Updated: October 21, 2016
Mykonos or Santorini – Where To Go?
- Both are incredibly beautiful islands. It’s easy to visit both on the same trip. A ferry from one to the other takes about 3 hours.
- Go to Mykonos for beaches and nightlife. Go to Santorini for scenery, wineries, tours, and hikes.
- Both are great for a honeymoon (depending on your interests, of course) but Santorini has a slightly more romantic feel.
- Santorini tourist season: April to early November. Mykonos tourist season: June to September. (Santorini has far more to see and do in the winter, off-season months.)
- Tip: If you do visit both fly into one and fly out of the other so you don’t have to retrace your steps back to the first island to catch your flight home.
Santorini vs Mykonos: The Differences
Where to go: Santorini or Mykonos?
Mykonos is a fun island that has a great buzz. Mykonos Town is as enchanting as any town in the Greek islands. Santorini is a stunning island that you’ll never forget. The views and the setting are among the most impressive anywhere.
So my short answer would be: if you have 5 days or less then go to Santorini.
If you have 6 days or more then visit both islands but with 2/3 of your time in Santorini.
My longer answer would be: It depends what you’re interests are and how you want to spend your time. They are very different islands and complement each other nicely – thus a trip that takes in both islands makes a lot of sense.
Go to Santorini if you’re interested in:
Scenery, natural beauty, sunsets, romance, fine dining, wineries, boutique hotels, boat tours of nearby islands, and, uhm, volcanoes.
Go to Mykonos if you’re interested in:
Beaches, nightclubs, dancing, and partying.
That said, Mykonos has many wonderful places to eat and Santorini has some pretty cool beaches and no shortage of places to party.
Santorini vs Mykonos
- The scenery, views, sunsets, and natural beauty of Santorini are unrivaled by Mykonos or any other Greek island. Mykonos is not without its beautiful spots but for scenes that are truly jaw-dropping Santorini wins hands-down.
- Santorini is more romantic and much better suited to a honeymoon or couples vacation.
- Mykonos has great beaches with beautiful sand and turquoise water. Santorini does not have the typical white or golden sandy beaches that Greece is known for. The beaches on Santorini are made of volcanic rock. Most are composed of a mix of sand and pebbles with a red or black color. Since the sand is darker it gets very hot through the day – aqua socks or sandals are close to a necessity at mid-day. But…some visitors love the beaches of Santorini and treasure their uniqueness. “I’ve seen sandy beaches many times but where else can I walk into the Mediterranean on red volcanic sand.”
- Mykonos has more of a club scene and party vibe. You won’t have any shortage of places to drink and party on Santorini but if you’re in Greece to hit the clubs and dance then Mykonos is your island.
- Mykonos Town has an enchanting maze of narrow lanes and alleyways that are fun to explore. Shops and restaurants are tucked into the classic white stone buildings that the Greek islands are famous for. At night, when visitors flock to the clubs the lanes are jammed with partiers. It’s a fun vibe and never too crazy but it can be overwhelming for some.
- Santorini handles the peak summer crowds a little better than Mykonos. The streets and walkways of Fira and Oia are wider and roomier than Mykonos town so never feel quite as crowded.
- Both Santorini and Mykonos are very gay friendly. Not to stereotype but Santorini might be called the wine drinking gay scene. Mykonos the club-going gay scene.
- Santorini has more sightseeing and activities: excavation sites to explore, day trips around the island, winery tours, and boat tours around the volcano. Mykonos has some fine scenery, beautiful walks, and picturesque windmills but in general, Santorini just has more to see and more to do. Mykonos does have the nearby island of Delos (one of the most important mythological, historical, and archaeological sites in the Greek islands) to explore by day trip.
- Both islands are very quiet in winter. The beach towns shutdown and even in the main towns many hotels and restaurants close. That said, Santorini gets more off-season visitors and is never as quiet. Plus, without the beach and party scene Mykonos doesn’t offer much to do. On Santorini, the cliffs, views, and caldera don’t go away in the slow season.
- Both Santorini and Mykonos have airports which only a handful of Greek islands have. Both islands have direct flights from Athens and northern and western Europe – they’re the only islands in the Cyclades that have international flights.
- Mykonos is a couple of hours closer to Athens when traveling by ferry. Ferry from Athens to Mykonos takes 3.5 hours (high speed ferry) or 5.5 hours (cheaper car ferry). Ferry from Athens to Santorini takes 5 hours (high speed) and 8 hours (car ferry).
The weather in Santorini and Mykonos
There is no appreciable difference in climate between Santorini and Mykonos. The best weather for both islands is from late May to early October. Since Santorini is more of a sight-seeing island than Mykonos it allows for visits in spring and fall that still offer lots to see and do (the views don’t go away with the hot weather). Since most people go to Mykonos for the beaches a visit outside of the warmest months has less to offer. The tourist season on Santorini is from April to early November. On Mykonos it’s from late May to early October.
Visiting Both Santorini and Mykonos
Santorini and Mykonos are so different that visiting both is a great choice. The two islands complement each other very well. They are 3 hours apart by ferry so getting between Mykonos and Santorini is fairly easy.
There is one direct flight a day from Mykonos to Santorini on Olympic Air. For the summer of 2014 it’s available from June 21 to September 20. It takes 30 minutes, costs between €30 and €80, and departs Mykonos in the evening. There are many more flights (that run throughout the year) via Athens but these cost 3 times as much and take 2 to 5 hours.
The most popular way to get between Santorini and Mykonos is by ferry.
In summer, there are 2 daily high speed ferries that run from Santorini to Mykonos and then return Mykonos to Santorini. The ferries leave Santorini (for Mykonos) about noon and leave Mykonos (for Santorini) in the mid-afternoon. The trip takes 2.5 hours and the ferry stops in Paros and Ios in between and in both directions.
You can buy ferry tickets for the route between Mykonos and Santorini – but you will rarely need advance tickets outside of July and August. If you’re already in Greece you can buy tickets from any travel agency a few days in advance of your ferry trip.
Day Trip to Santorini or Mykonos
I do not recommend doing a day trip from Mykonos to Santorini or Santorini to Mykonos. Depending on the ferry schedule, some years in July and August it’s just possible to get 5 to 7 hours of time at the destination island. But this is after spending 3 hours each way on a high speed ferry. The high speed ferries can be rough and unpleasant rides on windy days – so you could find yourself “recovering” from a bumpy journey for the better part of your visit. Only to have to get on it again in a few hours for the ride back.
If you’re interested in seeing both islands then you should visit both islands for at least a few nights. Visiting either island for a few hours in the afternoon is not a good way to appreciate each island’s highlights.