The fantastic island of Santorini is a tourist destination in Greece filled to the brim with a variety of things to do. Whether you’re traveling solo or on a honeymoon celebrating the beginning of the rest of your life, there’s something for everyone.
Yet, with a variety of activities and just one of you, it’s easy to spread yourself too thin and not be able to enjoy the beauty of one of the world’s best islands. So, how do you make sure you don’t miss out on any of the fun?
It’s easy. Just follow the guide below, and you’ll experience Santorini in all its glory.
What to do in Santorini first?
Table of Contents
We’ve gathered all the favorite activities in Santorini and list them here for you to take your pick.
1. Catch the sunset in Oia
Oia offers you the opportunity to view one of the world’s most iconic sunsets and one of Santorini’s best attractions. Oia’s purely white buildings glisten with hues of pink, yellow, and orange when the sun sets, making for a truly picturesque view. One that a horde of tourists will gather to see.
There are several spots to watch this phenomenon. We’re gaga over two locations: the Oia castle and the Blue Domes of Oia. Be aware; you won’t be the only one fond of watching the sunset, so arrive early to secure a prime spot and beat the crowds.
If you’re looking for a more romantic vibe, you can get a table in Oia’s many restaurants that offer the same view. Watching the sunset and eating tasty food with your partner is an experience second to none.
2. Hike from Fira to Oia
The trail from Fira to Oia stretches to about 9.9 kilometers (± 6 miles). It offers a walk around the caldera that will take you from Fira and end in Oia. You will also see the Firostefani and Imerovigli towns along the way. Obviously, you can walk it in the other direction. Still, the prospect of walking downhill and ending up in Oia was more appealing for us.
Walking the entire distance can take around 3 to 5 hours, depending on how many times you stop to catch your breath and admire the scenery. Sure, it sounds like a lot, but it’s well worth exploring the best island in Europe. The path is filled with stones, only partially paved, and offers little shade.
The prospect of getting lost certainly exists but navigation is eased by the signs and indicators that show you where you are and where you’re going. There is also a host of friendly locals you’ll meet along the way who’ll help you if you find yourself lost. Some of them are fruit vendors and we’d suggest buying from them to keep hunger at bay.
Therefore, remember to wear the proper shoes, bring your sunscreen, plenty of water and get an early start to make it as pleasant as possible. If you’re hiking during the summer months, it’s best to start as early as possible as it tends to get hot between 10 and 11 a.m.
3. Explore Ancient Akrotiri
Known globally as the “Pompeii of the Aegean” due to how well they’ve been preserved, the Ancient Akrotiri ruins are located in the southern part of Santorini. They are located 25 minutes away from Fira, and you can get there by driving or taking the bus.
The ruins are home to a formerly prosperous city wiped out by ashes from a volcano erupting in the 17th century. Archaeologists’ excavation efforts unveiled artifacts like vases with beautifully drawn patterns, cups, and even stone bathtubs that past civilizations used.
They’re a breathtaking sight that you would be truly unfortunate not to witness. The ruins are open from April to October daily excluding Monday from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Between November and March, they are available from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. Admission only costs €12 (approximately $14) per adult and is free for anyone under 18.
4. Visit the Museum of Prehistoric Thira
Heading to the Museum of Prehistoric Thira is a great way to end your exploration of Greek history. This small-in-size yet vast-in-knowledge museum houses several artifacts from Ancient Akrotiri and the other Aegean Islands. There are collections of pottery, marble figurines, a clay oven, and ancient paintings.
The exhibition is split into 4 parts that cover the various time periods in Santorini’s history. The first is the history of research on the island and the second is the geography of the island. The third unit is focused on the island’s history from the Neolithic and Cycladic periods up to the 17th century. The last unit is focused on the city’s plan and architecture and its organization as an urban center, the emergent bureaucratic system, and a showcase of various artistically significant pieces.
It also holds records of prehistoric life on the islands, including life on “Thera,” Santorini’s prehistoric name. For just €15 (approximately $18), you can get a guided tour through both Ancient Akrotiri and the museum. We found it well worth it because the museum adds more context to what you see in Akrotiri.
Depending on your interest in history or art, a visit won’t take up too much of your time – you can expect to spend between 20 and 40 minutes here.
5. Watch a Movie in Kamari’s Open Air Cinema
The Kamari Open-Air Cinema, or Cine Kamari as it’s known locally, is an outdoor cinema found in Kamari. This can be enjoyed alone or with a partner. With modern audio and video projection, various English movies with Greek subtitles, and beautiful forest-like natural surroundings, it is an experience you need to do.
Doors open at 8:30 p.m., and the flicks start showing at 9:30 p.m. Tickets cost €8 (approximately $9.5) per person. There is also a bar and snacks shop, which makes it a great way to end your day.
Fun Santorini Activities
When on vacation in an unfamiliar area, you want to have fun and potentially meet other travelers to have fun with. The below activities will satisfy both these needs as they can be done solo or in groups. They are absolute must-dos in Santorini if you’re looking to meet other tourists.
