchanting castle in Santorini is located in Emporio. However, don’t expect to see a fortress. The Castle of Emporio is, in essence, the old fortified town and true magic awaits once you step inside its century-old walls.

This is a close-up of the outer wall of Emporio Castle. There are small windows and doors.
The outer walls of the Castle of Emporio

Emporio is characterised by its special architecture. The old medieval settlement is made up of several tiny houses, one next to the other, connected by equally tiny staircases and bridges and super narrow maze-like alleys. Emporio is a fine example of medieval defensive architecture although you could easily mistake it for the setting of a fairy tale or fantasy film.

Visit Pyrgos, Emporio and several other of the island’s top places to visit on a guided tour!

This image shows the unique architecture of Emporio, with its tiny houses, super narrow alleys and rounded steps and doors.
Strolling around Emporio

9. Stay in a Cave Hotel, One of The Most Unique Things To Do in Santorini

As mentioned above, the island’s architecture is one of the main reasons to visit Santorini. Owing to the island’s special morphology and soil and certain social conditions, namely extreme poverty, the people of Santorini developed a unique architectural style, the iposkafa or cave dwellings.

Similar to what happened in Itay’s Matera, where the town’s cave dwellings used to be considered a disgrace but are now turned into luxury hotels, probably all of Santorini’s formerly humble cave dwellings are converted into hotels and B&Bs.

If you’ve been following our journeys for a while, you must know that we never get tired of stressing the importance of choosing your accommodation wisely. Not only in terms of location and budget, no. We always urge you to never miss an opportunity to stay in a special accommodation that will enhance your overall travel experience and help you appreciate the destination you’re visiting even more.

This image shows the bedroom at Sophia Castle View Hotel in Oia. It's decor is minimalistic and the room is all-white except for a few details in beige.
Inside Sophia Castle View in Oia

In this spirit, you just can’t miss the opportunity to stay in a cave hotel in Santorini. If you think that you have to pay a fortune to stay in a cave hotel in Santorini, think again. Cave hotels in Santorini range from super exclusive and expensive resorts to affordable, cosy and homelike B&Bs. The latter are the best if you ask us.

We recently stayed in a cosy cave room in Oia and loved every minute of our stay. Not only was it affordable, but it also saved us money as we were reluctant to leave this gorgeous place to dine out and ordered takeaway instead. After a long day spent sightseeing, hiking or whatever else it was we were doing, we just couldn’t think of a better place to relax and unwind than the dreamy terrace of our cave hotel in Santorini.

UPDATE: As it turns out, Sophia Castle View is no longer one of the most affordable cave hotels in Oia but it remains one of our all-time favourite hotels.

Click here to choose the cave hotel of your dreams!

This image shows the terrace with sea views at Sophia Castle View Hotel in Oia. There's a bottle of rose wine and two glasses on the table.
Our terrace at Sophia Castle View

10. Indulge in a Wine Tasting

Wine-making is intertwined with Santorini’s history and culture. Santorini has been producing wine since ancient times. But it was during the Middle Ages that the island thrived as a wine-making region.

Santorini has three white grape varieties that are indigenous to the island: Assyrtiko, Aidani and Athiri. The most famous wine produced in Santorini is Vinsanto, an aged dessert wine, as divine as the land that produces it.

This is a close-up of a bottle of rose wine and two glasses. In the background, the caldera of Santorini and the Aegean Sea.
Santorini produces some of the best wines in Greece

There are several wineries to visit and countless wine tours to take in Santorini. We believe that you can’t go wrong with any of them. All wineries and wine tours on the island do an amazing job letting visitors in on the secrets of wine-making in Santorini’s distinct terroir.

Indulge in a half-day tour of three wineries!

One of the best places to learn about wine in Santorini, enjoy a superb tasting and buy wine and other local products is Santo Wines. Founded in 1947, the Union of Santorini Cooperatives, now called Santo Wines, welcomes guests in their wine-making and dining facilities near Pyrgos Village.

This image shows a row of barrels in the cellar of Santo Wines.
Taking a tour of the Santo Wines cellar

Santo Wines is among the best wineries to visit in Santorini. A visit to Santo Wines includes a tour of the winery with a knowledgeable guide, followed by a tasting of the most exquisite local wines. Believe us when we say that a wine tasting on the terrace of Santo Wines at sunset is one of the most memorable things to do in Santorini.

