Santorini Things to Do: The Basics
- One Day in Santorini: Hike the caldera path between Fira and Oia. Boat tour of the caldera. Dinner at Athenian House or Metaxi Mas.
- Two Days in Santorini: Add a wine tour, food tour, or jet ski tour.
- Three Days or More in Santorni: Visit ancient Akrotiri and Pyrgos. Lots more walking (the best way to explore Santorini).
- The best Santorini shore excursions for cruise passengers: 5-Hour Private Wine Tour • Best of Santorini – Private Sightseeing Tour • Santorini Photography Tour
- Most important tip: Do at least one tour. Or two or three or four. You might not usually do tours. They might be outside your comfort zone. But they’re awesome, fun, really well done, and a great way to get to see lots of the island (and get to know some locals) in a short amount of time. Santorini Boat Tours, Santorini Wine Tours, Santorini Private Tours – they’re all great. People spend thousands of dollars getting to Greece and then worry about a $200 wine tour. Just do it. You’ll remember it forever.
The Best Santorini Tours
The best day trips in Santorini are the caldera boat and winery tours. Every tour I’ve taken on Santorini has been great (or very very good) – 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 five days) it’s probably a good idea to reserve your tour in advance. From June to September the best tours can be fully booked weeks in advance.
The Top Tours in Santorini
- Get Your Guide – The most complete list of Santorini tours. Good site for getting tour discounts.
- Jet Ski To The Volcano
This might be the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. You start from Perivolos beach and take the jet skis around the south of the island and then up into the caldera. It’s absolutely amazing. (There are 3 types of tours offered; you’ll want to do the “Volcano Tour” or “Extreme Volcano Tour” – both of these go into the caldera.)
- Small Group Wine Tasting Tour
Santorini has some incredible wine (Assyrtiko is my favorite). This is an intimate semi-private tour that visits 3 great Santorini wineries. There is also a less expensive Santorini Sunset Wine Tour that is almost as good. It will have a few more people but it’s still a small group tour (and since some people enjoy meeting other travelers on a tour, the fact that it’s not private may be a plus).
- Sunset Cruise: Caldera Sailing Tour
Every boat tour is a different mix of these popular elements: hiking the volcano, swimming in the hot springs, visiting Thirassia, stopping at Red Beach and White Beach to swim and snorkel, eating lunch/dinner on board, and watching the sunset below Oia. This tour is the simplest (but still awesome) – it’s basically just sailing through the caldera, stopping at a few beaches (outside of the caldera), then the hot springs, with swimming, eating, and sunbathing. It ends by watching the sunset on the boat from below the Oia cliffs (the highlight). Bring a change of clothes to change into, because the evening gets a little cool if you’re still in wet swim clothes. All boat tours mentioned on this page provide meals onboard and have hotel pickup to start and finish the tour.
- Day Cruise: Luxury Catamaran Day Cruise
The most luxurious boat tour with the best food and friendliest, smallest group. This is a caldera boat tour that includes lots of swimming and snorkeling, unlimited drinks, and free hotel pickup and drop-off. It’s similar to the Sunset Cruise but without the sunset and with more swimming and time in the sun. (I just did this tour again in September and it’s as fun as ever.)
- Best of Santorini (6 Hours)
The best private tour in Santorini. No boats, this is a sightseeing tour of the island itself with a professional guide. The tour visits three of my favorite places: Akrotiri (the fantastic ruins of the ancient town destroyed by the volcano eruption), Pyrgos (an old town with twisting pathways and churches galore, incredible views too), and Oia (the single most beautiful village on Santorini). There are also stops at Red and Black beaches, a local winery (Venetsanos), and the picturesque town of Firostefani. Hotel pickup and drop-off make this a super easy way to see the island in one day.
- Santorini Photography Tour
A great tour of Santorini’s best views and shots that ideal for all photographers, from beginner to expert. If you’re looking for something really unique and special then this is it. People absolutely love this tour. I mean, love it!
