Planning a trip to Greece and debating Mykonos vs. Santorini? I had the same dilemma when researching my first trip to Greece. Luckily, I was able to visit both Mykonos and Santorini. I'll take you through what each island has to offer and which might be best for you!
Greece is without a doubt a bucket list destination. It certainly offers the "wow" factor. Stunning views, incredible food, friendly locals, and jewel blue seas.
Greece caters to many types of travelers. Those looking for activities will have plenty to fill their days. Honeymooners and travelers looking to spend their time lounging and dining at the most romantic spots will not be disappointed.
When I was planning my first trip to Greece and unsure if I would have time to visit both islands, I was overwhelmed with deciding between Santorini or Mykonos. I was terrified of going all the way to Greece and choosing the wrong island.
In the end, I was actually able to visit both and spent five days at each. This really gave me an in-depth experience. Most people spend a day or two at each island on a rushed itinerary. Many spend even less since most visitors come from cruise ships and only have a few hours to explore the must-see spots.
If you're planning a trip to Greece and agonizing over the question, Mykonos vs. Santorini, this post is for you! I'll give an in-depth look at each island and discuss whether Santorini or Mykonos will cater to the type of trip you're looking for.
Now let's dive into Mykonos vs. Santorini!
Why decide between Santorini or Mykonos if you can do both?
Before we get into Mykonos vs. Santorini, if there is any way you can visit both, I would highly recommend doing that. These two islands are similar yet unique, each offering a slightly different vibe and experience.
You could fit both islands on the shortest of itineraries. The ferry between Mykonos and Santorini is just two to three hours. This makes two nights on each island 100% doable with little travel time between the two.
Since the islands are small, it also doesn't take much time to get from the ferry dock to your hotel (assuming you're staying in the more popular areas).
You're walking distance to most hotels in Mykonos Old Town (where I recommend staying and the area of choice for most tourists) if you arrive at the Old Port.
The travel time is similar for arrival in Santorini. Most ferries to Santorini dock in the Athinios ferry port. Buses are waiting to take ferry passengers to Fira, the main town in Santorini. The ride takes about 20 minutes from Athinios ferry port to Fira.
All in all, you're looking at about three to four hours of travel time between the two islands. Two hours for the actual ferry ride, 30 minutes to get to the ferry. and 30 minutes to get from the ferry to your hotel.
It's quick and fairly easy to get between Mykonos and Santorini, which is why I strongly recommend visiting both if you're ok squeezing a lot into a short amount of time.
Two nights on each island would work for the quickest of trips.
The short and sweet answer to Mykonos vs. Santorini
Since you’re reading this post on Mykonos vs. Santorini, I will assume you're either short on time or would like to explore one island to the fullest and not feel rushed.
If you want the quick answer on Mykonos vs. Santorini I would say Mykonos should be your first pick. I won't be in a rush to return to Santorini (though I absolutely loved my experience there). Mykonos on the other hand, I would return to every year if I could.
Old Town, Mykonos is straight out of a storybook. The beaches are also better in Mykonos as is the restaurant scene. The island is drivable (nerve-wracking, but doable).
I wouldn't attempt to drive in Santorini with the steep cliffs and hairpin turns. This limits your options on where to go and when if you use the bus system. Or it significantly increases the cost of your trip if you're hiring a driver/taxi everywhere you go.
Though the views in Santorini are out of this world and should be experienced at least once in your life, when I reminisce of my time in Greece, Mykonos is the first place my mind returns to.
Mykonos vs. Santorini - who should pick Mykonos
Mykonos is best for: a range of budgets, beaches, drivability, beach clubs, slightly fewer crowds, all types of trips (not just romantic)
The moment you step foot in Old Town, the most picturesque area of Mykonos, you'll be tempted to pinch yourself to make sure you're not dreaming.
Narrow twisting streets, white stucco buildings with shutters and doors painted in bright pinks, royal blues, and dreamy turquoise hues, BoHo boutique shops, fuchsia bougainvillea trees perfectly framing your next photo, tiny cafes serving up frothy espresso freddos...it doesn't get more idyllic than this.
Mykonos was made to wander and forget your worries and cares. It's no wonder this island has absolutely exploded on Instagram. Every corner just screams "Instagrammable".
Mykonos and Santorini are both remarkable destinations, but there are a few reasons Mykonos is just a notch higher (in my books) on the Mykonos vs. Santorini debate.
Mykonos is a bit more friendly for all budgets
While both Santorini and Mykonos are expensive for Europe and especially Greece standards, you can still have an incredible trip without shelling out thousands of dollars/euros.
