Mykonos vs Santorini: 13 differences and similarities

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Written By: Pavlos Inglesis

mykonos vs santorini
Mykonos or Santorini? Both islands are super cute and have their own charm and character but they are quite different

Chances are you are trying to figure out which greek island is better for you to visit, right? Then, this is the ultimate comparison guide for Mykonos vs Santorini this year. What are their differences and similarities and which one is better depending on your situation or even the time of the year you are planning to visit?

BEST HOTEL IN SANTORINI: San Antonio

BEST HOTEL IN MYKONOS: Nomad Mykonos

BEST HOTELS ON BOTH ISLANDS

For Luxury:

For Couples:

For Families:

For Private Pool:

Cave Hotel:

For Beach:

Budget:

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As you know, Greece has no shortage of amazing islands to visit.  Did you know that there are actually more than 2,000 greek islands? Only about 200 of them are inhabited, so that narrows it down a bit, but still… I know how hard it can be to pick one to visit for your next holidays.

Santorini and Mykonos are the two most famous Greek islands and possibly the most beautiful ones.  So, if you can actually visit them both, it would be even better, in my opinion but we all know sometimes there can only be money and time for one of them.

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READ ALSO: 
Where to Stay in Mykonos
Where to Stay in Santorini
Best Santorini Boat Tours
Best Things to Do in Mykonos
Santorini or Crete

But what happens If you only have to choose one?
Which one should it be?

This is my comparison of the best greek islands Mykonos vs Santorini but obviously whatever I am mentioning in this post also applies to a Santorini vs Mykonos comparison.

Mykonos vs Santorini

Both islands are amazing and I am sure you can have a great time in either one of them. But let me get this straight to you:

If there is only one greek island you can visit in your life, make it Santorini. You won’t regret it, and as I say to all of my friends “Santorini is literally the picture of Greece you may have in your head”.

It’s not that you won’t have a good time in Mykonos, it’s just that Santorini is much more diverse and it has a truly unique landscape and more cute villages and towns overall. I have been to both places and I loved them both – for very different reasons.  However, if you are struggling to decide, here is my detailed comparison guide to help you out a bit.

Keep reading…

Booking.com is the website with the most available rooms and Private Villas in Athens, Santorini , Mykonos & Crete (more than Airbnb!)

Ferryhopper is the best website to book your ferry tickets or check the timetables for Santorini, Mykonos , Crete & all greek islands

Get Your Guide has the best and largest variety of Tours in Athens and the greek islands (Santorini, Mykonos, Crete etc)

Rentalcars is the easiest way to rent a car or a quad for Greece with thousands of available options

Expedia has all the available flights to and from the greek islands

If I could sum up the island comparison in one table, then it would be this:

MYKONOSSANTORINI
Easier to Get ToMykonos has an international airport and it’s closer to Athens by ferry (3 hours)Santorini has an international airport too but it’s further to Athens by ferry (5 hours)
Most CrowdedMykonos probably feels less crowded but it’s still very busy in the summer monthsSantorini is the busiest and most crowded greek island and it will always feel crowded and packed no matte the time of the year unfortunately
More attractions and sightsApart from Mykonos town and nearby culturally rich ancient island of Delos there is not much to see on the island other than the beautiful beaches and beach barsSantorini is full of history (like Akrotiri), museums, wineries and cultural events throughout the year
Best BeachesThe beaches of Mykonos are some of the best in Greece with golden sand and crystal clear watersSantorini beaches are not that great (by greek standards…) and they are mostly covered with black and red pebbles but you can certainly have some fun days in them (like a hike to the Red Beach)
HotelsBetter service & facilities overall with a more luxurious feeling. More impressive views and smaller sizes of hotels overall
Most RomanticThere is a more party vibe on Mykonos overall but you can definitely avoid it if you wantSantorini is one of the most romantic destinations in the world with its stunning views and sunset tours
Best NightlifeMykonos in the summer has some of the best (and posh…) nightlife in Europe with events by some of the best DJ’s in the worldSantorini has some decent nightlife too but you will find mostly lounge bars and a few small clubs 
Best Beach ClubsMykonos has some of the best beach clubs and beach bars in Greece but they are certainly on the most expensive and luxurious styleSantorini also has some good beach bars and clubs with a less premium feeling but with excellent services
More wineriesMykonos has only two wineries Santorini is the winery capital of Greece with more than 16 wineries on the island that have been producing wine for more than 200 years
Ideal forGroups of friends, singles, couplesCouples and families
More ExpensiveSuper ExpensiveSuper Expensive but probably less expensive than Mykonos
Best thing you can do:Enjoy the sandy beaches & the amazing partiesEnjoy the dramatic views, the wineries and the sunset cruise
Best for off-season visit (or winter November to April)There is not much to do on the island in the winter as you won’t be able to visit the beaches as it could be too cold and all businesses will be closedSantorini is much better to visit off-season and in the winter as there are still many things to do and see apart from the beaches (such as wineries, the volcano, Akrotiri etc)
Best tip:Rent a carRent a car