- Santorini Fishing Tour
Wonderful tour of the waters around Santorini on a local fishing boat. Fresh seafood lunch or dinner served on board (you’ll eat what you catch and empty from the nets). The daytime tour is best for families and serious fishermen. The sunset tour is best for couples.
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The 50 Best Things to Do in Santorini
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 stop to take along the way. Start in Fira and move north through Firostefani and then Imerovigli (this part of the path feels more like a village sidewalk). From Imerovigli to Oia it’s a largely rural path, with only a few shops or restaurants. 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 (when in doubt stay to the left/west). 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.
Do two fantastic activities in one boat tour: walk the volcano and swim in the hot springs. Be sure to get a tour that takes in the sunset too. There are also tour options that visit Thirassia (a small populated island that forms part of the caldera ring with Santorini) and Red and Black beach. Boats usually depart from Vlychada Marina at the south of the island, or from Ammoudi Bay below Oia, and most tours 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.
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.
An insanely fun and unique way of seeing the caldera. There are different tours that go different places – all leave from Perivolos in the south of the island. The shortest tour (“South Tour”) visits nearby Red Beach and White Beach and lasts about 90 minutes. The medium-length (“Volcano Tour”, 140 minutes) goes all the way into the caldera and stops for a swim in the hot springs by the volcano. The longest tour (“Extreme Volcano Tour”, 200 minutes) takes the volcano tour and adds Thirassia and Ammoudi Bay. The tours that go into the caldera are pretty intense and the waves can be big. It’s a taxing activity but super fun. My son has done the volcano tour when he was 14 and 15 years old (that’s him in the photo) and considers it one of the most fun things we’ve ever done. Staff are friendly, helpful, and very safety conscious. There’s a motorboat with the tour the whole way so if someone needs a break they can switch to the boat and one of the staff will ride the jet ski. I love the boat tours of the caldera but this takes it to another level – the cliffs are just right there! The same company also does parasailing, tubing, and water skiing.
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 out 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. It’s also fine if just one in your group is interested in photography and the others only want to enjoy the views. In fact, the spots Olaf takes you to make this an incredible tour even with zero interest in taking photos. Highly recommended – but book far in advance.
Wonderfully fun! The Morning Tour and Sunset Tour explore the south coast of Santorini (cool but you don’t get to see the caldera). The Round The Lighthouse Tour goes into the caldera and provides incredible views of the caldera cliffs. There’s also a good snorkeling tour (but it doesn’t go into the caldera).
7. Walk the Volcano
The island in the middle of the caldera is called Nea Kameni, and it’s where you’ll find the island’s active volcano – the top point of interest in 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.
See and explore the remains of the ancient Minoan Bronze-Age village that was abandoned before (and buried by) the island’s devastating volcanic eruption in the 16th Century BC. The site is the most interesting historical site on Santorini and very well preserved. I highly recommend booking a tour guide in advance to show you around the site and discuss the history of the island, the eruption, and the following destruction. Another option is the excellent private tour of Akrotiri and 3 Santorini wineries.
Family-friendly fun – depending on what’s playing, of course. Watch a movie outside as the sun sets and the sky grows dark. The selections are usually popular English-language films, and wine, beer, and simple snacks are available for purchase. Movies start around 9:30pm, but I recommend getting here when the doors open at 8:30 to ensure a seat. Sundays and the first and last day of any movie run are the busiest days. There’s a bus stop directly across the street with buses back to Fira. In summer the last bus should be after the movie is out but check the schedule to be sure.
One of the best swimming spots on Santorini is down the cliff from Oia at a spot just south of the Ammoudi port. Walk the steps down from Oia (or drive/taxi to Ammoudi Bay), then take the path that leads south from the restaurants in the port – you can’t miss it, there’s only one way to go. It’s a 5-minute walk to a small island (Agios Nikolaos) that you can swim out to. If you want, you can jump from the island’s ledge into the sea below.
Very professional, very fun fishing tour with lots of hands-on action and a huge lunch. The daytime/lunch tour is best for most but there’s also a sunset fishing tour if that sounds appealing.
