There is a reason that Santorini is one of Greece’s most popular destinations. Located in the island group called the Cyclades in the Aegean Sea, the volcanic island of Santorini is the perfect place to enjoy stunning sunsets, different colored beaches, and the famed blue-domed churches. If a trip to this beautiful island is on your bucket list, these are the best things to do in Santorini, Greece.
Top Things to do in Santorini
Of all the Greek islands, Santorini has to be our favorite. Whether you want to have a romantic trip, or just chill in some of the most amazing accommodations on the Aegean Sea, Santorini will fulfill any dreams you have. We suggest spending more than just one short day in Santorini. Instead, book a luxury cave hotel suite with a beautiful infinity pool overlooking the most incredible views you’ll ever witness. If you follow our Santorini guide you too will fall in love with this magical island.
1. Watch the Sunset in Oia
This is at the top of everyone’s must-see when you are in Santorini and for good reason. We loved it! On the whole island, Oia is the best place to catch the sunset. If you decide to stay in Oia, we suggest the Andronis Luxury Suites hotel with an infinity pool and breathtaking views. TripAdvisor / Booking.com
There is just something about the perfect blend of the iconic blue domes, whitewashed buildings, and golden sunset that takes your breath away. Because it is so popular it is also incredibly crowded so don’t expect to have this place all to yourself. In our opinion, it is worth fighting the crowds for the views at least one of your nights on the island.
If you want that classic shot then we suggest heading to the main spot near Oia Castle. This has the famous view with the windmills in the foreground contrasted against the beautiful sunset. If you are looking for a less crowded spot with amazing views we suggest heading over to the Blue Domes for sunset. We found it more peaceful (as peaceful as you can in Oia), as well as more picturesque.
The 3 blue domes in the foreground make for a beautiful scene, and if you walk around the immediate area there are other excellent vantage points like the 3 bells that will give you even more incredible views. Regardless of where you go this is definitely something you have to do when you visit Santorini.
For more information on how to get there and other great photo spots in Santorini check out our post A Photography Guide to Santorini.
If you want some guided help to find the perfect locations we recommend taking Santorini Photography Tour. You can customize your guided tour to choose the places you want to capture the best photographs of.
Or enjoy a sunset wine tour of Santorini where you can learn about Santorini wine followed by a glass while you take in spectacular views.
2. Take a Sunset Caldera Cruise
You cannot truly appreciate the beauty of Santorini until you witness it from the sea. The massive sea cliffs are mesmerizing. Plus on a boat tour, you can go snorkeling, visit some of the lesser-visited beaches, and have a swim in the hot springs. Our tour included a seafood buffet, sunset views, and a great crew.
There are several boat tours around Santorini and Get Your Guide has several you can book in advance with easy cancelation. We suggest a sunset cruise for some of the best caldera views. We took this highly rated 3 pm departure Catamaran Tour to be able to watch the sunset from our boat and check out the hot springs. There is a reason this is one of the top attractions in Santorini.
3. Go Wine Tasting
Santorini has a surprising number of wineries for one single island. A wine tour is one of the more popular things to do in Santorini and is an excellent way to explore more of the island while soaking in the culture. We recommend jumping on a sunset wine tour with 8 tastings at two different Santorini wineries before watching the sunset over the caldera in Oia. Santo Wines are the most popular but we preferred the Venetsanos Winery which you visit on the above tour.
4. Hike from Fira to Oia
You simply cannot visit Santorini and not do this hiking trail. We actually walked from Imerovigli to Oia since we were staying at the time in Imerovigli but one of the amazing things to do in Santorini is to hike from Fira to Oia. You’ll have the chance to go through the villages Imerovigli and Firostefani taking in the gorgeous views of the caldera from all directions. It’s such a fun way to take in the different villages and all the different views of the volcano.
If you decide to stay in Fira, we recommend Villa Renos Hotel in the heart of Fira with private hot tubs and panoramic views of the Aegean Sea and the volcano. See prices and availability on TripAdvisor / Booking.
The hike itself is about 9.5 km and will take you 4 to 5 hours depending on how much you stop. It is a mix of up and down but the majority of it is paved so it is not too difficult. Our recommendation is to walk from Fira to Oia so that the views are in front of you instead of behind you. When you are finished you can grab a bite to eat in Oia, hang out for the sunset and then head back to your hotel.
