Updated: Jan 4
The island of Santorini sits in a water-filled caldera (a large volcanic crater) that is thought to have ended Minoan civilization on Crete.
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The Top Things to do in Santorini
Oia is such a beautiful town and a Oia is a must-see! However, we would not recommend lodging here due to the large tourist crowds. People start crowding the streets 4 hours prior to sunset in order to secure a good photography spot. The narrow streets become impassable and restaurants fill to capacity. While you should definitely visit Oia during your stay, we recommend visiting in the afternoon/early evening and catching the bus back to Fira for the sunset! It is equally as stunning in Fira and you will be able to find a restaurant cliff-side with an amazing view.
J&L Tip: Watch the sunset in Fira!
2022 Pricing: €45/person + €5 Optional Volcano Entrance Fee
This is an all-day tour that found to be well-worth the money! A bus will pick you up at/near your lodging and drop you off at a boat that resembles a pirate ship at the marina.
The tour begins by visiting Tholos Naftilos, an active volcano on a neighboring island. From here, you are taken to hot springs off the coast of Palea Kameni where you can jump off the boat and swim in the hot springs. Next, you travel to the quaint island of Thirasia for lunch with the option to swim and explore the island. Finally, you are dropped off at the bottom of Oia where you can hike up the cliff to the city of Oia on the far north side of Santorini.
J&L Tip: We do not recommend riding a donkey up the cliff as the donkeys are over-worked from tourist activity and, although steep, the hike takes no longer then 15 min
3. Red Beach
The red lava rock cliffs contrasting with the crystal blue water draws many tourists to this beach. However, it is safer to view from the water on either a boat tour or SUP rental. Due to the possibility of landslides, this beach has been deemed unsafe, however, this has not stopped hundreds of visitors from going down to the beach to witness it's beauty. The risk is up to you!
J&L Tip: View from the water on a Sea Kayak & Snorkeling Tour
4. Cathedral of St John
The Cathedral of St John is a beautiful church in the heart of Fira, founded in the 13th century and serves as the Roman Catholic Diocese of Santorini. Not only is the church incredibly beautiful, but the bell tour is also a breathtaking sight to see.
5. Perissa Beach
Perissa Beach is a large beach along the public bus-route with cabanas, and a nearby beach town. This is one of the closest beaches to Fira with the best sand and swimming (also Perivolos). Please note, the beaches in Santorini have warm, black sand due to being an active volcano. You cannot lay out on a towel without feeling the warmth of the sand. We highly recommend sitting in a cabana chair and supporting the local businesses.
J&L Tip: you can sit in the cabana chairs as long as you purchase a drink or food from the local establishment
6. Perivolos Beach
Perivolos Beach is a more secluded beach than Perissa Beach and also has cabanas and restaurants near by. The beach is nestled alongside a beautiful cliff and is also great for swimming.
7. Cultural District in Pyrgos
If you want to experience a day as a true Santorini native, head to Pyrgos. A town untouched by tourists, yet beautiful in it's own way. South of Fira and inland from the famous caldera, it's panoramic views are worth experiencing.
J&L Recommended: Authentic Greek district
8. Ancient Thera
Ancient Thera is an excavation site of an ancient city atop a steep mountain. For those of you who like history, when is the next time you will be able to see the ruins of an 11th century BC settlement?
Amazing Historical Site
What food is Santorini known for?
$ - Budget
$$ - Mid-Priced
$$$ - Splurge
1. Lucky's Souvlaki - $
Souvlaki (street food) was our favorite and go-to meal in Greece! Souvlaki is a street food version of Gyros, with meat and vegetables grilled on a skewer and served in a pita wrap with a warm spiced yogurt sauce. A must-try with flavors unlike anywhere else. You will find many places serving Souvlaki throughout Greece, however, one of our favorites was Lucky's in Fira.
J&L Recommended: Our favorite food in Greece!
2. Pito Gyros - $
Pito Gyros is the best Gyro place in Oia (some argue best in Greece!). Affordably priced with meat tender and smoked to perfection, you will shortly see after tasting why we have recommended so highly on our list.
