Crete or Santorini?

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Updated: May 18, 2023
By Santorini Dave

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Santorini or Crete – Where To Go?

  • Santorini is the most magical incredible island in Greece. If you can only visit one island then it should be Santorini.
  • Crete is wonderful and beautiful too – it’s also much bigger and requires one to two weeks (or more) to tour the island properly.
  • Crete has more outdoor activities. Santorini has more top-notch tours. Both have wineries and great local food.
  • Crete has better beaches but they’re spread out and it takes a fair bit of effort to see the best beaches. Santorini is small and it’s easy to get around to all the popular beaches.
  • Crete has more small traditional (non-touristy) villages.
  • Santorini is more romantic and better suited to a honeymoon.
  • Santorini has better and more unique luxury hotels.
  • Fira (in Santorini) and Chania and Heraklion (in Crete) all have excellent clubs and nightlife.
  • Both Santorini and Crete have a longer tourism season than most Greek islands. For beach weather, Santorini and Crete are best between late May and early October. But if you’re more interested in sightseeing than swimming, March to November usually have good weather. December to February will have cool wet weather but both islands can be considered decent year-round destinations.

Santorini and Crete – What To Do

The string of caldera villages in Santorini are the island’s top attraction. Other highlights include boat tours to the volcano, wine tours, sunset views, and exploring the magical villages perched on the caldera cliff.

Santorini, with its iconic blue-domed churches, shimmering seas, and awe-inspiring sunsets, is a paradise for romantic getaways and honeymooners. The island is renowned for its striking volcanic landscape, with black-sand beaches and towering cliffs that plunge dramatically into the sea. A boat tour around the island’s caldera is a must.

Unmatched Sunsets: Santorini’s sunsets, particularly from the town of Oia, are world-renowned. The way the sun sinks into the sea, painting the sky in hues of orange, pink, and purple is a spectacle that leaves spectators spellbound.

Unique Beaches: The island’s volcanic nature gives rise to unique beach landscapes with unusual colors. The Red Beach, named for its iron-rich sediment, and the black sands of Perissa and Kamari, offer a different beach experience from the typical white sands.

Wine Tasting: Santorini’s volcanic soil also contributes to its distinct wine, particularly its crisp Assyrtiko white wines. Visiting local wineries and vineyards not only provides the opportunity to sample these unique vintages but also to enjoy stunning views of the island.

Remarkable Archaeological Sites: For history buffs, Santorini does not disappoint. The ancient city of Akrotiri, often likened to Pompeii, offers a glimpse into a Minoan city preserved in time by volcanic ash.

The Old Town of Chania, Crete.

The charming Old Town of Chania is one of the top destinations in Crete. Other highlights include Knossos, Agios Nikolaos, Rethymnon, Elafonissi Beach, and Samaria Gorge.

Crete, the largest of the Greek islands, offers a more diverse range of attractions. From the ruins of ancient civilizations and charming old towns to sprawling beaches and towering mountains, Crete’s allure is its variety and richness.

Historical Riches: Crete’s history spans thousands of years, from the Minoan civilization to the Byzantine, Venetian, and Ottoman eras. This history is evident in the island’s numerous archaeological sites, such as the Palace of Knossos, famous for its connection to the legend of the Minotaur, and the old town of Chania with its Venetian harbor and lighthouse.

Spectacular Landscapes: Crete offers an awesome backdrop of natural beauty. The Samaria Gorge, one of Europe’s longest canyons, is a must-visit for hiking enthusiasts. Additionally, the island is dotted with stunning beaches like Elafonisi with its pink sands and Balos with its turquoise lagoons.

Cretan Cuisine: Known for its healthy and delicious food, Crete is a gastronomic delight. Local tavernas serve traditional dishes made with locally sourced ingredients, including dakos (Cretan rusk with tomato and feta), lamb with stamnagathi (wild greens), and locally produced wines and raki.

Vibrant Local Culture: The island’s tradition of music and dance is still very much alive in the mountain villages of Crete. Visitors can experience traditional Cretan nights with live music, folk dancing, and plenty of local food and wine.

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About Santorini Dave

Santorini Dave Author Bio. Santorini Dave was started in 2011 by a guy who loved Greece, travel, and great hotels. We're now a small team of writers and researchers on a mission to deliver the most helpful travel content on the internet. We specialize in Santorini, Mykonos, Athens, and Greece and recommend the best hotels, best neighborhoods, and best family hotels in top destinations around the world. We also make hotel maps and travel videos. I can be contacted at

  1. Crete or Santorini for Solo Traveler?

    Hi Dave,

    I’ll be traveling solo to Greece on Nov 13 and have 4 days to explore a Greek Island. I’m reading that Crete has a variety of activities – would you say it’s better for a solo traveler than Santorini?

