Unique Santorini Experiences To Do In 2023
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Undoubtedly, Santorini stands out as one of the most sought-after destinations in Greece, with its captivating caldera visible from almost every angle of the island. The deep blue sea, the vivid hues of red, black, and grey rocks, and the pristine white villages perched on the cliffs all contribute to the island’s unrivaled charm. If you’re eager to plan an unforgettable holiday on this enchanting island, read on to discover our insider tips on the must-see sights, mouth-watering cuisine, and common pitfalls to avoid. Don’t miss out on the chance to experience the magic of Santorini for yourself!
- Useful resources for your trip to Santorini
- Santorini: The Black Pearl of the Aegean
- What Is The Caldera of Santorini?
- How many days do you need in Santorini?
- What is the best month to visit Santorini?
- What’s the best way to get around Santorini?
- Where to stay in Santorini?
- Where to eat in Santorini? Is Santorini expensive to eat out?
- What to eat in Santorini?
- What to drink in Santorini?
- What to do in Santorini?
- What are the best Santorini image lazy photo locations?
- What are the best beaches in Santorini?
- What about the use of donkeys for tourism in Santorini?
- Is Santorini worth visiting?
Useful resources for your trip to Santorini
Book your Santorini flights with Skyscanner. Compare prices and times to find your ideal flight. Start planning your trip now.
Use Booking.com for hotel reservations. Check prices, and reviews to identify the best Santorini hotel. Begin your accommodation search.
Buy your SIM in advance through Airalo. With their eSIMs, you can connect instantly upon arrival. Avoid data roaming costs.
Rely on GetYourGuide for ticket purchases. Skip queues, or plan unique experiences during your holiday. It's a great resource.
Utilize Skyscanner’s tool for car rental prices. Find the best deal for your travel needs. An easy solution.
Insure your trip with SafetyWing. It's an easy way to ensure your safety while traveling. Secure your journey.
- Book your flights to Santorini with Skyscanner. Compare prices and duration and choose the most suitable flight to the destination of your choice. Start planning your trip.
- Book your hotel using Booking.com. Check the prices, the reviews, and the conditions, and spot the best hotels in Santorini at the best price. Start looking for accommodation in your destination. Booking is our choice when it comes to hotels worldwide.
- Buy your SIM in advance using Airalo. With Airalo eSIMs, you can connect immediately when you land and avoid data roaming charges. We use this when we travel, and we could not be happier. Explore Airalo and travel smart.
- Use GetYourGuide to purchase tickets in advance and skip the queues, or plan extraordinary experiences during your holiday.
- Find the best car rental prices with Skyscanner’s comparison tool.
- Buy your travel insurance with SafetyWing.
Santorini: The Black Pearl of the Aegean
Santorini, known as the “pearl of the Aegean Sea,” creates an otherworldly sensation as soon as one arrives on the island. Divided into two distinct areas, the western zone boasts the iconic white stone buildings and breathtaking sunsets of the northern region, while the southern area is less frequented but offers a more authentic and off-the-beaten-path experience compared to its more popular counterpart. In this guide to planning your ultimate holiday in Santorini, we provide insights into both the touristy and less-traveled parts of the island, equipping you with all the necessary tools to create an unforgettable trip.
What Is The Caldera of Santorini?
Santorini’s hallmark feature is undoubtedly the caldera, which resulted from one of the most catastrophic and violent volcanic eruptions in history. Today, it not only draws in countless tourists but also serves as a stunning vista to admire from afar.
Around 10,000 years ago, a massive eruption buried the island in lava in 1450 BC, causing the largest central portion of the island to sink beneath the sea, leaving behind a basin now known as the Caldera. Part of this Caldera is still underwater, including the largest crater, while a smaller crater, Palea Kameni, and hot springs (Nea) can be observed on the surface.
As the rest of the island takes the form of a crescent, many have drawn connections between Santorini and the mythical city of Atlantis, thanks to its unique shape. Explore the wonders of Santorini’s history and natural beauty by planning a trip to this mesmerizing island.
