Updated: October 5, 2016
The Best Tours on Santorini
Every tour I’ve taken on Santorini has been good or great – and I’ve never had a bad experience. It’s not absolutely necessary to pre-book tours before arriving but if you’re on a short visit (less than a week) it’s probably a good idea to reserve your tour in advance.
Recommended Tours on Santorini
- Get Your Guide – Great site for finding tours and getting good discounts.
- Santorini Half-Day Private Wine Tour – Santorini has some great fucking wine (Assyrtiko is my favorite). You’ve just gotta try it. The island is small so it’s fairly easy to visit the wineries on your own. That said, the whole drinking and driving thing isn’t cool and finding each winery always takes way more time than you expect, so if you want to visit more than one winery then do the tour. And since this is a small group/private tour you don’t have to deal with the tour bus scene.
- 5-Hour Catamaran Sunset Cruise – Every boat tour is different. The options include: hike the volcano, swim in the hot springs, visit Thirassia and explore its villages, stop at Red Beach and White Beach to swim and snorkel, eat lunch or dinner on board, and watch the sunset below Oia. This one is the simplest (but still awesome) – it’s basically just sailing through the caldera, stopping at a few beaches (outside of the caldera, so this is the only boat tour that leaves the caldera), then the hot springs, with swimming, eating, relaxing, and finally watching the sunset. So, no volcano hike or Thirassia. All boat tours mentioned here provide meals onboard and have hotel pickup to start and finish the tour.
- 7-Hour Volcano Adventure with Cruise – This is almost the opposite of the 5-hour Catamaran tour. You get the volcano, hot springs (with swimming), Thirassia – but no beaches or going outside the caldera, and no sunset.
- Volcano Island Tour & Oia Sunset Cruise – This is my favorite. You get the volcano hike, the hot spring swimming, Thirassia, and the sunset (pretty awesome from the location below Oia). You don’t visit the beaches (but you can get to these on a different day without taking a tour). 8 hours long.
- Traditional Villages and Oia Sunset Tour – No boats, this is a tour of Santorini itself, not the caldera and volcano. The tour visits three of my favorite places on the island: Akrotiri (the fantastic ruins of the ancient town destroyed by the volcano eruption), Pyrgos (old town with twisting pathways and churches galore, incredible views too), and Oia (watch the sunset from the island’s most iconic town). Hotel pickup and drop off make this a super easy way to see the island in one day.
- Santorini Cooking Class and Wine-Tasting Tour – This is a good one if you’re on a cruise as the timing and length work well with the typical shore visit. The tour visits 2 wineries, then you cook with a local chef and finish off by eating what you made. Pickup from hotel or cruise port is included.
- Helicopter Tours of Santorini – Unlike the boat tours these do get fully booked, so reserve early. Tours last 20 minutes, 30 minutes, or 1 hour and you get incredible views of the caldera, cliffs, volcano, vineyards, and towns.
Recommended Website for Renting a Car
- Auto Europe – Super simple site that finds the best rates from Hertz, Avis, Enterprise, and Thrifty. If you need to get a rental car on Santorini this is the best website.
The 33 Best Things To Do on Santorini
1. Hike From Fira to Oia
This is the single best thing to do on Santorini – and it’s free! The views are incredible. The hike takes somewhere between 2 and 5 hours depending on your speed and how many pictures you take along the way. The walk starts in Fira and moves north through Firostefani and then Imerovigli (this part of the path feels more like a village sidewalk). From Imerovigli to Oia it’s largely rural with only a few shops or restaurants on this stretch of path. Most people will want to wear a sturdy running shoe for the walk but I’ve certainly seen people do it in flip flops. The route isn’t completely marked but it’s fairly intuitive: stay on the path that follows the edge of the caldera and walk north. Of course, it’s fine to do the walk in the opposite direction but it feels more natural (to me) to walk north to Oia and the island’s tip. And walking into Oia from the hills above is an awesome finish. If it’s July or August I’d highly recommend starting before 8am.
