Guide to the best things to do and see in Santorini, including visiting the caldera views, Fira museums, scuba-diving the caldera, touring the wineries or enjoying the best beaches and walking tracks.
The Greek island of Santorini (Thira) is in the southern Aegean Sea and actually consists of a group of islands. It is one of the most popular spots to visit in all of Greece, because of it’s brilliant blue roofs, but there are so many more things to do and attractions to see in than just the pretty domed buildings.
What is the best things to do and see in Santorini? If you’ve ever dreamed of the perfect Greek Island vacation and poured over websites and brochures to plan it, you’ve probably already lost your heart to Santorini. Its gleaming white Cycladic houses and windmills frost the tops of nearly 1,000-foot, multi-colored cliffs like icing on a wedding cake. Both rugged and romantic, it’s a fount of legends and a ravishingly beautiful destination. But after you’ve admired its beauty, what else is there to do there? Plenty actually. Favorite things to do include cruising, seeing ancient sites, and kicking back to enjoy the beaches, Greek cuisine, and a world-class sunset.
Best Things to Do and See in Santorini
- One Day in Santorini: Hike the caldera path between Fira and Oia. Boat tour of the caldera. Dinner at Mezzo or Metaxy Mas.
- Two Days: Add a wine, food or jet ski tour.
- Three Days or More: Visit ancient Akrotiri and Pyrgos. Lots more walking (the best way to explore Santorini).
- Most important tip: Do at least one tour. Or two or three or four. You might not usually do tours. It might be outside your comfort zone. But they’re awesome, fun, and really well done. Santorini Boat Tours, Santorini Wine Tours, Santorini Private Tours – they’re all great. People spend thousands of dollars getting to Greece and then worry about a $200 wine tour. Just do it. You’ll remember it forever.
Best Things to Do and See in beaches of Santorini! The beaches in Santorini are much different than other beaches in Greece due to their special geographical features. Kamari beach Santorini is the best and most famous. Red and black volcanic pebbles lay the shores of Santorini beaches and steep cliffs provide a picturesque ambience. The most famous of Santorini beaches is the Red beach, while particularly popular are Perissa, Kamari and Perivolos. You will find below a list with the best beaches in Santorini island.
Hike From Fira to Oia, it’s free!
One of the best things to do in Santorini is the hike from Fira to Oia around the caldera. This is a popular activity with a wide range of travelers, both young and old. Giving you some of the best views from on the island, walking from Fira to Oia is something which you truly must not miss while in Santorini.
This is the single best things to do on Santorini – and it’s free! The views are incredible. The hike takes somewhere between 2 and 5 hours depending on your speed and how many pictures you take along the way. Start in Fira and move north through Firostefani and then Imerovigli (this part of the path feels more like a village sidewalk). From Imerovigli to Oia it’s largely rural with only a few shops or restaurants on this stretch of path. Most people will want to wear a sturdy running shoe for the walk but I’ve certainly seen people do it in flip flops. The route isn’t completely marked but it’s fairly intuitive: stay on the path that follows the edge of the caldera and walk north (when in doubt stay to the left/west). Of course, it’s fine to do the walk in the opposite direction but it feels more natural (to me) to walk north to Oia and the island’s tip. And walking into Oia from the hills above is an awesome finish. If it’s July or August I’d highly recommend starting before 8am.
Get a Fish Pedicure
While strolling through the town of Fira, make a stop to get a fish therapy treatment for the hands or feet at Fish Spa Kangal Wellness Center. Stick your toes inside the tank and the tiny Garra Rufa fish will gently suck away the dead skin on your digits leaving them smooth as silk. This technique was primarily designed to help people with dermatological conditions, such as eczema, but it can also be very relaxing.
Jet Ski Tour To The Volcano
Best Things to Do and See in Santorini is Jet Ski Adventure! An insanely fun and unique way of seeing the caldera. There are different tours that go different places – all leave from Perivolos in the south of the island. The shortest tour (“South Tour”) visits nearby Red Beach and White Beach and lasts about 90 minutes. The medium-length (“Volcano Tour”, 140 minutes) goes all the way into the caldera and stops for a swim in the hot springs by the volcano. The longest tour (“Extreme Volcano Tour”, 200 minutes) takes the volcano tour and adds Thirassia and Ammoudi Bay. The tours that go into the caldera are pretty intense and the waves can be big. It’s a taxing activity but super fun.
