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Santorini, Greece: The Ultimate Travel Guide

Santorini needs little introduction. It is the supermodel of the Greek islands. Whitewashed building and blue colored domes on the side of a cliff. If you have ever seen pictures of Greece, they were probably of Santorini.

Santorini is featured on many traveler's bucket lists thanks to its romantic sunsets, beautiful panoramas, and dazzling beaches. It's the most famous Greek island for a reason.

Know Before You Go To Santorini

oia santorini greece

Although the island is often called "Santorini," that technically isn't true. "Thira" (Thera in classical Greek) is the name of the island, and "Santorini" is the name of the region. Santorini sits roughly halfway between Athens and Crete.

About 3,600 years ago, the largest volcano eruption in recorded history happened in Santorini. The volcano was so big that it caused an enormous tsunami that hit the island of Crete. The remains of this volcano created the waterfilled crescent that is so famous today.

How To Get To Santorini

Blue and white building in Santorini

There are two options to get to Santorini: fly or take a ferry.

Frequent ferries and catamarans connect Santorini with Crete, various Cycladic Island, and Athens' main port of Piraeus. The fast ferry from Athens will take around four and a half hours, while the slow ferry takes about 8 hours. You may choose to skip this option if you frequently get seasick.

Santorini's airport has flight connections with Athens and other European destinations.

Epic Things To Do in Santorini

This map was made with Wanderlog, a road trip planner app

1. Watch the Sunset in Oia

beautiful sunset in oia

You have most likely already seen the iconic sunset pictures of Oia (pronounced ee-uh). The sunset here really is the best in the world. With that being said, Oia can get incredibly crowded, especially in peak tourist season. Because the town is on the side of a cliff, space is very limited. Be prepared that there will be hundreds and upwards of thousands of people.

If you want to skip the crowds, book a table in one of the restaurants overlooking the town. You will have to make reservations early, though.

If you want to get pretty pictures of Oia, I recommend going a few hours before sunset to take photos. Grab a bite to eat and then come back for the sunset. There are so many people during the sunset that it can be challenging to get good pictures.

 
 

2. Take A Wine Tour

wine tour in Santorini

Santorini should be a spot on every wine lover's bucket list. Wine is a major industry in Santorini. There are many different wineries that you can visit, but I recommend taking a wine tour for the best experience. I did a wine tour with Santorini Wine Adventure, and I loved it. We visited three different wineries. The final winery had a fantastic view of the sunset in Santorini.

sunset wine tour

The hot, dry climate in Santorini is perfect for growing grapes. Because of the wind, vines are grown in coils on the ground instead of on a trellis, as you see in most vineyards worldwide.

Santorini wine
wine tour in Santorini Greece
 

3. Take A Boat Tour

One of the best things to do in Santorini is to take a boat tour. You can visit various beaches or hot springs depending on which tour you book. You can even book a sunset tour to get another fantastic view of the famous sunset that Santorini has to offer.

I had booked a boat tour, but I decided to cancel last minute due to the weather. Santorini can get very windy, and I can get seasick. I met a couple on my wine tour that took one of the boat tours on a windy day and said that everyone on the boat got sick. I decided to cancel after that.

4. Explore Fira

church in fira

Fira is the capital city of Santorini. It is pretty similar to Oia when it comes to gorgeous views, but it is much cheaper than Oia. I spent several hours walking along the streets, taking photos, eating delicious food, and doing some shopping.

5. Photograph Agios Theodori Church

Did you know that you can hike from Fira to Oia? It was scorching when I was in Santorini, so I decided not to do this. If you choose to take this beautiful hike, make sure you take a slight detour to visit Agios Theodori Church located in Firostefani.

6. Visit The Black Sand Beaches

black sand beach

Santorini's volcanic history resulted in beautiful beaches with black sand. The black sand beaches of Perivolos and Perissa are lined with cafes, small shops, restaurants, and beach bars. You can spend an entire day at one of these beaches and have plenty of things to do, including a refreshing swim during the hot summer days.