5. Get Lost in Oia
We spent a lot of our time exploring Oia. Even if you are not staying in Oia it is worth spending a day here to experience the side streets and hidden alleyways of cobblestone, go shopping and hop from cafe to cafe for some amazing food.
You’ll find most of the more famous views of Santorini in Oia, but when you step off the beaten path, you’ll find several different views of the Caldera. Oia is where you’ll find the windmills, the iconic blue-domed churches, and many other photo opportunities.
6. Visit the Perissa Black Sand Beach
Black Beach is the most popular sunbathing spot on Santorini island. The black sand Perissa beach is the perfect place to spend the day. Lined with cafes, beach bars, and restaurants it is the ideal place to escape the hectic and often crowded city of Oia. We suggest spending a couple of days here rather than simply taking a day trip. We actually stayed in the area so that we could get some optimal beach time in. We highly suggested spending a couple of nights in this part of Santorini.
Kamari Beach is another black sand beach that is just north of Perissa beach. Unfortunately, you will have to navigate to the other side of the rocky outcrop that separates them. At Kamari Beach, you will also find great dining options and cafes. Whether you choose Perissa beach or Kamari beach you won’t be disappointed.
Suggested Hotel near the beaches – Suites of the Gods in Megalochori
7. Hike to the Red Beach
The Red Sand Beach in Santorini is located next to the ancient site of Akrotiri. This is a popular stop for day cruises and sailing cruises, but it is nice to visit early in the day when the crowds are low. Using our car rental, we drove to the parking lot, packed a picnic, and spent the morning on Red Beach taking in the gorgeous views.
If you do plan to head to this beach when you visit Santorini, be aware that there have been falling rocks from the cliff itself so be careful.
8. Visit White Beach
Literally just around the corner from the Red Beach is White Beach. It gets its name from the surrounding white cliffs that are quite a contrast to the red ones just beside it. What we found interesting is that the sand here is actually black. I guess that is because we are on a volcanic island. So don’t make the journey out there expecting to find powder white sand.
The best way to get to White Beach is by boat. We parked at the Red Beach lot and took a water taxi to get there. If you are not into that you can admire it from a boat tour should you choose to do one.
9. Visit the Museums of Thera
If you like museums and want to learn a bit about Santorini’s history then there are two that you don’t want to miss. There is the Museum of Prehistoric Thera where you can see the finds from the excavations of Akrotiri. This archaeological site dates back to the Bronze Age. In 1600 BC, it was destroyed by a huge volcanic eruption that covered it is ash. The volcanic eruption helped to preserve its remains which were discovered in 1967. The most notable find? Fossilized olive tree leaves from within the caldera.
There is also the Archaeological Museum of Thera which is located in the town of Fira. This particular museum features collections from all the different sites around Santorini. If you are on a family trip this is a great way to spend a few hours learning about the history of this greek island.
10. Gaze over the Three Bells of Fira
One of the most popular things to do in Santorini is to go see the 3 bells of Fira. Next to the Blue Domes of Oia, the Three Bells of Fira are the most photographed site on Santorini.
How to find the Three Bells of Fira on Santorini
To find these bells, go to Fira and search for the restaurant Mama Thira. From there, walk up to the top of the cliff to a parking lot. When you look over the parking lot, you will see these bells. You can also drive to the parking lot and simply park there to overlook the Three Bells. But part of the charm of exploring Santorini is walking through the narrow passageways.
11. Go to Amoudi Bay
Be sure to walk down the path to the beach of Oia. 300 steps down is a completely different atmosphere to Amoudi Bay. The small village has several tavernas and there is a popular beach. If you want a little adrenaline in Oia, you can do some cliff jumping too!
12. Explore Ancient Thera
Situated on the high cliffs that separate Kamari and Perissa beaches, Ancient Thera is a sight not to be missed. The ruins here are well preserved because of the ash from the volcanic eruption and the views are spectacular. It may not be the highest point on the island, but you can see almost 360 degrees.
