Santorini is famous for its cliff-side homes, which are painted blazing white with deep blue roofs. If you are looking for a romantic getaway, this is the place. Don’t miss watching the sunset at Oia, visiting the many historical sites, or exploring the vineyards.
Traveling to Santorini has become even more popular in recent years. When I went, I found Santorini to be touristy but surprisingly cheap and, once you get out of the town, it’s easy to escape the crowds. (I’m a big fan and prefer this island to nearby Mykonos.)
But, thanks to social media, the crowds here, especially in Oia, are just nuts and the prices reflect that too. I would really avoid peak summer season if you can help it!
This travel guide to Santorini can help you plan your trip, so you have the best experience possible no matter when you go though!
Table of Contents
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Santorini
1. Spend the day in Oia
2. Visit Akrotiri
3. Go to Red Beach
4. Visit a winery
5. Visit the Santorini Volcano
Other Things to See and Do in Santorini
1. Hang out on the beaches
As far as Greek beaches go, Santorini lacks the idyllic, white sandy beachfront that the other islands have. Instead, they’re made up of volcanic rock and pebbles. This doesn’t discourage anyone, though, and you’ll find most beaches constantly full of people in the summer months as travelers come to soak up the hot sun and Mediterranean vibes. Kamari and Perissa have the most action, especially for the bars and restaurants right on the water. To escape the crowds, go to Monolithos.
2. Go scuba diving
You probably won’t see a great deal of marine life or coral around Santorini, but the island has shipwrecks and other attractions in spades. You can get down to about 14 meters to see sunken ships, caves, and endless drop-offs around the caldera. A two-tank dive costs from €90 ($100 USD).
3. See the Museum of Prehistoric Thira
Located in Fira, this museum is home to a massive collection of artifacts that were found in the ruins of Akrotiri. Its highlights include wall paintings, an intricately carved gold ibex figurine, and fossilized olive tree leaves dating back to 60,000 BC. My favorite are the frescoes of blue monkeys, although interestingly enough, there is no evidence of monkeys ever having lived on this island. Admission is €6 ($6.65 USD).
4. Hike from Fira to Oia
The caldera hike from Fira to Oia is the most popular hike you’ll do in Santorini. It follows the caldera’s edge with sweeping views over the island and the volcano. It’s about eight miles (13 kilometers), but you’ll want to give yourself time to stop and enjoy the viewpoints. Budget at least three hours for the hike and bring sunscreen and water.
5. Visit the Akrotiri Lighthouse
The Akrotiri Lighthouse is at the southern end of Santorini, close to the Akrotiri ruins. It’s used by the Greek Navy so you can’t enter it but it does make for a good photo opportunity with its whitewashed walls and its position perched precariously on the cliff’s edge. It’s also one of the best places to enjoy the sunset.
6. Hike up to ancient Thera
The Dorians first settled Thera in the 9th century BC, and now its remains consist of Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine ruins at the top of a giant hill. You can visit houses, temples, a market, a theater, and even a gymnasium. You can drive to the top, but the most rewarding way to visit is via the footpath from Perissa. It’s less than two miles (three kilometers), but it’s a steep climb with a visit to a lovely little chapel along the way. Bring water! It’s €4 ($4.45 USD) to visit.
7. Explore Pyrgos
If you want the full picturesque experience of Oia without the crowds, head to Pyrgos. This used to be the island’s capital, and it still has all whitewashed homes, pristine chapels, and narrow alleyways that you imagine when you think of Santorini, but without the chaos.
8. Take a sailing trip
On a sailing trip, you’ll get unique views of Santorini’s calderas and its cliffside buildings you otherwise wouldn’t see from shore. There are lots of sunset cruises available, and the best ones have BBQ and drinks included (and sometimes snorkeling). You’ll pay about €90 ($100 USD) for five hours of sailing but it’s worth it.