Splurge on a full-day tour with a tasting of superb Santo Wines!

This is a close-up of several glass wines that bear the Santo Wines logo. Through them, we can see the sunset in the background.
Sunset at Santo Wines

11. Eat All The Local Food

Thanks to Santorini’s volcanic soil, fresh produce on the island has a distinct taste. When in Santorini, make sure you try local delicacies, such as fava bean purée, capers and everything tomato-based, especially fried tomato balls. The island’s traditional cuisine is vegetarian to its core, like all local Mediterranean cuisines. Therefore, delicious vegetarian and vegan dishes aren’t hard to find in Santorini.

12. Dip Your Toes in The Volcanic Sand at Santorini’s Beaches

Let’s be honest. Swimming in Santorini isn’t the island’s strong point. Unlike other islands in the Cyclades, such as Andros or Sifnos, Santorini isn’t exactly famous for its crystal clear turquoise waters. That said, most beaches in Santorini are a sight to behold with their dramatic cliffs of red, white or black rocks dropping into the deep blue sea.

Probably the most impressive of all Santorini beaches is the famed Red Beach. The combination of the beach’s red sand and rocks with the emerald waters is out of this world. You can walk to Red Beach via a short dirt path that starts from the nearby parking lot or get there on a boat tour. The nearby White Beach, a secluded cove renowned for the wild beauty of its scenery, is only accessible by boat.

This is a panoramic shot of the Red Beach in Santorini. The dramatic red cliffs drop into the emerald waters.
The impressive Red Beach

Speaking of coloured beaches, Santorini also has not one but three black sand beaches, namely Kamari, Perissa and Perivolos. All three beaches are gorgeous with their century-old black volcanic ash mixed with sand and pebbles. Moreover, these are the best beaches in Santorini to go for a swim, with Perissa being our personal favourite among them.

This image shows the far left end of Perissa Beach with its black sand and imposing white rock. There are sunbeds and umbrellas but no people around.
Perissa Beach, one of the best black sand beaches in Santorini

If you’re looking for a secluded beach for a long walk hearing nothing but the waves, head to Kolumbo Beach. Named after yet another active volcano that lies in the depths of the sea off the shore, Kolumbo Beach features strange rock formations and endless stretches of sand.

This image shows Maria wearing a black dress dotted with tiny flowers. She's barefoot and smiling as she enjoys the sound of the waves on Kolumbo Beach on a sunny day.
Late October on Kolumbo Beach

Speaking of impressive rock formations, it’s time to introduce you to our favourite beach in Santorini, the otherworldly Vlychada. Every time we visit Santorini, we can’t resist a stroll along this beach to take in the beauty of its lunar landscape and stand in awe before its rocky sculptures, carved by the wind and the sea rather than the hands of an artist.

Visit Vlychada, Red Beach, White Beach and more on a fantastic catamaran cruise!

This image shows Vlychada Beach and its impressive rock formations. There's a long row of umbrellas and sun-beds but there are no people around. In the background, the chimney of the former Tomato Factory is visible.
Lunar landscapes of Vlychada Beach

13. Discover the Pompeii of Greece in Akrotiri

Greece is abundant in magnificent archaeological sites. Yet none of them is like Akrotiri, the so-called Pompeii of Greece and one of the best attractions in Santorini.

With evidence of an early settlement that dates back to the 3rd century BC, the prehistoric city of Akrotiri was a prosperous trade centre until the 17th century BC when the eruption of the Santorini volcano buried the once-thriving city under tones of volcanic ash.

This image shows the interior of the archaeological site of Akrotiri. We can see the ruins of an ancient warehouse and several vases that have remained intact. The sunlight coming through the roof creates beautiful effects.
The sun playing with the ancient ruins of Akrotiri

However, this devastating event is also the reason why we have so much information about life in prehistoric Akrotiri nowadays. The volcanic ash that covered the entire city helped preserve streets, multi-storey buildings, furniture, pottery and beautiful frescoes almost intact.

Wandering around the archaeological site of Akrotiri feels like you’re suddenly teleported to the past. We admit that this is true for many archaeological sites in Greece and elsewhere. However, some findings in Akrotiri are insanely well-preserved, forcing you to pinch yourselves to believe that you haven’t found the secret to time travel.

Book a private guided tour to make the most of your time in Akrotiri!