7. Watch A Movie At Santorini's Open Air Cinema

You can watch your favorite Greek-inspired movie in Fira at the Volkan on the Rocks restaurant. They switch between My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Mamma Mia every day.

8. Explore Pyrgos

donkey in pyrgos

Pyrgos is the perfect spot if you want to get away from more touristy towns. The town is built on top of a hill, so be prepared to do a bit of climbing. The view at the top is excellent, so make sure you stop for a freddo espresso or glass of wine.

When To Go To Santorini

blue dome church in Oia santorini

Santorini is Greece's most visited island, receiving up to two million tourists annually. It is best to go during the off-season if you want to avoid the crowns. Some activities may be closed if you decide to visit during the winter months, so I recommend late spring or early fall. I also recommend booking a hotel outside of the main cities of Oia and Fira if you want to avoid the tourist crowd.

Where To Stay In Santorini

Oia Santorini

There's no shortage of accommodation in Santorini. Whether you want an expensive cliff-side villa or a laid-back hotel, the island is so small that you really can't go wrong. It only takes about 40 minutes to go from one side to the other. If you would rather spend your money on activities, food, and wine, go for cheaper accommodation.

If you want the full "wow" factor, I recommend staying on the caldera edge in Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli, or Oia. I recommend staying in these areas if you don't plan on leaving the touristy areas much. Many of the hotels here have private pools on the cliff-side with incredible views.

If you want to get away from the crowds, I don't recommend staying on the caldera edge. I stayed at a hotel in Megalochori. Megalochori is a cute little village. I didn't spend too much time here, but it was great to get to my hotel in the evenings without having to fight through crowds of people.

Where To Stay In Oia

cliffside santorini

Andronis Boutique Hotel

Andronis Boutique Hotel is a 5-star hotel located near the beach and Oia Castle. The area's natural beauty can be seen at Santorini Caldera and Skaros Rock. This luxury hotel also offers two outdoor pools and a complimentary buffet breakfast.

Filotera Suites

Filotera Suites is a 4-star hotel that offers a perfect Oia private pool along with other amenities like a rooftop terrace, balconies or patios in each room, and a poolside bar.

Marcos Rooms

marcos rooms

Marcos Rooms is an excellent option for a budget traveler that wants to stay in Oia. The small hotel has a rooftop terrace and is close to one of the main sunset spots.

Where To Stay In Fira

church in fira

Homeric Poems

Homeric Poems

Homeric Poems is a luxury 5-stary hotel. This hotel features a restaurant, poolside bar, and incredible view of the sea.

Loizos Stylish Residences

Loizos Stylish Residences

Loizos Stylish Residences is a mid-range hotel option in Fira. It is a 1-minute walk to the Santorini Caldera and has an outdoor pool.

Hotel Lodos

Hotel Lodos

Hotel Lodos is excellent for a budget traveler that wants to stay in Fira. It is only a 9-minute drive from the airport and a 4-minute drive from the Wine Museum.

Where I Stayed

vedema

I stayed at Vedema in Megalochori, and I loved this hotel. The hotel was beautiful and had a great breakfast buffet with vegan options. It wasn't in the main touristy parts of the island, so it was nice to return to a calm atmosphere.

The service at this hotel was incredible. We were able to text the front desk whenever we had a question about anything or needed a taxi.

Vegan Boutique Hotel

Mod Santorini is a vegan boutique hotel. Unfortunately, they weren't open yet when I was visiting Santorini, but I would love to come back in the future and stay here.

Getting Around Santorini

Blue dome church in Santorini, Greece

Your best option would be to rent a car in Santorini. If you plan to drive in Santorini and aren't from Europe, you'll need an international driver's license. This includes if you want to rent a motorbike. I recommend booking a rental car on RentalCars.com.

If you don't have an international driver's license, you will be able to rent an ATV. ATVs can be dangerous, so be careful if you decide to go with this option.

The hotel where I stayed had a fantastic taxi service where we would text them and tell them where we wanted to go. This is the priciest option, but it was very convenient.

