Things to do in Santorini Greece

things-to-do-in-santorini-greece

Updated Dec 2019: For a treat and on a whim, I booked a 6-night stay on Santorini in the Cyclades Islands. I had never been before, so I was at a bit of a loss of things to do in Santorini Greece. Needless to say, I discovered it’s an easy island to explore, and there is plenty to keep you busy for a few days or a week.

Greece, particularly the islands, are some of my favorite escapes. Did you know there are 6000 Greek islands in total with only 227 inhabited? There are so many landscapes and cultures to discover.

The Greeks are extremely friendly, their history rich, and their cuisine is the healthiest in the world.

You might enjoy The Best Greek Islands to visit for more suggestions.

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You might be interested in this Greek Islands Travel Guide.

   

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Ok. Santorini was a bit of a splurge. My on-again, off-again relationship was off again, and I was itching for a vacation. Some women buy chocolate, some shop the department stores, but not me. I buy travel.

Nothing gets my mind off of reality like sunrises, sea views and a warm Mediterranean breeze. I was just looking for some fun things to do in Santorini island to enjoy by myself. And I only had a week.

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How to get to Santorini Greece

Flights to Santorini Greece

Since I only had a week, I wanted to get to Santorini by the quickest and most direct means, so I flew.  Depending on the time of year, there are direct flights to Santorini from many European cities. You can fly direct to Santorini from Germany, Spain, Italy, France, the Netherlands, and you’ll find flights from smaller airports that only operate this route in summer.

Otherwise, you need to transit through Athens.

If you have the time, I always recommend a few days in Athens to absorb the amazing history, culture and culinary treats this beautiful city has to offer. Then chill out on the islands. This history in Athens is amazing and it’s fun for the whole family. Here’s a great guide to Athens with kids for reference.

Taking the Ferry to Santorini Greece

If you are traveling during the summer and have more time, take the ferry.

Santorini is on many of the Greek ferry routes. You can get there from almost any island if you are Greek island hopping. Santorini is also referred to as Thira, so look for that when booking your island hopping to Santorini itinerary.

The popular route if you are near Athens is from Pireaus port to Santorini. From Pireaus, you can get to all the islands.

What to do in Santorini Greece

I was going to Santorini in high season and I knew it would be crowded in summer. I needed to be methodical about what to visit in Santorini. Since the island is not very large, I could easily visit most of Santorini within seven days.

I decided to I split the island into three parts: a visit to Pyrgos village in the southwest; the famous village, Oia, in the north, and traditional Perivolos and Red Beach in the southeast.

First, visit the quiet village of Pyrgos

Visit Pyrgos Village when you are on Santorini
Charming Pyrgos Village and Brusco’s Cafe, Santorini

Pyrgos is a quaint village of a bit over 900 people. It’s a quick ride from the airport and the least spoiled of the villages on Santorini. It’s quite charming and relaxed with only a few restaurants and shops. Stroll the steep steps up to the cathedral to the top of the village for a magnificent panoramic view.

Brusco’s Cafe, in the heart by the roundabout is buzzing, and for good reason – They have coffee, wine and WiFi! You sit under shady trees and watch the world go by. This is a great place to chill on Santorini. It doesn’t even feel like Santorini.

It’s also where the local bus stops to go to other parts of the island. You can arrange your Santorini Sightseeing Bus Tour pickup from here.

The stunning Pyrgos Cathedral in Santorini
The Cathedral in Pyrgos Santorini

Where to stay in Prygos Santorini – Try the Art Hotel Santorini

I love staying in boutique hotels and I’m in luck. The Art Hotel Santorini is a super boutique hotel just at the edge of Pyrgos. It’s a 10-suite, adults-only, sea-view hotel, and the rooms come with a private terrace and plunge pool.

I booked the Nest Suite at the Art Hotel and it was a very spacious suite. Wow! The blood-red tiles on the plunge pool reflect something sinister may have happened. At night, it glows! It’s nice and warm and makes a bold statement. Against the blue sky, the private plunge pool has a massive, ‘Wow’ factor.

Plunge pool at the Art Hotel Santorini
Private plunge pool in Santorini.

As the name implies, the Art Hotel Santorini is a canvas for national and international artists. It feeds the tastes and trends of the sophisticated, contemporary Greek art scene. There is a new installation each season, along with concerts and talks to coincide. You can even admire art while you are swimming in the main pool. It’s a very creative concept, and what a wonderful way to support the arts community.

Exterior of the Art Hotel in Santorini

Art Hotel is Adults-Only with impeccable service

It is so ‘chill’ to simply linger in my own private pool, and I admit, I relish the quietude. The only break in silence is the occasional moan coming from the couple next door. Lucky them. No screaming at the pool, no children crying. It’s zen. Since there are only 10 suites, the service is excellent and staff are extremely attentive.

Dining at the Art Hotel Santorini

Breakfast is included and menus are set out the night before. It’s made to order at the time you request. Choose from omelettes, Greek yogurt with honey, Greek salads, plus champagne! Its a very chic experience first thing in the morning.

There is no restaurant, so order a private, romantic dinner on your terrace!

Room rates for April 2020 are around $120 per night, which is a great price for a boutique hotel on Santorini. The hotel is open from the end of March to the end of October.

Breakfast at the Art Hotel Santorini
Staff at the Art Hotel are very professional

Other hotels in Pyrgos Santorini are:

4* Hotels in Prygos

Orizontes Hotel and Villas

Skyfall Suites – Adults Only

Carpe Diem Santorini Small Luxury Hotels of the World

3* Hotels in Pyrgos

Donna’s House Santorini

Culture House Santorini

Enjoy Magical Oia and see the sunset!

