Santorini Island Holidays Travel Guide


Imagine sipping on a refreshing cocktail in an infinity pool hanging from the caldera. You are surrounded by the endless blue of the Aegean sea and the warm colors of the sunset.

 

No, this is not an imaginary place. It is Santorini, one of the most magical islands in the world! No wonder it is on the top of the bucket list of millions of travelers, right?

 

Although some may think that planning your holiday to Santorini island from scratch is tricky, this is far from reality -with a little help from us! To learn everything about traveling to Santorini, read on!

About Santorini


Santorini’s idyllic scenery makes it a popular destination for a romantic holiday, weddings, and honeymoons. Except for couples though, Santorini is an ideal destination for those who love exploration, as there are many interesting places for sightseeing. Not to mention that it is an absolute paradise for shutterbugs!

 

Read also: Trips and Tours Vacation in Greece

 

Why is Santorini famous?

Santorini is famous not only for its breathtaking sunset and dramatic caldera but also for its ability to captivate visitors. Santorini is a world on its own. A world filled with volcanic cliffs dotted with white houses and luxurious hotels hanging from the caldera.

 

Every evening, nature celebrates in Santorini! The sun slowly sinks in the vast Aegean sea, painting the sky with all the shades of orange, pink, and purple… Watching the sun dipping into the horizon from Santorini caldera will make you feel an integral part of this natural miracle!

 

Marvel at the breathtaking sunset, sip on a cocktail in the private jacuzzi of your hotel… Dine on the edge of the caldera… Immerse yourself in relaxation… Swim in infinity pools… Explore Santorini volcano… Take the most instagrammable photos ever!

 

Santorini will make your every dream come true!

 

Where is Santorini located?

 

Santorini is a Greek island located in the southeast part of the Aegean sea. It belongs to the Cyclades island complex, like other popular Greek islands such as Mykonos, Paros, and Ios. It lies 220 km away from Athens (Rafina) which means it takes 5 to 8 hours to reach it by ferry from Athens. As for the distance from the nearby islands, Santorini is located 120 km away  from Mykonos, 80 km away from Paros, and 40 km away from Ios.

Read also: Naxos island holidays travel guide | Crete island holidays travel guide | Rhodes island holidays travel guide

 

What is the best time to visit Santorini?

The best time to visit Santorini is from spring to early fall (April to October). During these months, the weather in Santorini is ideal for exploration and sightseeing. If you want to enjoy Santorini beaches, though, the best months to visit Santorini are June, July, August, and September, when the weather is hotter. Keep in mind that the tourist season peaks in July and August, so expect Santorini to be rather crowded during these months -especially Oia and Fira. If you want to enjoy a more serene version of Santorini, opt for April, May, September, or October.

 

Read also: Best time to visit Greece

 

The weather in Santorini

  • Autumn (September to November)

    Highest: 79 F/ 26 C Lowest: 57 F/ 14 C

  • Winter (December to February)

    Highest: 58 F/ 15 C Lowest: 50 F/ 10 C

  • Spring (March to May)

    Highest: 73 F/ 23 C Lowest: 52 F/ 11 C

  • Summer (June to August)

    Highest: 84 F/ 29 C Lowest: 69 F/ 21 C

 

What are the most popular events, holidays, and city-breaks in Santorini?

St Basil Day/New Year, Theophania / Epiphany
Carnival season, Valentine’s Day, Tsiknopempti (Meat Thursday)
Kathara Deftera (Clean Monday), Carnival season, Independence Day (March 25th)
Easter Week, Easter Sunday
Labor Day, Religious feast of Saint Theodosia
Holy Spirit Day
Santorini Jazz Festival, Anargyroi Saints religious feast, Profitis Ilias religious feast, Saint Anni religious feast, Agios Panteleimon religious fest
Megaron Gyzi Festival, Ifestia Festival, Holy Seven Children religious feast, Virgin Mary religious feast, Agia Zoni religious feast
International Music Festival, Holy Cross religious feast, Saint Efstathios religious feast, Mary Myrtidiotissa religious feast, Saint John religious feast
“OXI” Day
Saint Anargyros religious feast, Saint Minas religious feast, Saint Nikolaos religious feast
Christmas Day, Saint Spyridon religious feast

 

Did you know?

