The Ultimate Santorini Travel Guide

Melina Thalassinou
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Table of Content
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Key Takeaways

  • Santorini is celebrated for its stunning views, volcanic landscape, and traditional Greek architecture.
  • A visit to Santorini is a balance of leisure and discovery, with its beaches, historical sites, and gastronomic delights.
  • The island offers various experiences, including water activities, cultural tours, and tasting the local wines.

Santorini view sunset Kesu01 depositphotosSantorini view during sunset -credits: Kesu01/Depositphotos.com

Santorini is one of the most popular islands of the Cyclades and the Greek islands in general.

It is one that welcomes you to explore its iconic whitewashed villages on volcanic cliffs with blue-domed churches and vibrant floral decoration.

Here is our guide to vacations in Santorini to take you through everything the striking island has to offer for an unforgettable vacation and cross off your mind any other destinations in mainland Greece. 

Please know that you will experience an unbeatable urge to buy tickets to the island of Santorini for your upcoming summer vacation by the end of this Santorini travel guide.

You may even feel the need to book a Greek island hopping experience on cruise ships. Give into it. It'll be worth it.

The History of Santorini Island

santorini holidays Netfalls Remy Musser shutterstockSantorini - credits: Netfalls_Remy_Musser/Shutterstock.com

In ancient times, Santorini was a circular island and had very close ties with nearby Crete. In the archaeological site of Akrotiri, one can distinguish the strong Minoan influence.

Nowadays, the island of Santorini has a crescent shape and stands on the sunken crater -also known as the Caldera- of its active volcano, which makes it stand apart from all other Cyclades islands.

The world-famous Caldera is the result of the volcano's eruption during the 15th century BC, which was one of the largest known to humankind. It is also known as the Minoan eruption.

Over the years, the Thera returned to their homeland, and a grand trading island was reborn from its ashes. The last huge volcanic explosion took place in 1950 and has remained inactive ever since.

The Best Time To Visit Santorini Island

catamaran santorini dancar shutterstockSantorini - credits: dancar/Shutterstock.com

As thoroughly explained in our Greece Travel Guide, choosing when to travel to Greece comes down to personal preference, and the island of Santorini, Greece, is no exception.

However, regardless of that, and because Santorini is an island, visiting during the winter would not be the wisest choice.

The Greek islands are infamous for being particularly cold and windy, while due to the small number of permanent residents, they are close to deserted.

On the opposite side, if you choose to visit Santorini during the summer, you need to keep in mind that massive tourist crowds have probably made the same choice as you coming from European countries and the rest of the world.

April, May, early June, late September, and October are considered ideal for those looking to avoid the peak season's hustle.

Visiting during the shoulder season not only provides a respite from the crowds but also can be cost-saving.

How to Reach Santorini

happy woman in santorini Photocreo depositphotosHappy Woman in Santorini - credits: Photocreo/Depositphotos.com

By Ferry

The ferry journey takes 8.30 hours by conventional ferry and 6 hours by speedboat from the port of Piraeus.

Most ferry routes to Santorini depart from the Piraeus ferry port, though there are also several departing from Rafina port

Piraeus is close to downtown Athens via Metro subway and is the last stop on the green line, while Rafina ferry port is another option, which is actually closer to the airport.

As a result, the best port for you to choose to reach Santorini depends on your arrival date, the ferry routes, and the place you come from.

By Plane

Santorini is connected by air with Athens, Thessaloniki, Crete, and the rest of the Aegean islands, with flights that take place throughout the year with a direction to the Santorini airport.

During the summer, flights to Santorini airport increase to serve the heightened tourist needs, while direct flights from cities abroad are also available.

Flights from Athens International Airport to Santorini Airport take approximately 45-55 minutes.

Where to Stay in Santorini, Greece?

couple santorini Kalamurzing shutterstockCouple in Santorini - credits: Kalamurzing/Shutterstock.com

If you want to be enveloped by luxury and glamor, you have to stay at one of the Santorini hotels on the edge of the Santorini Caldera to experience the full 'wow' factor.

Moreover, Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli, and Oia have romantic hotels and villas with whitewashed interiors, terraces, and swimming pools that inspire wedding proposals, high-fashion photo shoots, and countless Instagram posts. 