For more information on specific destinations in Greece, check out these guides:
Santorini Travel Costs
Hostel prices – During peak season, you can find a bed in a four to six-bed dorm for as low as €31 ($35 USD) per night near Fira, but can be as high as €77 ($86 USD) per night. A bed in a dorm with eight or more beds is between €36-49 ($40-55 USD) per night. If you want to stay further away from the main town (like in Perissa), 10-bed dorms start as low as €12 ($13 USD).
In the off-season, beds in dorms around Fira cost from €29 ($21 USD) per night no matter how big the dorm is, while beds in hostel dorms further away from Fira start from €6.25 ($7 USD).
In peak season, a private double room with a shared bathroom costs from €81 ($90 USD) per night. That same room is about €54 ($60 USD) in the off-season.
Budget hotel prices – A room with a private ensuite bathroom in a two-star hotel will start at about €64 ($71 USD) everywhere except in Oia, where rooms start at about €130 ($145 USD) for a three-star. In the off-season, you’ll find rooms for about €22 ($25 USD) around Fira or €68 ($75 USD) in Oia.
Airbnb is available everywhere on Santorini, but not with shared accommodations. For a private room, the average is about €54 ($60 USD) per night, while a full apartment averages about €206 ($229 USD) per night.
Food – You can find street food like gyros or souvlaki for €4 ($4.50 USD) or less. A hearty pita or Greek salad will cost no more than €6 ($6.65 USD). Burgers are from €5.50 ($6 USD), A meal at McDonald’s will cost about €8 ($9 USD).
Traditional Greek dishes at mid-range restaurants can be affordable. Plates of fried halloumi or lamb sausage are from €8 ($9 USD). Seafood like octopus and calamari will cost from €8 ($9 USD). A beer to go with it will cost from €3 ($3.35 USD).
At a higher-end restaurant, you can get an appetizer and an entree (like pasta or seafood) for about €40 ($45 USD). A glass of local wine is another €5 ($5.55 USD).
Supermarkets are few and far between in Santorini, but if you cook for yourself, you can spend about €40 ($44 USD) on groceries per week, which would include some meat, eggs, pasta, some veggies, cheese, and fruit.
Backpacking Santorini Suggested Budgets
If you’re backpacking Santorini, expect to spend about €64 ($71 USD) per day. This is assuming you’re staying in a hostel dorm, eating lots of cheap and/or fast food, cooking some meals, using the bus to get around, visiting about one attraction per day or taking advantage of lots of free activities.
On a mid-range budget of €169 ($187 USD) per day, you can stay in a private hostel room, eat at mid-range restaurants, rent a scooter, take some guided tours, and drink a bit more! You won’t live large, but you’ll want for nothing!
On a luxury budget of €358 ($397 USD) per day in Santorini, you’ll stay in a five-star hotel or resort, eat at nicer restaurants, take taxis everywhere, and do all the tours you want! There’s a lot of high end, luxury tourism here so you’ll be able to live a lux life if you want!
If you want to save 10-20% on these costs, come during the shoulder season or off-season.
You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages – some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in USD.
Santorini Travel Guide: Money Saving Tips
Santorini is easily Greece’s most iconic island, and it gets incredibly crowded and expensive in July and August. That being said, it’s easier to save money here than in other islands (like Mykonos) if you just know a few tricks (or if you come off season). Here are some of my best ways to cut your costs in Santorini:
- Hit Happy Hour – Drinks get very expensive on Santorini. Drink your fill during happy hour, when they have 2 for 1 drinks and €1 ($1.11 USD) shots. Perissa beach is a popular nightspot.
- Avoid Oia – The main town is the most expensive place on this relatively cheap island. Avoid staying and eating here and you’ll find yourself cutting your costs down significantly.
- Visit in the off-season – August is the most expensive month, so if you can arrange for a visit before June which would really cut down your accommodation and flight costs by up to half.
- Couchsurf – While there are not a lot of hosts on the island, if you look in advance you can usually find some locals to let you stay for free (save money) and you get a local guide out of it!
- Book in advance – Santorini gets a lot of tourism, and things tend to fill up quickly (especially in the summer). If you want to secure that ultra cheap hostel room, book way in advance!