Have a Romantic Dinner Overlooking the Caldera
Many of Santorini’s restaurants overlook the beautiful caldera and one of the most romantic things you can do is have a candlelit dinner at one of these eateries, especially if you are able to catch the sunset during your meal.
Experience the beauty of Santorini on a 5-hour, luxury small group catamaran cruise. Choose from a 10:00 AM or 3:00 PM departure. Snorkel among the marine life, and enjoy a Greek buffet meal with drinks.
Best things to do things to see in Santorini is sightseeing. There are guides who will guidance you in Santorini and know the location of many beautiful landscapes. Of course, you should find a camera before you join this tour. If you have brought your camera with you on your holiday, you are very lucky.
Wonderfully fun! The Morning Tour and Sunset Tour explore the south coast of Santorini (cool but you don’t get to see the caldera). The Round The Lighthouse Tour goes into the caldera and provides incredible views of the caldera cliffs. There’s also a good SUP and snorkeling tour (but it doesn’t go into the caldera).
Santorini wine is great, the wineries are beautiful, and the people super friendly. It’s a fun and easy way to see the island away from the caldera. A tour is the best way of exploring more than one winery.
The island in the middle of the caldera is Nea Kameni and where you’ll find the island’s active volcano and the top point of interest in Santorini. The crater is 130 meters up and takes about 20 minutes to walk to. Sulfur vents are found along the way. The only way to get here is by doing a volcano boat tour or hiring a chartered boat.
See the ancient village left behind after the devastating volcanic eruption that made the island uninhabitable. The site is the most interesting historical site on Santorini and very well preserved. I highly recommend booking a tour guide in advance to show you around the site and discuss the history of the island, the eruption, and the following destruction. Another option is the excellent private tour of Akrotiri and 3 Santorini wineries.
Family-friendly fun (depending on what’s playing, of course). Watch a movie outside as the sun sets and the sky grows dark. Wine, beer, and simple snacks available. Movies start around 9:30pm. Sundays and the first and last day of any movie run are the busiest days. I recommend getting here when the doors open at 8:30 to ensure a seat. There’s a bus stop directly across the street with buses back to Fira. In summer the last bus should be after the movie is out but check the schedule to be sure. Map of Kamari Open Air Cinema.
You can do both the volcano walk and the hot springs as part of a boat tour. Be sure to get a tour that takes in the sunset too. There are also tour options to visit Thirassia (a small populated island that forms part of the caldera ring with Santorini) and Red and Black beach. The boats start from either Athinios port (where the ferries arrive), the Old Port below Fira (for this you can take the cable car down), or Ammoudi Bay (below Oia), and most tours offer hotel pickup to get you to the boat. All the tour companies are legitimate so buy the tour that suits your needs best as far as timing, interests, and transportation.
Swim at Ammoudi Bay
One of the best swimming spots on Santorini is down the cliff from Oia at a spot just south of the Ammoudi port. Walk or drive to Ammoudi Bay then take the path that leads south from the restaurants in the port (can’t miss it, there’s only one way to go). It’s a 5 minute walk to a small island (Agios Nikolaos) that you can swim out to. Then jump from the ledge (if you want).
Very professional, very fun fishing tour with lots of hands-on action and a huge lunch. The daytime/lunch tour is best for most but there’s also a sunset fishing tour if that sounds appealing.
Explore the Paths, Alleys, and Stairwells of Fira, Firostefani, and Imerovigli
This is basically the hike from Fira to Oia but instead of continuing to Oia you can stop in Imerovigli, explore a little, and turn back around. All 3 towns have beautiful views and are worth a walk-through.
Walk to Skaros Rock
Descend the cliff to the path to Skaros Rock and explore the far side of the outcrop (there’s a little church hidden on the far side) and climb to the top of the rock if you’re brave enough. Great views too. The path starts just south of Grace Santorini hotel.
Find the hidden paths, alleys, beaches, photo shots, amazing villages, and quiet spots all around the island. All tours are good but there’s something a little extra special about doing a private tour (if it works with your budget, not cheap).
Explore the Paths, Alleys, and Stairwells of Oia
Oia has even more hidden pathways than Fira. Be sure to get off the main path and explore the magical views you’ll stumble upon. A good place to start is to find the restaurant Lotza then take the path down the cliff directly to the right of the restaurant.
Find Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine ruins – and spectacular views – at this ancient island capital on the top of Messa Vouno mountain. You can hike the steep trail up from Kamari or Perissa, drive the narrow switchbacky road to the entrance, or hop on the 10€ shuttle from Kamari below. Expect maximum wind and minimum facilities – there are no bathrooms at the top. 4€ adults, kids free. 8am-3pm Tuesday-Sunday.