You can browse the Santorini hotels, the hotels in Imerovigli, and the luxury hotels in Oia to make an educated decision!

The Most Famous Settlements in Santorini, Greece


santorini oia lady Maridav shutterstockOia - credits: Maridav/Shutterstock.com

Oia village in Santorini, Greece, is the most famous settlement on the island of Santorini, known to the ends of the world for its unique sunset. It is built in the northern part of the Caldera at an altitude of about 120 meters.

It has been characterized as a traditional settlement since 1993 and maintains unchanged the traditional Cycladic architecture.

Oia village has all the tourist infrastructure of a modern destination. It boasts a rich market with shops and public transport that connects it daily with many itineraries, especially in the summer months, with Fira, the island's capital, which is about 11 km away.


sunset at imerovigli santorini Georgios Tsichlis shutterstockSunset at Imerovigli - credits: Georgios Tsichlis/Shutterstock.com

Imerovigli, one of the most impressive villages of Santorini, stands at the highest point of the Caldera since the Byzantine years

The settlement overlooks the impressive volcano from a height of about 300 meters from the sea and is located approximately 3 kilometers northwest of Fira, on the road to Oia.

Apart from the asphalt road, the village is connected with the capital of Santorini with a path that offers endless views of the unique volcanic landscape.

As it is a declared traditional settlement, the style of its buildings remains unchanged, with an emphasis on Cycladic architecture.


woman in thira santorini elenstudio depositphotosFira - credits: elenstudio/Depositphotos.com

At a distance of 12 km from Oia, the always-busy Fira, the capital city of Santorini, is one of the must-see stops on the island.

About 260 meters from the sea's surface, it seems like it is hanging off steep cliffs, dressed in stark white, causing every visitor's admiration.

The unique location of Fira on the Santorini Caldera offers stunning views of Nea and Palia Kameni and the southern Aegean Sea. 

Santorini Private Cooking Class and Wine Tasting

When visiting Fira, don't forget to visit the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of Prehistoric Thera, the Gyzi Palace, and the Santozeum art space.

What's more, to enjoy your acquaintance with Fira to the fullest, you can climb the 588 steps from the Old Port.

An alternative is the cable car that runs daily every 20 minutes, from 07:00 to 22:20. In fact, we highly suggest opting for the cable car.

Everyone knows that a cable car is one of the most fun means of transportation in Greece!


Santorini in the evening Andrew Mayovskyy shutterstockSantorini in the evening - credits: Andrew Mayovskyy/Shutterstock.com

Firostefani, which has always been one of the favorite stops of every visitor of Santorini, owes its name to the fact that it "crowns" Fira, as 'stefani,' the second compound of its name, means 'crown.' 

The view of the Caldera is simply unbeatable, with the cliff being so steep that it causes an addictive combination of awe and terror.

On the way from Firostefani to Imerovigli, you will find the monastery of Agios Nikolaos, built in 1651 by the Gyzi family - a famous and wealthy family in Santorini.

It is considered the border between the two settlements, and it is more than worth your visit.

How to Get Around During Your Vacation in Santorini

old port amoudi oia santorini kavalenkava shutterstockAmmoudi - credits: kavalenkava/Shutterstock.com

Public Transport: Buses operate between major villages, hotels, and attractions, offering an economical way to get around Santorini.

Taxis: Available throughout the island, taxis provide a more private travel option, though fares can vary, especially in peak season.

Rental Cars: For maximum flexibility, renting a car allows visitors to explore at their own pace. Vacation packages may offer rental car deals in combination with flights and accommodations.

Reasons to Visit Santorini

palea kameni santorini isabela66 shutterstockPalea Kammeni - credits: isabela66/Shutterstock.com

The Volcano

Since Santorini is intertwined in people's consciousness with the famous Santorini volcano, an excursion to it is more than imperative.

After all, it all started from there. You will arrive by boat, and you will have the opportunity to climb the hill of the volcano of Santorini.

Both from the port of Athinios and from the old port of Thira, small boats that will transport you are constantly departing.

The Wine Culture

loal wine in Santorini Songquan Deng shutterstockLocal wine on the romantic island of Santorini - credits: Songquan Deng/Shutterstock.com

With a rich history that exceeds 3,500 years, the uniqueness of the Santorini vineyard is apparent.

