Santorini Travel Guide

Updated: March 16, 2017

Getting Started – 7 Steps to Planning a Santorini Trip

1. When To Go

The best months to visit Santorini are from June to September when the weather is warm and sunny and the sea is great for swimming. Late April, May, October, and early November are good times if your interests tend more towards sightseeing than swimming and suntanning.

2. Getting To Santorini

Most people arrive in Santorini by either ferry from Athens or another island (often Mykonos or another island in the Cyclades). But you can also fly, usually from Athens.

The best ferry to take to Santorini is the Blue Star. It’s slower than the high speed ferries but costs half as much and has an open-air deck that allows for an incredible view of Santorini as you move through the center of the volcano and stare up at the imposing cliffs. (The high speed ferries do not have decks and the windows are often covered in salt with limited views.) The sea can be rough any time of year and the Blue Star ferry has the most stable ride during windy weather due to it’s size.

For the great views of the island you want to arrive during daylight hours. The best ferry (the Blue Star) departs from the Athens’ ferry port in Piraeus at 7:25am, 7 days a week.

If you’re coming to Greece from Europe you can fly directly to Santorini on a budget airline. If you’re coming from outside Europe you’ll most likely fly to Athens first and then either ferry to Santorini or fly to Santorini on Olympic Air.

Also, cruises to Santorini suck. If you’re over 85 and the only way you can see Santorini is on a cruise – great! But for anyone born after 1930, please don’t come to Santorini on a cruise. You only get a brief stay on the island and it really doesn’t do it justice. (This applies to other islands too, but especially for Santorini because it’s so unique.)

3. Picking A Town

The west side of Santorini is a cliff that looks out into the caldera (i.e. the volcano). The towns on the caldera side are Fira (the hub of the island with the most shops, clubs, and restaurants), Firostefani (a short walk to Fira but quieter), Imerovigli (the best views on Santorini), and Oia (romantic with great sunsets).

The other side of the island (the east side) slopes towards the sea and has all the island’s beaches. It does not have the great views that you probably associate with Santorini. The beach resorts here are Kamari (nice family-friendly vibe with a pedestrian boardwalk), Perissa (nicest sand of any beach on Santorini), and Perivolos (a quieter extension of Perissa). They all have lots of hotels, a fun easy-going atmosphere, and lots of sun chairs along the sand. Kamari and Perissa are divided by a massive mountain of rock and there are shuttle boats between them that run every hour or so. The boats also go to a few other popular beaches (e.g. Red Beach) that don’t have accommodations.

4. Booking Hotels

The best advice I have is to book your hotel early (5 to 8 months in advance if possible). The best hotels fill early. The good cheap hotels fill early. The hotels with the best views fill early. (I think you get the idea.)

For last-minute hotels you have 2 choices: Use Hotelscombined.com to find available rooms (it searches 100s of hotel websites to find the best deals) or take one of the offers from the hotel owners that will greet you as you walk off the ferry. These hotels are usually small family-owned affairs a long way from the center of things – but they’re better than sleeping on a bench outside a cafe.

5. Getting Around Santorini

Bus is the easiest and cheapest way to get around Santorini. Buses are air-conditioned with lots of luggage storage. They cost about €2 a trip (a little more from the ferry port to Fira). The hub of the bus network is Fira so most trips that don’t begin or end in Fira will require changing buses in Fira.

There will be a bus waiting for all ferry arrivals regardless of the time. Buses also stop at the airport though this can require a wait of 30 minutes to an hour depending on the schedule. In the summer months buses run from Fira back to the beaches until well past midnight.

Renting a car is an excellent way to get away from the crowds and see the island at your own speed. Buses go almost everywhere but if you want to see more than one attraction in one day then figuring out bus schedules and changing buses gets tiring very quickly. Most cars have a standard transmission, so book far in advance if you want an automatic.

Scooters and ATV’s are available from many travel agencies around the island.