Also Read: Athens Greece Complete Guide
3. Argo - $$
Argo serves modern Greek food with a trendy atmosphere in Fira. It is busy and popular with wonderful views. Be sure to book a reservation at this restaurant ahead of time (and ask for the upper terrace).
4. Roka - $$
Roka is a crowd favorite in Oia with incredible food. Off the beaten path, fresh entrées, and charming staff, this place is worth stopping in during your time at Oia. Experience the true Santorini experience in a quaint terrace setting overlooking breathtaking blue waters.
Also Read: Amsterdam Complete Guide
5. Karma - $$
Karma is a charming, quaint restaurant tucked away in Oia. Experience a cozy dinner separated from the hustle and bustle of the winding roads of Santorini. Be sure to try their fried honey-feta and baklava with ice cream as both are absolutely delicious!
What is a popular drink in Santorini?
1. Volkan Beer
Recommended Brew: White (Wheat Beer - Witbeir - 5% ABV)
Brewing since 2011, Volkan Beer is the first beer from Santorini. While this beer is brewed in Argos currently, there are plans to move the brewing operations onto Santorini in an environmentally smart way in the near future. The Volkan White has a hazy golden color with a thin white head. The flavor and aroma has mild fruity notes that will refresh you after a long day of hiking the volcanic rock!
Also Read: Best Craft Brews of Europe
2. Santo Wines
One of the most popular wineries for tastings with great views. There are daily tastings available at this winery and a restaurant on site offering snacks, meals, and desserts. Santo's also has a gift shop and allows UPS shipping of their wine internationally.
J&L Tip: One of the only wineries with a caldera and sunset view
Recommended Brew: Crazy Donkey (American IPA- 6.5% ABV)
SBC's beers are easily identifiable as the "Donkey" beers, named after the donkeys that travel to the village of Fira. The Crazy Donkey is loaded with hops that yields aromatic bitterness with a tropical start to a dry finish. A great brew to enjoy while relaxing on one of Santorini's beaches, this brewery can be visited Monday through Saturday from noon until 5pm.
Also Read: Best Craft Breweries of Michigan
A favorite in Santorini where you can have intimate wine tastings. Gavalas Winery has been run by the same family for five generations. Wine tastings happen daily and last roughly an hour. There is no restaurant on site, however, there are great Greek restaurants nearby.
Also Read: Barcelona Spain Complete Guide
Planning Your Trip
What is the best time to go to Santorini?
We would recommend the shoulder seasons [April-May or September-October] as the best time to visit Santorini. These are the months that you will likely have the best weather with the least crowds.
J&L Recommended: April - May or September - October
How many days do you need in Santorini?
We recommend 3-4 days in order to experience the best Santorini has to offer.
J&L Recommended: 3-4 days
Which is the best area to stay in Santorini?
We recommend finding lodging in Thera (Fira) over Oia as you will be able to find beautiful places to stay with close proximity to stunning views all while avoiding the crowds and congestion of Oia. Oia is incredible and a must-see destination within Santorini, however, if you are looking for a more peaceful Santorini experience, you may consider taking day-trips to Oia rather than lodging there. For our top-pick hostels based on location and value see Best Hostels of Europe.
J&L Recommended: Find a great deal on hotels in Fira below:
How do you get around in Santorini?
There is a bus that is supposed to run every 15 min (see link) and take you from one end of the island to the other. From our experience, it was very unreliable, over-packed, and favored locals. If we could go back, we would rent a car or moped, HOWEVER, you need to have an international license in order to do so in Santorini.
J&L Tip: Make sure you get an international license prior to visiting Santorini or most places will not allow you to operate a rental vehicle.
How do I get to Santorini from Athens?
We found the best route to Santorini from Athens to be by plane. The round-trip tickets are very affordable and you save about 3 hours worth of travel time compared to taking the ferry. However, you may chose the ferry if not planning ahead as tickets generally do not sell out.
J&L Recommended: By plane
Affordable International Data
Want to avoid roaming charges and $10/day international data fees? Airalo allows you to download an e-SIM to your phone and activate while in Europe for a very affordable price. We bought 3 GB of data valid for 30 days from activation for only $7. It worked great throughout our entire Europe trip and was very easy to install. Airalo offers e-SIMs all around the world and we can validate that it works with ease in multiple European countries.