Santorini island and its infamous caldera were formed after a massive volcanic eruption that happened in 1,600 BC. The volcanic eruption of Thera (the original name for Santorini) was one of the biggest ones on earth!

 

What are the best things to do in Santorini, Greece?

  1. Explore the volcano

    The volcano of Santorini is a must-see place! There are eight volcanic craters in total, on the little islands of Palea Kameni and Nea Kameni. More specifically, there are seven craters in Palea Kameni and one in Nea Kameni. On Palea Kameni island, you’ll also find hot springs, which contain big amounts of sulfur, known for its healing properties. A boat tour to Santorini volcano is the best way to explore it! There are daily Santorini boat tours that will get you to the volcano, where you’ll also have the chance to indulge in a free natural spa treatment in the hot springs.

  2. Go on a boat tour around Santorini

    Boat tours are not only the best way to explore the Santorini volcano but also an ideal way to explore the lunar coasts of Santorini and marvel at the breathtaking Santorini caldera from below. You can either join an organized boat tour or arrange a yacht charter and tour the island at your own pace.

  3. Watch the sunset

    Watching the sunset in Santorini is arguably the most amazing experience to have on the island! The scene of the sun dipping in the deep blue Aegean Sea is something you’ll cherish forever… All the shades of yellow, orange, pink, and purple fill the sky for a few precious minutes, creating a glorious color feast! The best places to enjoy Santorini sunset are Oia, Fira, and Imerovigli. Oia and Fira are rather crowded during the sunset, while Imerovigli is a bit quieter.

    Tip: An even better way to enjoy Santorini sunset is to have dinner or drink a cocktail at one of the caldera’s balconies!

  4. Treat yourself to a wine tasting session

    Thanks to its rich volcanic soil, Santorini has a long wine-making history. At the local wineries, you’ll find the best local wine varieties, including Vinsanto, Nichteri, and Mezzo, which are exported to all over the world. Most wineries in Santorini lie in the central and south parts of the island, at villages like Megalochori and Messaria. The best way to explore Santorini’s vineyards is by joining an organized wine tour with a wine tasting session.

  5. Travel back in time at the prehistoric settlement of Akrotiri

    The remains of the prehistoric settlement of Akrotiri lie on the south side of the island, close to Akrotiri village and the Red beach. Archaeological excavations among the years have revealed this ancient town that was built around 4,500 B.C and had been thriving until the 17th century B.C when it was destroyed by an earthquake. Nevertheless, the remains of this glorious ancient settlement indicate that Akrotiri used to be a fully developed town with murals, houses, roads, and squares, preserved until today.

  6. Visit the Museum of Prehistoric Thera

    The Museum of Prehistoric Thera in Fira is one of the most impressive museums in Santorini. Its collection includes findings of excavations carried out in the Prehistoric settlement of Akrotiri, as well as on other Cycladic islands. Museum’s exhibition is divided into four sections: one dedicated to the history of Fira, one dedicated to the geology of Fira, one that hosts findings of the Neolithic and post-Cycladic eras, and one with findings from the Prehistoric settlement of Akrotiri.

Read also: Best things to do in Greece | Sailing & Yacht holidays in Greece

 

What are the shopping hours in Santorini?

Most shops in Santorini operate seasonally, meaning they are open only during the tourist season, from April to October. During this period, the shops are open every day, from 10 am to 10 pm or until midnight.

 

Key facts about Santorini

  • Population

    15,550 (2011)

  • Currecy

    Euro

  • Language

    Greek

  • Average Temperatures

    Warmest Month: August (84 F/ 29 C)
    Coldest Month: January (50 F/ 10 C)

  • Tipping

    Tipping is generally expected in Santorini but not obligatory. How much you’ll tip is up to you, depending on how satisfied you are with the service. We advise you to tip in cash so that the money will go straight to the person that served you.