The terroir of Santorini is among the best and most historic in the world, and the wines produced are just as special. 

The volcanic soil, the pre-deforestation vineyards, and the precious fruit of Assyrtiko make the wines of Santorini an example to be imitated for all the 'Volcanic Wines' and the picturesque island of Santorini a world wine destination! 

Be sure to try as many varieties of Santorini's wines as possible, always in moderation!

The Caldera and its Sunset View

santorini island Heracles Kritikos shutterstockSantorini island - credits: Heracles Kritikos/Shutterstock.com

There are many calderas in the world. However, the largest and most impressive is the Santorini Caldera, with a diameter of 16 km.

The Caldera of Santorini was formed around 1613 BC. The islands of Santorini, Aspronisi, and Thirasia form its outline. In the center are two small islands, Palea and Nea Kameni, which are frozen lava.

Palea Kameni was created by the huge volcanic explosion that occurred in 47 AD, while Nea Kameni appeared about 1,200 years later.

By 1940, two craters had formed on Nea Kameni, where fumes still escape. At the eruption of 1950, magma was shaken from them at the height of one and a half kilometers.  

The Archaeological Site of Akrotiri

santorini akrotiri Dimitris Panas shutterstockAkrotiri in Santorini - credits: Dimitris_Panas/Shutterstock.com

Akrotiri, the Pompeii of the Aegean as it is known among the history buffs of the world, is an excellently preserved prehistoric city.

You will find its ancient ruins in the homonymous part of the island under a well-designed bioclimatic canopy. 

The archeological site in Santorini is excellently preserved, and if you want a more well-rounded view of the site, you can complete your experience with a guided tour.

The Best Beaches in Santorini

For many, Santorini's assets include its atmosphere, architecture, and views, but not its beaches, like other Greek islands.

Still, others consider the wild beauty of the sea off the coasts of Santorini as another element of geological peculiarity.

Top vacation tip: If you like spending time on the beach, why not stay in some of the best Santorini beach hotels?

Red Beach

red beach santorini Lucian BOLCA shutterstockRed Beach - credits: Lucian_BOLCA/Shutterstock.com

The Red Beach is one of the most characteristic of Santorini, an indisputable proof of the volcanic activity on the island.

You will find Red Beach in the southwestern part of Santorini, a short distance from the ancient city of Akrotiri, and you will be impressed by its landscape. The Red Beach is not only red in name but is full of red soil!

Access to Red Beach is relatively tricky, but the beach is well organized, with a number of umbrellas and sunbeds and a small canteen.

White Beach

Venetian castle in Santorini Netfalls Remy Musser shutterstockVenetian castle in Santorini - credits: Netfalls Remy Musser/Shutterstock.com

A natural extension of Red Beach, White Beach is even more inaccessible. To be precise, it is accessible exclusively by boat, either from Kokkini Paralia or Perissa Beach.

Slightly organized, in White Beach, you will find only a small number of umbrellas, while you should take care to have water and snacks with you since the beach is not served by a canteen or beach bar.


santorini island Heracles Kritikos shutterstockSantorini island - credits: Heracles Kritikos/Shutterstock.com

Glossy black pebbles, beach sports, and deep clear waters. Next to the touristy beaches of Kamari and Perissa, you will find the organized, popular Perivolos Beach.

There, you will have the opportunity to sunbathe in the comfortable sun loungers and swim in clear, crystal-clear waters against the backdrop of the black volcanic sand, a trademark element of Santorini, Greece, that cannot be found in any other part of the world.


Vlychada Beach IndustryAndTravel shutterstockVlychada Beach - credits: IndustryAndTravel/Shutterstock.com

Vlychada is an enchanting lunar beach with white rocks. Another incredibly gorgeous and quiet beach on the island is the beach of Vlychada, located in the southernmost part of Santorini, Greece.

There, you can find only one beach bar that, despite offering a few sunbeds, is not loud and avoids disrupting the calm setting of the beach. 