This image shows the outer wall of a house in the archaeological site of Akrotiri that has remained in a very good condition throughout the centuries.
It’s mind-blowing how well-preserved some of the buildings in Ancient Akrotiri are

14. Wander Around Ancient Thera

Completely different but equally fascinating, Ancient Thera is also among the best places to visit in Santorini. After the 17th-century volcanic eruption that destroyed Akrotiri, the island was abandoned for centuries. However, around the 8th century BC, colonists from Ancient Sparta founded a new city at the top of Mesa Vouno Mountain, the glorious Ancient Thera.

This image shows ancient ruins scattered across a hilltop, on the site where Ancient Thera used to be.
Visiting Ancient Thera feels like walking on top of the world

This windswept archaeological site is home to the remains of large squares, porticos, temples and a theatre among other buildings. However, the jaw-dropping panoramic views from up there probably steal the show. It’s no overstatement to say that walking around Ancient Thera feels like flying sometimes. You can get to Ancient Thera via a ridiculously scenic winding road or by hiking. For more info, click here.

This image shows the theatre of Ancient Thera. In the background, the Aegean Sea.
The Theatre of Ancient Thera overlooking the Aegean Sea

15. Enjoy The View From Santorini’s Highest Point

Speaking of high viewpoints, why not check out the view from Santorini’s highest point? At 567 metres above sea level, Profitis Ilias Mountain is not only the highest of Santorini’s peaks but also one of the oldest parts of the island, those that existed before the catastrophic eruption of Santorini’s volcano.

Get to the top of Profitis Ilias during a fully customised private tour!

This is a panoramic shot of Santorini and the sea for as far as the eye can see.
Panoramic views from Profitis Ilias Mountain

16. Visit a Former Tomato Factory

As already mentioned, Santorini produces the sweetest, most flavourful tomatoes in Greece. The Tomato Industrial Museum on Vlychada Beach narrates the history of the small-fruited Santorini tomato, a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product since 2006, through a tour of the former tomato factory and its collection of old tools, manuscripts and processing machines.

This is a photo of the Tomato Industrial Museum from the outside.
The Tomato Industrial Museum

17. Join a Cruise of The Caldera

If you’re wondering what to do in Santorini, you shouldn’t forget that seeing the caldera from the sea is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There are many tour companies operating cruises on the caldera in Santorini and we’ve handpicked some of the best for you:

This image shows three catamaran boats sailing in the Aegean Sea at sunset.
Cruising the caldera at sunset

18. Drink The Local Beer

Wine may be Santorini’s flagship local product but the island takes great pride in its small local breweries too. The first – and in our humble opinion the best – craft beer that was ever produced in Santorini is Volkan. Available in four types (blonde, black, white and grey) Volkan is an artisanal beer that you must try during your trip to Santorini.

Santorini Brewing Company produces the famous Donkey beers, a wide selection of unfiltered and unpasteurised beers. Last but not least, Ftelos Brewery produces the world-class Blue Monkey beer, among others.

This image shows five of Santorini's bottled beers: Yellow donkey, Blue Monkey, Volkan Grey, Volkan Black and Volkan Blonde. In the background, Santorini Caldera and the Aegean Sea.
We had to try them all, right?

19. Watch a Film Under The Stars, One of The Best Things To Do in Santorini

Santorini is home to one of the quaintest open-air cinemas in Greece. Situated in the village of Kamari and opened in 1987, Open Air Cinema Kamari offers you the unique opportunity to watch a film under the stars in the heart of a garden-like setting, with some of the island’s best cocktails in hand. For an even more memorable experience, get there early to catch one of the sun loungers in the front row.

This image shows the entrance of Open Air Cinema Kamari, amidst trees and flowers.
Santorini’s famous open-air cinema in Kamari

Although Open Air Cinema Kamari is the oldest and most famous open-air cinema in Santorini, it’s not the only one. There’s also Volkan Cinema in Fira. This open-air cinema is part of Volkan On The Rocks, a complex that comprises a café, a restaurant and an open-air cinema. It’s advisable to book a table for the cinema area in advance.

This image shows the screen of Volkan Cinema and the white tables and chairs from where you can enjoy your dinner while watching the film. All this, with spectacular views of the volcano and the sea.
Volkan Cinema in Fira

20. Plan a Day Trip To Thirassia Island

Thirassia or Therasia is another island that forms part of the volcanic island group of Santorini. Unlike Nea Kameni and Palea Kameni, Thirassia is an inhabited island. With less than one thousand residents, Thirassia feels like the shy younger sister of Santorini, a charming yet low-profile damsel growing up in the shadow of her ravishing elder sibling.