12. Explore the Paths, Alleys, and Stairwells of Fira, Firostefani, and Imerovigli
This is basically the hike from Fira to Oia but instead of continuing to Oia you can stop in Imerovigli, explore a little, and turn back around. All 3 towns have beautiful views and are worth a walk-through. You might get a little lost here and there, but that’s half the fun.
13. Walk to Skaros Rock
Descend the cliff to the path that leads to Skaros Rock – the path starts just south of Grace Santorini hotel. Explore the far side of the outcrop (there’s a little church hidden on the far side) and climb to the top of the rock if you’re brave enough. Great views from all points.
14. Take a Private Tour of Santorini
Explore the hidden paths, alleys, beaches, photo shots, amazing villages, and quiet spots all around the island. All Santorini tours are good, but there’s something a little extra special about doing a private tour (if it works with your budget, not cheap).
15. 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.
16. Ancient Thera
Find Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine ruins – and spectacular views – at this ancient island capital on the top of Messa Vouno mountain. You can hike the steep trail up from Kamari or Perissa, drive the narrow switchbacked road to the entrance, or hop on the 10€ shuttle from Kamari below. Expect maximum wind and minimum facilities – there are no bathrooms at the top. 4€ adults, kids free. 8am-3pm Tuesday-Sunday.
Learn all about the history behind Santorini’s world famous cherry-sized tomatoes. The Tomato Museum is small, but very well done. Most people are pleasantly surprised at how much fun they have here.
18. Explore the Santorini Countryside
This is one of the advantages of renting a car in Santorini – you can get away from the main towns and explore the beautiful Santorinian countryside. The island is 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.
19. 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. The Athenian House is a great restaurant with a caldera and sunset view. (And these are my favorite restaurants on Santorini.)
20. Kamari Beach
Good swimming (though it’s a pebble-beach) and lots of restaurants. The pedestrian only street along the beach is fun to walk at night when it gets quite busy.
21. 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. The only way to get to the hot springs is by doing a boat tour.
On the way to Perissa beach in the south of Santorini, you’ll find this magical traditional village. There are 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 colorful alleyways.
23. Lioyerma Public Swimming Pool
If you’re staying near Oia and your hotel doesn’t have a swimming pool, this is a good public option – but I don’t think it’s worth a trip from Fira or beyond. No fee, just buy a drink or some food and you can swim all day and enjoy the nice view. (It has a sunset view too.) This pool makes a refreshing finish to the Fira to Oia hike.
24. Watch the Sunset in Oia
Bring a bottle of wine and hang out on the cliffs of Oia watching the sun set over the sea. It is always 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 and there’s often no wait for those. Elinikon is the best Oia restaurant with views of the sunset.
25. The Seafood Restaurants Of Ammoudi Bay
Walk down the stairs from Oia to Ammoudi Bay and find a little port with 4 restaurants serving ridiculously fresh seafood. All of these restaurants are good, but Ammoudi Fish Tavern is my favorite. It’s surprisingly quiet down here and you can usually get in without a reservation. No need to climb the 200+ stairs back to the top – the restaurant will be happy to call you a taxi when you’ve finished your meal.
Atlantis Books is a classic little bookstore that’s often named as one of the top 10 bookshops in the world. Down a short-but-steep flight of stairs on Oia’s main pedestrian path is a cave that’s crammed from top to bottom with books – it’s simply wonderful. Most of the books are in English, but there are some popular Greek versions available as well. Be sure to support the store and buy something, and ask the cashier to stamp your book with their famous logo. They also sell a self-made map of Santorini (worth the 5€), indicating the staff’s favorite things to do around the island. (Or use our free Santorini map.)
On the main street in Fira, the Museum of Prehistoric Thera is worth a 45-minute visit. It’s not huge but it’s interesting, especially if you’ve made a visit to the Akrotiri ruins first. A 5-minute walk away is the Megaro Gyzi museum (near the Catholic church). It’s even smaller, but still but worth a look if you want a more intimate view of Santorini’s history. And seeking it out is a good way to see some of the hidden alleys of Fira that you might otherwise miss.
28. 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. (Sometimes closed due to the risk from falling rock, proceed at your own risk.)
29. Akrotiri Lighthouse
The lighthouse is the destination, but the draw is the incredible view looking north into the caldera – very different than the views from looking down from Fira or Oia because you can really see the circular nature of the caldera from this vantage point. Also popular for its excellent sunset views. Located on the very southern tip of Santorini, the only way to get there is by car.
30. Explore the Eastern Fishing Villages
There are several small villages on the east coast of Santorini (north of Monolithos) that are worth a visit, particularly Exo Gialos and Vourvoulos. Yalos is one of the better restaurants on the island and a good stop on that route.
31. Take the Boat to Thirassia
Thirassia Island forms the western side of the caldera, and was connected to Santorini before the ancient volcanic eruption. It’s an inhabited island with some good local tavernas, and is worth the 1€ boat ride to visit. Boats leave several times a day from Ammoudi and the Old Fira port; the earliest sets out at 8am. The last boat back to Santorini usually departs Thirassia around 5pm, so plan wisely or you’ll be spending the night on the island.
The Koutsoyannopoulos Winery, located at the center of Santorini, has a super cool 300-meter-long wine cave that displays exhibits of the history and development of Santorinian wine throughout the last 5 centuries. Admission to the museum includes 4 wine tastings from the Koutsoyannopoulos winery.
33. Art Space Winery
A unique and charming mix of art gallery, history museum, cave architecture, and great wine. It’s rarely visited by any tours, so you need to visit on your own.
34. Perissa & Perivolos Beaches
Perissa is the best swimming beach on Santorini and has the nicest sand. (It’s black sand, so it does get hot in the summer.) Good restaurants are spread along the beach front. Tranquillo is the best beach bar on Perissa. Perissa is about a 30-minute drive from Fira and 45 minutes from Oia. Perivolos Beach is the southern part of the same stretch of sand, with some newer luxury hotels and great restaurants (try Seaside or Savvas Popeye). Other than the change in latitude, though, there’s little to distinguish one beach from the other.
This is pretty close to unforgettable. A wonderful tour above Santorini, the volcano, the caldera, and all the villages perched along the cliff. If you’re going to Mykonos you can also do a helicopter transfer between Santorini and Mykonos – which is fun, easy, and way faster than the ferry.
36. 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.
There are wonderful dive spots all around the Santorini volcanoes and caldera. Professional tours are offered that cater to all levels.
The food in Santorini is amazing. Obviously, it’s easy to enjoy plenty of great food without doing a food tour or cooking class but the guides are so knowledgeable and the tours so fun it’s really worth doing one. Like any Santorini tour the odds of doing one and then regretting it are almost zero.
39. Best Dance Bar
The Koo Club is located in central Fira. The party gets going about 11pm.
40. 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 cheap liquor 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.
41. Best Greek Bar
If you want to party with the locals (or Greeks from the mainland) then Mamounia Club in Fira is the place. Of course, being a Greek bar, it doesn’t get busy until after 1pm.
42. Best Singles Bar or Place to Meet Other Travelers
Tropical is one of my favorite bars in Santorini (single or not) and has great views. The friendly staff and something about the layout make it the best place to meet solo and single travelers.
43. Best Bar in Oia
Hassapiko (also called Marykay’s) 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. This is the only bar in Oia – but great. Gets busy about 10 or 11pm.
44. Best Dessert
45. Best Restaurant with Sunset View in Oia
46. 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 rooftop bar at Franco’s Cafe is a great place to enjoy the sunset. The 6-Hour Best of Santorini Tour is an easy way to visit the most interesting Santorini villages (Pyrgos, Oia, and others).
47. Best Gyro In Santorini
Many of the gyro and souvlaki shops that target tourists make 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.) Pito Gyros in Oia is also good.
