20 Amazing Things to Do in Santorini (Greece)
The stunning island of Santorini in Greece is one of the most fascinating and famous destinations in the Cyclades. This volcanic island is famous for its rugged rocky landscape, where the sheer cliffs and iconic whitewashed houses and churches create an unbeatable postcard backdrop. There are so many things to do in Santorini! The main attractions include the quaint village of Oia and the picturesque capital of Fira, which attract thousands of visitors from around the world every year. However, there are many other wonderful things to see and do during a vacation in Santorini. These include historical excavations, ancient monasteries, romantic villages, spectacular hiking trails, and breathtaking natural bays. But what are the best things to do in Santorini, what are the real insider tips, and which are the places not to be missed?
In this travel guide, you will find all the important information and tips about Santorini in Greece. We show you stunning pictures, the best attractions and beaches, give you real insider tips and tell you where to find great accommodation!
General Information about Santorini
Santorini is an archipelago of 5 islands in the southern part of the Cyclades in Greece. It is located in the Aegean Sea, about 19 km from Ios and 77 km from Milos. World famous is the crescent shaped main island of Santorini, whose current appearance was created by a volcanic eruption in the 16th century BC. Today, the island is a popular stop for island-hopping, cruises, and because of its many attractions and beaches, it is also a popular choice for a longer vacation. Visitors are particularly drawn to Oia and Fira, two picturesque towns on the crater rim with traditional white houses and blue domes. But the rest of Santorini Island is well worth a visit! On a round trip, you will be amazed by incredibly scenic bays, imposing mountains and many charming villages in the interior. In addition, there are some important archaeological sites on Santorini, such as Akrotiri and Ancient Thera.
With an area of 76.2 square kilometers and a population of about 17,500, Santorini is one of the smaller islands in Greece and can easily be explored on your own by rental car or quad bike. Despite its relatively small size, there are surprisingly many places to discover and things to do in Santorini. So it is worth staying longer! The west is characterized by the steep cliffs of the caldera bay, while the east and south have stunning beaches of black, red and even white volcanic rock. In the interior of the island, wine is grown on about 1,200 hectares and there are many old villages to visit. The highest mountain is Profitis-Ilias with 567 meters, which invites to hikes and dominates the panorama of the west coast.
Best Things to Do in Santorini
On a vacation to Santorini you can expect beautiful places, numerous activities and fantastic attractions. Here we have put together all the highlights and the best things to do in Santorini, including some insider tips, at a glance.
A visit to the charming village of Oia, with only 500 inhabitants, is certainly one of the ultimate best things to do in Santorini. Located in the northwestern part of the island, Oia’s stunning location on the edge of the crater, its traditional whitewashed houses and blue domes make it the landmark of the island. Walking through the center of the village, you will also be amazed by the imposing viewpoints and numerous gigantic photo spots. Also known as the artists’ village, you will find more than 20 galleries and numerous handicraft shops. The main attractions of the old town are the long Nikolaou Nomikou Street, the Panagia Akathistos Hymnal Church, the Blue Domes of Oia, the Maritime Museum, the Londsa Castle and the Oia Windmills. If you like, you can also walk down the 300 steps to Ammoudi Bay and enjoy the wonderful ambience of the harbour. Furthermore, in Oia you can admire the most famous sunsets of Santorini.
Oia is a popular destination for cruise tourists, so the center of the town gets very crowded during the day. A real insider’s tip to escape the hustle and bustle of day-trippers is to visit at sunrise. Then you will have the most beautiful sights and viewpoints almost to yourself, and you can enjoy the magical atmosphere in peace and quiet.
Tip: Oia’s unique hotels are especially popular. An insider tip is Aspaki by Art Maison, right next to the famous Instagram spot overlooking the Blue Domes.
The Londsa Castle, also known as the ruins of the Argyri Castle, is located in the town of Oia and is one of the most spectacular viewpoints in Santorini. This popular attraction used to be the residence of the Argyri noble family during the Venetian rule in the Middle Ages and once served to protect against pirate attacks. However, by the 19th century, the Byzantine fortress had fallen into disrepair, with only the watchtower remaining somewhat intact. Today, Londsa Castle offers a fairytale Santorini panorama with magnificent views of the windmills and traditional cave houses. One of the best things to do in Santorini is a visit at sunset because there they are the most beautiful on the island. Every day, hundreds of visitors gather here to experience this magical play of colors on top of the old fort.