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Crete does have a wider range of activities, though it’s a much larger island and these activities are spread out. Santorini has more activities (and bars and restaurants) packed in a smaller area. Typically I would think of Santorini as more friendly to a solo traveler but it’s hard to really say why. I guess a more touristy vibe and lots of tourist-focused bars and clubs in one spot (i.e. Fira).

  2. Crete or Santorini with Kids

    My hubby and I are taking our kids (11yo and 13yo) in early May for 5-7 days in Greece (we are doing 2 weeks in other parts of Europe first). We have to fly out of Athens but want to visit an island for half of that time. We want to fly direct from Rome and can’t decide between Crete, Santorini or somewhere else. My kids love to learn about culture through food tours, but are open to other ideas. What would be the best island/area to go to that is an easy trip back to Athens? Thanks

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      With just a few days, Santorini makes the most sense. There’s plenty to see and do there to fill 3 or 4 days and it’s easy to get around so you won’t feel rushed.

  3. Chartered Boat from Crete to Santorini

    We booked a trip for 9 persons on Seajet, on their first trip on April 5, from Crete to Santorini. We made all of our accomodations (apartment rentals) after we booked the ferry trip. We have been informed as of yesterday that they are canceling the trip on that day, and the other ferry does not start until April 6 (Good Friday). Can we charter a boat to get from Greece to Santorini? It will cost about 2000 euros for all of us to fly.

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Simple answer: No. Chartered boats are very tricky as far as the coast guard authorities are concerned. In tourist season it is basically illegal to get a fisherman to give you a lift between islands on his boat. The penalties are severe. The reasons are safety – the authorities don’t want dead bodies washing up on island beaches and I suspect protectionism – the ferry boat companies don’t want competition. The excursion/tour boats that we all love to ride on, operate on the strict proviso that all passengers will return with the boat back to its home port. So while you can take a day trip from Santorini to say Paros, you must go back at the end of the day. Perhaps the authorities are not as strict off-season. You can probably hire a yacht but you’re still going to have to take that yacht back to the island you departed from. Any in any case, you’d probably be looking at a total bill close to the €2000 it will take to fly.

  4. Eastern or Western Crete for 1 Week

    Dear Dave:

    Thank you for your very intelligent and insightful website.

    We have 2 weeks in mid-September to visit Santorini and to visit Crete. We visited Crete about 10 years ago, for only 1 week, and spent it in Lendas—- I know, not typical for first-time visitors, but we had limited time, but I tend to go for off the beaten track. By the way, we are from Canada, and the locals and Europeans that were there were very amused that we flew all that way to spend our vacation in the south of Crete.

    I have booked a hotel in Imerovigli for 4 nights, at Ampelonas Apts. So a big thank you for that recommendation. I usually dislike touristy stuff, but I have always wanted to see Santorini, and you made a persuasive argument for staying on the caldera. I did of course fantasize about a caldera room with an infinity pool, but that’s way outside of my budget. We will definitely be renting a car as I am keen to visit the villages, wineries, beaches of Santorini.

    My question: If we spend about 1 week in Santorini (perhaps including in that 7 days a trip to Ios or another island) that will leave us with 1 week in Crete. We want to return to Lendas to visit, but we also want to see more of Crete. I can’t decide which end of Crete to explore… East or West? There is not enough time to do both.

    Dave, if you were going to Crete, and had to choose between East and West, which half would you visit? East (Chania, Elafonsi) or West (Agios Nikoloas, Val sounds interesting). I am leaning towards the East because of Chania.


    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Yes, it would be a good idea to see more of Crete: there is lots of it to see. Within one week you definitely need to limit your stay to one segment of the island and there are roughly three distinct regions – West Central and East. Chania and Elafonisi, by the way are in the West and Agios Nikolaos are in the East, just to set the record straight. The West probably has the edge as it has better transport communications with flights and boats to Chania from Athens and Piraeus, plus a ferry to the Peloponnese. That makes travel to your base a lot quicker than, say taking a bus or expensive cab from Heraklion airport to Agios Nikolaos. The only airport in the east is the large, but largely under-used airport at Siteia which is only really useful for Siteia and places nearby like Vaï.