Ride the Donkeys
Ride the donkeys either from the Old Port up to Fira or from Amoudi Bay up to Oia.
Explore the Santorini Countryside
This is one of the advantages of renting a car in Santorini – you can get away from the main towns and explore the beautiful countryside. The island’s small – you can almost always see the sea – but there’s lots of farmland (especially in the south) and you can’t drive for very long without stumbling across a winery.
Dinner with a View
The food is often better when you go to a restaurant without a view. But regardless, you have to have dinner with a view of the caldera at least one night while in Santorini. Mezzo is my favorite restaurant with a view on Santorini.
Good swimming (though it’s a pebble-beach) and lots of restaurants. The pedestrian only street along the beach is fun to walk at night when it gets quite busy.
Jump from the boat into the cold water of the caldera then swim towards the warm water of the volcanic hot springs. It never gets hot but it’s warm enough to never feel the need to get out. The only way to get to the hot springs is by doing a boat tour.
On the way to Perissa beach in the south of Santorini you’ll find this magical little town. There’s almost never any tourists here and though it’s small it’s still plenty big enough to get good and lost in the tangle of alleyways.
Lioyerma Public Swimming Pool
If your hotel doesn’t have a pool this is a good option if you’re staying in Oia – but I don’t think I’d come all the way from Fira just for the pool. No fee, just buy a drink or some food and you can sit all day. Nice view. (And has a sunset view too.) This is a great way to finish the Fira to Oia hike. Address of Lioyerma Lounge Cafe Pool Bar.
Watch the Sunset in Oia
Bring a bottle of wine and hang out on the cliffs of Oia watching the sun set. It is busy so be prepared for crowds. Forget about finding a taxi back to Fira or Imerovigli but there are extra buses waiting for the crowds after the sunset so there’s often no wait. Elinikon is the best Oia restaurant with views of the sunset.
The Seafood Restaurants Of Amoudi Bay
Walk down the stairs from Oia to the Ammoudi Port and find a little port with 4 restaurants serving ridiculously fresh seafood. All the restaurants are good but Ammoudi Taverna is my favorite. It’s surprisingly quiet down here and you can usually get away without a reservation.
Atlantis Books in Oia
This is a classic little bookstore. Often named as one of the top 10 bookshops in the world. Simply wonderful. Be sure to support the store and buy something. They also sell a self-made map of Santorini (worth the 5€) with the staff’s favorite things to do around the island.
Museum of Prehistoric Fira
On the main street in Fira this small museum is worth a 45 minute visit. It’s not huge but is especially interesting if you visit Akrotiri first. A 5-minute walk away is the Megaro Gyzi museum (near the Catholic church). It’s smaller still but worth a look if you want more Santorini history. And seeking it out is a good way to see some of the hidden alleys of Fira that you might otherwise miss.
Just down the road from the Akrotiri ruins, Red Beach is the most spectacular and picturesque of any Santorini beach. From the bus stop or car park it’s about a 15 minute walk into the beach. (Sometimes closed due to the risk from falling rock, proceed at your own risk.)
Lighthouse on Southern Tip of Santorini
The lighthouse is the destination but the draw is the incredible views looking north into the caldera – very different than the views from Fira or Oia and you can really see the circular nature of the caldera from this vantage point.
Explore the Fishing Villages on East Coast of Island
There are several small villages on the east coast of the island (north of Monolithos) that are worth a visit. Yalos is one of the better restaurants on the island and a good stop.
Take the Boat to Thirassia Island
Thirassia forms the western side of the caldera and was connected to Santorini before the volcanic eruption. It’s inhabited, has some good tavernas, and is worth the 1€ boat ride to visit. Boats leave several times a day from Ammoudi and the Old Fira port. Last one back is usually around 5pm so plan wisely or you’ll be spending the night on the island.
The winery has a 300 meter long wine cave that shows the history and development of Santorini wine over the previous 5 centuries. Admission to the museum includes 4 wine tastings from the Koutsoyannopoulos winery.
Art Space at Santorini’s Exo Gonia continues from the year 1999 until today its art activities and extends its hospitality to important artwork by Greek and foreign artists. It’s a charming mix of caves, art, and great wine.