6. The Best Things To Do On Santorini

Some Greek islands have little else besides the beach but Santorini is loaded with lots of great activities. Here are my top 5:

  • Watch a sunset from Oia – Large crowds assemble every evening to drink wine and watch the sun disappear. Sunsets Cafe has beautiful views if you prefer to sit and drink.
  • Do a boat tour of the volcano and the small islands in the caldera
  • Swim at Amoudi Bay beneath Oia. There is no beach here but jumping from the rocks is the best swimming spot on Santorini.
  • Walk the path from Fira to Oia along the caldera’s cliff. It takes about 2 to 3 hours and has incredible views. This is many people’s highlight of their visit to Santorini.
  • Tour a local winery. Santorini is known for its wine and the tours here are tons of fun with great scenery.

7. Where To Eat On Santorini

For 3 wonderful meals that perfectly complement each other and give a great overview of Santorini cuisine I would eat at Metaxy Mas (one of the best restaurants in Greece, reservations mandatory), Naoussa in Fira (great local tavern with traditional Greek food, a friendly atmosphere, and great views), and Taverna Katina in Amoudi Bay (fresh seafood in the fisherman’s port below Oia).

See Also: The Best Restaurants on Santorini

And the most important tip: Just Go!

I doubt anyone said at the end of their life, “My biggest regret is that trip to Santorini. We never should have went. I wish we spent that money on some furniture.”

You’ll remember a trip to Santorini for the rest of your life.

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
– Saint Augustine

36 Questions and Comments

  1. Credit Card, ATM, or Cash for Santorini

    Hey, I went to Santorini in 3 years ago and already had cash Euros when I arrived, so I never had to use an ATM or bank. This time I am wondering should I bring all cash or do more places take cards now?
    Ryan Carboni

    1. Santorini DaveSantorini Dave The Guide to Greece

      Arrive with a good amount of euro (say, enough for 2 or 3 days) but otherwise I would use ATMs for cash as needed – they’re everywhere. Many places take credit card but owners do prefer cash.

  2. Santorini to Athens Airport Connection

    Hi Dave! When flying from santorini to Athens is taking an 11am flight getting you there for 12pm on a Sunday enough time for a international flight out of Athens at 2:15pm? The only other option is a flight at 9 arriving to Athens at 9:45. What do you think?

    1. Santorini DaveSantorini Dave The Guide to Greece

      It’s possible, maybe even likely, that you’d make the connection, but personally I would take the earlier flight.

  3. Scenic Route from Airport to Ferry Port

    We are arriving in Santorini by plane which arrives at 4.20pm and then taking a ferry in the (same) evening to Folegandros (7.15pm). Rather than going straight to the port from the airport, assuming our flight lands on time (we are hand luggage only) I was debating whether it is possible to do a ‘scenic route’ by taxi to the port and take in the Caldera/Fira on the way (appreciating it is not really on the way). Is this at all plausible? Or should I give up the ghost and go straight to the port…
    Lisa W

    1. Santorini DaveSantorini Dave The Guide to Greece

      There is not much to see of the caldera from a car window. Your best bet is to make a stop at Santo Winery (almost directly on the way from the airport to the ferry port) for a few glasses of wine, perhaps dinner, and awesome views of the caldera. It’s a big patio with plenty of seating so it’ll be easy to find a spot for your luggage. Be sure to arrange your transport from the winery to the port when you arrive at the winery (perhaps with the driver that brought you to the winery) as just before a ferry it can be hard to find taxis on the island.

  4. Ferry to Airport / Veg Food at Katina Taverna

    Dear Dave,
    Thanks for your very helpful site which has led to me booking Santorini via your links.
    Could I ask if the ferries are reasonably reliable, as I wanted to take the Blue star ferry from Naxos to Santorini arriving at 1450h and fly out from Santorini at 1845h. I know problems can happen at last minute but just wanted to check if this is a sensible thing to do.
    Also does the Taverna Katina serve any non-seafood dishes? I know it is odd to ask this of a seafood place but one of our party does not eat any fish or seafood whereas everyone else is keen to go to the Katina so thought I would check before the poor guy goes hungry.
    thanks once again for a most excellent site.
    Av

    1. Santorini DaveSantorini Dave The Guide to Greece

      Yes, the Blue Star ferries are usually reliable. Even if it was an hour late getting in you’d still have time to get to the airport. Katina has many small dishes (greek salad, humus, dips, soup) that are vegetarian but not much in the way of main entrees.