- Book overnight ferries – Greece’s inter-island ferries can get quite expensive if you are visiting a lot of them. Taking the overnight ferries can save you up to half off the normal price plus save you a night of accommodation.
- Book ferries early – If you book the ferries around two months in advance, you can save up to 25% off the cost of your ticket. (Score!)
- Skip the cliffside restaurants – The restaurants along the caldera’s edge are way more expensive than the restaurants away from the cliffside. Avoid them!
Where To Stay in Santorini
Santorini is a big island, so if you’re planning on spending more than a few days here, then it’s a good idea to switch up your location once or twice. If you want to avoid spending lots of money, skip Oia. It’s overpriced. There are better areas to stay (Fira is pretty cheap.) These are my suggested and recommended places to stay in Santorini:
How to Get Around Santorini
Bus – Buses are the best option for getting around Santorini, with prices ranging from €1.80-2.50 ($2-2.77 USD) depending on where you’re going. Fire to Oia is €1.80 ($2 USD), while Fira to Perissa is €2.40 ($2.66 USD). Perissa to the port is €2.20 ($2.44 USD).
Routes are limited in the off-season and shoulder season. Check ktel-santorini.gr website for routes and fares.
Scooter and Quad Rental – There are lots of scooter and quad rental shops in Santorini. Rentals start from €20 ($22 USD) per day in the off-season, or you can even get an ATV starting from €30 ($33 USD) per day. In the peak season, scooter rentals start from €25 ($28 USD), and ATVs start from €35 ($39 USD) per day. Fresh Rent and Moto Manos are both two great rental companies (although Moto Manos tends to have the cheapest rates).
Bicycle – eBike rentals start from €20 ($22 USD) per day from EcoBike, while bicycles start from about €25 ($28 USD) per day from Santorini Adventures. Their eBike rentals start from €40 ($45 USD) per day.
Taxi – Taxis are available everywhere but they’re expensive. A taxi from the port to Fira costs about €15 ($17 USD), while Fira to Oia costs the same thing. Fira to Perissa is about €18 ($20 USD). Avoid them if you can!
Hitchhiking – Hitchhiking is very safe and common in Santorini, but it may be hard to find rides in the off-season when traffic is less busy. People will usually always give you a ride. Check out Hitchwiki for everything you need to know about hitchhiking in Santorini.
When to Go to Santorini
Santorini’s shoulder seasons (April to May and September to November) are the best times to visit the island. Mediterranean weather is pleasant year-round, and you’ll still get warm temperatures in the shoulder seasons but without the tourist hordes. Plus, prices are less inflated. The average high is above 64°F (18°C).
Summers (June to August) are really hot, with temperatures averaging 85°F (30°C) each day. The Mediterranean is perfect for swimming and enjoying the beaches, but this is definitely when most people visit, the crowds are annoying, and the prices are through the roof!
The average low temperature in the winter months is 48°F (9°C), but sometimes it can dip even lower due to Santorini’s high altitude.! Pack some sweaters if you’re visiting between November to February. On the upside, you won’t have to compete with tourists for hotel rooms during this time. (But keep in mind that many businesses and services shut down in the off-season so the island is dead.)
How to Stay Safe on Santorini
Santorini is a very safe place to travel. Violent crime is rare and very unlikely to happen. Petty crime like pick-pocketing is your only real concern. Keep your valuables close at the beach, or leave them behind in your hotel room. Theft is pretty common during peak season!
Much of Santorini is exposed to the elements, so if you’re visiting during the summer months and plan on spending lots of time outdoors, be prepared! Carry a hat, drink lots of water, and stock up on sunscreen.
If you’re an inexperienced driver, you may want to pass on the scooter rental. Natives to the island zip around chaotically, and the hairpin turns and hills sometimes make for dangerous driving.
If you’re worried about getting scammed, you can read about the 14 travel scams to avoid right here.
Always trust your gut instinct. If a taxi driver seems shady, stop the cab and get out. If your hotel is seedier than you thought, move somewhere else.