Located just below the coastal village of Oia, Ammoudi Bay is one of Santorini’s absolute highlights. This romantic fishing village with its old harbor is one of the most charming places on the island and a major attraction. The contrast between the red rocks, the colorful houses and the turquoise sea is simply enchanting, creating a panorama that looks like a picture postcard. There are also numerous fabulous restaurants serving freshly caught fish and seafood in prime locations right on the sea front. If you fancy a swim, take the 100-meter path along the coast, and you will be rewarded with a small, beautiful rocky beach at the end. In addition, the harbor of Amoudi Bay is a popular starting point for excursions by boat, for example to the neighboring island of Thirassia.
Tip: There are a couple of parking spots right in front of the port. Another option is to walk down the 300 steps of the steep zigzag steps from the town of Oia to the bay.
The capital city of Fira, sometimes also called Thira, is a real jewel of the island. It is located on the west coast on a 300-meter cliff and is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Santorini. There is much to see on a tour of the center, and you will be amazed at the abundance of fascinating attractions, museums and spectacular viewpoints. The panorama is simply magical, with whitewashed houses and sheer cratered cliffs that, together with the deep blue sea, provide unique possibilities for photography. Also worth seeing in Fira are the Archaeological Museum, the Metropolis Cathedral, the Catholic Quarter with the Church of Ágios Ioánnis Baptists and the Three Bells of Fira Church. A special feature of the city is the famous Karavolades Staircase, which has 588 steps that lead down to the old harbor. The best way to get to the top is to take the modern cable car, which also offers a magnificent view.
Tip: In Fira you will find many of the trendiest cave hotels in Santorini, like Iriana Suites, with stunning sea views and a wonderful pool.
Prehistoric Museum of Thera
The Prehistoric Museum of Thera is definitely one of the most worth visiting museums in Santorini and is a must-see for anyone who is interested in the fascinating history of the island. This attraction is located in the capital, Fira, on the site of the former Ypapanti church, which was destroyed by an earthquake. Walking around the area, you can see numerous ancient artifacts. They come from various excavation sites on the island, especially from the Minoan city of Akrotiri and the ancient city of Ancient Thera. There is a chronological collection to see, including valuable ceramics, jewelry, and artifacts. An absolute must, though, are the original murals and wall reliefs in the basement of the museum.
Tip: You can definitely save money by buying a 3-day combo ticket, which also includes admission to the archaeological sites of Akrotiri and Ancient Thera.
Hiking from Fira to Oia
The hike from Fira to Oia is definitely one of the most beautiful hikes on the island and definitely one of the best things to do in Santorini for active vacationers. This fascinating, well-marked high-altitude trail runs mostly along the crater rim and offers some of the best views of Santorini’s caldera. The 10-kilometer route from Fira to Oia takes about 3–4 hours with photo stops, and there are many magnificent sights to be seen along the way. Although the hike is not difficult, sturdy shoes, plenty of water and sunscreen are essential. You can easily do this hike on your own or, alternatively, join a guided tour where you will learn even more about Santorini. For the way back, it is best to take a taxi or bus.
Akrotiri (Prehistoric City)
A truly famous tourist attraction of Santorini is Akrotiri, which is a very important archaeological site located in the south of the island. More than 3,500 years ago, the former Minoan city was destroyed and buried in its heyday by a massive volcanic eruption. It was not until 1967 that archaeologists rediscovered this ancient city, which is now referred to as the “Pompeii of the Greeks” . Akrotiri is still being excavated and can be visited as one of the most important archaeological sites on the island. During a tour of the huge covered area, one is amazed at the well-preserved remains of this important prehistoric settlement. The most important artifacts, however, are on display at the Archaeological Museum in Fira.
Tip: If you are interested in more information, you can book a guide on site for 12 euros who will give a tour in a small group.
The Red Beach, sometimes called Kokkini Paralia, is undoubtedly a stunning natural attraction on the island. This spectacular red bay is located in the south of Santorini, near the archaeological site of Akrotiri, and is a popular excursion destination due to its extraordinary appearance. The picturesque place owes its name to the red rocks that, together with the turquoise sea and black sand, create a picture postcard backdrop. Visitors marvel at the rich colors of this fascinating cove, which is rarely found in this form in Greece. Spending a day or half a day at the Red Beach is definitely worthwhile, as the Red Beach is also wonderful for swimming and relaxing.
Tip: Catamaran tours along the south coast are a very popular activity on Santorini. They stop at Red Beach and other dream beaches like White Beach!
