Planning a trip to Greece? Be sure to include Santorini in your itinerary…one of the most scenic islands you will ever visit. Taking in the views is worth the trip alone, but Santorini offers much more than that! Don’t visit this island without discovering the best things to do in Santorini Greece. From wine tours, ancient villages, archeological sites dating from the times of Moses, and catamaran sailings, Santorini has enough to keep visitors busy for days on end!
Santorini is easily one of the most breathtaking places I have ever been. Did you know that Santorini is actually a volcano that imploded on itself and then filled with water? The caldera, the flooded volcano crater, offers unforgettable views. The white washed villages of Santorini seem to be built right on top of each other along the steep cliffs one thousand feet above sea level. Combine that with the bright blue rooftops and turquoise waters and you’ve got yourself one unforgettable scene almost too beautiful to be real.
Many people view Santorini as a romantic getaway for honeymooners and couples looking to do nothing but relax by the pool and enjoy the views. After spending 7 days in Santorini, 2 with Jake and 5 on my own, I can tell you Santorini offers more than a romantic vacation for two. This island is steeped in history, ancient sights, breathtaking walks and hikes, and so much more. Whether you are traveling as a couple, alone, or with a group, discover all that Santorini has to offer with my list of the 10 best things to do in Santorini Greece.
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10 BEST things to do in Santorini Greece
1. Catamaran Cruise
Hands down one of the best things to do in Santorini Greece. Taking a catamaran cruise around Santorini is one of the most memorable ways to see the island. Gazing up at the white washed villages from sea level makes you appreciate the skill of whoever built along these mind-blowing cliffs. Most catamaran cruises will also take you to several of the beaches, which are hard to reach by land, and the “hot” springs. You will also be given time to go swimming or snorkeling.
We booked with Santorini Sailings and chose the sunset tour. I definitely recommend the sunset option over the afternoon cruise. Watching the sunset from the water without all the crowds was really special. We paid cash to get a discount and it was 130 euros a person. This is normally way over our budget for activities, but it was well worth it. When else will we have the opportunity to sail around one of the most beautiful places in the world?
It was a small group of 12 people, they picked us up by our hotel, and provided a full Greek meal and unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic refreshments. If you splurge on one activity this should be it. There are companies that offer sailings around the island on bigger boats for a cheaper price. I found the smaller group and add-ons like the meal and hotel pick-up were worth the extra cost.
Here are other sunset cruise options!
2. Get lost in Fira and Oia
One of the best things to do in Santorini Greece is to get lost in the main villages of Fira and Oia. Don’t be afraid to wander off the main street where all the tourists stay put. You’ll quickly find these towns are small enough that you never really get lost. Find the quiet back streets, hidden cafes, and empty shops. If you love to wander as much as I do, continue past Fira and explore Firostefani and Imerovigli.
*Wandering aimlessly is even better with a gelato in hand. Luckily my favorite and easily the best gelato in Santorini can be found at both Fira and Oia. Solo Gelato is on par in quality and taste to the real stuff in Italy…and that’s saying something.
3. Hike Fira to Oia
One of the most popular and best things to do in Santorini Greece is completing the hike from Fira to Oia.
Get up early to avoid the sun and heat, bring plenty of water and a camera, and wear comfortable shoes to make the trek.
It’s about 6 miles and will take anywhere from 2 to 5 hours depending on how fast you walk and how many photos you take. The trail is pretty straight forward as you are walking along the cliff with the ocean to your left (or right if you start in Oia). There are usually others doing this popular hike, especially in the morning, which is reassuring for those that are directionally challenged.
Start at the square beside Hotel Atlantis in Fira. Here you will find the first of several red arrow signs pointing the direction of the hike. Keep following these signs all the way to Oia. If you somehow take a wrong turn just make your way back towards the ocean.
A visit to Pyrgos is one of the best things to do in Santorini Greece if you want to escape the crowds and see a side of the island that hasn’t been completely changed by tourism.
Pyrgos is a medieval village that was once the capital of Santorini. It’s blissfully quiet compared to the villages of Fira and Oia. When I explored this charming town I often had the streets, corners, and viewpoints all to myself.
Loose yourself in the twists and turns of the narrow, car free, streets. Climb up to see the Pyrgos Kasteli, one of the five Venetian castles on the island and the best preserved. Pyrgos not only offers a charming and quaint escape from one of the most crowded and touristed islands, but also has incredible panoramic views of the entire island. This was one of my favorite experiences in Santorini and I felt like I found a hidden gem. This village easily makes the list of one of the best things to do in Santorini Greece.