48. Greek Easter
If you happen to be in Santorini for Greek Easter (the date of which is usually different than western Easter) be prepared for something special. On the night of Good Friday, head to Pyrgos where the whole town is magically lit with candles. Saturday night be prepared for fireworks (Fira is the best spot to see them) when the fast ends at midnight. And on Easter Sunday many Greek restaurants will have a special menu with roasted pork and greek dishes (be sure to reserve a table in advance).
49. 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 … but an overnight trip is better.
50. Best Thing To Do On Final Night in Santorini
The White Door Theatro puts on an unbelievably fun show about a Greek family wedding. There’s singing, dancing, and a simple storyline. Guests are made to feel part of the wedding party. There are light snacks and lots of wine. Even my 12 and 15 year old boys thought this was hysterical. Great fun!
Santorini Day Trips to Other Islands
My recommendation: Don’t do day trips from Santorini to other islands. Santorini has so much to see and do you’re better to focus on staying and enjoying it. If you really want to see other islands then you’re better off traveling there and spending a few nights rather than wasting your time going there and back on a ferry. (Ios is a bit of an exception as its so close.)
Besides the islands visible in the caldera (like nearby Thirassia and Nea Kameni), Santorini doesn’t have great day trip options. To visit an island on a day trip you need to get an early morning ferry from Santorini and a late-day ferry returning to Santorini. Since most ferries are based on other islands (or back in Athens) it’s usually mid-day before they arrive in Santorini. And even when there is an early morning ferry there likely won’t be an evening ferry that would provide you with the time necessary to make the journey worthwhile.
If you really want to make a day trip to another Greek island your best bet is to wait until you’ve arrived in Santorini. Then visit a travel agency and ask about the ferry schedule to and from Santorini’s neighboring islands. If it seems like the amount of time you’ll get on the island is worth the journey then book the ticket. If not, then don’t. Ferry schedules are always changing and rarely are released more than a few weeks in advance. A day trip requires fairly precise timing to pull off so it’s best to wait to arrange until you’re in Greece and can be certain of the schedule. Ferries on these short routes from Santorini will almost never sell out so don’t worry about finding a spot onboard. If the schedule works for a day trip then you’ll have no problem buying tickets.
The most likely candidate for a day trip from Santorini is Ios. It has fantastic beaches and a young and fun party vibe – though the clubbing doesn’t get going until late at night so day-trippers won’t get to partake. With a little luck you could have 6 or 7 hours on the island making the 35-minute boat trip from Santorini worth the effort. Mylopotas Beach (one of the best in Greece) and the Chora (the main town up a steep cliff from the port) are well connected to the harbor by a short bus ride. The ferry from Santorini to Ios is €20 one way.
Naxos and Paros are both (just) possible but even with the best ferry connections you’d have little more than 2 or 3 hours to explore the island. Except in rare circumstances a day trip to Mykonos is not possible from Santorini. The journey from Santorini to Mykonos is more than 2 hours and 30 minutes and there are rarely returning boats that make the trip doable in a day.
A day trip from Crete to Santorini is possible (from April to October) with the daily ferries from Heraklion. But a trip going from Santorini to Crete does not work with the ferry timetable.
Anafi is another island that would seem to allow for a day trip but since ferries run to Santorini in the morning and back to Anafi in the afternoon any visit would require staying a night on Anafi.
Top Travel Sites for Santorini – My Recommendations
Best For Ferries: Ferryhopper.com
The easiest way to book and buy Greek ferry tickets in advance.
Best For Flights: Kayak.com • Skyscanner • Momondo
Kayak is the easiest to use. Skyscanner finds the cheapest rates. Momondo is the best for first and business class tickets.
Best For Renting A Car: Rentalcars.com
Great prices from all the biggest rental companies. Easy to use, safe, and reliable.
Best For Hotels: Booking.com
Awesome rates and great for vacation planning. All price ranges. Luxury hotels, 5-star boutiques, cheap hostels, house and apartment rentals.
Best For Tours: GetYourGuide.com
My favorite for booking tours and private tour guides.
Best for Travel Insurance: InsureMyTrip
Compare costs from over 30 insurance providers.