So, let’s see which island is better in every case, shall we?

Best Island for Attractions, Museums & Sightseeing: Santorini

Akrotiri prehistoric ruins are one of the best attractions in Santorini, and for many, this lost civilisation was the famous Atlantis

Why: If you are looking for a destination with many things to do and places to discover, then Santorini is clearly a better choice than Mykonos. Santorini is not just beautiful beaches and tropical cocktails but a mosaic of cultural experiences like no other in the world.

Detailed Comparison:

  • Mykonos has nothing more to offer outside of the triangle beach-party-food (nothing wrong with it though…).

  • Santorini has some amazing traditional cycladic villages like Fira, Pyrgos, Megalochori, Emporio and of course the incredible Oia town (which can easily be the only reason to visit Santorini anyways…).

  • Mykonos apart from the main town called “Chora” (Mykonos City) which is lovely and very picturesque (with the amazing “Little Venice”) has nothing more to offer in terms of picturesque and traditional villages. You are basically limited to  Mykonos City only.

  • Santorini has an active volcano with one of the largest craters in the world, where you can actually take a tour on (!). You don’t get to see that everyday and it is the characteristic that makes Santorini’s landscape so dramatic and impressive.


Best Island for Beaches: Mykonos

Elia Beach in Mykonos is one of the best beaches in Greece

Why: If you are a beach person and you imagine your holidays to be spent on the beach with your toes in the sand, then Mykonos is just the place for you. Let’s be honest here. Santorini is awesome but Mykonos has amazing tropical golden sand beaches. Moreover, beach clubs in Santorini are very relaxing and chilled out whereas Mykonos beach clubs re famous for their crazy beach parties.

Detailed Comparison:

  • Santorini has only volcanic pebble beaches (there is a red, black and white beach). These are very impressive to be honest but you won’t find any fine sand beaches in Santorini due to the volcanic stones that are scattered all over the island.

  • Mykonos has more than 20 amazing sandy beaches with crystal-clear turquoise waters. You can find a gay-friendly beach, a cosmopolitan beach, beaches for nudism, beaches for partying, beaches for families and even quiet and relaxing beaches where you’ll basically be alone.

  • Santorini’s sea waters can be quite deep. It is the kind of sea, where you take one step, two steps.. and you are in! No time to think about it.

  • Mykonos sea waters can be quite shallow and are perfect for kids or seniors. It’s the type of beaches I like where you can walk and walk and you get to a point where you will be wondering “when is this sea water getting deeper?”

Most Romantic Island: Santorini

Santorini is one of the most romantic places on earth

Why: This one is easy I think. If you are looking for a romantic destination, well…stop looking. You found it. It’s Santorini.

Detailed Comparison:

  • Santorini is considered one of the most romantic destinations in the world and one of the top destinations for honeymooners. For a lot of good reasons: sunsets, views, food, cute villages…what else do you need?

  • Mykonos was always considered a destination for singles rather than a destination for couples. That doesn’t mean you won’t have a good time if you visit Mykonos with your other half. Quite the opposite I would say.

Best Island for Partying & Nightlife: Mykonos

Mykonos has some of the best summer clubs in Europe

Why: Are you and your friends looking for a place to party? Then you should go to Mykonos. Hands down it’s one of the best partying and clubbing destinations in the world. It’s the greek Ibiza!