  • Loved by

    Honeymooners and couples

The history of Santorini

Santorini has a long history that goes as far back as the prehistoric era. Originally named Strogili, which means round in Greek, Santorini was the center of the volcanic eruption of Thira (also known as the Minoan volcanic eruption) in 1,600 BC. The devastating eruption resulted in the separation of the main island into smaller islands and the formation of the caldera. The same volcano also created a tsunami that led to the destruction of the Minoan civilization in Crete. The ancient settlement that has been discovered after the excavations carried out on the islands is the Bronze Age civilization of Akrotiri. Hidden under volcanic ashes, Akrotiri settlement consisted of tall buildings with well-preserved wall paintings (frescoes), streets, and squares, that indicate that it was a big town.

 

How can you get to Santorini?

Getting to Santorini is pretty easy! You can reach the island either by ferry from Athens to Santorini or by air.

 

Getting to Santorini by air

There are direct flights to Santorini from many countries, such as France, Canada, the U.S, and Italy. If you can’t find a direct flight from your country, the best way to get to Santorini is by catching a flight from Athens to Santorini. There are frequent daily flights from Athens to Santorini that last for less than an hour!

 

Getting from Athens to Santorini by ferry

Taking the ferry from Athens to Santorini is the best and cheapest way to travel to the island. There are many daily ferries from Athens to Santorini throughout the tourist period. So there’s no reason to stress out!

 

Ferries from Athens to Santorini depart every day from the two main ports of Athens: Piraeus and Rafina. Traveling from Piraeus is a better option if you are in Athens city center and move by public means of transportation. On the other hand, Rafina port is a better option if you have a car or you’re planning on getting directly to the port from the airport, as Rafina is located 40 km away from Athens city center and 10 km away from Athens airport.

 

A ferry ticket from Athens to Santorini costs around 20 € – 70 €. As for the duration of the trip, it lasts for 5 to 8 hours, depending on the type of the vessel (conventional or high speed).

 

The Greek ferry companies that serve the route from Athens to Santorini are SeaJets, Blue Star Ferries, and Golden Star Ferries.

Where to stay in Santorini

Oia

Oia is the most popular settlement in Santorini, thanks to its amazing sunset views and volcanic landscape. It is located in the north part of the island, 11 km away from Fira village. Built atop the Santorini caldera, it boasts a breathtaking location and stunning views of the mesmerizing Aegean sea and the sunset. Honestly, watching the sun sinking into the sea from Oia will leave you speechless, let alone watching it from an infinity pool in Oia!

 

This village is full of the Cycladic standouts: whitewashed houses, blue-domed churches, narrow paved streets, and balconies built on the edge of the caldera. Oia also has a fantastic view of the tiny volcanic islands of Nea Kameni, Palia Kameni, and Thirassia.

 

Some of the best hotels to stay in Oia are: Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa, Canaves Oia Boutique Hotel, Katikies Santorini, and Andronis Boutique Hotel.

Fira

Fira, the capital of Santorini, is located on the western side of the island. It is ideally set on Santorini caldera, offering a beautiful view of the enthralling sunset.

 

Fira is the most cosmopolitan village in Santorini, as it has many restaurants, bars, clubs, luxurious hotels, and fashion boutiques. If you’re searching for the perfect place to socialize and do some shopping, this is it!

 

Bottom line: In Fira, you’ll find many museums! Don’t miss the Archaeological Museum of Thera, the Museum of prehistoric Thera, Megaro Gyzi Cultural Center, and the Folklore Museum.

 

Some of the best hotels to stay in Fira: Winery Hotel 1870, Limestone, Angel Luxury Suites, and Marquise Suites.

Imerovigli

Imerovigli is a traditional settlement in Santorini, located just 3 km away from Fira. Its majestic location on the caldera, 300 meters above sea level, makes it the ideal option for accommodation in Santorini.