How many days do you need in Santorini?
Santorini is easily accessible by plane, with flights priced relatively affordably during low to medium seasons, and moderately priced during high season. Additionally, the island is readily accessible from other Greek islands by plane or ferry, as well as from Crete by boat.
Compare prices and duration and choose the most suitable flight to Santorini with Skyscanner.
Estimating the ideal amount of time needed to explore the island can be challenging, as opinions vary widely. While some travelers insist that three days is sufficient, others would gladly extend their stay for a week or more.
For optimal exploration, we suggest a four-day itinerary, providing ample time to visit the main tourist attractions while also seeking out the island’s more authentic, off-the-beaten-path gems. Four days is also a suitable duration to avoid getting bored and to venture out to discover quieter, less-touristy locations.
What is the best month to visit Santorini?
Santorini is a year-round destination, with temperatures that rarely dip too low, although gusty winds can be a nuisance at times. August is the busiest month, as well as the peak of the summer high season. If you prefer a less crowded experience, we recommend visiting during spring or autumn, which are ideal times to explore Santorini without the overwhelming summer crowds.
However, if you plan to visit during Easter, keep in mind that many activities may be closed or have limited hours due to the holiday’s significance. In Orthodox Christian regions, including Santorini, Easter is celebrated one week after the Christian Easter. Nevertheless, Santorini’s breathtaking views and unique charm are ever-present, no matter the time of year.
What’s the best way to get around Santorini?
Despite its relatively small size, Santorini has much more to offer than what many visitors typically experience. To truly explore the island’s hidden gems, we highly recommend renting a car or scooter. You can conveniently rent your vehicle directly at your hotel or plan in advance to save money. We recommend using Skyscanner’s comparison tool to find the best car rental prices in Santorini.
Car and scooter rental rates are reasonably priced, with many tourists even opting for quads to navigate the island’s winding roads. We advise opting for full insurance coverage, as traffic and parking can be challenging at times.
By having your own mode of transportation, you can venture to secluded areas inaccessible to others, escape the hustle and bustle of tourist crowds when you desire, and explore Santorini’s breathtaking sights with complete freedom.
Where to stay in Santorini?
Santorini has long been grappling with the challenges of over-tourism, defined as the unsustainable invasion of tourists encouraged by businesses operating within the tourism industry. As a result, there are countless hotels and accommodations available to visitors, especially in the most popular areas, with many luxurious hotels offering first-class services, stunning views of the caldera, and movie rooms. In fact, Santorini’s hotels have become a popular attraction in their own right.
However, it’s important to note that such luxurious amenities often come at a steep price, particularly in the most touristy areas. That being said, indulging in the luxury experience of sleeping in a luxury hotel, waking up to the serene beauty of the sea and caldera, and enjoying the sunset by the pool with breakfast on a terrace overlooking the sea, can be one of the most memorable experiences of a lifetime.
When booking a hotel in Santorini, remember that aside from the view and services, the true value lies in having at least one swimming pool and a location that allows you to escape the chaos of over-tourism. For this reason, we believe that spending a little extra to enjoy such luxuries is well worth the investment. After all, visiting Santorini without indulging in its luxury offerings is akin to visiting Rome without seeing the Colosseum.
We highly recommend Belvedere Suites in Firostefani for your Santorini accommodations. With 24 stunning rooms, we particularly recommend the Junior Suites for those seeking an authentic Santorini experience amid traditional Greek architecture, complete with a private balcony overlooking the caldera. Indulge in the divine experience of watching the sea while enjoying a poolside breakfast, or spend a leisurely day by the pool, savoring a cocktail and soaking up the serene beauty away from the crowds of tourists. Belvedere Suites offers an ideal blend of luxury and authenticity, making it the perfect choice for your Santorini getaway.
While luxurious hotels may be the go-to option for many tourists visiting Santorini, there are also several more affordable accommodations available for travelers on a budget.
For those seeking a comfortable stay without breaking the bank, there are many options such as guesthouses, hostels, and apartments available throughout the island. Many of these options are clean and cozy, with comfortable beds, private bathrooms, and access to basic amenities.