There are a couple of ways to reach Ancient Thera. You can hike up from either Perissa or Kamari, both will take you about an hour and can be strenuous depending on your fitness level. the other way is to take the winding road from Kamari and drive up. This is a harrowing drive however is probably best done on an ATV rather than in a rental car.
13. Get off the Beaten Path in Pyrgos
Pyrgos is definitely the quietest town we visited in Santorini. Located in the foothills of Mount Profitis Ilias this small town was originally the capital of Santorini. This medieval settlement is a hidden gem in Santorini and definitely worth a visit. We got lost wandering its back streets and loved spending time here. It is different than the bustling towns of Fira and Oia and offers a tranquil yet local experience that is lacking in other parts of the island. We barely saw another tourist while exploring Pygros and we even came across some blue domes of its own.
While in Pyrgos, we do recommend heading up to the highest point on the island, the Profitis Ilia Monastery. You can hike up here from the village or drive up. Whichever way you choose you won’t be disappointed by the panoramic views on display from the highest point in Santorini.
14. Explore the Ancient Ruins of Akrotiri
Greece is known for its ancient ruins and Santorini is no exception. The ruins of Akrotiri date back to the Bronz Age (3000 – 1200 BC). Because it was buried by the ash of a volcanic eruption, the antiquities and frescoes are quite well preserved. While this is a popular tourist attraction, visiting the town of Akrotiri is also a must. Not a lot of people spend time in the village so it has a nice small village feel.
15. Visit the Akrotiri Lighthouse
Located on the southern tip of Santorini, the Akrotiri Lighthouse offers yet another amazing view of the island. This is a perfect alternative to Oia for the sunset and is easily reached by car or ATV. You won’t be fighting any crowds here and if you are on a romantic vacation then grabbing a bottle of wine and some food is the perfect way to enjoy this viewpoint.
Don’t expect too much from the lighthouse itself, it is the breathtaking views and quiet that you are visiting the Akrotiri Lighthouse for after all.
16. Ride the Santorini Cable Car
If you are visiting Santorini for just a few hours on a cruise, a fast way to get up to Fira Town is to take the cable car so you can appreciate more of the island. It was designed to bring 1200 people per hour up from the Fira port. A portion of the ticket sales goes to the mule drivers to help them continue to thrive.
17. Enjoy a Greek Cooking Class
Learning to cook Greek food was one of the best things we ever did. We take a lot of cooking classes whenever we travel and Greek food is the best! When you learn how to make iconic food in the destination, it makes for a special experience when you come home to relive your Santorini vacation. So take a cooking class in Santorini that includes wine tasting at two wineries and a chance to sample your hard work at the end!
18. Stay In A Cave Hotel
Part of the attraction of Santorini is experiencing the luxury and elegance of the white cave hotels. When you get out of the taxi and walk up to the caldera for the first time, the view literally takes your breath away.
I honestly gasped at Santorini’s beauty when seeing it for the first time. If there is one time to splurge on a hotel in your life, this is the time to do it. We stayed in three different luxury hotels in Santorini and each one made the trip even more special. Each one had its own private terrace as well as a hot tub.
Best Hotels in Santorini, Greece
19. Look out from Infinity Pools
You will be able to bask in the sun by the infinity pool and have the most spectacular meal in peace and quiet. No matter how busy the streets of Santorini get or how packed they are with cruisers and tourists, you’ll have a quiet sanctuary in your cave hotel. Suggested Oia Hotel with Infinity Pool View: Andronis Luxury Cave Hotel in Oia
20. Dine with a View of Santorini
There are numerous restaurants in Oia serving delicious Greek cuisine. Some of the best restaurants are inland along one of the many cobblestone streets, but nothing says romance like toast over one of the most magnificent views in the world.
- Suggested restaurants: See Trip Advisor Reviews for Oia Restaurants.
- Lauda Restaurant
21. Have a Fish Pedicure
It may not be one of the typical things to do in Santorini, but after all that walking, a fish spa is just what your feet require. We always wanted to do a fish spa but wondered just how clean they’d be in places like Thailand or Cambodia. So when exploring Oia we saw a fish spa and said “let’s do it!” It is one of the most unique spas you’ll ever have.
22. Go Shopping in Fira
Fira is by far the busiest of towns in Santorini with cruise ships coming in here at the port and passengers taking the gondola or doing donkey rides up from the water. While there is lots of shopping in Oia as well, Fira is the place to find your Santorini souvenirs.