The charming village of Imerovigli, with a population of 470, is an insider’s tip and a visit certainly one of the best things to do on Santorini. Located between Fira and Oia at the highest point of the caldera bay, the village offers a spectacular setting away from the hustle and bustle of the main towns. Picturesque alleys, numerous staircases, white houses, blue domes and the tranquil atmosphere create an almost magical setting. Walking through the traditional village, one is amazed by the magnificent architecture and can fully enjoy the romantic Santorini feeling off the typical tourist paths. There are many cafes built right into the cliffs, as well as landmarks such as Skaros Rock, an imposing rock that dominates the coastal scenery. The spectacular hiking trail along the cliffs to Oia or Fira is also a beautiful experience.
Tip: Imerovigli is a great option for a romantic getaway in Santorini. The accommodations, such as the chic Stella Rocca A Mare with pool, are also phenomenal.
The Skaros Rock in Imerovigli is a scenic attractions on the west coast of Santorini, and the short hike along the “Ekklisia Theoskepasti path” to the top, or just to take a look at the imposing volcanic rock, should not be missed. This impressive 20 meter high rock is located on a huge cliff by the sea and can be reached from the village of Imerovigli. Skaros Rock is named after the medieval settlement from the early 13th century that was built on this steep cliff to protect against pirate attacks. After a volcanic eruption in 1650, the fortress was destroyed and part of the settlement fell into the sea. Today, the imposing Skaros Rock with the remains of the fortress is one of the most famous landmarks of the island of Santorini.
The Vlichada beach is undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary natural treasures of the island of Santorini. It is also called the Moon Beach of Santorini and enchants with an incredibly bizarre, fairy-tale landscape. The monumental, artfully shaped rocks of the beach are white and yellow, and the sea shimmers in the most gorgeous shades of blue. Because of its enchanting surroundings, this place is also a popular location for wedding photo shoots. However, most of the 800 meter long beach is often completely crowd-free and a guarantee for relaxing swimming days on Santorini. There is a nice taverna at the top of the beach where umbrellas and sun loungers are available for rent.
The village of Pyrgos, also known as Pyrgos Kallistis, is an insider’s tip for those who want to explore some of Santorini’s most picturesque inland locations. As the highest village on the island, it is spectacularly situated on a hill beneath Profitis Ilias, with a magnificent view of the island’s vineyards. But what really impresses in Pyrgos is the Venetian castle complex with its numerous medieval alleys that form a real labyrinth, housing numerous pretty taverns, wine bars and boutiques. In addition, you will discover several interesting attractions, such as the local museum of Santorini, there are 48 churches and numerous magnificent viewpoints.
Tip: A visit to Franco’s Café is highly recommended. Here you can enjoy the most beautiful sunsets in the evening while enjoying delicious snacks and drinks.
Nea Kameni (Volcanic Island)
A popular destination for excursions from Santorini is the still active volcanic island of Nea Kameni, whose name means something like “New Burnt”. This uninhabited island is located in the caldera of Santorini, about 1.5 kilometers from the capital Thira. It was formed during an eruption between 1707 and 1709. With a diameter of only 2 kilometers, it is relatively small, but thanks to its uniqueness, it is visited daily by a wide variety of excursion boats. During a boat tour, visitors have the opportunity to climb the 127-meter-high volcanic crater, where sulfurous smoke and steam still rise. There are also hot springs in the sea around the island that invite you to take a dip.
Tip: Some boat trips also go to the neighboring island of Palea Kameni, the so-called “Old Burnt”, where you can find more hot springs in the sea.
The beautiful village of Kamari is a true gem and the most popular resort on Santorini. It is located on the east coast of the island and thanks to the Kamari beach of the same name it is a real highlight for an unforgettable beach holiday! Here you will find an extremely impressive beach scenery, as the rocks of the mountain Mesa Vouno, the black pebbles and the turquoise Aegean Sea create a picture postcard atmosphere. The beach promenade is also absolutely charming and a popular meeting place for locals and tourists. There are many shops, restaurants, taverns, and cafés along the promenade for your enjoyment. One of the most important places to see is the Ancient Thera, an important archaeological site, from which you can enjoy a fabulous view of the coast-
Tip: A real insider tip for a wonderful holiday is the Hotel Matina, a charming 3-star hotel with a beautiful pool, delicious breakfast and not far from the beach.