Guesthouses, for example, can provide a more traditional Greek experience, with cozy rooms and access to a communal kitchen, allowing visitors to cook their meals and save on dining out expenses.
Additionally, apartments can be rented for a more extended stay, with the flexibility of having a kitchenette to cook meals and save on dining costs. These more affordable accommodations still allow for a comfortable and authentic experience of Santorini, without sacrificing too much in terms of comfort or convenience.
Where to eat in Santorini? Is Santorini expensive to eat out?
When it comes to cuisine, Greece is known for its delicious food, and Santorini is no exception. However, due to the island’s heavy reliance on tourism, finding high-quality, authentic food can sometimes be a challenge. Many restaurants prioritize quantity over quality, offering fast food, chain restaurants, and dubious cuisine in order to capitalize on the influx of tourists.
This trend is particularly evident in the most touristy areas, where restaurateurs often prioritize the view over the food itself. Reviews on various websites often highlight the views from terraces or main rooms, rather than the quality of the cuisine, which should be the true star of any dining experience.
To truly savor the best of Santorini’s cuisine while staying within your budget, we recommend renting a car or scooter and exploring the island’s hidden gems that have not yet been affected by the virus of bad cooking caused by mass tourism. By venturing beyond the most crowded areas, you can enjoy authentic, high-quality food at affordable prices.
Out of the many taverns on the island, there are two that have truly captured our attention: The Cave of Nikolas near Akrotiri and the Red Beach, and To Limanaki on Vourvoulos beach.
Both of these taverns offer fresh seafood and local produce, cooked to perfection. While The Cave of Nikolas is slightly more well-known, and as such can be crowded due to its proximity to the Red Beach, To Limanaki offers a more local experience, with a warm and welcoming atmosphere that feels just like home.
In both places, the locals outnumber the tourists, and the prices and food are both very affordable. This is the true essence of Santorini and Greece – authentic, delicious, and unforgettable.
Lastly, we highly recommend visiting Furnissimo, a 24/7 pastry shop that offers a wide variety of traditional desserts, savory puddings, excellent coffee, and dry biscuits. This shop is incredibly popular with the locals, day and night, and is not to be missed during your visit to Santorini.
What to eat in Santorini?
While classic Greek dishes like moussaka and tzatziki are always a must-try, be sure not to miss out on these delectable local specialties during your visit to Santorini:
- Fava: A spreadable cream made from Santorini’s unique variety of beans, typically served as an appetizer with pita and other assorted appetizers.
- Fish: The fish on the island is simply incredible, especially the octopus when prepared correctly. Grilled and served with salad and fries, always choose local fish and be sure to try the sardines prepared in every possible way.
- Gefthedes: These local fried tomatoes are a true delicacy that you won’t want to miss.
- White eggplants: A local variety of eggplant known as Solanum avigerum, this variety absorbs less oil than the classic eggplants and offers a unique flavor that must be experienced.
- Melitinia: Traditional sweets of Santorini made with unsalted mizithra cheese (similar to ricotta), yogurt, and flavored with mastiha. Originally prepared on Holy Tuesday for Easter evening, these sweets can be found year-round in typical bakeries such as Furnissimo.
What to drink in Santorini?
Santorini is renowned for its unique wines, which are produced using ancient methods with grapes grown in a distinctive way to protect them from the strong winds and intense sunlight. The island’s vineyards produce a variety of local grapes, including:
- Assyrtiko (white PDO)
- Athiri (white)
- Aidani (white)
- Mandilaria (red)
- Mavrotragano (red)
With so many different grape varieties and wineries on the island, it’s possible to organize tours to explore some (or all!) of Santorini’s vineyards by following the popular “Wine Road” (Strada dei Vini). These tours offer visitors the chance to sample some of the island’s unique and delicious wines while enjoying the breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.