  5. Athens, Crete, and Santorini in Summer

    Hi Dave, your blog *is* insanely helpful! Our 12 year-old loves history and mythology. We’re looking at a ~10 day trip this summer (2 days Athens – 4 days Santorini – 4 days Crete). I know you generally recommend at least a week on Crete, but we’d love to hit all three places. We’re active and don’t mind walking but appreciate being centrally located.
    1) Would you recommend visiting Santorini-Crete in a specific order (as in Santorini, then Crete, or vice versa)?
    2) Any thoughts on Hera hotel in Athens? We prefer boutique accommodations, with breakfast. I’m also looking at Grand Bretagne/King George as they both have pools. Do you have a better recommendation?
    3) How about the Santorini Palace in Firostefani? I can’t tell if this offers any views, but it came highly recommended.
    Thanks so much for your attention and time!
    Lisa

    1. Santorini DaveSantorini Dave The Guide to Greece

      1. Ferries go from Crete to Santorini in the morning and from Santorini to Crete in the late afternoon. One of those might suit your plans better but otherwise no big difference.
      2. Hera Hotel is a good hotel in a great location.
      3. Santorini Palace has a nice pool (it’s main pro) but no caldera views.

  6. Two Week, Two Island Holiday in Greece

    Hi Dave,
    Do you know of any companies that would offer a two centre holiday from UK (Crete 7 nights and Santorini 7 nights)
    whereby you would fly from UK to Heraklion and after an inter-island ferry between the islands would then fly back to the UK direct from Santorini? Your help and knowledge would be appreciated.
    Thank You,
    Ian Gow

    1. Santorini DaveSantorini Dave The Guide to Greece

      No, sorry, I don’t. Most only offer one-island vacation packages. FYI, it’s always better to book hotels and flight independently. Better hotels and better rates than through a package. It does take a little more work and research but still pretty easy and very much worth the effort. Good luck.

  7. Costs and Budget on Santorini

    Hi,

    Great blog! I am hoping to travel to Athens, Nafplio and Santorini in June for 10 days. For Santorini, I am staying in Imerovigli for 6 days.

    I have heard mixed reviews on daily budget for Santorini. On average what would you recommend for Santorini for daily budget excluding accommodation?

    Thanks
    Ciara

    1. Santorini DaveSantorini Dave The Guide to Greece

      Anything between 30€ and 300€ is possible. I know that’s not very helpful but it’s completely dependent on where you’re eating, how much you’re drinking, and whether breakfast is included in your hotel (it will be at most luxury places and not at the cheaper places).

  8. Walking from Akrotiri to Fira

    Dave is Akrotiri to far to walk to other parts of Santorini, especially along the caldera, like Imerovigli and Fira? My wife and I thought it would be better staying there as its not as compacted and crowded. We love walking, and are fit. We have obviously never been to Santorini.
    Thanks, Rod Clark

    1. Santorini DaveSantorini Dave The Guide to Greece

      It’s about 10 km from the Akrotiri hotels (on the caldera) to Fira, so distance-wise it’s doable. The problem is the busy narrow roads with no sidewalks. From Villa Irini north (about 3 km) there’s a sidewalk that runs along the caldera road. If you stayed in Imerovigli or the hotels north of there you’d have the same solitude but an enjoyable walk to Fira (2.5 km) and a great hike north to Oia (10 km).

  9. Santorini Tours in April

    Hi Dave!

    Thank you so much for supplying so much great information about Santorini! My fiancée and I will be honeymooning in Santorini during the third week of April and would love to get onto one of the volcano adventures/tours that you have listed, however it seems many of the tours you recommend do not offer trips during April. Do you know of any one who would offer a volcano trip during that time?

    Thanks!,
    Dan Assael

    1. Santorini DaveSantorini Dave The Guide to Greece

      If you enter your dates on Get Your Guide you’ll see there are several available caldera tours that run in April.

  10. Hotel with Caldera View with 3 Kids

    Hi!

    I’d love to do both Santorini & Mykonos but have three little ones in tow. We have to travel in school holidays and the will be 5, 3 & 20months. Can you recommend places to stay, preferably caldera view/side?

    Thanks so much, Rachael Baggott

    1. Santorini DaveSantorini Dave The Guide to Greece

      Try the apartment at Strogili Houses.

  11. Island To Stop on the Way To Santorini

    Hey Dave!
    I’m planning a trip in May 27 -June 5th of this year to Santorini. I would like to know if there is a island on the way to Santorini good to stay for a overnight?

