Where on earth is Santorini? How to get there? Where should you stay? What’s the weather like? How is winter on the island? What’s the best time to visit Santorini after all?
There are a few things you need to know in order to plan your trip to Santorini properly.
Santorini is not like any other greek island but it’s definitely one of the best greek islands.
It’s the most visited island in Greece and it requires some proper planning and research to get the best deals in hotels, to do all the amazing things that the island offers and also to make sure that your flights and ferries to Santorini are properly booked.
VERY IMPORTANT TO KNOW:
- Santorini is in Greece, Europe: Google Maps
- How to Get to Santorini: with a direct flight to Santorini (only from within Europe at the moment and only between April-November) or with a direct flight to Athens, Greece and then a 5hrs/8hrs ferry or a direct 1hr flight from Athens to Santorini (read the detailed guide)
- How Much Ahead do I need to book hotels: at least 8 months; Santorini has become super popular and if you want to visit it in high season (May-October) you must get prepared for high prices and sold out hotels…
- Best Website to Book Ferries to Santorini or just check the timetables: Let’s Ferry
- Where to Stay in Santorini: for the famous views stay in Oia, Fira (capital town), Imerovigli, Firostefani but for being closer to the beaches stay in Perissa, Perivolos or Kamari (which is also usually less expensive)
- Where Are the Best Hotels in Santorini: the most impressive ones with the famous views are in Oia, Imerovigli and Firostefani (but you will be 20 mins drive from any beach)
- Best Hotel in Santorini : Grace Santorini (wow!)
- Best Private Villa to rent in Santorini: Anteliz Villa
- When is the best time of the year to visit Santorini: July and August are super crowded so better go in June or September when it’s still summer weather but slightly less crowded (read my weather guide for Santorini)
- What can I do in Santorini: beaches, wine-tasting, amazing greek food, greek island hopping (but there are literally hundreds of things to do in Santorini)
- What’s the best advice you can give me for Santorini: rent a car or scooter! Local buses in Santorini are usually fine but can be unreliable and very crowded in the summer (July-August)
- Best Website to rent a car in Santorini: RentalCars
- Anything more you can tell me? : keep reading for more…!
Here is what you need to know about Santorini in details:
1. What is Santorini?
Santorini is a small Greek island that has become one of the most popular travel destinations all over the world.
Many celebrities visit the island every year and it has some of the most unique and luxurious hotels on the planet.
Santorini’s official name in Greek is also Thira or (Thera). In Greek it’s called Σαντορίνη or Θήρα.
You can read everything about Santorini’s fascinating history through the centuries here.
2. Where is Santorini?
Santorini is in Greece which is in the South East part of Europe (see it on Google Maps):
3. Where To Stay in Santorini ?
You have to choose what you want from your trip to Santorini and what is a priority for you.
You literally have 2 options:
a. Amazing famous Santorini views (super expensive but not close to the beaches) or
b. Being close to the famous Santorini beaches (much cheaper, but you won’t be having the famous views you see all over instagram)
You can read my super detailed guide: Where to Stay in Santorini
Booking.com is the best site to book hotels for Santorini (and it’s the one that even the Greeks use…).
It is super safe , with real reviews and even the possibility to cancel your booking if you change your mind.
If you want the unique views of caldera and the volcano that Santorini is famous for, then you should stay at Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli or Oia…and also pay the price as these are super expensive hotels.
Get prepared for 3-4 figures per night but also expect to have one of the best views in the world with celebrity style services.
These are the Top 20 Most Luxurious Hotels of Santorini.
These are the 10 Best Hotels in Oia.
Recently, some very impressive hotels have also been built in Akrotiri village.
None of these towns are close to the sea though.
All the hotels there, are hanging from a massive cliff and most have spectacular views and stunning swimming pools.
But no access to a beach unfortunately.
These beach side towns of Santorini have amazing hotels in much more reasonable prices.
If you stay at a beach hotel in Santorini you get more for your money, but you don’t have the amazing famous volcano views and sunsets (which you can visit anytime you want by the way…).
