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
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.
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.