How Long To Stay in Santorini

Oia Santorini

I spent two and half days in Santorini. I think this is the bare minimum, though. I could have spent at least five days here. The island is relatively small, so you can have a very relaxing vacation with only a few days here. If you want to do some island hopping, I recommend 2-3 days.

Santorini On A Budget

white church Santorini Greece

Santorini is probably not a budget traveler's top pick. While Santorini can be pretty expensive, it doesn't have to completely break the bank either.

Hotels can be insanely expensive in Santorini, especially if you are staying in either Oia or Fira. If you are on a budget, I recommend staying further away from the main town in a city like Perissa.

From food to shopping, everything in Oia is expensive. I had planned on doing some shopping while in Santorini to purchase some clothes made out of the famous Greek linen. I stepped into one shop in Oia and was shocked by the prices. The next day I went to Fira, and I found shops with much lower prices.

This doesn't mean you can't visit Oia. Plan to eat before heading into town. You can still spend at least an hour or two walking along the beautiful roads and taking stunning photos.

I also recommend visiting in the off-season if you are on a budget. Prices will be higher in the summer months. Also, book your ferries and hostels in advance.

There are also buses that you can take in Santorini that are inexpensive.

Eating Vegan in Santorini

Greece is a very vegan-friendly country. You can walk into almost any restaurant and find a vegan option available. If you want to check out restaurants beforehand, I recommend going to this page on Happy Cow.

What To Pack For Santorini

swimsuit

SWIMSUITS

One of the main reasons to visit Greece is to see the beaches. Don't forget to bring your swimsuit!

sunscreeen

SUNSCREEN

Greece is hot in the summer. Make sure to protect yourself by wearing suncream at all times.

Microfiber Travel Towel

MICROFIBER TOWEL

microfiber towel is one of my favorite travel products because it is lightweight, easy to dry, and takes up very little space. Even if you decide to stay at a hotel where towels are provided, a microfiber towel is still great to bring to the beach because it can fit into your backpack without taking up much space.

Canon Camera Set

DSLR CAMERA

Cell phone cameras are pretty good these days, but I still think the quality of a real camera is better.

dji drone

DRONE

Although drone isn't essential, I love the pictures and videos that I get from it too much not to share.

dji osmo pocket camera

OSMO POCKET

This is my favorite travel camera because it is tiny and fits in your pocket. My YouTube videos are filmed on this camera.

gopro

GoPro

I also recommend bringing a GoPro to Greece to get great photos from the water.

portable charger

PORTABLE CHARGER

never leave my house without a portable charger. You never have to worry about your phone running out of battery if you have one of these.

day pack

DAYPACK

This is the daypack that I used while in Santorini. It has enough space for my camera, drone, wallet, water bottle, and anything else I need during the day.

travel bag

LARGE PACKPACK

This is my favorite travel backpack. It has enough space for everything you need, and it has plenty of extra pockets to hold your belongings.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Skyroam

SKYROAM

always like to carry my Skyroam with me (unless I buy a SIM card), so I always have access to the internet to help with directions and safety. You can get 10% off your purchase with the code THEVEGANABROAD.

Check out all of my favorite travel products here.

The Best Resources For Traveling To Greece

  • Welcome Pickups: Book a taxi to pick you up at the airport, so you don't have to worry about getting scammed. They also offer a private sightseeing tour in Athens.
  • Ferry Hopper: Book ferries between the cities/islands in Greece.
  • Expedia: Book your hotel, flight, car rental, and more.
  • RentalCars.com: The best website for renting a car.
  • HostelWorld: The best website for finding hostels.
  • Viator: My favorite website for finding guided tours.
  • World NomadsTravel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It is so important to have in case anything goes wrong.
  • Cookly: Book cooking classes in Greece.
  • Express VPNTraveling means using free wifi available in coffee shops, hotels, and airports. This can leave you vulnerable to hackers. I always use a VPN when traveling to keep my personal information more private and secure. Using a VPN will also allow you to access information that isn't available in the country you visit. (For example: watching US Netflix while in Greece).

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Santorini Travel Guide

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