Especially Pyrgos has some very nice views on the other side of the island (not the caldera and the volcano though) but you will be enjoying some unique sunsets away from the tourist crowds.
If you are a famliy with kids then I strongly recommend you stay at Kamari beach as it is the best for kids with lots of amenities, restaurants in walking distance and a massive beach that can be every kid’s dream!
- Best Cheap Hotel in Santorini: Stelios Place
- Best Hotel in Imerovigli: Grace Santorini
- Best Hotel in Firostefani: Tsitouras Collection
- Best Hotel in Oia: Maregio Suites
- Best Hotel in Perissa beach: Anastasia Princess
- Best Hotel in Perivolos beach: Orabel Suites
This is the rule of thumb to remember for when searching the best area to stay in Santorini:
Fira: the capital of the island, nightclubs, shops, restaurants, buzz
Firostefani: very seclusive and relaxing but still very close to Fira for shops etc
Oia: the most famous and probably the most romantic place to stay in Santorini, not that many shops, no nightlife, but really relaxing atmosphere and some amazing restaurants. Expect tons of tourist masses though, which during the sunset time are everywhere (on the roofs, on the streets, on the walls etc).
Imerovigli: amazing views to the caldera, seclusive, not touristic and still close to Fira where all the buzz and shopping is.
4. When Is The Best Time to Visit Santorini ?
High season in Santorini starts from April and ends in October.
Obviously the island is extremely busy during these months but especially in July, August and September you will definitely feel the tourist masses…
I have visited the island in so many different periods and months within a year and I figured out what could be the best time to enjoy the most of the island:
The best time to visit Santorini is late September or early October !
The weather will still be fine and not too hot (around 25-30 C) , the sea waters will still be warm (from the summer heat) and most of the tourists would be gone! Happy Days!
That doesn’t mean there is nobody on the island.
Remember: it’s still Santorini!
June is also a very good month to visit Santorini because it’s still early summer , the weather is amazing (though it can get pretty hot with more than 35C sometimes) and the big masses of tourists haven’t arrived yet.
I wouldn’t recommend May though because even though the weather is still very good , the sea water will be a bit chilly and you may not enjoy the beach that much.
Read Also: The Best Time To Visit Santorini
In terms of how crowded the island will be, here is a rough guide :
January: 10% crowded – (Low Season – many restaurants, hotels and businesses will be closed, beaches will be empty but the island is not “dead”)
February: 10% crowded – (Low Season – many restaurants, hotels and businesses will be closed, beaches will be empty but the island is not “dead”)
March: 20% crowded – (Low Season –but slightly more people start to visit the island as the high season approaches, many restaurants, hotels and businesses will be closed or just about to open, beaches will probably be empty but the island is definitely not “dead”)
April: 40% crowded – (High Season – the beggining of the high season and most restaurants, beach bars, cafes and businesses open in April as it is also the Greek Easter and lots of Greeks visit the island to start preparing for the high season)
May: 70% crowded – (High Season – All of the businesses of the island will be 100% open and operational but the island is still not full, the beaches are getting busier every day and the weather is awesome)
June: 90% crowded – (High Season – almost at full capacity but not yet super busy…everything will be open and super fun!)
July: 100% crowded – (High Season – the heart of the high season and when the island gets super busy and crowded, but still you will have a great time while the weather is super hot – do expect to spend most of your time on the beach or the swimming pool – not as busy as in August though)
August: 110% crowded – (High Season – the busiest month for Santorini, try to avoid if possible because everything becomes more complicated adn takes more time)
September: 90% crowded – (HIgh Season – it will still feel like the long tail of Aigust some times but it will get less busy at the end of the month – weather still feels like summer! See also below)
October: 70% crowded (High Season – the weather gets colder but you can still possibly enjoy a swim in the sea or the pool – for many of the businesses October is their last operational month)
November: 30% crowded (Low Season – the early days of winter and the month where the weather gets considerably colder – many businesses, hotels and restaurants might be closed)
December: 10% crowded (Low Season – the heart of the low season and one of the coldest months in Santorini, no swimming, many closed businesses but always an amazing landscape and wild beauty)
5. How To Get To Santorini ?
If you live anywhere outside of Europe (and definuitely if you are from the US) you have to fly to Athens first (the capital of Greece) and then take either a 40mins flight from Athens to Santorini or a 5 to 8 hours ferry (there is a slow/cheap ferry and a faster/more expensive ferry from Athens to Santorini).