If you don’t do it at home, don’t do it in Santorini! Follow that rule, and you’ll be fine.
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past.
Santorini Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel to Santorini. They are included here because they consistently find deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors.
- Momondo – This is my favorite booking site. I never book a flight without checking here first.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is another great flight search engline which searches a lot of different airlines, including many of the budget carriers that larger sites miss. While I always start with Momondo, I use this site too as a way to compare prices.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments.
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Couchsurfing – This website allows you to stay on people’s couches or spare rooms for free. It’s a great way to save money while meeting locals who can tell you the ins and outs of their city. The site also lists events you can attend to meet people (even if you’re not staying with someone).
- Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have a no money down policy, great interface, and the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around Europe, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get a discount when you click the link!
- The Man in Seat 61 – This website is the ultimate guide to train travel anywhere in the world. They have the most comprehensive information on routes, times, prices, and train conditions. If you are planning a long train journey or some epic train trip, consult this site.
- Rome 2 Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. It will give you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
- Bla Bla Car – BlaBlaCar is a ridesharing website that lets you share rides with vetted local drivers by pitching in for gas. You simply request a seat, they approve, and off you go! It’s a cheaper and more interesting way travel than by bus or train!
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
- EatWith – This website allows you to eat home-cooked meal with locals. Locals post listings for dinner parties and specialty meals that you can sign up for. There is a fee (everyone sets their own price), but this is a great way to do something different, pick a local’s brain, and make a new friend.
Santorini Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading on the road and need some gear suggestions, here are my tips for the best travel backpack and for what to pack!
The Best Backpack for Travelers
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Santorini Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
The Iliad, by Homer
A story of men and gods, Homer’s epic poem conveys the horror and heroism of the Trojan War before moving into its heart-wrenching, tragic conclusion. The translated version by classicist Robert Fagles is a beautiful rendition of this story. Just take a second to appreciate the fact that this poem has been around since the 9th century BC. It’s a wonderful glimpse into life at that time. (Follow it up with The Odyssey!)
Zorba the Greek, by Nikos Kazantzakis
This book was first published in 1946, and is now considered a Greek classic. It’s the story of a Greek working man named Zorba, a great lover of life, and the unnamed narrator who accompanies Zorba to Crete where they work together in a mine. But it’s also about the “struggle of men to find their souls and purpose in life.” The best part about this book is Zorba – a memorable character who makes the most out of life, whether it’s work in the mines or hanging out with monks in a mountain monastery. It’s like pure poetry.
Eurydice Street: A Place in Athens, by Sofka Zinovieff
Sofka Zinovieff became enamoured with Greece when she studied there as a student, but years later she moved back with her Greek husband and two young daughters. This book is about her first year in Athens, and all the trials and (hilarious) tribulations that come with learning how to be Athenian. There are a lot of great insights into everyday Athenian life here, including how to catch a taxi, the importance of cigarettes, and how to get a pig cooked at the baker’s. It’ll definitely spark your desire to hang out in Athens for awhile.
It’s All Greek to Me, by John Mole
This is the self-deprecating, humorous true story of John Mole – a man whose ideals of Greek paradise lead him to buying a shambled home in the countryside with no water, no electricity, no doors, no windows…you get the point. Mole drags his family along to this rural escape, where they spend some time cleaning out 20 years of goat poop and getting to know the friendly neighbors (like Elpida, who cures back pain with raw eggs). This is a seriously funny book.
The Summer of My Greek Taverna: A Memoir, by Tom Stone
One summer Tom Stone went to Greece to write a novel, and ended up staying 22 years. On the island of Patmos he fell in love with a French painter named Danielle, and seven years later they moved to Crete. Not long after, his friend offered him a summer partnership at his beach taverna back on Patmos, and Stone decided to go for it – although his wife warned against it. Ultimately she was right: Stone ended up learning the hard lessons about doing business in Greece, and that the partnership was really a “Trojan horse.” Here is his account of that time – about life as an American struggling to make his dreams a reality in a foreign place.
Santorini Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on backpacking/traveling Greece and continue planning your trip: