Santorini Things To Do: Tips & Advice
- One or Two Days in Santorini: Hike along the caldera between Fira and Oia, do a boat tour of the caldera, and have dinner at the Athenian House or Metaxi Mas.
- Three Days in Santorini: Add a wine tour, food tour, or jet ski tour.
- Four 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: Private Wine Tour • Highlights of Santorini Private Tour • Santorini Photography Tour
- Best Day Trip from Santorini: A day trip to Mykonos, Crete, or other Greek islands is difficult to do in one day. Nearby Thirassia makes for an excellent day trip from Oia.
- 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
- Small Group Wine Tasting Tour
Santorini has some incredible wine (Assyrtiko is my favorite). This is an intimate semi-private tour that visits three 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 Catamaran Cruise
Every boat tour is a different mix of these popular elements: swimming in the hot springs, visiting Thirassia, hiking the volcano, stopping at Red Beach and White Beach to swim and snorkel, eating lunch or 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 along the way. It ends by watching the sunset from the boat below the Oia cliffs (the highlight). Bring a change of clothes; the evening gets cold if you’re still in wet swimwear. All boat tours mentioned on this page provide meals onboard and include transportation to and from your hotel.
- Santorini 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. There is also an amazing private catamaran cruise of the caldera (both day and sunset options available) if budget allows.
- 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’s 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.
- 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 three types of tours. You’ll want to do the “Volcano Tour” or “Extreme Volcano Tour” – both of these go into the caldera.
- 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.
The 46 Best Things To Do in Santorini
This is the single best thing to do on Santorini. The views are incredible. The hike takes 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. 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. During July or August I’d highly recommend starting before 8:00 a.m. Though it’s easy and free to do the hike on your own, hiring a guide is a great way to get a dose of history and some insight into the local culture and customs.
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 beaches. 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 people are super friendly, and the wineries are beautiful. Vineyards here mostly eschew planting their vines un upright rows, opting instead to wrap the grapevines low to the ground in a basket shape to protect the grapes from the extreme sun and wind. A Santorini wine tour is the best way of exploring more than one winery. Most wineries are inland from the caldera, though a few wineries do have caldera views.
An exhilerating and unique way of seeing the caldera. There are different tours that go different places – all leave from Perivolos on 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 Island 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 an excellent way to see the island from a number of unique spots. It’s also fine if only one in your group is interested in photography and the others only want to enjoy the views. 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 SUP and snorkeling tour, but it doesn’t go into the caldera.
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 is the most interesting historical site on Santorini and very well preserved. For a long time, this advanced settlement was believed to have inspired the legend of Atlantis. 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 three Santorini wineries.
8. Walk the Volcano
The larger of the two islands in the caldera is called Nea Kameni (new burnt island), and it’s where you’ll find the island’s active volcano. The crater is 130 meters up and takes about 20 minutes to walk to from the boat pier. Sulfur vents are found along the way. The only way to get here is by doing a caldera boat tour or hiring a chartered boat.
Very professional, very fun fishing tour with lots of hands-on action and a huge lunch. The daytime/lunch tour is the most popular option, but there’s also a sunset fishing tour.
10. Visit Ftelos Brewery
An elevated craft beer experience like no other. You’ll find lagers and pale ales at this microbrewery, as well as curious brews like hibiscus saison and rosemary gose in limited runs, made from local and seasonal ingredients, sometimes barrel-aged. Awarded the “Most Innovative Brewery,” Ftelos offers tours, tastings, food pairings, cooking classes, and even a home-brewing master class. Art-filled facilities include two beer-themed gourmet restaurants, tapas bars, and beer cocktails served on the bioclimatic rooftop garden. Reservations are strongly recommended.
11. Take the Dogs to the Beach at SAWA
Santorini Animal Welfare Association is a shelter and sanctuary for the island’s stray dogs, donkeys and mules rescued from grueling labor, and abandoned farm animals (a newer phenomenon as traditional farms are being converted into profitable vacation rentals). Visitors are always welcome to swing by and take a dog or two for a walk along a desert pathway south to remote Eros Beach for some fun in the waves. Bring your own picnic or pop in at Theros Wave Bar for beachfront refreshments. Volunteers are are also needed for full working days (usually from 8:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.) to help care for the animals. Tasks vary but including feeding the animals, cleaning the pens, or light maintenance on the property, depending on the season. If you happen to fall in love, all dogs are available for adoption.
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 three 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. Hike Skaros Rock
Descend the cliff to the path that leads to Skaros Rock, an unmistakable landmark shaped by eruptions, earthquakes, and erosion. Under Venetian rule, Skaros was one the first of Santorini’s five fortified settlements and formerly the island’s capital until the 18th century. You can still see some of the old ruins here today (though it’s barely recognizable as a castle), as well as a small monastery hidden on the far side of the outcrop. Climb to the top of the rock if you’re brave enough. Great views from all points. The path starts just south of Grace Santorini hotel.
One of the best swimming spots on Santorini is down the cliff from Oia and a short hike south of the Ammoudi port. Walk the steps down from Oia (or drive/taxi to Ammoudi Bay), then take the path that leads south past the restaurants in the port – you can’t miss it, there’s only one way to go. It’s a 5-minute walk to Agios Nikolaos Islet (above) that you can swim out to. The deep water around the islet make it a popular spot for jumping from its rocky ledge into the sea.