 

Imerovigli is relatively more quiet compared to the busy Oia and Fira, so if you’re someone who loves serenity, consider it for your stay. Also, thanks to its location on Santorini caldera, Imerovigli boasts a fantastic sunset view.

 

The scenery in Imerovigli is very romantic! Luxurious hotels with pools built literally on the edge of the caldera, colorful sunsets, and a sense of tranquility make Imerovigli an ideal destination for a quiet holiday in Santorini.

 

Some of the best hotels in Imerovigli are: Cavo Tagoo Santorini, Adore Santorini, Altana Heritage Suites, and Santorini Princess Spa Hotel.

Firostefani

Firostefani is a beautiful village in Santorini, located just 2 km away from Fira. Thanks to its proximity to Fira, Firostefani is a great option for those who want to be close to the capital, yet far from the crowds. Besides, there are many museums and sites within a walking distance of Firostefani!

 

Firostefani is also built on the caldera, offering majestic views in abundance. It is a great spot to enjoy the famous Santorini sunset, skipping the often overcrowded narrow paths of Oia and Fira. Wander the stone-paved alleys, marvel at the scenery, have a drink on a roof… Spend your holiday in Santorini at your own pace!

 

Some of the best hotels to stay in Firostefani are: Alta Vista Suites, Homeric Poems, Afrodete Hotel, and Remvi Suites.

 

Read also: Villa holidays Greek Islands

 

How to get around Santorini?


There are several ways to get around Santorini. Depending on where you stay, you can choose a bus, a car, walking, or riding a donkey. Here are the best means of transportation in Santorini!

 

Getting around Santorini on foot

If you want to go sightseeing or discover all the hidden gems of Santorini, walking is your best bet! Although beaches and the main points of interest can be reached by car (depending on where you stay), walking is the best way to explore the island. Santorini also has some amazing hiking paths, don’t miss them if you’re a hiking enthusiast!

 

Getting around Santorini by bus

The bus is the cheapest way to get around Santorini, but also the slowest one. The local bus in Santorini connects all the main villages on the island. More specifically, there are buses from Fira to Oia, Imerovigli, Kamari, Monolithos, Athinios port, and other areas. Almost all itineraries last for 20-30 minutes, but delays are common.

 

Getting around Santorini by car

The most convenient way to get around Santorini is by car! Upon your arrival in Santorini, you’ll have to get from the port or the airport to your hotel. Most hotels offer free transfer service, so you can book your transfer via your hotel.

The car is also the best way to move around the island. The easiest option is to rent a car, a quad, or a motorbike to explore the island at your own pace.

 

Getting around Santorini by donkey

Donkeys are a controversial means of transportation in Santorini. Locals used to ride donkeys to get from one place to another before the construction of the cable car that connects the old port with Fira. Donkeys are popular with tourists, as it is a traditional and cheap (you can book a donkey ride for as little as 5 euros) way to get around the island. However, we don’t suggest using a donkey for your transportation, as the animals are usually mistreated and abused by their owners.

 

How much will you spend on Santorini per day?

The truth is that Santorini is one of the most expensive islands in Greece. Generally speaking, you’re going to spend about 120 € (143 $) per day during your stay in Santorini. More specifically, you’ll spend 40 € (48 $) on food, 20 € (24 $) on transportation, and 60 € (71 $) per person for a double room in Santorini.

 

What foods to try in Santorini?

  • Fava

    This is one of the yummiest delicacies to try in Santorini. Fava is a mashed yellow peas dish sprinkled with olive oil and topped with some capper. Usually served as an appetizer, fava goes perfectly with freshly baked bread, fried potatoes, seafood, and local white wine.

  • Melitini

    Melitini is the perfect combination of sweet and sour. Originally an Easter treat, Melitini is a cheese pie with mizithra cheese, honey, and mastic. You’ll find them at the island’s bakeries not only at Easter but all year round.