      So, assuming you will perhaps choose the West this time, Chania is your obvious main base, though you may care to split it with a Lendas-like experience which could be had at Kolymvari or Kissamos or, with a few more amenities and a more appealing casual traveller ambiance at Palaiochora. You may equally like the sense of isolation at either Loutro or Agia Roumeli on the south coast that you can only reach via the coastal ferry that runs between Sougia and Chora Sfakion. With one week in Crete, a good combination is 2-4 days in Chania or its beach annexe at Platanias/Agia Marina and the remaining days at a north or south coast small resort. Elafonisi is great for a day visit which make a north coast second base a better option, but you won’t want to stay at Elafonisi as there is not much there in after-sun life.

  5. Best Beach for Day Trip from Santorini

    Hi Dave,
    My husband and I are planning on visiting Santorini for 5 days in late May, we would like to visit at least one awsome beach, with white sands and amazing waters.
    I been reading a lot but still have doubts. Which beach would you recomend for a day trip from Santorini? (and if is even possible) Crete? Milos? i know Santorini has the red beach and black beach but I’m really not a fan of that type of beach. Any suggestions? It may be our only/last trip to Greece, we live in NY. Thank you so much for your time.
    Danna Cornejo

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      If the ferry schedule cooperates (you won’t know until January or February) then go to Ios and bus to Mylopotas Beach. Wonderful sand and swimming.

  6. Crete or Santorini for Beaches, Views, Great Food


    We have an itinerary of 6 days. Three days in Athens and then Ferry/Fly to either of Crete or Santorini.
    We are a couple coming from India. We want to enjoy great views, good food and nice beaches.

    Please can you suggest which one to pick. Crete or Santorini?

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      Santorini has much better views. Crete has better beaches. Both have great food.

  7. Crete and Santorini in May

    Hi, love your website! :-)
    We are planning a honeymoon trip to Crete & Santorini in May. Our very vague plan is to fly into Crete (10th May), stay for 7 nights, ferry to Santorini, stay 4 or 5 nights, ferry back to Crete, stay another 7 nights and fly home from Crete.
    Do you think this is enough time? Would you recommend we change the itinerary?
    I would prefer to fly out from Santorini but there are no flights home from there & the flights via Athens are not working out well time-wise.
    Where would you recommend we visit in Crete / Santorini? We love good food, beaches, scenery, wineries, local tours. We want the trip to be very relaxing for the first 7 days because we will be exhausted after the wedding. For the remainder of the trip we would like to see/do a bit more but not too much!
    Also, will the weather be warm in Crete & Santorini in early May?
    Thanks so much,

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      –Sounds like a great itinerary. It would be nice to leave from Santorini (as you pretty much burn a day getting back to Crete) but not a deal-breaker.
      –Weather should be nice and just get nicer. If you’re planning any beach time leave that until the end as it will be warmer (especially the sea) two weeks later in the month.
      –Agios Nikoloas and Chania are two of my favorite places and great towns to relax in. Many of the active and outdoorsy attractions are in the west near Chania, so maybe do Ag Nik first and leave the Chania area for your return visit.

  8. Santorini and What Other Greek Island?

    My fiancé and I are planning a trip to Greece for our honeymoon in August.
    We have two weeks, thinking about spending one week in Santorini (Imerovigli and Oia). Could you suggest where to stay the second week?

    Thank you!

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      For outdoor activities and history: Crete
      For nightlife and partying: Mykonos
      For small villages and beaches: Naxos

  9. Chania and Santorini for Honeymoon

    We are planning a 12 day honeymoon for Crete and Santorini in late August. A few questions:

    –Should we book ferry tickets in advance for Heraklion to Santorini?
    –We are currently planning for 6 nights in Chania, 2 nights in Heraklion, and 3 nights in Oia. Does that sound good?
    –We’re not real beach people but would like to get to at least one while in Greece. What’s the best beach in Crete and Santorini?

    Thanks, Rickie

    1. Santorini Dave The Hotel Expert

      -Yes, that ferry can sell out in high season. Book ferry tickets here.
      -Chania is great but that’s a long time unless you’re planning to do several different day trips. I would cut Chania to 3 or 4 nights and then add 2 or 3 nights in Imerovigli in Santorini.
      -Elafonisi beach (about a 90 minute bus ride from Chania) is the best beach in Greece and great for swimming and relaxing. The beaches on Santorini are composed of volcanic rock and worth a visit too. (Santorini being much smaller, it’s quicker and easier to get to the beaches there.)

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