The ancient city of Ancient Thera is one of the most important attractions on Santorini. It was inhabited from the 9th century BC until the year 726 and, like Akrotiri, its history ended with a volcanic eruption. It was not until 1904 that the ruins were the subject of excavation and discovery. Today you can visit the ruins of the agora, the portico, the theater and several temples during a tour with a magnificent view of the sea. The site is located in a breathtaking location on the ridge of the 360-meter-high Mesa Vouno, and just driving up the zigzagging road or walking from the village of Kamari is a wonderful experience. Once at the top, a short path leads from the ticket office to the excavation site, where you will be rewarded with another stunning view.
An insider’s tip among Santorini’s most spectacular attractions is certainly the White Beach. This hidden dream beach is located in the south of the island and can only be reached by water taxi or a guided boat tour. Absolutely unique are the snow-white cliffs and rocks that give the bay its name. This extraordinary white beach is perfect for swimming and during the high season umbrellas and sunbeds can be rented. It is worth noting that the sand here is not white, as one might think, but rather dark, as it is almost everywhere on Santorini. Food is not available at White Beach, so make sure you bring enough food and drinks for the trip.
Tip: In the high season, you can take a taxi boat for 10 € from Red Beach to White Beach. Alternatively, you can join one of the guided boat tours to get to this dream beach.
Santorini Wine Museum
The Santorini Wine Museum, also known as the Koutsogiannopoulos Wine Museum, is a recommended destination for those interested in wine and the history of the island’s wines. Located in the interior of the island, on the road between Fira and Kamari, it is a popular stop on island tours. In any case, the location of the Santorini Wine Museum is truly unique. This popular museum is located in a cave, 8 meters below the ground. Moreover, there is a tasting of local wines at the end of the tour. If you like, you can buy one of the exquisite drops in the adjoining shop as a souvenir to take home.
Tip: A visit to the Santorini Wine Museum has become a very popular activity. Admission to the museum, including audio guide and wine tasting, can be booked online in advance!
With a height of 566 meters, Profitis Ilias is the highest mountain on Santorini and a popular destination for excursions and hikes. However, one of the most important attractions on the mountain is the monastery of the same name, Profitis Ilias. Located in the heart of the island, about four kilometers from the charming village of Pyrgos, it can be reached on a guided trip or easily on your own by rental car or even by walking. The monastery was founded in 1711 and houses a collection of rare icons, ecclesiastical writings and ancient manuscripts. The complex consists of the main building of the monastery and the chapel of St. Nektarios. The church and the courtyard are open to visitors.
The small, charming village of Megalochori is located in the interior of Santorini, and thanks to its secluded location has remained a small insider tip. Here you will find a labyrinth of white alleys, charming houses and charming churches with blue bell towers. Moreover, Megalochori offers you the opportunity to visit its charming taverns and wine cellars and let the unique atmosphere work its magic on you. The famous dessert wine Vinsanto, which originated in this area, is something you should definitely try.
Lost Atlantis Experience
The Lost Atlantis Experience is a modern, interactive museum and a real recommendation on the best things to do in Santorini for families with kids. It is also a great place to visit if the weather is bad, as all the rooms are inside the museum. The exhibition is dedicated to the myth of the lost city of Atlantis. You will be taken on a journey through Greek history, mythology, philosophy, and geology. Visitors will learn plenty of interesting facts about the Minoan history of Santorini and the myth of Atlantis. The highlight is the 9D cinema, where you can interactively experience with all your senses the ancient volcanic eruption on Santorini and the subsequent destruction of the island.
Where to Stay in Santorini
Santorini offers visitors a wide range of fantastic accommodations, many of them in the higher price range. From brilliant beach hotels, gorgeous boutique hotels, cute guesthouses, well-equipped apartments and even cave hotels, everything is represented here. Here are our recommendations for the most stunning places to stay on Santorini in Greece…It’s worth a look!
- Dream Hotel in Oia: The beautiful Aspaki by Art Maison offers guests the best views of Santorini and is also a famous Instagrammable spot.
- Cave Hotel in Fira: The Iriana Suites offers beautiful rooms, many of which are cave-style! The breathtaking sea views are also unique.
- Boutique Hotel in Kamari: The Santorini Crystal Blue is a small boutique hotel right on the beach. The pool and the typical Cycladic style are also wonderful.
- Adults Only Hotel in Perissa: The Kouros Village Hotel is a beautiful and stylish adults only hotel. The beach is only 2 minutes away from the hotel.
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