Read Also: How to Get From Athens to Santorini
Read Also: How To Get From Athens to Mykonos
If you live in Europe, there are direct flights from some European cities to Santorini.
Most of these direct flights to Santorini run seasonally between May-October as this the hot season for Santorini.
If you take a direct flight to Santorini, you won’t see any of Athens which is the biggest Greek city and undoubtedly the city with the most archaeological and cultural interest in Greece and in Europe.
If you are already in Athens you can just book your ferry tickets to Santorini from Let’s Ferry.
In my honest opinion, a ferry can be nice if it’s your first time in Greece, as you get to see the beautiful blue waters of the Aegean Sea but you will be wasting 5-8hrs on the boat which you could better spend on Santorini.
- Best Website to Book Ferry Boat tickets: Let’s Ferry
6. How To Book flight and ferry tickets to Santorini?
Expedia has all the available flight options for Santorini and it will show you all the available flights from Athens to Santorini or from any other major European cities to Santorini.
Santorini’s airport code is JTR (Santorini’s official name is Thira or Thera).
In order to reach Santorini via ferry boat, you can use the Let’s Ferry website which gives you the updated prices and schedules for all ferries connecting Athens with Santorini.
- Best Website to Book Ferry Boat tickets: Let’s Ferry
- Best Website for Flights to Santorini: Expedia (Airport Code: JTR)
7. Are There Any Direct Flights to Santorini ?
There are no direct flights to Santorini from the USA, Canada or Australia.
But there are direct flights to Santorini from almost all major European cities like Paris, London, Amsterdam, Madrid, Barcelona, Rome.
VERY IMPORTANT TO KNOW: The direct flights from major European cities to Santorini DO NOT RUN ALL YEAR ROUND but only between May and October usually. If you are visiting Santorini in the low season (November-April) you might only have the option to fly to Athens and then take a 45mins flight to Santorini (check Expedia for all the available options)
So, basically your options are:
- Fly to a major European city and then take a direct flight to Santorini (check Expedia)
- Fly to Athens (Greece’s capital) and then take either a 5-8hrs ferry (book it here) or a direct 45mins direct flight to Santorini (book it here)
8. What Is The Caldera ?
Santorini is a volcanic island.
To be more precise it is an active volcano!
Thousands of years ago the centre part of the island collapsed into the sea creating a unique open sea lagoon.
Caldera is the sea lagoon that has been created since then.
Here is an amazing video showing what happened:
If you want to stay at an area overlooking the caldera and the famous volcano views with the amazing sunsets, then get you should stay at one of the following areas:
VERY IMPORTANT TO KNOW: if you are staying at Perissa, Perivolos or Kamari you won’t have the famous views but you will be close to the beaches. If you have a caldera view then you won’t be close the beaches. Unfortuantely, you cannot have both in Santorini!
9. How Many Days Should You Spend in Santorini?
Santorini is a relatively small Greek island but there are so many things to see and do that the time will never be enough!
That applies to many of the best islands in Greece too, as they are all amazing destinations.
My suggestion is that no matter how many days you will spend in Greece or on the greek islands in particular, try to spend 50% of your time in Santorini. In reality, you need at least 4 nights in Santorini.
So, if you want to stay 10 days in Greece, try to spend at least 5 days in Santorini and then visit other Greek islands. You won’t regret it…
Is a Day Trip from Athens to Santorini possible?
Yes, it is.
Also, a day trip from Athens to Cairo is possible, to check the pyramids.
That doesn’t mean you should do it, though !
Jokes aside, there is no point of rushing such a day trip.
It will extremely tiring, expensive and at the end you would have only ticked a box on your to do list.