This image shows a white cubic house with a blue door in Thirassia.
Nostalgic Thirassia

Manolas is Thirassia’s main settlement, a village engulfed in a bittersweet atmosphere of semi-abandonment. Don’t miss the chance to wander around Manolas, relishing the stunning views of Santorini’s caldera in the distance. However, keep in mind that the only way to get to Manolas is by climbing a little less than 300 steep steps. There are also donkeys available, but please don’t ride them.

This image shows a yellow, a pink and a white house in Thirassia. They're old and worn but really charming.
The charming village of Manolas in Thirassia

If you have enough time to spare in Thirassia, you can also enjoy a sunny day at Korfos Bay, Thirassia’s small port or venture out to explore the desolate Agrilia, the – now uninhabited – oldest village on the island, a fine example of a settlement entirely carved in the rock.

You can plan your day trip to Thirassia by ferry from either the main port of Santorini (Athinios) or Ammoudi in Oia. If you want to save yourselves such logistics or don’t want to get stuck in Thirassia if you, by any chance, miss the infrequent ferry back to Santorini or both, you can visit Thirassia on a boat tour instead.

This image shows Korfos Bay in Thirassia. There are a handful of buildings on the shore. In the background, the steep steps that lead to Manolas are visible.
Korfos Bay in Thirassia

Santorini Travel Guide

Where Is Santorini

Probably the most photographed island in Greece, Santorini is the southernmost of the Cyclades Islands in the Aegean Sea.

Best Time To Visit Santorini

Santorini is a sight to behold all year long although it can be excruciatingly hot during the summer. When trying to decide when to visit Santorini though, the weather or similar issues come second. The most important thing to remember is to visit during the off-season. This way, not only will you help the local economy when it needs you the most, but also you will enjoy Santorini without the insane crowds.

In this spirit, the best months to visit Santorini are March, April, October and November. Some places (restaurants, hotels etc) may not be open during those months – especially March and November – but the farther from the peak season you visit Santorini, the better.

If you’re looking for the best time of year to visit Santorini, we wouldn’t recommend visiting Santorini from December through February as these are the colder months on the Greek Islands. If you insist to visit in the winter, you’ll have all of Santorini’s beauty to yourselves. With the bonus of hanging out with the locals in the very few places that remain open. Still, we wouldn’t recommend it.

This image shows Kamari Beach in the off-season. There's nobody on the sandy beach but a young couple who sit on the sand by the sea, enjoying the view.
Kamari Beach in October

How Many Days in Santorini

Santorini may be small but it’s filled with treasures. Some people visit Santorini either on a day trip from a nearby island or for just a couple of days, as part of a Greek Island itinerary. Although two days in Santorini are better than nothing, of course, we’d recommend spending at least four full days in Santorini to better appreciate everything that it has to offer.

If you’re planning to do everything we’ve included in this Santorini guide, you’ll need at least six full days to enjoy them and also have a bit of free time to just sit back and take in the beauty.

This is a drone shot of Kolumbo Beach. A minimalist shot with nothing but the rock formations, the volcanic sand and the wavy sea.
Kolumbo Beach

How To Get To Santorini

You can get to Santorini by plane from Athens or several other cities in Europe and elsewhere. For more information, have a look at the official Santorini Airport website here. Alternatively, you can get to Athinios Port in Santorini by ferry from Piraeus Port in Athens or many other Greek Islands. The journey time varies from four to eight hours, depending on the ferry type.

Buy your ferry tickets here!

Book your shared transfer to and from the port or airport here!

This image shows a Transavia plane taking off from Santorini Airport.
Plane spotting outside Santorini Airport

How To Get Around Santorini

The best way to get around Santorini is to rent a car unless you feel uncomfortable driving on winding cliffside, often narrow, roads. Public transport in Santorini is quite reliable, too. Probably the most hassle-free way to get around Santorini, though, is to take tours to the various places of interest on the island.

Rent a car to roam the island here!

Where To Stay in Santorini

Choosing where to stay in Santorini can prove to be a bit daunting and this is why we’ve put together a useful Santorini accommodation guide.