15. 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. It’s not cheap.
16. 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. The Venetian castle ruins are hard to miss as you wander around, and they offer fantastic views in almost every direction (no coincidence that the ruins are the most popular sunset viewpoint).
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. 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 to and from Fira. In summer the last bus should be after the movie is out but check the schedule to be sure.
18. 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. 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
Learn all about the history behind Santorini’s world famous cherry-sized tomatoes in this former tomato paste factory that operated from 1922 until 1981. The Tomato Museum is small, but very well done. Most people are pleasantly surprised at how much fun they have here.
20. Dinner with a View
The food is often better when you go to a restaurant without a view. However, you have to have dinner with a view of the caldera at least one night while in Santorini. The Athenian House (pictured above) in Imerovigli is a beautiful restaurant with a caldera and sunset view. (And these are my favorite restaurants on Santorini.)
This is pretty close to unforgettable. A wonderful tour above Santorini, the volcano, the caldera, and all the villages perched along the cliff (that’s Oia and Ammoudi Bay above, as seen from the helicopter). 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.
Thirassia Island forms the western side of the caldera, and was connected to Santorini before the ancient volcanic eruption that formed the caldera. It’s an inhabited island with some good local tavernas, beaches, hiking trails, the picturesque Church of the Virgin Mary, and the intriguing, abandoned cave village of Agrilia. Although you can certainly visit on your own, it’s best to have a guide to ensure you don’t miss any important sights (you’ll need one if you wan’t to see inside the church pictured above; it’s locked most days). Even without a guide, a day trip here is worth the 1€ boat ride to visit. Boats run usually three times a day from Ammoudi, generally at 8:00, 12:45, and 15:20, though schedules may change seasonally or annually – check with your hotel for the latest information. Plan wisely or you’ll be spending the night on the island.
23. Kamari Beach
Good swimming, though it’s a pebble beach, not sandy. Many restaurants, beach clubs, and plenty of nice hotels line the main road facing the sea. The lively, pedestrian-only street along the beach is fun to walk at night when it gets quite busy.
24. 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 really 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 Santorini boat tour.
On the way to Perissa Beach in the south of Santorini, you’ll find this magical, traditional village. In Emporio (pronounced eh boh REE oh) you’ll find a smattering of chapels, a couple of traditional cafes (kafenion), and homes stacked on homes spreading out from the ruins of the 15th-century Venetian castle at the heart of the village. There are almost never any tourists here, and it’s a pleasure to get good and lost in the tangle of colorful alleyways. There is car parking and a bus stop at the main entrance, but the village itself is open to pedestrians only.
26. 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. The Venetian castle ruins are the most popular viewpoint. It’s 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.
27. The Seafood Restaurants Of Ammoudi Bay
Walk down the stairs from Oia to Ammoudi Bay to find four restaurants serving incredibly fresh seafood. All of these restaurants are good, but Ammoudi Fish Tavern is my favorite. You can usually get in without a reservation. No need to climb the 200+ stairs back to the top – the restaurants will be happy to call you a taxi when you’ve finished your meal.
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.
Housed in a late 18th-century winery in the traditional village of Megalochori, Symposion immerses its guests in Greek mythology, music, and ancient instruments. Exhibits showcase Greek bagpipes (tsabouna), doubaki (Cycladic drum), rokana (a type of rattle, the lyre, and the lute. Interactive tours, hands-on workshops (build your own instruments), wine-tasting, and musical performances provide a unique educational and entertaining experience in a beautiful setting.
30. 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 to the beach. The trail is sometimes closed due to the risk from falling rock; proceed at your own risk. Many caldera boat tours stop here for a swim on the way to or from the caldera.
31. 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.
The Koutsoyannopoulos Wine Museum, in the same family of winemakers for five generations, sits at the center of Santorini. Its super cool, 300-meter-long wine cave set eight meters below ground displays exhibits of the history and development of Santorinian wine over the last five centuries. Admission to the museum includes four wine tastings from the family’s winery.
33. Art Space Winery
A unique and charming mix of contemporary art gallery, history museum, cave architecture, and great wine. Paintings and sculptures are displayed in the centuries-old wine cellars, raki distillery, and large central cave. It’s rarely visited by any tours, so you need to visit on your own.
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.
36. 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. Tranquilo 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.
37. 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 6€ for adults and less for children.
38. Wood Carving Workshop at Xylo Wood Design
Learn the basics of wood carving at the workshop and gallery of artist Michael Arvanitis. The 90-minute course includes information on local traditions, an introduction to the tools of the trade, and demonstrations of different techniques, followed by hands-on practice, where students can put their newfound knowledge into practice. Be sure to take time to visit the gallery itself, filled with skillfully crafted, one-of-a-kind pieces.
39. 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 far without stumbling across a winery or two and vineyards with grape vines trained into distinctive basket shapes. As with other of-the-beaten-path attractions, hiring a guide
can ensure don’t miss any of the highlights of rural Santorini.
40. Best Dessert
41. Best View of Santorini
Walk up the meandering lanes of traditional Pyrgos village (15 minutes south of Fira) to the top of the hill where you’ll find a castle, a church, and 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).
42. 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.
43. 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).
44. 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.
45. 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.
46. Best Thing To Do On Final Night in Santorini
The Greek Wedding Show puts on an unbelievably fun performance 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 fantastic. 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 Heraklio. 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.