no alt text

Best things to do & places to stay:

Last updated: 07 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: John Malathronas

Some 2,600 years ago, a volcanic eruption turned this island upside down and created the stage for one of the most dramatic Greek island destinations.

The cliffs of Santorini’s semi-circular volcanic rim are frosted with sugar-cube villages, and boutique hotels are carved out of the cliff face, a giddying 300m drop to the sea. Dubbed the ‘black pearl of the Aegean’ because of its black sand beaches, the island’s volcanic soil also produces superb wines.

Its stark mystique and spectacular sunsets have long made it the ultimate setting for seduction.

Orientation

Santorini lies in the southern Cyclades. The action is centred in the capital Fira, all gold shops and overpriced cafés catering to day-trippers from the frequent cruise ships.

Five-star hotels and gourmet restaurants are lined up along the caldera, the flooded volcanic crater that created the island’s vertiginous cliffs.

Firostefani, Imerovigli and Oia are the most spectacular settlements on the caldera. Inland, a few more rustic villages, such as Megalochori and Pyrgos, have survived.

The bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination

Hike along Santorini’s caldera

Santorini, Greek Islands, Greece

Arguably the most memorable hike in the Aegean, this easy 6-mile trek on the rim of the Santorini caldera offers precipitous views and mesmerising landscapes.

Best for ages: 16+ | Free | 4-5 hours

Website >
Overview >

Sailing in Santorini

Santorini, Greek Islands, Greece

Santorini’s signature experience: sailing, swimming and lunching on luxury catamarans amid stunning volcanic scenery.

Best for ages: 6+ | £25 | 4 hours

Website >
Overview >

Sunset at Oia

Santorini, Greek Islands, Greece

Watch the sunset at Oia and marvel at the changing colours of the rocky cliffs as the sun dips below the horizon.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free | 1-2 hours

Website >
Overview >

Wine tasting in Santorini

Santorini, Greek Islands, Greece

Sample Santorini’s most famous export at source: the distinctive wines produced from the volcanic terroir.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free | 1+ hours

Website >
Overview >

Other worthwhile experiences in this destination if you have the time or the interest

Ruins of an ancient village, with earthenware pots. People stand behind railings and look at the ruins.
Experience

Ancient Akrotiri

Santorini, Greek Islands, Greece

A perfectly preserved ancient Minoan settlement, buried beneath volcanic ash 3,500 years ago. It offers a unique insight into an ancient civilisation, which some speculate could be the lost city of Atlantis.

Best for ages: 18+ | £10

Website >
Overview >
The bright warm orange and blue painted exterior of Atlantis bookshop, with books on display
Experience

Atlantis bookshop

Santorini, Greek Islands, Greece

Antiquarian bookshop in Oia with many rare first editions some on sale for over £1,000, attracting clients from all over the world. Just walking through the doors feels like visiting a museum of books.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

Website >
Overview >
Black sand beach of Kamari seen from above, with dark blue water
Experience

Kamari Beach

Santorini, Greek Islands, Greece

The black beaches of Santorini’s east coast, made up of volcanic gravel, are one of the island’s big attractions and Kamari is a resort for those who want the full sun, sea, and sand summer experience.

Best for ages: Any | Free

Website >
Overview >
Entrance alley of red and white Wine museum and vinery buildings
Experience

Koutsoyannopoulos Wine Museum

Santorini, Greek Islands, Greece

This small but interesting museum outside Kamari offers great insights regarding Santorini’s unique viniculture: and 400 years if wine-making history. You can sample the winery’s offerings, too. Here the vines are twisted into crown-shaped baskets so the grapes are protected from harsh winter winds.

Best for ages: 18+ | £12

Website >
Overview >

Our selection of the best Viator tours of this destination, plus helpful tickets and transfers

Explore Santorini with a local - 4 Hours Private Tour

Explore Santorini with a local - 4 Hours Private Tour

Santorini

Locals always have the privilege of knowing "secret" places, the fastest way to get somewhere, best tricks on how to spend your ti...

€137 | Rating 4.89 / 5 [87 ratings]

Website >

Tour supplied by:

Viator Logo
Full Day Santorini Highlights and Venetian Castles Small Group Tour

Full Day Santorini Highlights and Venetian Castles Small Group Tour

Santorini

Experience the beauty of Santorini by joining us on a full day Santorini tour that is off the beaten path. Learn about ancient and medieval ...

€80 | Rating 4.87 / 5 [157 ratings]

Website >

Tour supplied by:

Viator Logo
Half or Full Day Private Custom Santorini Island Tour

Half or Full Day Private Custom Santorini Island Tour

Santorini

See the best of Santorini, from its historic villages to its volcanic beaches, on this private driving tour of the island. A proposed itiner...

€200 | Rating 4.97 / 5 [199 ratings]

Website >

Tour supplied by:

Viator Logo
Half-Day Exclusive Catamaran Cruise in Santorini with Meal and Open Bar

Half-Day Exclusive Catamaran Cruise in Santorini with Meal and Open Bar

Santorini

Sail … the dream on a luxurious catamaran and unlock your senses. Cruise around the Caldera of Santorini. Feel the healing waters and mystic...

€110 | Rating 4.85 / 5 [538 ratings]

Website >

Tour supplied by:

Viator Logo

Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay in this destination

Chez Sophie

Santorini, Greek Islands, Greece

Welcoming, tranquil, family-run boutique hotel, close to all amenities and only one block away from Santorini’s famed black beach at Kamari. 

Official star rating:

Avaton Resort and Spa

Santorini, Greek Islands, Greece

The adults-only Avaton Resort boasts an excellent spa and caldera views, and is one of the island’s more ‘affordable’ luxury hotels.

Official star rating:

Avant Garde Suites

Santorini, Greek Islands, Greece

Stylish quirky and secluded, Avant Garde is a stunning design hotel, with an unusual location that results in an alternative sunset panorama.

Official star rating:

Majestic Hotel Santorini

Santorini, Greek Islands, Greece

A perfectly-located, luxury hotel for drivers who don’t want to get clogged within the permanent traffic jam of Fira, yet still a hop skip and jump from Santorini’s effervescent capital.

Official star rating:

When to go

Little Santorini swarms with tourists in July and August – avoid if you can.

Greek Easter (usually in April) is a wonderful time to experience the spring bloom and local traditions, but it’s too chilly for swimming.

May, June, September and early October are the best times to go; the weather is reliably hot, the beaches, restaurants and resorts are less crowded, and prices are lower.

Pretty much everything shuts down between November and March.

Getting there and away

The small airport (domestic and charter flights) is near Monolithos. There’s a regular bus service to Fira, where you can get connecting buses to other destinations. There’s often a long queue for taxis. Most hotels charge for port and airport transfers.

Ferries dock at the tiny, shabby port of Athinios. Cruise ships moor off the old port of Gialos, from where it’s a dizzying cable car or swaying donkey ride up the sheer hill to Fira.

Getting around

Local buses are infrequent and taxis are scarce and pricey; it’s better to hire a car or moped to explore the sights. Many tourists rent quad bikes, but they’re not the safest form of transport.

Where to stay

First-time guests usually choose to stay on the caldera – you pay a high premium for that stunning view, but it really is worth it. Imerovgli and Oia are the prettiest and most coveted places to stay here.

Crowded, noisy Fira is best avoided unless nightlife is a priority. Bars are few and far between on the rest of the island. Inland, Pyrgos and Megalochori offer a taste of more traditional island life.