5. Ammoudi Bay
Walk down 300 steps from Oia and you will find yourself at Ammoudi Bay, the port of Oia. The steps are steep and slippery so wear shoes with some grip. There are several casual seafood tavernas lining the water. Go for dinner to get beautiful sunset views or for a relaxing lunch looking out onto the water. I was able to snag a spot so close to the water if my table was bumped one inch it would have toppled into the ocean. Talk about a memorable lunch view!
Ammoudi Bay offers a popular cliff jumping spot and should be on your list of Santorini things to do if you want a little adventure. Once you reach the bottom of the stairs, go left working your way through several restaurants and continue along the path bordering the water. After about 5 to 10 minutes of walking you will come to large flat rock that protrudes into the ocean. You’ll know you found the right spot because there will most likely be people hanging here. If the water is calm, swim out to the rock across from this area. There is a perfectly perched spot to have an exhilarating jump into the ocean. Even if you aren’t a dare devil, it’s still a pretty spot and fun to watch others make the leap.
6. Akrotiri Archeological Site
Akrotiri is one of the top things to do in Santorini for anyone with an interest in history.
Many historians and archeologists claim there is a significant connection between the explosion of Santorini and the 10 plagues of Egypt. The explosion produced billions of tons of ash, enough to black out the sun, spew ash across Asia poisoning water sources and crops, cause enough atmospheric disturbance to displace animals like frogs and locusts, and create tsunamis over 40 feet tall. Whether you believe the connection or not, one thing is certain. This explosion had devastating effects far and wide.
Akrotiri is an ancient city perfectly preserved because of the layers of volcanic ash. Much like Pompeii. Since the people had warning no human remains or items of value have been found in the dig site. So far only about one third of the city has been uncovered. The archeological site is easy to visit. It’s completely covered and has ramps built around the buildings so you can wander over and through the buildings and sidewalks. You can see vases that were left behind but most of the items recovered are located in Fira’s Museum of Prehistoric Thira.
I’m not usually one for archeological sites, but Akrotiri was well worth the visit. To walk through an ancient city over 3,500 years old is truly mind blowing and definitely one of the best things to do in Santorini Greece.
7. Skaros Rock
Skaros Rock is easy to find as it’s shaped like a giant mushroom and is located in the village of Imerovigli. You can add Skaros rock to your hike from Fira to Oia, but it will add about an hour to your hike. I preferred to do it a separate day so I could go before sunset. Once you reach Imerovigli there are stairs that will guide you down to the base fo Skaros Rock. Follow the trail as far as you wish. I continued around the rock and climbed up to find stunning views of the ocean.
I arrived about an hour before sunset. The lighting was gorgeous and it was incredibly calm and quiet. I would not recommend making the trek once it starts getting dark. After you walk down the steps leading to Skaros Rock it’s a dirt trail with loose rocks and not easily marked if you don’t have enough light. If you climb the rock you definitely need to see where to step as it’s steep and narrow in many areas. I used google maps to guide my way and it worked just fine.
If finding stellar views without the crowds is a priority this should be at the top of your list of things to do in Santorini Greece.
8. Winery Tour
Pretty much everything listed has involved a bit of walking. If you're wondering what to do in Santorini that doesn't involve a pair of sneakers, a wine tour should be on your radar. Not only does Santorini produce some of the more popular Greek wines, several wineries offer stunning backdrops for their tastings. You can rent a car and do you own wine tour or join a group tour. I personally would not feel comfortable driving around the island on my own with the narrow roads, so I recommend going with a tour...especially if you don't have a DD.
About 10 minutes south from Thira, or Fira, are several wineries with beautiful ocean views overlooking the Caldera. Santo is probably the most popular winery. I prefer Venetsanos Winery. It’s less crowded and has delicious food. Make reservations in advance. You can easily do both as they are a 15 minute walk or 5 minute drive apart.
Domaine Sigalas is closer Oia and offers a wonderful wine experience. Go all out and book the vineyard tour with a Greek lunch and tasting of 10 wines for 100 euros. The tour provides a full look into the history and traditions of Santorini wine.
Let someone do the planning for you and join a wine tour!
9. Atlantis Books
Often named one of the top 10 bookstores in the world, Atlantis Books is a must while you are in Oia.
10. Kamari Open Air Cinema
Watching a movie under the stars in Santorini is about as good a movie experience you’ll ever get. The movies are usually family friendly and you can expect titles like Mamma Mia and a number of Disney classics to be on the schedule. Arrive at Kamari Open Air Cinema before the doors open at 8:30 to ensure you have a good seat and are settled with your snacks and drinks by the 9:30 showtime. You will either have to drive here or take the public bus (Fira to Kamari route).
Love lists? See my other posts on TOP THINGS TO DO!
Have you visited Santorini? What do you think makes the list of the 10 BEST things to do in Santorini Greece?
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