Detailed Comparison:

  • Mykonos is considered one of the best clubbing and partying destinations in the world. The nightlife in Mykonos is u-n-r-e-a-l and it’s not limited only at night time. The party literally never stops at Mykonos City or at any of the beach Bars of the island (including the famous Super Paradise Beach Club)

  • Some of the best DJ’s in the world perform every summer in Mykonos

  • Mykonos is the place where greek spring breakers go every year…

  • If you are single while visiting Mykonos and you are into party mode then you won’t get much sleep as the party goes on 24/7 (especially in high season May-October)

Most gay friendly island: Mykonos

Why: Mykonos is also super super gay friendly – not that Santorini is anti-gay, but Mykonos is famous for its gay bars, gay beaches and overall gay-friendliness .

Detailed Comparison:

  • Mykonos is considered one the most gay friendly destinations in the world, with people arriving to the island since the 60’s.

  • In Mykonos you will find some of the best gay bars (who doesn’t know the famous Jackie O’ Bar?) and gay friendly beaches in Greece (and possibly in the world)

  • Mykonos even has some amazing drag shows in the summer. Priscilla is incredible!

  • There are no designated gay bars or beaches in Santorini. But this doesn’t mean that the island is not gay-friendly

Best island for wine lovers: Santorini

santowines winery santorini
The volcano views from Santowines winery are stunning

Why: If you are looking to combine your holidays with wine tasting or any other thing wine-related, come to Santorini.Santorini is one of the best wine destinations in Europe and home to the oldest vineyard you will find in the continent.

Detailed Comparison:

  • Santorini is considered the most unique (and underrated I have to say…) wine destination in the world

  • Santorini has more than 16 Wineries and Wine Tours you can take. The wine tasting experience usually includes amazing views, amazingly refreshing local wine and greek meze/nibbles.

  • Santorini’s wineries are top world venues for weddings because of their romantic settings and the stunning views

  • Santorini has 1 of the 10 wine museums in the world (this one)

  • The most famous local wine of Santorini is “Assyrtiko” variety which has received hundreds of awards all over the world. You can also taste the sweet port-like wine of Santorini called “Vinsanto” 

Best island for foodies: Santorini

The amazing food is combined with unparalleled views in Santorini (La Maison Restaurant)

Why: That’s a tough one to be honest but I believe that Santorini wins that one on the finish line because of the amazing views some of its best restaurants have to offer. You don’t find that in Mykonos or elsewhere in Greece in such a volume. Plus, you also get the amazing and booming wineries scene of Santorini.

READ ALSO: 
23 Best Restaurants in Santorini
10 Best Restaurants with views in Santorini

Best island for families with kids: Santorini

family hotels in crete
Many people would disagree with me but I strongly believe that Santorini is better for families with kids

Why: Both Santorini and Mykonos can be excellent family holiday destinations. After all, kids are by default very simple in what they would be looking from their holidays (at least that’s my experience with my two young daughters who just love being close to a beach) but they may also want some variety in what they are doing and seeing. Apart from lovely Mykonos town with its extravagant restaurants and bars and the lovely sandy beaches in Mykonos, there is not much else to do and see. However, Santorini is full of experiences that can fascinate a kid such a visit to an active volcano, Akrotiri prehistoric ruins, a hike from Fira to Oia or even to the unique Red Beach. Moreover, Perissa and Kamari beaches are excellent family resort towns with lots of amenities and relatively affordable restaurants and hotels. Ok, Mykonos’s beaches with their golden sand can be objectively better but overall the island does not cater to an average family anymore, sadly.

Most Expensive island: both!

Why: Both Santorini and Mykonos are super expensive (compared to other greek islands or other holiday destinations). Probably because they are so famous.But that does not mean that you you can only visit if you are super rich or that you have to save money for a lifetime to come over. You can visit both islands on a budget and still have a great time.

There are great offers if you come off season and cheap choices when it comes to food and accommodation. You just need to do a bit of research. This way you will also avoid the crowds and get a bit more privacy.

Best island for shopping: Mykonos

Yeap…Gucci have a boutique shop in Mykonos!

Why: Some of the most luxurious and well-known brands in the world have exclusive branches in Mykonos. Mykonos is a well known celebrities hotspot, too!