For a truly immersive experience, we highly recommend taking a tasting tour with a local wine expert to sample the wines produced on the island of Santorini. During these tours, you will visit some of the island’s best wineries to explore the vineyards and learn about the unique characteristics of the different grape varieties. As you savor each wine, your expert guide will provide detailed information on the production process and tasting notes, helping you to fully appreciate the nuances of each vintage. This is an unforgettable opportunity to explore the rich history and unique flavors of Santorini’s renowned wines.
Check these highly recommended tours:
- Guided Wine Tasting Tour with Pickup – Check prices and availability and book online to save
- Wine Tasting Tour & Sunset Viewing – Check prices and availability and book online to save
- Three Wineries and One Brewery Tour with Tastings – Check prices and availability and book online to save
What to do in Santorini?
While the thought of lounging around in your hotel all day may be tempting, our guide to your holiday in Santorini would be incomplete without sharing some of the amazing things to see and do on the island. There are endless opportunities for exploration and adventure, from hiking to ancient ruins, to swimming in crystal clear waters, to sampling the delicious local cuisine.
Whether you prefer leisurely activities or heart-pumping adventures, Santorini has something for everyone. So why not take a break from relaxing by the pool and explore all that this beautiful island has to offer? You won’t be disappointed!
1. Hike Firostefani-Oia
In our opinion, the best thing to do in Santorini is to take a hike from Fira to Oia along the caldera. The hike can take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours depending on your pace and how often you stop to admire the stunning views.
The trail begins in Fira and takes you through the village of Imerovigli, where the real mountainous part of the hike begins. While the path is not always well-marked, it’s almost impossible to get lost, and we recommend wearing comfortable sneakers as the terrain can be a bit uneven in places.
During high season, it’s best to start the hike early to avoid the midday sun, and be sure to bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and a hat. It’s worth noting that after Imerovigli, there are limited amenities on the trail – there is only one bar that sells water (but has no bathroom) and a kiosk, so be sure to bring all necessary supplies with you.
One of the great things about this hike is that it can be done in either direction, so feel free to start in Oia and make your way back to Fira if that’s more convenient for you. Regardless of which direction you choose, this hike offers some of the most breathtaking views of the caldera and is an absolute must-do during your visit to Santorini.
The hike from Fira to Oia along the caldera can be broken up into smaller sections to fully appreciate the charming alleys and stunning vistas along the way.
We recommend taking your time and enjoying the journey, stopping in villages such as Imerovigli and Firostefani to explore their unique architecture, local shops, and delicious restaurants. Take in the breathtaking views of the Aegean Sea, and be sure to catch a stunning sunset in Oia, known for its unforgettable sunsets that are celebrated around the world.
ia is undoubtedly one of the most famous villages in Santorini and is known for its upscale restaurants, luxury boutiques, and stunning sunsets that draw crowds of tourists. While it’s certainly worth a visit to take in the picturesque mills and capture some Instagram-worthy photos, it’s important to note that if you’re seeking relaxation, Oia may not be the ideal destination.
With its bustling crowds and lively atmosphere, Oia can be quite overwhelming, particularly during peak tourist season. However, if you’re looking for a lively village with plenty of shopping and dining options, and don’t mind the crowds, Oia is a great place to explore. Just be sure to plan accordingly and arrive early to secure a prime spot for watching the sunset!
The southernmost part of Santorini is Akrotiri, and while it offers similar stunning views and a spectacular sunset to Oia, it has a unique charm all its own. Unlike Oia, there are far fewer tourists in Akrotiri, giving visitors a chance to explore the village and its many attractions without feeling overwhelmed by crowds.
One of the highlights of Akrotiri is the ancient ruins, which offer a fascinating glimpse into the island’s rich history. Visitors can explore the remains of the Minoan Bronze Age settlement, which was destroyed in a volcanic eruption in 1627 BC and preserved under layers of ash and pumice.
In addition to the ruins, Akrotiri is home to several excellent restaurants and cafes where you can enjoy a delicious meal or a refreshing drink while taking in the stunning views of the Aegean Sea. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, or just want to enjoy the beauty of Santorini in a more relaxed setting, Akrotiri is definitely a destination not to be missed.