Mykonos is a destination you can go as luxury or as basic as you want, which I'm all for! I typically travel in the mid-range budget and sprinkle in a few luxury touches. Whether that be a catamaran tour around the island or a few nice dinners.
I really appreciated that even if you're traveling on the cheap, you can still have an incredible time, eat well, and find cute accommodations.
In general, I found that Mykonos offered more variety in prices when it came to both accommodations and dining.
Mykonos has plenty of glam restaurants for a pretty penny. If that's not your travel style, no problem. Grab a €4 gyro from Sakis. The place was always packed and the chicken gyro with tzatziki sauce is delicious!
Stop at one of the many cafes scattered around Old Town serving inexpensive sandwiches, salads, and baked goods to pair with your afternoon coffee. There are also a number of excellent bakeries where you can grab a slice of pizza, sandwiches, desserts, and baked goods...perfect for grab and go.
While Mykonos may have the reputation of being expensive, something I was worried about before actually visiting, it doesn't have to be. In fact, it's not even difficult to try to stay within a reasonable budget.
There are some destinations, like Amalfi, where you feel like you have to work to find restaurants that serve quality food at a decent price. Thankfully, Mykonos was not like that, and I had no problem finding both inexpensive spots as well as restaurants to splurge on.
The same goes for hotels. You can easily spend €800 a night on a luxury hotel...and there are plenty of those. Or you can find a comfortable hotel, steps away from Old Town for under €250.
We stayed at Hotel Adonis for under €200 a night. It was a five-minute walk to Old Town, included a wonderful breakfast each morning, the staff was friendly and helpful, and the rooms were spacious.
There are also plenty of charming Airbnbs to choose from if that's more your style.
Are there affordable accommodations in Santorini? Yes...but they were a bit harder to find, especially if you wanted to be in the desirable areas of Fira and Oia.
All in all, I was pleasantly surprised at how affordable Mykonos was.
If price is a key factor in your trip, Mykonos is the way to go when deciding between Santorini or Mykonos.
There are slightly fewer crowds in Mykonos vs. Santorini always being packed
We traveled to Greece in mid-May, which was definitely the best time to visit Mykonos and Santorini. This allowed us to explore the islands with fewer crowds but still have nice weather. Mykonos never felt crowded at this time. Was it empty? By no means. But were there crowds packed like sardines in the narrow streets? No.
When we arrived in Santorini it was a different story. There were certain spots (the more picturesque ones of course), where there would literally be shoulder-to-shoulder tourists. There also seemed to be a lot more tour groups and cruise ship tourists.
I think Santorini partly felt more crowded because it's harder to spread out here. And by that, I mean Mykonos is relatively flat with a labyrinth of streets and lanes to get lost in. If you want to escape the crowds, just go a few streets over from the main street.
Because Santorini is literally built on the side of a cliff, you have less space to spread out and wander.
Note to joggers
I love my morning jogs on vacations. I was easily able to go running in Mykonos and it was wonderful. I tried several times to go jogging in Santorini and it just didn't work out well.
Between the narrow streets and the uneven stone surfaces, it was a disaster. Plus, since there are only a few main roads, buses and cars all take the same one. So no matter what time you go, you are always about to be run over by a giant bus (keep in mind these streets are narrow with no shoulder).
Mykonos has better beaches than Santorini
Santorini is known for its views, not the beaches.
Mykonos without a doubt wins the Mykonos vs. Santorini debate when it comes to fun in the sun and toes in the sand. Mykonos beaches are actually enjoyable to lounge at. Hence, why Mykonos is the "beach club" destination. You'll have several beaches, all with different vibes, to choose from in Mykonos.
Also, keep in mind that the rocky beaches of Santorini are difficult to get to. Some can be reached by boat only.
Mykonos has one of a kind beach clubs
Arriving at my next point, Mykonos beach clubs. While you may think this is for party animals in their early 20s, think again. Jake and I visited Scorpios and will definitely make a point to attend the sunset ritual every time we are in Mykonos.
Read all about Scorpios Mykonos to learn why this is a must experience when visiting the Greek islands.
Whether you're looking for a raging beach party, a sophisticated BoHo sunset ritual, or something in between, Mykonos has you covered.
You can rent a car and drive in Mykonos vs. Santorini requires a driver/taxi
One of my favorite days in Mykonos was when Jake and I rented a tiny little car and drove around the entire island. There were moments when it was a bit nerve-racking...but that was partly because we had a manual (which is definitely not Jake's forte). Pair inexperience driving a manual with sharp turns and steep inclines...let's just say it was a relief to get home in one piece.