Allow us to repeat that you should choose a cave hotel for your stay in Santorini. Most renovated cave dwellings and canaves are in Oia and the surrounding area. That said, there are also cave hotels in Fira, Imerovigli, Pyrgos and elsewhere. If you can’t afford to stay in a cave hotel for the entire duration of your trip to Santorini, splurge on one for at least one night, then move to a more budget-friendly accommodation option.

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

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 are a threat to the preservation of this unique yet frail landscape. Also, refrain from booking an Airbnb in Santorini to minimise the negative effects of Airbnb on the lives of locals.

Click here for some of the best accommodation options with free cancellation!

This image shows a cluster of cave dwellings in Oia.
How about making this your neighbourhood for a few days?

Where To Eat in Santorini

As with most touristy places, Santorini has quite a few overpriced restaurants that aren’t always worth the hype. As a rule of thumb, try to see where locals eat. Moreover, remember that nice 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 or three at a bar with a view.

Since Katerina and I follow a plant-based diet, here are some of our favourite places to eat delicious vegetarian or vegan food in Santorini:

  • Metaxi Mas in Exo Gonia Village, for delicious Greek cuisine with a twist and excellent service at reasonable prices
  • Aktaion in Firostefani, for Greek food with a view of the caldera
  • Anogi in Imerovigli, for local cuisine
  • Falafeland in Fira, for hearty falafel wraps
  • Taqueria Los Tres Amigos in Fira, for great Mexican food
  • Pizza Edwin in Oia, for takeaway pizza
  • Piatsa Souvlaki in Oia for scrumptious vegan souvlaki

What To Buy in Santorini

Santorini is one of the best Greek Islands if you’re looking for original handmade souvenirs to shop for. From clothes, home decor items and kitchen tools, you can find many locally produced things to buy in Santorini.

However, we always say that the best souvenirs are the ones that bring back the tastes of a destination. 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

How Much Does a Trip To Santorini Cost

Why is Santorini so expensive? This is a question we often get. After visiting the island many times, we’ve come to realise that although Santorini can be expensive, it isn’t expensive per se. If you visit Santorini to live the ultimate luxury experience, you will inevitably end up booking a costly trip. However, Santorini can also be budget-friendly.

It’s quite easy to find good deals in terms of accommodation, food and activities in Santorini. Unlike Mykonos, where it’s indeed a struggle not to pay a fortune, Santorini is an island for all budgets. Although we do have a guide on how to enjoy Mykonos without breaking the bank.

If after everything you’ve read so far, you’re still wondering why visit Santorini in the off-season, paying less is yet another reason. If you go to Santorini, say, at the end of October, you can stay in a cave hotel for as low as 100€ – 120€ per night or in a good B&B for about 40€ per night. Food-wise, there are many affordable options, of which we’ve listed only a few above. Flights to Santorini are also a lot cheaper in the off-season.

Therefore, if you’re asking how much it cost to visit Santorini, it all comes down to what type of trip you have in mind and to what extent you want – and can – splurge. At the end of the day, Santorini is one of those destinations you must visit at least once in your lives. Thankfully, everyone can do so budget-wise.

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.
Beautiful Oia at sunset

Best Islands To Visit From Santorini

Due to Santorini’s popularity, it’s well-connected by ferry to many other islands in the Aegean Sea. You can easily combine a trip to Santorini with other popular islands in the Cyclades, such as Paros, Mykonos and Naxos.

Alternatively, you can continue your Greek Island adventure to lesser-known gems, such as Amorgos, Anafi or Serifos. 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.
Athinios Port in Santorini

Travel Resources for Santorini Island

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 itself. 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, more and more people taking advantage of its innocent creatures, Santorini seems doomed to be destroyed by our failings.

Yet it doesn’t have to be this way. By travelling responsibly to Santorini, we show the island and its people our love in the most eloquent way. We make sure that the magic of Santorini will be there for generations upon generations to come. Therefore, let’s stop asking ourselves why visit Santorini. Let’s start asking ourselves what it takes to enjoy Santorini while helping it escape the fate of the lost Atlantis.

This image shows Katerina and Maria sitting at their cave hotel terrace, enjoying the view and smiling for the camera.
Cheers from Santorini!

Disclosure: We’ve been to Santo Wines quite a few times throughout the years. However, for the purposes of this article, we visited Santo Wines on a press tour.


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