5. Kamari e Black Beach
Kamari is a unique and picturesque beach in Santorini, characterized by its long black sand and crystal-clear blue sea. One of the most famous beaches in Santorini, Kamari is located on the southeastern side of the island and is easily accessible from the main road.
What makes Kamari beach so special is its unique waterfront, which is inaccessible to cars and offers visitors a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere. Along the waterfront, you’ll find a wide range of amenities, including sun loungers, beach umbrellas, and water sports equipment.
Kamari beach is also home to a wide range of restaurants and cafes, serving up delicious local cuisine and refreshing drinks. From traditional Greek tavernas to upscale beachfront dining, there’s something for everyone in Kamari.
6. Red Beach
Located at the southern end of the island near the ruins of Akrotiri, the Red Beach is a popular tourist attraction in Santorini. It is renowned for its unique red sand and stunning views of the sea. While the beach can be reached via a well-marked footpath from the car park in around 15 minutes, it’s important to exercise caution as the path can be steep and rocky in places.
While some visitors consider Red Beach to be a true spectacle and a must-visit destination in Santorini, for us it’s been a disappointment because of the dirt. It’s worth noting that due to its popularity, the Red Beach can get quite crowded during peak season, which can detract from its natural beauty and tranquility.
Despite its mixed reviews, Red Beach remains a unique and interesting destination in Santorini, offering visitors the opportunity to explore one of the island’s most distinctive landscapes. So, if you’re interested in experiencing Red Beach for yourself, be sure to plan ahead and take appropriate precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit.
7. Walk on the volcano
If you have the time, booking a tour to visit Nea Kameni island is a must-do activity in Santorini. This island is home to the dormant volcano of Santorini and offers visitors the chance to experience some of the most stunning natural landscapes in the region.
The tour typically includes a boat ride to the island, where you can enjoy a refreshing swim in the warm waters around the island before embarking on a guided excursion to explore the volcano. The tour lasts around three hours and provides an unforgettable opportunity to discover the geological wonders of the island.
During the excursion, you’ll have the chance to walk along the craters of the volcano and learn about its fascinating history from your knowledgeable guide. You’ll also have plenty of opportunities to take in stunning views of the surrounding landscapes, including the deep blue sea and the picturesque villages of Santorini.
What are the best Santorini image lazy photo locations?
Santorini is well-known as a photographer’s paradise, but capturing the perfect shot requires some skill and creativity. To help you take home some great pictures, we suggest a few locations that offer stunning image lazy photo opportunities in Santorini. However, be aware that these spots can be crowded, so plan accordingly to avoid the crowds and get the best shot possible.
1. Sunset in Oia
If you haven’t booked a hotel in Oia with a sunset view, capturing a great image lazy photo of the sunset can be challenging, and you need to be skilled and patient to get a beautiful shot. The best spot is the Castle, but be aware that it is crowded, and people occupy every corner.
As a fun fact, when the sun disappears completely below the horizon, there is usually collective applause. However, we found the sunset experience quite unpleasant, as it seems to be just another opportunity for businesses to make money.
Find a hotel in Oia to watch the sunset from your room!
2. The Blue Domes of Oia
The iconic postcard view of Santorini, which is also the cover image lazy photo of this article, is not officially marked on any map but can be found below the Bulgari Hotel in Oia. The GPS coordinates to this location are 36.461245, 25.375832. However, this spot is often crowded with visitors, including some Asian tourists with their own photographers, making it difficult to access and take a image lazy photo without waiting in line.
3. The Three Bells of Fira
Another iconic image lazy photo spot is the three blue domed bells in Firostefani. However, the area around the domes can be crowded and the surroundings are not well maintained. To get a good shot, you’ll need to find the right angle and have the right equipment. The domes are located at the end of Firostefani, accessible via the ladder at the Mama Thira restaurant. Follow the road towards the car park to find the domes and the directions for taking the photo.