All that being said, driving the island is completely doable. It's a great way to get to the lesser known beaches. A visit to Kikis Tavern is a must. A hidden gem of a restaurant with no electricity and the best food. Most notably the grilled octopus and tzatziki with fresh bread.
I wouldn't dare to rent a car and drive in Santorini. Steep drop-offs, hairpin turns, and narrow roads spell out disaster. I would often see cars having to back into the tiniest spaces to let the big buses drive by. The main roads are so narrow there often wasn't enough space for the buses plus other cars.
Mykonos wins the Santorini vs. Mykonos debate for DIY travelers that like to explore on their own.
Mykonos caters to all types of trips and travelers
Mykonos is a great destination for pretty much every type of trip. Solo, group, couples, romantic, girls trip, etc. Santorini caters more to the honeymoon/romantic crowd.
In summary - who should choose Mykonos
You should choose Mykonos on the Mykonos vs. Santorini debate if you value:
- the ability to rent a car and explore the island on your own
- restaurants and accommodations for all budgets
- slightly fewer crowds
- beaches for all vibes - party, relaxing, etc.
- the beach club experience (not just crazy parties, but a variety of experiences)
- a destination for different types of trips: romantic, solo, girls trip, group trip, etc.
Mykonos or Santorini - who should pick Santorini
Santorini is the best choice for photographers, honeymooners, breathtaking views, and those looking for a romantic/luxury getaway
Moving on to part two of Santorini vs. Mykonos…Santorini. After reading the above, you may think I'm not a major fan of Santorini. That couldn't be further from the truth. I adored my time in Santorini...I just think if you must choose between the two, Mykonos is just a step above Santorini for the average tourist.
There are a few reasons why Santorini might just be the better choice for your trip.
Santorini wins Mykonos vs. Santorini for "wow" factor
Few places beat Santorini when it comes to "wow" factor. When I first arrived at the top of the island and saw the view from the caldera's edge...it took my breath away.
The caldera, a flooded volcano crater, sits over 1,000 feet above sea level. It's a sheer drop to the jewel blue seas below. Unforgettable is an understatement.
Did you know that Santorini is actually a volcano that imploded on itself and then filled with water? That's what created the steep drop and the crescent shape of the island we know today.
Santorini is known for its white-washed villages built right into the steep cliffs. Combine that with the bright blue rooftops and turquoise waters and you’ve got yourself one unforgettable scene almost too beautiful to be real.
This is why Santorini wins the Mykonos vs. Santorini debate when it comes to views that take your breath away.
Santorini is the better choice for photographers
Mykonos is by all means photogenic, but Santorini just can't be beat. Santorini has charming villages similar to Mykonos, but it also offers dramatic cliffs. The vertical layout with the white stucco buildings stacked on top of each other makes for a one-of-a-kind backdrop.
Santorini is best for honeymoons and romantic/luxury escapes
There's a reason why luxury hotels have flocked to Santorini. Travelers looking to splurge on an unforgettable honeymoon or romantic getaway will not be disappointed here.
Oia, most popular with honeymooners, offers stunning boutique hotels with private pools and terraces capitalizing on the one-of-a-kind caldera views. I mean, just imagine walking out onto your private terrace and seeing views like the photo above!
One of the most memorable experiences in Santorini is the evening tradition of enjoying a glass of wine and watching the sunset. Cafes, restaurants, and wine bars line the cliffs edge boasting of the "best" views...when really... they're all spectacular.
Pick one (reservations for places with a view are a must) and soak it all in. I could gaze upon these views for weeks and still be awestruck.
In summary - who should choose Santorini
You should choose Santorini on the Santorini vs. Mykonos debate if you are:
- seeking breathtaking views
- on a honeymoon or looking for a luxurious romantic vacation
- into photography and want one-of-a-kind views and dramatic backdrops
Summary of Santorini vs. Mykonos
To sum up Santorini or Mykonos…if you’re looking for a trip that caters to a variety of budgets and travelers (solo, couples, group), is drivable so you can explore the island on your own, has slightly fewer crowds (or at least feels less crowded), and offers beaches and beach clubs, Mykonos is the Greek island for you.
Santorini is best for honeymooners and those looking for a luxurious romantic getaway, breathtaking views, and photographers hoping to snap one-of-a-kind photos with dramatic backdrops and cliff perched villages.
If you're still debating Santorini or Mykonos, feel free to leave a comment below on what type of trip you want and I'll help you out!
HOTEL RECOMMENDATIONS FOR MYKONOS:
HOTEL RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SANTORINI:
Whichever island you choose, be sure to book some exciting tours and activities!