6. Santorini Winery Tour
Santorini is famous for its spicy wine that owes its distinction to the unique way it’s created. This has led to many wineries in Santorini offering different kinds of wine. The number of wineries and how far apart they are spread makes it hard to hop from winery-to-winery.
You can solve this issue by booking either a private or small group wine tour that will leave you happy at the tour’s conclusion (if you have a large budget, that is).
The small group tour takes you to three different wineries and vineyards, including Venetsanos and Santo Winery, considered the two best wineries on the island. It is a great way to meet other tourists. Tours start at 3:30 p.m. and last between 1 and 2 hours, and they include hotel pick-up and drop-off transportation for your safety.
The private wine tour, which hosts a maximum of 6 people, is a more intimate tour preferred by wine lovers. It starts at either 10 a.m. or 4 p.m. and lasts 5 hours, and includes the chance to taste 12 different wines coupled with local snacks. The evening tour ends with watching a glorious sunset in one of the wineries.
7. Attend Cooking Classes
You will eventually get a taste of Santorini’s indigenous foods, and trust us when we say it’s delicious, and that’s the problem. The dishes served are so good we wish we could have them nearly every day, luckily you don’t have to face the same woes as us.
Suppose you want to continually enjoy the delight that comes with eating saganaki (fried cheese in pastry covered with honey) or roasted Greek lamb. In that case, you can sign up for one of the many Santorini cooking classes. They aren’t cheap, but they are well worth the ability to impress friends and family back home and will serve as forever mementos that you’ll never lose.
The classes take place in a traditional restaurant and the chef will typically teach you three signature Santorini dishes. It’d be great to get it right the first time since you’ll be the judge of your dish. The three dishes commonly are a Santorini-version Greek salad, tomato-fritters, and local pork fillet on wine sauce. A replacement dish is available for vegetarians upon request.
The semi-private tour hosts a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 8 people and all participants must be 18 years or older. You can sign up for a combo cooking and wine tour that guarantees that you’ll have a piece of Santorini with you well after your stay ends.
8. Santorini Beaches
Santorini is home to some of the world’s most unique beaches, all of which boast distinct shores with unusually colored sand and pebbles resulting from lava from past volcanic eruptions. Visiting at least one of these beaches is one of the best things to do on Santorini Island. Whether you’re keen to kick back on the sand or cruise on a Santorini jet ski tour, here are a few of our favorites.
The Red Beach
Named after its daunting red cliffs and reddish pebbles and rocks, the Red Beach is one of the island’s famous beaches for taking pictures due to the contrast in hues between the clear water, the red cliffs, and its sand. The path to get there is rugged and rocky, so make sure you’re wearing the proper footwear to enjoy your experience entirely.
One of the island’s most popular beach resort areas, Kamari Beach is surrounded by many hotels, beachside bars, and restaurants. It has lounge chairs and umbrellas that make for a great day of relaxing. Perhaps the beach’s most eye-catching feature is its black sand and pebbles formed from hardened lava remnants.
The best beach for a romantic beach day with your partner, Perivolos offers unrivaled entertainment and relaxation that isn’t easily found anywhere else. Like Kamari Beach, black sand covers the shoreline. There are many bars with music around the beach where you can dance the night away.
Apart from sunbathing and swimming, Santorini beaches also have offerings for thrill-seekers, including jet-skiing, kiteboarding, windsurfing, and more.
9. Volcano Boat Tour
Easily the most economical Santorini tour, the Volcano Boat Tour offers a 3-in-1 experience that lets you cruise to the island’s volcanic areas. You’ll get to view somewhat active volcanoes, dive into the hot springs, and visit Thirassia Island. You’ll be going to two different areas during the trip: Nea Kameni and Palea Kameni.
Nea Kameni will be the tour’s first stop, here you can peek into the volcano as it blows some smoke. Palea Kameni is the next stop and this is where you’ll find the hot springs, they appear greenish due to the sulfur from the volcano. The hot springs remain warm even during winter due to the sulfur and its proximity to the volcano.
If you aren’t one to dive into the hot springs or get too close to the volcano, you can admire the great views present during the tour. Nea Kameni has a great view of Santorini, and Palea Kameni offers a rare chance to view green waters and both shouldn’t be passed up in our opinion.
As this is a small group activity, you can potentially meet other tourists during the journey. Pick-up is nearby your hotel, and the starting times are dependent on where you are, ranging from 8:25 a.m. to 9 a.m., and the entire tour can last between 3 to 10 hours.
Best Things To Do In Santorini Summary
When thinking about the best things to do in Santorini, people automatically think of catching Oia’s majestic sunset. As well as roaming the white buildings uniquely situated on the edge of the island or swimming in one of the many unique beaches on offer.
Yet, Santorini has a lot more to offer than most people are aware of. From private winery tours to an open-air cinema and learning how to cook delicious Greek cuisine and more. The list of the best things to do in Santorini is endless.
If you were stuck in the same thought process, we hope this guide has widened the possibilities for what you can do during your stay in Santorini. Whether you’re looking to book now or later (we recommend September), you can thoroughly plan your trip from A to Z. Believe us, it will be a trip you’ll never forget.