Best island for seniors or people with disabilities: Mykonos

Santorini’s towns have lots of stairs (not everywhere, though)

Why: Santorini’s difficult terrain and thousand stairs villages are not the best for people with disabilities or seniors… Mykonos is pretty flat though and the amazing sandy beaches will be great for everyone (including kids). It’s not that seniors or people with disabilities won’t enjoy Santorini, but if you belong to this category, then you’d better stay close to a beach (like Perissa/Perivolos or Kamari)

Which one is finally the best island: Santorini or Mykonos? 

I am sure you would enjoy both, they actually complement each other quite well if you think about it. You could spend a few days in Santorini to enjoy the views, the sunsets, and the romantic atmosphere and then head to Mykonos and enjoy the beach life there, along with a couple of drinks…possibly)

Read Also: How Many Days Do You Really Need in Santorini?

Now if I had to choose just one, I would go to Santorini, every time. If there is only one greek island you have to visit, then make it Santorini. You won’t regret it. It’s not that you won’t have a good time in Mykonos. But Santorini is a really unique place that you have to see once in your lifetime, not only in terms of views, scenery, hotels, amenities, restaurants, bars and shopping but in terms of pure natural beauty. 

After all, you don’t get to wake up to a volcano view every day….do you?

Besides Santorini and Mykonos?

elafonissi beach crete

Ok…now we have established that Santorini and Mykonos are the two most popular islands in Greece. Santorini for the unique views and the endless romantic feeling and Mykonos for the fantastic beaches and the superb nightlife. If you have been to Santorini and Mykonos and are looking for another Greek Island to explore this time, I would suggest…….. (drum roll please) Crete!

Crete is a great choice because it offers diversity and a wonderful mix of history, tradition and breathtaking landscapes. Basically, Crete can match every taste. And it is the biggest greek island so you can take all the time you want to discover it. I shouldn’t forget to mention that the food in Crete is tasty beyond your wildest imagination. They have their own specialities that will blow your mind! What is there not to like?!

*Do keep in mind that you will be needing a car in Crete, as it’s a very big island.

Conclusion

I do hope my comparison mykonos vs Santorini helped you out a bit. As always, feel free to get in touch if you have any questions. I strongly believe that no matter where you go in Greece, you will have a great time. And I am not just saying that because I am Greek. You will see, one time is never enough. The moment you land you will know you want to come back. To wrap it up, my final advice to your dilemma  “Mykonos or Santorini?” would be: it really depends on your situation and what you will be looking at from your trip to Greece but I firmly believe that if it’s your first time in my beautiful country a visit to Santorini first has to be on the top of your bucket list.

* Christina from SantoriniPlus.net has contributed to this post

Photo of author
AUTHOR
Pavlos Inglesis
Greek, born and raised in Athens. I have been to almost every greek island and pretty much in every region of mainland Greece. I have also been eating souvlaki and gyros since the 80s. I love being a dad to my 2 beautiful daughters and also taking great photos of the places I visit. This is my blog to help you out explore the places I have visited with my inside tips as a Greek, knowing the ins and outs of my country and culture. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments section under the post you are interested in and I wIll try my best to respond asap.

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2 thoughts on “Mykonos vs Santorini: 13 differences and similarities”

  1. Thanks for the info! We’re planning an early June visit to Crete and Santorini and have a few questions –
    Ferrying from Athens
    – best use of time? First to Sant. and then Crete? Overnight ferry back to Athens from Crete?
    – which ports to arrive/depart in Sant and Crete?
    – and for Crete, where to rent a car?
    – easiest area to stay on Crete for touring, etc.

    Reply
    • Hi there,

      Ok here are my answers:

      – I would say that fitting Crete into the schedule is very tight as Crete is a big island and I highly recommend you dedicate another holiday to it unless you just want to get a quick glimpse of the island. Maybe better combine Santorini with Mykonos or another greek island (Naxos and Paros are great candidates).

      – Santorini has only one port for ferries (the other one is for cruise ships only…) so you have no option really…Crete has many ports but I would suggestyou visit the western part of Crete (Chania area) which has a great port for ferries.

      – easiest area to stay in Chanis for touring is the Chania area in western Crete that is very diverse , it has many beautiful beaches and it also has the beautiful town of Chania

      hope that helps!

      Reply

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