Take things easy and enjoy every trip you make, if possible.
It is better to explore more of Athens if you only have 1 day spare , than visiting Santorini in a rush.
There are also other amazing daytrips you can do from Athens, where you can actually visit small islands that are on 1-hr ferry trip from Athens (like Hydra, Spetses or Poros). These are all lovely places and perfect locations for a daytrip from Athens.
10. Santorini or Mykonos ?
This is a dilemma that any people have.
They are both amazing islands but:
Mykonos is quite a party island with very nice and long sandy beaches (no sandy beaches in Santorini unfortunately).
It’s been a celebrities holiday place since the 60’s and some of the best summer clubs and bars of Europe are there. It is a very beautiful place indeed and it can also be a family and relaxing place.
You don’t have to go the parties and the clubs.
Think of Mykonos like the “Ibiza of Greece” even though there are some quiet areas on the island to be honest.
Santorini is a completely different place. A more romantic one. A more relaxing one.
It’s a place where you will drink amazing wine but you won’t necessarily get drunk!
However, there is still some serious nightlife in Santorini as well.
You can also read my detailed comparison: Mykonos or Santorini
Read Also: How To Get From Santorini to Mykonos
So, to sum it up:
- If you only have 3-4 days for greek islands then spend all of them in Santorini
- If it’s your first time in Greece then try to visit both but give priority to Santorini as the landscape is unique
- If you want golden sand beaches then Mykonos has much better beaches than Santorini
- If you want proper clubbing and nightlife then Mykonos is much better than Santorini (though Santorini’s nightlife is really good too)
- If you want to be closer to Athens then Mykonos is closer to Athens
- If you want to be surrounded by world class celebrities then Mykonos is your place
- If you are interested in shopping then Mykonos is better
- If you want to have more options in restaurants then Mykonos is better
- If you only care about adventurous things to do then Santorini is your place
- If you are interested in amazing wine and wineries then Santorini is your place
- If you want a more romantic place then Santorini is your ideal destination
11. Best Greek Islands Near Santorini
With all those international direct flights to Santorini , you can certainly use the island for some greek island hopping!
There are many greek islands you can visit from Santorini but not all are connected with a ferry boat or a flight, so you have to limit your options.
Read Also: Best Greek Islands to Visit from Santorini
These are the greek islands you can visit from Santorini:
- Anafi (the only one that a daytrip is possible)
- Ios (2hrs ferry from Santorini)
- Naxos (3 hrs ferry from Santorini)
- Mykonos (2 hrs ferry from Santorini)
- Folegandros (1 hr ferry from Santorini)
- Milos (2 hrs ferry from Santorini)
- Paros (2 hrs ferry from Santorini)
Unfortunately, IT IS NOT ADVISABLE to visit the following islands from Santorini:
- Crete (it is a very big island and you need at least a week and a car to go around)
- Corfu (it’s on the other side of Greece and you need to go through Athens and then take another flight)
- Zakynthos/Zante (same as Corfu)
- Rhodes (again, very far away and a pretty big island where you need to spend at least a week)
Unfortunately the only way to visit other greek islands from Santorini (apart from a flight that runs only in the summer months between Santorini-Mykonos and not every day) is to take a ferry boat.
The best way to plan your greek island hopping is to check the ferry timetables online and then plan ahead (it is also advisable to book the tickets online before you arrive in Santorini because they sell out in the hot summer season May-September):
- Best Website to Book Ferry Boat tickets between greek islands: Let’s Ferry
12. Best Sunset Views in Santorini
Santorini’s sunset are famous all over the world.
The Best Sunset Views are at the following locations which overlook the caldera as well and if that is your priority then you should definitely stay at one of them:
You should always have in mind that these areas are also the most expensive in terms of accommodation and restaurants (for a good reason…).