Perissa & Perivolos Beaches
Perissa is the best swimming beach on Santorini and has the nicest sand. Good restaurants are spread along the beach front. Tranquillo is the funnest beach bar. Seaside is the best restaurant. Perissa is about a 30 minute drive from Fira and 45 minutes from Oia. Perivolos Beach is the southern part of the same stretch of sand but there’s little to distinguish one beach from the other.
This is pretty close to unforgettable. A wonderful tour above Santorini, the volcano, the caldera, and all the villages perched along the cliff. If you’re going to Mykonos you can also do a helicopter transfer between Santorini and Mykonos – which is fun, easy, and way faster than the ferry.
Cable Car from Old Port to Fira
Walk down the stairs to the Old Port, grab a drink, then take the cable car back up (though you can walk or cable car both ways if you want). From May to October the cable car runs every 20 minutes, 6:30 to 22:00 – a little longer hours in July and August, and a reduced schedule from November until April. It costs 4€ for adults and 2€ for children.
The food in Santorini is amazing. Obviously, it’s easy to enjoy plenty of great food without doing a tour but the guides are so knowledgeable and the tours so fun it’s really worth doing one. Like any Santorini tour the odds of doing one and then regretting it are almost zero.
Best Dance Bar
The Koo Club is in central Fira and gets going about 11pm.
Funnest Bar in Santorini
200 meters south of the Koo Club is the crazy little bar 2 Brothers. If you let the bartender hit you over the head with a bat (while wearing a helmet) you get a cheap liquor shot. It sounds obnoxious (and it is) but the saving grace is that everyone here is super friendly and there’s very little attitude. Good times.
Best Greek Bar
If you want to party with the locals (or Greeks from the mainland) then Mamounia is the place. Of course, being a Greek bar, it doesn’t get busy until after 1pm.
Best Singles Bar or Place to Meet Other Travelers
Tropical is one of my favorite bars in Santorini (single or not) and has great views. Friendly staff and something about the layout make it the best place to meet solo and single travelers.
Best Bar in Oia
Hasapiko (also called Mary Kay’s) is a great throwback bar with old timers and tourists sitting around while the music thumps. A small crowd usually moves about on the tiny dance floor. This is the only bar in Oia – but great. Gets busy about 10 or 11pm.
You have to try a baklava and ice cream if you’re in Greece. Lotza in Oia serves the best baklava on the island. (Zotos in Fira has the best gelato on Santorini.)
Best Restaurant with Sunset View in Oia
Best View of Santorini
Walk up the meandering lanes of Pyrgos (15 minutes south of Fira) to the top of the hill. There you’ll find a castle, a church, and these marvelous views of the entire island. The 6-Hour Best of Santorini is an easy way to visit the most interesting Santorini villages (Pyrgos, Oia, and others).
Eat Local Farm Food
There are many little farms on Santorini and they produce some wonderful local food. A good way to experience this is at the rustic Good Heart restaurant (they have their own farm) in south Santorini (about a 15 minute drive from Fira and easy to find).
Best Gyro In Santorini
Many of the gyro and souvlaki shops that target tourists make some pretty average food. Not Lucky’s. This is the real thing and just as good as anything you’ll find in Athens or mainland Greece. Lucky’s is on the main street of Fira and a 3 minute walk from the bus station. (Ask anyone and they’ll point you in the right direction.) Pito Gyros in Oia is also good.
If you happen to be in Santorini for Greek Easter (usually different dates than western Easter) be prepared for something special. On the night of Easter Friday go to Pyrgos where the whole town is magically lit with candles. Saturday night be prepared for fireworks (Fira is the best spot to see them) when the fast ends at midnight. And on Easter Sunday many Greek restaurants will have a special menu with roasted pork and greek dishes (be sure to reserve a table in advance).
Day Trip or Overnight Trip to Ios
The great beaches on Ios and its proximity to Santorini make it the best day trip island from Santorini … but an overnight trip is better.
Best Place To Stay in Santorini
You can stay in this windmill. Really! It’s the Windmills Suite at Golden Sunset Villas in Oia and it’s pretty incredible. In the village of Oia, guests can find charming cafes and restaurants. Fira, the lively capital of Santorini, is around 10 km away. Public parking is possible near the complex. Guests at Golden Sunset can start their day with a buffet breakfast, enriched with Greek products. Room service is also available.
Best Thing To Do On Final Night in Santorini
The White Door Theatro puts on an unbelievably fun show about a Greek family wedding. There’s singing, dancing, and a simple storyline. Guests are made to feel part of the wedding party. There are light snacks and lots of wine.