Santorini, Greece

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Updated: October 5, 2020

clifside hotels on the island of Santorini

Iconic windmills and boutique luxury hotels spill down the Santorini clifftop village of Oia.

Santorini is a popular holiday destination in Greece, and part of the Cycladic island group in the Aegean Sea. It is best known for its picturesque clifftop tourist towns (Fira, Oia, and Imerovigli), all of which offer spectacular views over the caldera: the crater created after a 16th-century BC volcanic eruption. With a land area of 76 square kilometers, Santorini is a little bigger than New York’s island of Manhattan.

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Where is Santorini?

Santorini is an island in Greece, located in the Aegean Sea, 200 km southeast of Athens, 150 km south of Mykonos, and 140 km north of Crete. Flights to Santorini take 4 hours from London, 3.5 hours from Paris, 2 hours from Rome, and 1 hour from Athens. There are no direct flights to Santorini from the USA, Canada, or Australia.

Map of Santorini's location in Greece

How do I get to Santorini?

Santorini is connected by direct ferry to Athens (5 to 7 hours) and the islands of Naxos, Paros, Ios, Milos, Folegandros, Mykonos, and Crete (1 to 3 hours). Flights from Athens to Santorini take less than 1 hour, direct flights from western Europe (London, Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, Venice) take 2 to 4 hours.

Map showing possible air and sea routes to Santorini, Greece

How big is Santorini?

Santorini has a population of 15,500 and a land area of 76 square kilometers (an area a little bigger than Manhattan). The length of the island is 16 km and its width varies from 1 to 5 km. It takes 45 minutes to drive from one end of Santorini to the other.

Map showing the size of Santorini

What is the best month to go to Santorini?

The best time to visit Santorini for good weather, boat tours, swimming, sunbathing, and nightlife is from June to September. If beach time and hot weather are not a necessity and you’re more interested in sightseeing, history, hiking, and exploring then late March, April, May, October, and early November are also great.

Graph indicating the best times to visit Santorini for a variety of indicators

What are the main towns in Santorini?

The towns of Fira, Oia, Firostefani, Imerovigli, and Akrotiri cling to the 300m cliffs and have magical views of the caldera and volcano to the west. The beach towns of Kamari, Perissa, Perivolos, and Agios Georgios are on the east and south sides of the island (not the caldera).

The most popular towns to stay in Santorini.

Do I need a car in Santorini?

A car can be helpful to have in Santorini, but it is not necessary. It’s easy to get around Santorini using their public bus service, which is cheap, comfortable, and reliable – especially if you’re staying in Fira, the central hub of the bus system. If you prefer renting a car in Santorini instead of relying on the bus, I recommend picking it up at the airport, even if you are arriving by ferry. (And remember that foreign drivers are required to have an International Drivers Permit in Greece.) There is a very limited number of taxis, and Uber is not available on Santorini, so private transport from the Santorini airport or ferry port is best arranged in advance through your hotel or through Welcome Pickups car service.

travelers waiting to board a public bus in Greece

Santorini’s public bus system is comfortable, reliable, and cheap.

Where should I stay in Santorini?


The best places to stay in Santorini are along the caldera in the villages of Fira, Oia, Imerovigli, and Firostefani. These towns have incredible views of the volcano, sea, and sunset. All of these towns are on the west side of Santorini.

Guide to where to stay in Santorini.

What are the best things to do in Santorini?


The best things to do on Santorini include hiking the incredible caldera footpath, touring wineries, doing a boat tour of the caldera (with volcano hike/hot spring swimming/sunset), and visiting the island’s small charming villages. There is a vibrant nightlife with everything from wine bars to dance clubs but it’s never rowdy and the club scene is easily avoided if you’re not interested.

Santorini Hike and Views between Oia and Fira.

One of the amazing views on the hike between Oia and Fira on Santorini.

How was Santorini created?

Santorini is what remains from a massive volcanic eruption 3600 years ago. The eruption destroyed all settlements and created the caldera. The caldera is a lagoon of seawater surrounded on 3 sides by the steep cliffs of Santorini and on the 4th side by the island of Thirassia (which was part of Santorini before the eruption). The current volcano (on the island of Nea Kameni) sits in the middle of the caldera. It’s active but presently not at risk of erupting.

How was Santorini created by the volcano?

How many days should I spend in Santorini?


Stay a minimum of 2 nights and 1 full day. But there’s so much to see and do that it’s easy to fill 5 to 7 days. If possible, do one boat tour, one wine tour, hike the Fira to Oia footpath, explore the villages of Pyrgos and Emporio, and visit the historical sites of Akrotiri and Ancient Thera. You’ll also want plenty of time to wander the cobblestoned lanes and alleys of Fira, Oia, and Imerovigli. Then there’s nightlife and all the great places to eat on Santorini.

Tourists gather around to view an excavated ruins site

A visit to the ruins of ancient Akrotiri, a Bronze Age Minoan settlement on the island’s southern tip, is an excellent activity for travelers with two or more days on Santorini.

What currency is used in Santorini?

Greece is part of the European Union, so the currency used in Santorini is the Euro (€). Most shops and restaurants on Santorini accept credit cards, but it is a good idea to have some cash on hand for small purchases like bottled water and snacks. ATMs are easy to find in all of Santorini’s main towns.

Diners at a candle-lit restaurant in Santorini

Most restaurants in Santorini, like Candouni in Oia, accept credit cards.

Is Santorini expensive?

Santorini is known for 5-star luxury hotels, great restaurants, and high-end shopping but it’s easy to visit Santorini on a modest budget. There are no all inclusive resorts or all inclusive holidays or vacation packages so the key to saving money is to choose hotels and restaurants not directly on the caldera. Enjoying the incredible views is free and cheap hotels in Santorini are plentiful, good value, and good quality.

Stone-clad village hotel with flowering gardens

Costa Marina Hotel in Fira. Many great Fira hotels that do not overlook the caldera are suprisingly affordable.

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