But if you just want to view the most amazing sunsets then there are a few other spots with equally amazing views (with Google Maps links to find them):
- Franco’s Cafe Pyrgos
- Katharos Lounge
- Prophet Ilias Mountain
- Famous heart shaped rock
- Tranquilo Beach Bar
- Kamari Beach
13. How To Rent A Quad for Santorini ?
Driving a quad in Santorini is an extremely fun thing to do and it will definitely give you more flexibility than taking the local Santorini bus.
But you have to be aware that it is not the safest thing to drive.
You have to be extremely careful with driving an ATV (or quad as they called) especially during the summer months in Santorini where the island is super crowded.
The Best Website to rent a quad in Santorini is : Bikesbooking
14. Money in Santorini. Do I Need Cash ?
There is no shortage of ATM cash machines where your VISA and Mastercard can be accepted to withdraw money.
You should always contact your bank to find out what the charges will be.
VERY IMPORTANT TO KNOW: 90% of the times your credit or debit card will be accepted at the business you are paying but cash is always the best way to pay in Greece and in Santorini. You should always have some cash with you while in Santorini
The BEST THING you can do (that I have recently discovered) for travel money is to set up an account with Transferwise and just use their Mastercard.
Transferwise is used all over the world by millions of people and they have by far the best exchange rates than any bank.
So , these are the things you should know about your money in Santorini:
- There are hundreds of ATMs cash machines on Santorini and you won’t have any issues withdrawing money (euros in particular); there is a daily limit though on how much you can withdraw from a cash machine
- Check with your bank what will the charges be for travel money (or check solutions like Transferwise or Revolut cards which are super reliable and easy to use)
- You should always have some cash with you as some businesses may have “broken card machines”…
- Card machines in Santorini (and in Greece) are chip and pin (not swipe)
- American Express is not widely used and you may have issues paying with it (that applies everywhere in Europe!)
15. Can I move around with the local buses in Santorini?
The local buses in Santorini are really good and it is definitely the cheapest way to move around in Santorini.
There are buses that run throughout the island and depending on where you go the ticket costs from 1.80 euros to 2.80 euros (always pay with cash – no cards accepted on the buses !) .
The central bus station of Santorini is at Fira and it is here on Google Maps.
Read Also: How To Get Around in Santorini
Here is how long it takes for the local bus to get around the island:
16. How To Rent A Car in Santorini ?
Renting a car in Santorini will give you the flexibility to explore the island at your own pace and it is also a much safer option than a quad.
It is the advice I alwys give to people visitin ghte island for more than 2-3 days.
The best website to book a car for Santorini is Rentalcars.com as it has all the available options and almost all of the rental companeis in Santorini now operate through that. It is safe and super reliable.
Here are a few things to be aware for driving in Santorini:
- Best Website to rent a car in Santorini : Rentalcars.com
- Driving in Santorini is on the right side of the road (like USA)
- You need an international driver’s license for Santorini and for Greece. If you have an EU license you don’t need an international license as an EU license is accepted everywhere in EU.
- Renting a car could cost you about 40-50 euros per day during the high season (a quad might also cost you around 30-40 euros…)
- Driving in Santorini can be tricky for some people who are not used to narrow roads but in general you shouldn’t worry about it too much
- Parking is an issue on the island (especially in the very touristic areas like Oia and Fira where you could park far away from where you are actually going…)
- DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE! That applies to the wineasting you might do while in Santorini. Better take the taxi or the local bus to go back home…(there are lots of police patrols all over the island too)
17. What Are The Best Sunset Cruises in Santorini?
A sunset cruise or a volcano cruise is easily one of the best things you can do on Santorini.
I always advise people to do a half day cruise as the experience is amazing.
Depending on which one you choose, you may get delicious seafood on board, you may get some tour guiding, you may hop off the active volcano (make sure you bring some trekking shoes and you may also swim at the hot volcanic springs!
It’s always also advisable to book well in advance online as this guarantees you will get a ticket (especially during the summer months of June-September)
These are the Best Sunset and Volcano Cruises you can book:
- 5-hr Catamaran Cruise
- Santorini Red Catamaran Cruise with Drinks and Meals
- 1-Day Volcano and Sunset Cruise
- Small Group Catamaran Cruise (morning or sunset)
18. What Are The Best Things To Do in Santorini?
The best thing about Santorini is that it offers lots of things to do compared to Mykonos for example or other greek islands.