    Thanks,
    Natasha

    1. Santorini DaveSantorini Dave The Guide to Greece

      Naxos and Paros make the most natural stops. But really any island will do, as most will have direct ferries to Santorini (although it might be a different ferry/route than the one you arrived on).

  12. Cheapest Way To Get To Santorini

    Hi Dave! Is it cheaper to fly from Athens to Santorini or take the ferry? I am coming in Sept 2017.
    Ryan

    1. Santorini DaveSantorini Dave The Guide to Greece

      Ferry is cheaper but if book a flight early and get a good fare the difference can be small.

  13. Santorini Photography

    My wife and I are going to Santorini for two weeks at the end of May, I am a keen amature photographer, are there any locations that I should not miss?
    Les Lewis

    1. Santorini DaveSantorini Dave The Guide to Greece

      If it’s within your budget I would highly recommend this photography tour of Santorini.

  14. Santorini in October

    Hi Dave, we have the opportunity for a week off in October 2017 (14th – 21st) and would like to go to Santorini with our 9 year old daughter. Do you think it would be too late to go? We would like to take some tours and such, any recommendations? We are thinking of Astra Suites in Imerovigli because of heated pool?

    Thanks
    Sandra, Stephen & Sadie

    1. Santorini DaveSantorini Dave The Guide to Greece

      Mid-October is great on Santorini. Swimming at the beach can be chilly (some years) but for tours and sightseeing it’s a wonderful time.

  15. Day Trip from Crete to Santorini

    My husband and I are visiting Greece in May, 2017, with one full day in Athens when we arrive and one extra day there before we depart. The majority of our stay from May 7-11 will be staying on Crete near Heraklion. We’d like to visit Santorini, but looking for advice on whether we should stay a night in Santorini to extend beyond the confines of just a day trip via high speed ferry (not sure what we can accomplish in just a day). We’d also love any tips on best things to do while in Crete as well as our full two days in Athens between the front and back end of our trip.
    Thanks!
    Tamara Vega

    1. Santorini DaveSantorini Dave The Guide to Greece

      Staying overnight in Santorini is definitely the way to go – you’ll see much more than the short day trip allows. In Crete the highlights are Knossos, Chania, and Elafonisi beach. For Athens read Best Things To Do in Athens.

  16. Things To Do in Santorini in February

    Hey Dave! I’m planning a trip in February next year. What is there to in Santorini? I’m planning on spending 4 days in Santorini and 3 days in Athens. How about the weather? Looking forward to your reply! Thank you again for your time!
    Knox

    1. Santorini DaveSantorini Dave The Guide to Greece

      Most tours will not be running but still great to visit ancient Akrotiri, Ancient Thera, the archaeological museum in Thira, and, of course, walk the path from Fira to Oia (or at least to Imerovigli). Weather will be cool with some rain and likely overcast (but rain and cloud are not a certainty – can be cool and clear too).

  17. Aeolos Hotel in June

    My wife and I are going to Santorini in June 2017. What are your thoughts on Aeolos Hotel and Spa? Also what is the best way of transportation while there, car (we need an automatic), vespa or ATV? Can we use USD or Euros. And to be clear British Airways on flies to JTR on Wed and Sundays? We prefer a direct flight in vs taking a ferry. Thanks for your help Dave.
    Justin

    1. Santorini DaveSantorini Dave The Guide to Greece

      Aeolos is nice. Not 5 star but great views (though no direct sunset views) and on the southern side of Imerovigli so makes Fira an easy 10/12 minute walk away. Car is best if you want to explore the island. Euros are much better than USD. In 2017 British Airways will have 4 to 7 flights per week from London to Santorini (but never Mondays).

  18. Mykonos Blu

    We are planning our honeymoon and spending the first 5 days in Mykonos before we go to Santorini. We are looking for a luxury hotel with a great beach, but also a fun area closeby with some nightlife. Is Blu the best choice?

    Thanks,
    Brett

    1. Santorini DaveSantorini Dave The Guide to Greece

      For nightlife (that goes past midnight) you’ll need to go into Mykonos Town, but yes there’s a lively bunch of beach bars and restaurants through the day and evening (assuming you’re there in summer).

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