The rest of the beach is accessible for people to lie wherever they feel like it, with dark sand and lunar rock formations in the background. The beach of Vlychada also happens to be one of the last nudist shelters in Santorini.


kamari beach Zocchi Roberto shutterstockKamari Beach - credits: Zocchi Roberto/Shutterstock.com

North of Perissa and above the rock called Mesa Vouno, Kamari adds a similar experience, even bigger and even more organized than Perissa.

This beach is ideal for groups, couples, and families, as it has everything you will need for your bath, lunch, entertainment, and stay in Santorini.


black beach santorini elen studio shutterstockBlack sand beach in Santorini - credits: elen studio/Shutterstock.com

Moving with your rental car to the southeast of Santorini, you will come upon the busy beach of Perissa, the most fashionable beach hangout on the island that has been awarded a 'blue flag!'

It is a large beach with black sand. At the same time, it is very well organized, with facilities for water sports, scuba diving, camping, sunbeds, and umbrellas, but also a wide variety of beach bars, taverns, and hotel facilities.

Perissa is the ideal hangout if you like people, music, and entertainment, but you can find quieter corners a few meters below.

Ammoudi Bay

ammoudi santorini Georgios Tsichlis shutterstockAmmoudi - credits: Georgios_Tsichlis/Shutterstock.com

If you feel like branching out to a more alternative side of Santorini for your swimming adventures, Ammoudi Bay is for you.

It is essentially a small harbor at the base of Oia, the beauty of which only a few people know about.

Apart from incredible deep blue water, Ammoudi Bay offers the ultimate sunset view and is, therefore, perfect for those enjoying their honeymoon or Santorini elopement. Ammoudi Bay is also a local favorite.

Santorini's Nightlife 

Santorini by night fokke baarssen shutterstockSantorini by night - credits: fokke baarssen/Shutterstock.com

Do not expect the vibe of Santorini's nightlife to be equivalent to Mykonos or Ios or whatever party-animal destination you envision.

Is it fun? Sure it is. Is it a top choice for gay Greece travel? Sure. Does it have a good party scene? Most certainly so. 

However, all this is limited to a specific part of the island, namely, the famous Santorini Fira, which is the island's capital and gathers the biggest party crowds.

Without a View

The category 'without a view' includes the largest establishments, such as Koo Club, Enigma, and Mamounia. All three of them are central clubs of Fira, which are located next to each other. 

There are also many pub bars, such as Murphys, Highlander, Town Club, and 2 Brothers bar, where they specialize in the more relaxed side of nightlife.

With a View

santorini winey wine tasting Leah Pirone shutterstockSantorini wine tasting - credits: Leah Pirone/Shutterstock.com

First in the category 'with a view' is Tango Bar Santorini with strong mainstream music choices and refreshing cocktails, on a huge balcony overlooking the Santorini Caldera

For lovers of classical music and cocktails, right next to the Tango is the famous Franco's Bar, a historic and award-winning bar that has been open on the island for almost 60 years. 

If you want striking views, good music, and delicious cocktails, then the Tropical Bar is the way to go!

In general, the rule is to go to Fira and stay in the hotels in Fira for traditional clubbing and everything else you can imagine, but outside Fira, if you want peace, quiet, and a laid-back vibe.  

The Best Places to Enjoy the Santorini Sunset

sunset in santorini Georgios Tsichlis shutterstockSunset in Santorini -credits: Georgios Tsichlis/Shutterstock.com

Thousands of visitors have associated their presence in Santorini with an image of a sunset and expect to see their beloved Greek sun lost in the golden waters of the Aegean. 

Here are our favorite places to discover and enjoy this unique spectacle in Santorini, Greece:

  1. The castle of Agios Nikolaos in Oia
  2. The Monastery of Prophet Elias in Oia
  3. The Rock of Skaros in Imerovigli
  4. The Lighthouse in Akrotiri
  5. Vlychada beach  

Santorini's Gastronomy

dinner santorini Santorines shutterstockDinner in Santorini - credits: _Santorines/Shutterstock.com

The most popular products of Santorini include the delicious little white aubergines with delightful sweet flesh, and small tomatoes, known as cherry tomatoes.

Fava is also a very typical local product of Santorini that stands out for its deep yellow color but also the full flavor with a nutty feel.

An essential role in the quality of the products is played by the arid, volcanic soil of Santorini, which, in harmony with its dry climate, gives special products with a unique taste, but in small quantities. 