  • Tomatokeftedes

    Tomatokeftedes (or tomato balls) is a popular appetizer and a staple of a traditional Greek meze dinner in Santorini. This delicious dish consists of the local tomato variety, Santorini tomatoes, olive oil, aromatic herbs, onion, and pepper. It is usually fried, but you can opt for the healthier baked version.

  • Chlorotiri white cheese

    Chlorotiri is a local white creamy cheese that you can find only in Santorini. This moist and soft goat cheese has a delicate sour taste. You can eat it alone, topped with olive oil and herbs, spread on bread, or along with a Dakos salad. However you choose to enjoy it, it’s a must-try delicacy!

Useful Information

Greece is a European city and a part of the Schengen Agreement. So, if you’re a European citizen or citizen of a country member of the Schengen Agreement, you only need a Passport or an Identity Card to enter the country. If you’re a citizen of a country that is neither European nor a member of the Schengen Agreement, you need a visa to visit Greece.
Medical Emergency:112 Fire Service: 199 Ambulance: 166 Police: 100 First Aid: 302286360300 Greek Tourism Office: 302286027199 Health Center: 302286022237

Health care & Safety

Health care in Santorini

The Greek Health Care System is public and provides free treatment to citizens and expats. You can visit a public practitioner for free or a private practitioner with a charge. In both cases, you have to pay for prescribed medicines. In case of emergency, you can call a public EKAV ambulance (166) or the European emergency number (112).

Safety in Santorini

Santorini is a safe island, but you should always take precautions. For example, you should keep in mind that there is a risk of accidents due to the island’s rocky landscape, so you should stay away from the cliffs. You should also keep an eye on your belongings, especially when you are in crowded places like Oia and Fira. Another risk in Santorini is car accidents, so you should always keep your mind on the road and never drive drunk.

 

What are the best beaches in Santorini?

Red beach

Red beach is probably the most famous beach in Santorini. Located in the Akrotiri area, this beautiful beach stands out for its red volcanic landscape! It is nestled in a cove protected from the winds and insulated by red cliffs. On the beach, you’ll find umbrellas and loungers provided by the seaside cafes and tavernas. You can access Red beach by car (it’s a 20-minute drive away from Fira) or by boat.

 

Kamari beach

Kamari is a popular organized beach in Santorini. This Blue-Flag-awarded beach is located in the southern part of the island, in Kamari village, six kilometers away from Fira. Kamari beach is pebbled with clean water and is particularly popular with families. On the beach, you’ll find umbrellas and sunbeds, as well as water sports facilities and cafes/restaurants.

 

Perissa

Perissa is a busy and family-friendly beach located 6 kilometers southeast of Fira. It is an organized beach with sunbeds and umbrellas, but you can find some quiet shady spots under the trees. On the beach, you’ll also find cafes, restaurants, and water sports facilities. The trademark of Perissa is an enormous rock that emerges from the water, called Mesa Vouno.

 

Monolithos

Monolithos is a volcanic black sand beach with shallow waters, ideal for kids. Although it lies close to the busy Kamari, Monolithos doesn’t get overcrowded, so it’s a great alternative to other bustling beaches. On the beach, you’ll find some facilities, like a playground and a basketball court.

Read also: 30 Best Beaches in Greece

 

Gifts for your loved-ones from Santorini

  • Volcanic cosmetics

  • Pieces of art

  • A bottle of tsipouro/ouzo

  • A bottle of local wine

  • Leather products

  • Cycladic house miniatures

  • A bottle of virgin olive oil

  • Handmade jewelry

 

 

Conclusion


Are you already day-dreaming of your holiday on Santorini island, or is it just us? We shared with you everything you need to know before setting off on an adventure to the most popular Greek island! In our travel guide, we tried to cover everything from the best places to stay and the best things to do and from how to get to Santorini to the top foods to try.

 

It’s your turn now! We’d LOVED to know about your experience and travel tips for Santorini. Comment below your recommendations or something you wish you knew before visiting Santorini.

 

Other Travel Guides you may be interested in: Athens holidays | Mykonos island holidays | Paros island holidays | Naxos island holidays | Crete island holidays

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