Discover the 10 BEST things to do in Santorini, Greece. I'll show you what NOT TO MISS!
Planning a trip to Greece? Be sure to include Santorini on your itinerary…one of the most scenic islands you will ever visit. Did you know that Santorini is actually a volcano that imploded on itself and then filled with water? The caldera, flooded volcano crater, offers unforgettable views.
The white-washed villages of Santorini seem to be built right on top of each other, climbing up the steep walls of the caldera...one thousand feet above sea level. Combine that with bright blue rooftops and turquoise waters and you’ve got yourself one unforgettable scene almost too beautiful to be real.
Taking in the views is worth the trip alone, but Santorini offers much more than that!
Many people view Santorini as a romantic getaway for honeymooners or 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.
From wine tours, ancient villages, archeological sites dating from the times of Moses, and catamaran sailings, the number of attractions in Santorini will keep visitors busy for days on end.
Whether you're 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.
1. Catamaran Cruise
The santorini activity to splurge on
Sailing around the island is hands down one of the most popular things to do in Santorini, Greece. Gaze up at the white-washed villages from below, enjoy a traditional Greek meal, swim in the turquoise waters, stop by the "hot" springs, and visit the red and white beaches. This is sure to be one of your most memorable days in Santorini.
We booked a small group sunset tour. I strongly recommend the sunset option over the afternoon cruise. Watching the sunset from the water without the crowds was really special.
It was 130 euros per person, which is normally over our budget for activities. I can say with confidence it was well worth it.
When researching companies, make sure to look at the maximum number of people. We saw some catamarans that were packed with thirty or more people. We had a small group of twelve, though I think our specific tour had a maximum of eighteen.
The tour was seemless start to finish. We were picked up by our hotel, provided a full Greek meal with unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic refreshments, and dropped back off by our hotel.
If you splurge on one activity while in Santorini, this should be it.
Additional sunset cruise options!
2. Get lost in Fira and Oia
One of the best things to do in Santorini for photographers and wanderers
Grab your camera and get lost in the villages of Fira (aka Thera) 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.
Discover the quiet back streets, hidden cafes, and charming shops. If you love to wander as much as I do, continue past Fira and explore Firostefani and Imerovigli.
*Oia is THE spot to watch sunset. Scout out where you want to return for sunset and pin those locations on Google maps.
*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 from Fira to Oia
One of the best things to do in Santorini for insane views
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 six miles and will take anywhere from two to five hours depending on how fast you walk and how many photos you take. The trail is pretty straightforward as you're 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 to myself.
Lose yourself in the twists and turns of the narrow, car-free, streets. Climb up to see the Pyrgos Kasteli, one of the five (and most preserved) Venetian castles on the island.
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.
Visiting Pyrgos was one of my favorite experiences in Santorini. I felt like I found a hidden gem. This village easily makes the list 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 that 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. Continue along the path bordering the water. After about 5 to 10 minutes of walking, you'll come to a rocky bay just across from a tiny island with a chapel on it (Saint Nicholas).
You’ll know you've arrived because it's a popular spot and usually crowded. If the water is calm, swim out to the island. There's a stone ledge to jump from and have an exhilarating splash into the sea. Even if you aren’t a daredevil, it’s still a pretty place to sit and watch others make the leap.
6. Akrotiri Archeological Site
Akrotiri is one of the top things to do in Santorini for history buffs
One of the largest volcanic events in recorded history took place on the island of Santorini in 1630 B.C. There are several layers of ash showing multiple stages of the eruption. The first layer shows that the inhabitants of Santorini had several month's notice to evacuate before the final, deadly eruption.
Many historians and archeologists claim there's a significant connection between the eruption of Santorini and the ten plagues of Egypt. The explosion produced billions of tons of ash. Enough to blackout the sun, spew ash across Asia, poison 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 Akrotiri 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.
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 on a separate day so I could go before sunset. Once you reach Imerovigli, go to the Chapel of Agios Georgios. You can easily see the stairs that will guide you to the base of Skaros Rock from the chapel. 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 to get 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, but several wineries also offer stunning backdrops for tastings. You can rent a car and do your own wine tour or join a small group tour like this one.
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 of Thera, 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 to Oia and offers a wonderful wine experience.
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're in Oia.
10. Kamari Open Air Cinema
Watching a movie under the stars in Santorini? Yes please! 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 pm to ensure you have a good seat and are settled with your snacks and drinks by the 9:30 pm showtime. You'll either have to drive or take the public bus (Fira to Kamari route).
I hope this post of the 10 BEST things to do in Santorini, Greece helps plan your upcoming vacation. If you want to do everything on this list, you'll need at least four days in Santorini. If you're short on time, I would start with the catamaran tour, hike, and wandering around Oia and Fira, and then add in whatever else you can while still having time to slow down and savor the views.
Santorini Hotel Recommendations:
*some of these hotels are adults-only*
Budget (under $300 and not in Oia)