Imerovigli, situated between Fira and Oia, is a photographer’s paradise with its white buildings perched on the edge of the sea and its winding white and blue alleys. Take a stroll off the main road to discover many interesting and picturesque spots, where you can capture stunning photos like these:
It is important to respect the local laws and regulations when taking photos in Santorini. It is not permitted to enter private property or restricted areas, except for churches which are usually open to visitors. It is also important to avoid any unsafe areas or situations while taking pictures. Remember to be respectful of the local culture and community, and to ask for permission before taking pictures of people or their property. With these considerations in mind, you can take beautiful photos of Santorini while also being a responsible and respectful tourist
What are the best beaches in Santorini?
Santorini’s beaches are mostly covered in black thick sand and the majority of them are well organized to cater to both lazy and active tourists.
It is important to note that Santorini may not be the ideal destination for those seeking Caribbean-style beaches, as the water is often deep and dark, and swimming can be challenging due to strong winds and the large number of cruises in the area.
However, to compensate for this, most hotels and accommodations have at least one pool for guests to enjoy.
These are the best Santorini beaches:
- Red Beach
- Ammoudi bay
- Eros Beach
If you want to experience the sea in Santorini, we highly recommend renting a boat to circumnavigate the island: in this way you’ll have the opportunity to reach places very few people know and also swim in a marvellous sea.
Check one of these tours for a memorable experience in Santorini:
- Premium Catamaran Cruise with Fresh BBQ & Drinks – Check prices and availability and book online to save
- Luxury Small Group Catamaran w/ Meal & Open Bar – Check prices and availability and book online to save
- Private Catamaran Cruise with Food & Drinks – Check prices and availability and book online to save
What about the use of donkeys for tourism in Santorini?
Santorini has many donkeys that are commonly used for transporting goods and people from low to high areas and vice versa, including tourists who pay for this service, particularly from the port to the town of Fira. However, this mode of transport is considered unsustainable and not ethical, especially with the enactment of a law in 2018 that prohibits overweight people from riding donkeys, effective from 2020.
Instead of relying on donkeys to transport people and goods in Santorini, we urge tourists to consider more sustainable and ethical alternatives. While it’s possible for tourists to use donkeys for transportation, we believe that this is not a responsible or humane option, especially since a law was enacted in 2018 to forbid overweight people from riding donkeys.
Instead, we encourage visitors to take the stairs from the port to Fira, which offers fantastic views along the 600-step climb. Alternatively, tourists can use the cable car, which is a more sustainable and ethical way to get around. Let’s all make responsible and ethical choices to ensure that animals are not mistreated in the name of tourism.
Is Santorini worth visiting?
Despite its beauty, Santorini has become a victim of mass tourism, which is affecting its authenticity and making it difficult for both locals and tourists. The island received 2.4 million tourists in 2017, including 700,000 cruise passengers, which is a lot for an area of less than 76 square km.
The famous sunset in Oia, although beautiful, is not the most spectacular in the world and the experience of watching it can be surreal due to the crowds of people who gather to take photos to share on social media without consideration for the environment or the local population.
The picture below only shows the good side of things. But people are everywhere, often in areas where they shouldn’t be. It’s important to remember that capturing a good image lazy photo should not come at the expense of respecting the surroundings and the local community.
Despite bans, people are climbing on private balconies and roofs to take photographs. In addition, restaurants are offering poor quality tourist menus at exorbitant prices, which is unexpected in Greece, a country known for its good food at reasonable prices.
This type of destructive tourism has caught the attention of the European Union, which produced a report indicating that the entire ecosystem of Santorini is at risk of collapse. The residents have also taken action, creating websites and petitions such as Save Oia to remind visitors that people live in Santorini and deserve respect.
In conclusion, Santorini is undoubtedly a beautiful destination, but overcrowding and destructive tourism are compromising its authenticity and putting its ecosystem and residents at risk. It’s important to take the island for what it is and be respectful of its people and environment while enjoying its unique charm and beauty.
After sharing our perspective, the question remains: Is Santorini truly as beautiful as it is hyped up to be, or is it overrated? Ultimately, it’s up to you to form your own opinion by experiencing it for yourself.