An emblematic product of Santorini cuisine is capers, which you will find in various forms.

For more information about the island's gastronomy and the best places to eat, you can read our ultimate guide to Santorini's food and restaurants!

How Much Money Will a Trip to Santorini Cost?

woman santorini blue domes Maridav shutterstockWoman in Santorini - credits: Maridav/Shutterstock.com

Undoubtedly, Santorini is one of the most expensive Greek destinations.

To get an idea, depending on the type of accommodation you're willing to book, the average you will pay for an overnight stay in Santorini ranges from around 60€ for a bed in a hostel to around 160€ for a 3-star hotel.

In contrast, a luxury stay in a boutique hotel with a cave spa in the traditional Villages will set you back around 300€.

santorini lady sunset Littleaom shutterstockOne of the stunning sunsets of Santorini - credits: Littleaom/Shutterstock.com

To sum everything up, an exciting vacation of one week in Santorini can start from roughly 350 euros per person per night.

Of course, please note that these prices are only estimates, and depending on when you choose to experience your Santorini vacations, they can fluctuate greatly. 

Now that you know how much a dream vacation to Santorini costs, don't forget to check our guide on how many days you should spend in Santorini.

What to Pack for Santorini, Greece?

Santorini streets Feel good studio shutterstockSantorini Streets - credits: Feel good studio/Shutterstock.com

As with every other Greek island -or any inhabited island- during the summer, when visiting Santorini, you should pack light, comfortable clothes to combat the summer heat without forgetting to bring a light jacket for the windy and chilly evenings.

In addition, keep in mind that the bohemian and relaxed holiday mood may require a sandal and a loose dress/tunic/kaftan during the day, but on the island of Santorini, you will need something at night a bit fancier. 

Therefore, make sure you have at least one evening dress and sandals with low wide heels in your suitcase so that you do not have difficulty with high sandals on the cobbled streets. 

Also essential are a hat, sunglasses, and plenty of sunscreen to ensure a smooth and even tan.

Santorini Travel Tips

grape picking santorini Alexandros Michailidis shutterstockGrape-picking in Santorini, South Aegean, Greece- credits: Alexandros Michailidis/Shutterstock.com

  1. The best way to explore this stunning destination among the stunning islands in Greece is to rent a motorbike or ATV. The car is best avoided as the roads of Santorini are pretty narrow, and parking spaces are minimal.
  2. The best time to visit the Greek islands, especially Santorini, is from May to the end of October. However, March and April are equally good times to visit Santorini if you're not too keen on exploring the seaside and beautiful beaches of Santorini.
  3. Take the opportunity and stay in a cave. These unique houses in Santorini usually consist of one or more small rooms and a rooftop terrace.
  4. Indulge in day trips from Santorini that can help you explore further the majestic Greek islands and the authentic Greek island lifestyle.
  5. You can book travel insurance to be on the safe side and explore the whole of Santorini carefreely.

Our Santorini Tours & Santorini Vacation Package

ammoudi beach santorini ian woolcock shutterstockSantorini - credits: ian woolcock/Shutterstock.com 

Any tour that your heart desires can be organized in Santorini.

From visits to famous wineries, excursions to archeological sites, walking tours, scuba diving, and sunset watching, you can live life to the fullest with Santorini's idyllic landscape as your background. 

Here is a list of our Santorini tours

And here is a list of our Greece vacation packages that include Santorini Island:

Final Thoughts

santorini swimming pool Netfalls Remy Musser shutterstockSantorini seasonal outdoor pool -credits: Netfalls_Remy_Musser/Shutterstock.com

A trip to the island of Santorini is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and we hope this guide to Santorini vacations convinces you that it is worth indulging in.

Even if it is just a stop during your island-hopping adventure or one of our Greece vacation packages, Santorini, one of the most stunning Cyclades islands, will mesmerize you!

Our Tailor-Made Trip Planning
Hop on a quick call with a local expert from our team
Receive a tailor-made itinerary for your journey
Fine-tune the details and you're ready to go

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a Santorini travel safe?

Is Santorini an expensive island?

What is interesting about Santorini compared to other Greek islands?

How can I include Santorini in my Greek island-hopping adventure?

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