Read Also the Complete Guide: 31 Unique Things To Do in Santorini
In a nutshell the Best Things you can do in Santorini are:
- Visit Oia (and watch the famous sunset; you won’t be alone though…)
- Take a Wine Tour (like this one)
- Take a Sunset or Volcano Cruise (like this one)
- Hike from Fira to Oia
- Swim at one the best beaches of Santorini
- Watch a movie under the stars at Kamari Open Air Cinema (Google Maps)
- Visit the Archaeological Prehistoric Ruins of Akrotiri (Google Maps)
- Explore the nightlife of Santorini
- Eat at the following restaurants: Mezzo (for the views), Metaksy Mas (for the food), Avocado (for the food) , Aroma Avlis (for the winery), Erotokritos (for the bakery-not an actual restaurant!), Katina (for the fresh fish)
- Wander the streets of Fira for endless shopping
- Visit Ammoudi bay
- Go on a greek cooking class and wine tour
19. What Are The Best Wineries and Wine Tours in Santorini?
Wine tasting and a guided wine tour is one of the best things you can do while on Santorini.
These are the best wine tours of the island:
- Santorini Half-Day Wine Adventure Tour
- Santorini 4-hour Sunset Wine Tour
- Santorini Cooking Class and Wine Tour
Though taking a guided tour is highly advisable, as you won’t be wasting much time on searching for all the info and the directions and you will actually be visiting more than one winery without having to drive (driving and drinking wine is also not advisable…), you can certainly visit the best wineries of Santorini by yourself.
Read Also Our Detailed Guide: Best Wineries of Santorini
The best wineries of Santorini (with google maps links) are:
- Santowines Winery (if you only have time for one winery then make it this one)
- Venetsanos Winery (the 2nd best choice)
- Estate Argyros Winery
- Domaine Sigalas
- Koutsoyannopoulos Winery and Wine Museum
- Gavalas Winery
- Boutari Winery
- Art Space Winery
- Hadjidakis Winery
- Artemis Karmolegkos Winery
- Canava Roussos
- Gaia Winery
- Vassaltis Winery
20. Shopping in Santorini. Any good?
If you want to shop…then Fira town is the place to be.
There are hundreds of souvenir shops, art galleries and traditional greek products shops at Fira.
Oia also has a selection of some very interesting art and handcraft shops as well.
It also has this amazing bookstore.
In terms of grocery stores and supermarkets you will find big ones outside of the towns (in Fira mainly) and smaller ones inside the towns.
21. Is Santorini family and kids friendly? Is it Safe?
Santorini (and Greece) are extremely kids and family friendly.
The best thing a kid can do in Santorini is to play at the beach but you have to be careful as the high temperatures of the greek summer need extra skin protection.
Also, the black sand beaches of Perissa and Kamari can get very hot during mid-day and that requires shoes or flip flops to be worn all the time!
Some of the most exclusive hotels in Santorini , clearly state that they won’t accept kids but it is always impoertant to check that in advance with your hotel if it’s not clear.
You can certainly stay at Firostefani or Fira and Oia but I truly believe a kid would have much more fun if she is closer to the beach.
The Best Family Hotels in Santorini are:
In regards to how safe Santorini is , there is little to almost zero crime in general but you should always be careful wherever you travel in the world. Common sense applies to everything and everywhere.
So, there you have them. A trip to Santorini can be one of the most amazing experiences in your life so you really need to get well prepared as it can also be costly. It’s extremely easy to book your flights, your ferries, your accomodation and even the things you want to do on the island way in advance. It is highly advisable to book everything before you arrive on the island as Santorini is in high demand the last 20 years and it will keep on being like this for ever. Hopefully my tips above will help you plan your trip much better, but if you feel you are still in a limbo then make sure you visit our extremely helpful closed Facebook Group and many people who have visited the island in the past would be able to help you!
MORE TIPS FOR GREECE: