Updated: September 4, 2017
- One Day in Santorini: Hike the caldera path between Fira and Oia. Boat tour of the caldera. Dinner at Mezzo or Metaxy Mas.
- Two Days: Add a wine, food, or helicopter tour.
- Three Days Or More: Visit ancient Akrotiri and Pyrgos. Lots more walking (the best way to explore Santorini).
- Most important tip: Do at least one tour. You might not usually do tours. It might be outside your comfort zone. But do at least one or two, they’re awesome.
Santorini Tours – The Best and Funnest
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 Best Tours in Santorini
- Get Your Guide – A great list of Santorini tours. Good site for getting tour discounts.
- Santorini Private Wine Tour (5 Hours) – Santorini has some great fucking wine (Assyrtiko is my favorite – a must when visiting Santorini). This is an intimate private tour for 2 to 6 people that visits 3 wineries and finishes with sunset views of the caldera (if you book the evening tour). 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 some people enjoy meeting other travelers so the fact that it’s not private may be a plus).
- Sunset Catamaran Sailing Cruise in Caldera – Every boat tour is different. The options include: hike the volcano, swim in the hot springs, visit Thirassia, stop at Red Beach and White Beach to swim and snorkel, eat lunch/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), then the hot springs, with swimming, eating, and sunbathing. And finally watching the sunset on the boat from below the Oia cliffs (the highlight). Bring a change of clothes to change into for the evening as it gets a little cool if you’re still in your wet swim clothes. All boat tours mentioned here provide meals onboard and have hotel pickup to start and finish the tour.
- 7-Hour Volcano Cruise – This tour is almost the opposite of the Sunset Catamaran Cruise. You get the volcano, hot springs (with swimming), and a visit to Thirassia island – but no beaches or going outside the caldera, and no sunset. It’s less expensive than the two other catamaran tours and you’re part of a much larger group (but still very enjoyable).
- Semi-Private Luxury Catamaran Day Cruise – The most luxurious boat tour with the best food and friendliest smallest group. This is a caldera boat tour with lots of swimming and snorkeling. Unlimited drinks and free hotel pickup and drop-off. It’s similar to the Sunset Catamaran Cruise but no sunset and there’s more swimming and time in the sun. (I just did this tour last week and it’s as fun as ever.)
- Santorini Private Tour (6 Hours) – No boats, this is a sightseeing tour of Santorini 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 (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 Helicopter Flight – Amazing and unforgettable (though obviously not cheap). Incredible views of the caldera, cliffs, volcano, vineyards, and towns. The ride is 30 minutes long, which is a perfect length for seeing every angle of the island from above. Most people do this as a couple but the price allows for a group of 5.
- Santorini Photography Tour – Amazing tour of Santorini’s best views and shots. (For all photographers: from beginner to expert.)
The Best Activities and 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 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 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 (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.
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.
This is pretty close to unforgettable. A wonderful tour from above of 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 the two islands – which is fun, easy, and way faster than the ferry.
6. Walk the Volcano
The island in the middle of the caldera is Nea Kameni and where you’ll find the island’s active volcano and 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.
7. 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 you around the site and discuss the history of the island, the eruption, and the following destruction. Sometimes there can be guides waiting at the entrance but it’s better to book a good tour guide in advance.
Family-friendly fun (depending on what’s playing, of course). Watch a movie outside as the sun sets and the sky grows dark. Wine, beer, and simple snacks available. Movies start around 9:30pm. Lots of fun.
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 options 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), the Old Port below Fira (for this you can take the cable car down), or 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.
10. Swim at Ammoudi Bay
One of the best swimming spots on Santorini is down the cliff from Oia at a spot just south of the Ammoudi port. Walk or drive to Ammoudi Bay then take the path that leads south from the restaurants in the port (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. Then jump from the ledge (if you want).
This is so much fun. Start with a visit to two wineries for 9 tastings then move to a kitchen to cook your lunch (traditional greek dishes) and eat what you’ve made.
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.
13. Walk to Skaros Rock
Descend the cliff to the path to Skaros Rock and 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 too. The path starts just south of Grace Santorini hotel.
14. Take a Private Tour of Santorini
Find the hidden paths, alleys, beaches, photo shots, amazing villages, and quiet spots all around the island. All 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. Ride the Donkeys
Ride the donkeys either from the Old Port up to Fira or from Amoudi Bay up to Oia.
17. 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.
18. 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. (And these are my favorite restaurants on Santorini.)
19. 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.
20. 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.
22. 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. (And has a sunset view too.)
23. 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.
24. The Seafood Restaurants Of Amoudi Bay
Walk down the stairs from Oia to the Ammoudi Port and find a little port with 4 restaurants serving ridiculously fresh seafood. All the restaurants are good but Ammoudi Taverna is my favorite. It’s surprisingly quiet down here and you can usually get away without a reservation.
This is a classic little bookstore. Often named as one of the top 10 bookshops in the world. Simply wonderful. Be sure to support the store and buy something. They also sell a self-made map of Santorini (worth the 5€) with the staff’s favorite things to do around the island.
26. 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.
27. 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.
28. Lighthouse on Southern Tip of Santorini
The lighthouse is the destination but the draw is the incredible views looking north into the caldera – very different than the views from Fira or Oia and you can really see the circular nature of the caldera from this vantage point.
29. Explore the Fishing Villages on East Coast of Island
There are several small villages on the east coast of the island (north of Monolithos) that are worth a visit. Yalos is one of the better restaurants on the island and a good stop.
30. Take the Boat to Thirassia Island
Thirassia forms the western side of the caldera and was connected to Santorini before the volcanic eruption. It’s inhabited, has some good tavernas, and is worth the 1€ boat ride to visit. Boats leave several times a day from Ammoudi and the Old Fira port. Last one back is usually around 5pm so plan wisely or you’ll be spending the night on the island.
The winery has a 300 meter long wine cave that shows the history and development of Santorini wine over the previous 5 centuries. Admission to the museum includes 4 wine tastings from the Koutsoyannopoulos winery.
32. 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.
33. Jet Ski Tour to Volcano
A 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. Short tours visit nearby Red Beach and White Beach. Longer tours go all the way to the caldera (and volcano) and stop for a swim in the hot springs. Email Wavesports to enquire about openings on required dates: [email protected]. Staff are friendly and helpful. They also do parasailing, tubing, and water skiing.
34. Do A Food Tour
The food in Santorini is amazing. Obviously, it’s easy to enjoy plenty of great food without doing a tour 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.
35. Best Dance Bar
The Koo Club is in central Fira and gets going about 11pm.
36. 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.
37. 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.
38. 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. Friendly staff and something about the layout make it the best place to meet solo and single travelers.
39. Best Bar in Oia
Hasapiko (also called Mary Kay’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.
40. 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. (Zotos in Fira has the best gelato on Santorini.)
41. 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 Best of Santorini is an easy way to visit the most interesting Santorini villages (Pyrgos, Oia, and others).
42. Eat Local Farm Food
There are many little farms on Santorini and they produce some wonderful local food. A good way to experience this is at the rustic Good Heart restaurant (they have their own farm) in south Santorini (about a 15 minute drive from Fira and easy to find).
43. 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.
44. Greek Easter
If you happen to be in Santorini for Greek Easter (usually different dates than western Easter) be prepared for something special. On the night of Easter Friday go 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).
45. 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.
46. 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 past 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.
Santorini Day Trips
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 Hellenic Seaways 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.