If you are looking for nightlife in Santorini then Fira is where you will find plenty of night clubs, bars, and restaurants.
Best Hotels in Fira
23. Hike out to Skaros Rock
Skaros Rock was a former fortress and prominent headland that is visible from most of the caldera side hotels. Located at the tip of Imerovigli you will pass right by it if you are hiking from Fira to Oia. The hike out to Skaros Rock is about 30 minutes and well worth it. One of the things we loved from this vantage point is that you can see the North and south ends of the island as well as the Caldera.
The hike itself starts at the top of the winding staircase just below the Grace Hotel in Imerovigli. It is a fairly easy path to follow (although there are no real signs) and only becomes a bit challenging at the very end.
24. Watch a Movie in the Open Air Cinema
If you are looking for something unique to do in Santorini there is an open-air cinema in Kamari village. When traveling, we miss going to the movies, so it is nice to have a night out. Plus, you can enjoy a movie with a glass of wine and popcorn! Kamari is one of the most visited beaches in Santorini and there are plenty of places to stay nearby.
25. Rent a Car to See the Island
There are many villages to see on Santorini and the best way to really explore the island is to rent a car. We got a steal in the offseason on a small budget car and set out each day to explore somewhere new. Renting a car in Santorini is an excellent way to find secluded beaches, quiet restaurants, and hidden markets.
Where to Stay in Santorini
Santorini has no shortage of hotels, these are a few of the best hotels in Santorini to help get you started. We suggest staying at least 2 nights in Oia and then you can mix up your stay with two nights in the beaches and a night or two in Fira or Imerovigli. Check out our hotels in Santorini’s suggestions below.
Oia – Santorini
This was our favorite spot to stay in Santorini. It is the most popular village on Santorini with the most iconic views. But it is busy and expensive.
Andronis Luxury Suites – Andronis Luxury Suites are located in Oia and have one of the best views in Santorini. With beautiful rooms and a stunning infinity pool, this is luxury at its finest. Check out Availability & Prices on TripAdvisor / Booking
Hotel Villa Renos Fira – Villa Renos is an affordable option. Located in Fira it has great views and a breakfast to die for. The rooms are not as luxurious but the staff is the most friendly in Santorini. Check out Availability & Prices at TripAdvisor / Booking.com
Imerovigli – Santorini
This is a beautiful location that is much quieter than Oia and Fira. You can still stay in cave hotels and luxury hotels with infinity pools. It is along the walk between Fira and Oia.
If you want to spend time at the beaches, Perissa is located right at the Black Beach. We found it to be out of the way for anything else, but while we enjoyed the beach life, it was great. We stayed in a beautiful cave hotel here with our own private swimming pool and kitchen and it was a wonderful place to relax and have a simple romantic vacation.
Getting around Santorini
If you don’t want to rent a car, Santorini has a surprisingly excellent transportation system. You can take the local bus from the airport to Fira. Buses also run between Oia, Imerovigli, Perissa, Kamari, and Akrotiri.
How to get to Santorini, Greece
We flew from Santorini to Athens. It was quick and easy and by purchasing our flight and hotel together we saved big. There are flights daily from Athens and Ferries daily from Athens year-round.
We left Santorini by ferry direct to Crete. Ferry’s depart and arrive daily from the old port and we grabbed a ferry to Crete to continue exploring the Greek Islands. The best way to research ferries to Santorini is at The Ferry Hopper.
Day Trips to Other Greek Islands
Santorini is a great jumping-off point to visit some of the many greek islands in the area. Here is a list of some of our favorite Greek Islands that you can reach from Santorini.
The top thing to see in Santorini is its famous blue domes of Oia.
Santorini is famous for its whitewashed villages on high cliffs overlooking the caldera.
The luxury cave hotels of Santorini are expensive, but you can get good deals in the shoulder season (autumn and spring). There are also affordable hotels in Santorini to suit all budgets.
As you can tell we really loved our time in Santorini. If you are thinking of planning a trip to the island we hope that we have given you some ideas of the best things to do in Santorini. Tell us what your favorite things to do in Santorini are. I am sure we missed something.
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