I can not say enough great things about this wonderful tour. It’s run by a guy from New Zealand named Olaf. The tour is for small groups of 1 to 4 and he tailors it based on the skill and interests of the group. Are you just figuring how to use your new camera? Olaf’s your man. Are you a serious enthusiast looking to find the best shots on Santorini? Olaf knows the places. It’s a little expensive but this is a great way to see the island from a number of unique spots. Highly recommended – but book far in advance.
3. Cable Car from Old Port to Fira
Walk down the stairs to the Old Port, grab a drink, then take the cable car back up (though you can walk or cable car both ways if you want). From May to October the cable car runs every 20 minutes, 6:30 to 22:00 – a little longer hours in July and August, and a reduced schedule from November until April. It costs 4€ for adults and 2€ for children.
Santorini wine is great, the wineries are beautiful, and the people super friendly. It’s a fun and easy way to see the island away from the caldera. A tour is the best way of exploring more than one winery.
5. Walk the Volcano
The island in the middle of caldera is Nea Kameni and where you’ll find the most active volcano on Santorini. The crater is 130 meters up and takes about 20 minutes to walk to. Sulfur vents are found along the way. The only way to get here is by doing a volcano boat tour or hiring a chartered boat.
6. Ancient Akrotiri
See the village left behind after the devastating volcanic eruption that made the island uninhabitable. The site is very well done and I highly recommend getting a guide to show about the site and discuss the history of the island.
This is so much fun. Watch a movie outside as the sun sets and the sky grows dark. Wine, beer, and simple snacks available. Movies start around 9:30pm.
8. Swim at Amoudi Bay
One of the best swimming spots on Santorini is down the cliff from Oia at a spot just south of the Amoudi port. Take the path that leads south from the restaurants in the port. Amoudi is the clump of white buildings you see in the bottom left of the photo. It’s a 5 minute walk to a ledge you can jump from and swim out to the little island you see on the right of the picture.
You can do both the volcano walk and the hot springs as part of a boat tour. Be sure to get a tour that takes in the sunset too. There are also tour option to visit Thirassia (a small populated island that forms part of the caldera ring with Santorini) and Red and Black beach. The boats start from either Athinios port (where the ferries arrive) or the Old Port below Fira (for this you can take the cable car down) and most offer hotel pickup to get you to the boat. All the tour companies are legitimate so buy the tour that suits your needs best as far as timing, interests, and transportation.
10. Explore the Paths, Alleys, and Stairwells of Fira, Firostefani, and Imerovigli
This is similar to the hike from Fira to Oia but instead of staying on the foot path you need to descend, wander, and explore.
11. Explore the Paths, Alleys, and Stairwells of Oia
Oia has even more hidden pathways than Fira. Be sure to get off the main path and explore the magical views you’ll stumble upon. A good place to start is to find the restaurant Lotza then take the path down the cliff directly to the right of the restaurant.
12. Perissa Beach
Perissa is the best swimming beach on Santorini and has the nicest sand. Good restaurants are spread along the beach front. Perissa is about a 30 minute drive from Fira and 45 minutes from Oia.
13. Ride the Donkeys
Ride the donkeys either from the Old Port up to Fira or from Amoudi Bay up to Oia.
14. Explore the Santorini Countryside
This is one of the advantages of renting a car – you can get away from the main towns and explore the beautiful Santorini countryside. The island’s small – you can almost always see the sea – but there’s lots of farmland (especially in the south) and you can’t drive for very long without stumbling across a winery.
15. Dinner with a View
The food is often better when you go to a restaurant without a view. But regardless, you have to have dinner with a view of the caldera at least one night while in Santorini. Mezzo is my favorite restaurant with a view on Santorini.
16. Kamari Beach
Good swimming and lots of restaurants. The pedestrian only street along the beach is fun to walk along at night when it gets quite busy.
16. Swim in the Hot Springs
Jump from the boat into the cold water of the caldera then swim towards the warm water of the volcanic hot springs. It never gets hot but it’s warm enough to never feel the need to get out.
On the way to Perissa beach in the south of Santorini you’ll find this magical little town. There’s almost never any tourists here and though it’s small it’s still plenty big enough to get good and lost in the tangle of alleyways.
18. Lioyerma Public Swimming Pool
If your hotel doesn’t have a pool this is a good option if you’re staying in Oia – but I don’t think I’d come all the way from Fira just for the pool. No fee, just buy a drink or some food and you can sit all day. Nice view too.
19. Watch The Sunset In Oia
Bring a bottle of wine and hang out on the cliffs of Oia watching the sun set. It is busy so be prepared for crowds. Forget about finding a taxi back to Fira or Imerovigli but there are extra buses waiting for the crowds after the sunset so there’s often no wait at all.
20. The Seafood Restaurants Of Amoudi Bay
Walk down the stairs from Oia to Amoudi and find a little port with 4 or 5 restaurants serving ridiculously fresh seafood. All the restaurants are good but Katina’s is my favorite. It’s surprisingly quiet down here and you can usually get away without a reservation.
21. Atlantis Books in Oia
This is a classic little bookstore. Simply wonderful. (Nice piece in the NY Times about it.)
22. Museum of Prehistoric Fira
On the main street in Fira this small museum is worth a 45 minute visit. It’s not huge but is especially interesting if you visit Akrotiri first.
23. Red Beach
Just down the road from the Akrotiri ruins, red beach is the most spectacular and picturesque of any Santorini beach. From the bus stop or car park it’s about a 15 minute walk into the beach. Oh, and watch for falling rock.
24. Best Dance Bar
The Koo Club is in central Fira gets going about 11pm.
25. Funnest Bar in Santorini
200 meters south of the Koo Club is the crazy little bar 2 Brothers. If you let the bartender hit you over the head with a bat (while wearing a helmet) you get a free shot. It sounds obnoxious (and it is) but the saving grace is that everyone here is super friendly and there’s very little attitude. Good times.
26. Best Greek Bar
If you want to party with the locals (or Greeks from the mainland) then Mamounia is the place. Of course, being a Greek bar, it doesn’t get busy until after 1pm.
27. Best Singles Bar or Place to Meet Other Travelers
Murphy’s is a two-level bar that’s probably Fira’s most popular – and the most likely to be open if you visit between November and March.
28. Best Bar in Oia
Hasapiko (also called Mary Kay) is a great throwback bar with old timers and tourists sitting around while the music thumps. A small crowd usually moves about on the tiny dance floor.
29. Best Dessert
You have to try a baklava and ice cream if you’re in Greece. Lotza in Oia serves the best baklava on the island. (Cafe Hausbrandt in Fira has the best gelato on Santorini.)
30. Best View Of Santorini
Walk up the meandering lanes of Pyrgos (15 minutes south of Fira) to the top of the hill. There you’ll find a castle, a church, and these marvelous views of the entire island. The 6-hour Pyrgos, Wine Tasting, and Sunset tour is an easy way to kill a couple birds with one stone.
31. Best Gyro In Santorini
Since many of the gyro and souvlaki shops target tourists they sell some pretty average food. Not Lucky’s. This is the real thing and just as good as anything you’ll find in Athens or mainland Greece. Lucky’s is on the main street of Fira and a 3 minute walk from the bus station. (Ask anyone and they’ll point you in the right direction.)
32. Day Trip or Overnight Trip to Ios
The great beaches on Ios and its proximity to Santorini make it the best day trip island from Santorini.
33. Most Unique Place To Stay On Santorini
You can stay in this windmill. Really! It’s the Windmills Suite at Golden Sunset Villas in Oia and it’s pretty incredible. It sits at the tip of Oia where everyone gathers to watch the sunset – but you have this huge patio with incredible views all to yourself (it can easily fit 20 people if you had friends staying nearby and wanted to host a sunset party). My wife, 2 kids, and I stayed in the windmill this summer and absolutely loved it. There’s a kitchen, full bathroom, 2 “bedrooms”, and plenty of room. The stairs are steep, narrow, and admittedly, a little tricky. The good news: there’s only one windmill suite on Santorini. The bad news: there’s only one windmill suite on Santorini. – So book early. Free breakfast is included.