I hopped on the bus to the opposite end of the island, to the town of Oia. When you see photos of Santorini, it’s predominantly Oia.

KTEL is the bus company that manages the bus network, and it’s clean and efficient. The main bus routes in Santorini run frequent, usually a couple times an hour, and offer inexpensive transfer from point A to B. Ticket prices range from $2-3, and night buses are slightly more. There is absolutely no need to rent a car on Santorini.

Like many, I was keen to get ‘that shot.’ You know, the one with the blue-domed churches. Well, here it is. The bright lime-water whitewash sears your retinas as you squint to take it all in. Everything is so bright against the contrast of blue.

If you want to be sure to get the best photos on the island, take the Santorini Photo Tour. You have 5 hours to tour the island and capture the most amazing images.

Blue domed church Santorini - What to do and see in Santorini
The blue domed church of Santorini

Oia’s permanent population is 1,550 and increases substantially in the summer. It’s a chic, expensive village, and a visit for  cruise ship passengers. It gets really busy and feels like a duty-free stop. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful. Book in the off season so you can enjoy it more to yourself.

Hotels with views in Oia Santorini

I stayed at another boutique hotel at the Aisling Micro Hotel! There are two floors with a large living area, a spacious writing desk with an Ipad and cell phone, and a sea view Jacuzzi!

I have a terrace on the main floor, and upstairs is the bedroom and an even larger terrace! I’m in the center of the action.

Room rates were $315 per night, but I’m not sure you can book it any more. This is a great little boutique hotel on Santorini well worth the splurge if you want to be in the heart of Oia.

Aisling Micro Hotel - what to do and see in Santorini
Views from second terrace at Aisling Micro Hotel Oia Santorini

Things to do in Oia Santorini – watch the Sunset

People come to Oia for the sunsets. If you want, you can take a sunset cruise on Santorini. Otherwise, people converge each evening at the far end of the island to experience this. Luckily, I didn’t go anywhere. I just sat on my terrace, glass of wine in hand, and listened to Richard Edward’s Smooth Jazz program on the internet. How sublime…  A perfect complement to a wonderful view.

You can also take a sunset tour of Santorini that is just magical.

Sunset in Oia Santorini
Beautiful sunset from Oia

Visit Oia Santorini

Oia is definitely a more vivacious town on Santorini with the buzz of restaurants, clubs and nooks to keep your photographic interest.

If you’re looking for things to buy in Santorini, Oia is probably your best bet. There were lots of unique jewelry shops, clothing stores, local wine and other items made in Greece. The shops on Oia were really charming. They were packed together and one on top of another. It seemed like Oia wanted to slip into the sea.

Depending on how long you stay, there will be plenty of things to see in Santorini Greece.

What to see in Santorini Greece
Oia Santorini by night

The best time to explore Oia is at sunrise. It’s empty – a far cry from night time. I was able to snap some amazing photos without dodging bodies! It was me, a few dogs and cats, and the occasional baker delivering croissants.

Oia Santorini
Early morning croissant delivery

5* Hotels in Oia Santorini

There are loads of 5* hotels in Santorini. Some are hotels and some are private villas. Regardless, you’ll be treated with the utmost service and privacy.

Hotel Katikias

Canaves Oia Hotel

4* Hotels in Oia Santorini

Oias Sunset

Oia Mare Villas

3* Hotels in Oia Santorini

Delfini Villas 

Helianthus Suites- Caldera Caves

Fun things to do in Santorini Greece – book a Wine Tour!

Another fun thing to do on Santorini is book a tour with Wine Tasting and sunset tour. I visited Domaine Sigales, Estate Argyros and the Koutsoyannopoulos Wine Museum where we learned about wine making and tasted 12 different types of local Assyrtiko and Vinsanto wines which come from Assyrtiko, Athiri and Aidani grapes. This day tour was about $100 and a great course on wine production on Santorini.

The next time I need to try their Wine and Food Lovers Tour which includes a cooking class! I love dabbling in local cuisine.

Wine tasting tour Santorini
Wine tasting stop

Unique Vineyards

Due to the heat, the vines grow in a circle on the ground. That way, the humidity from the soil and shade from the leaves help the grapes grow.

Low lying grape vines in Santorini
Low lying grape vines

Visit the ancient ruins of Akrotiri

When you are on Santorini, you must visit the covered ruins of the ancient Minoan Bronze Age settlement of Akrotiri. This is one of the more unique things to do in Santorini. Akrotiri was covered by a volcanic eruption in 1627 BC and the excavation has been going on since 1967. There are wall paintings and ceramics to see lying about and it’s an amazing place to discover. It’s quite an interesting bit of Santorini history, and at €12, it’s a small price to pay to visit these amazing ruins.

Ancient remains of Akrotiri on Santorini
Ancient remains of Akrotiri

 

Spend a few nights by Perivolos Beach

My time in Oia had come to an end, so I took a local bus down to the Southeast part of the island to Perivolos beach. I planned to stay 2 nights at a beach front resort.

Unfortunately, the resort was beach front, but extremely tired and lifeless. I was spoiled by my previous 4 nights in a boutique hotel, and expectations were high.

The black, volcanic beach was in desperate need of a raking and cleaning, and it didn’t even seem like the same island. I won’t mention the name of the hotel as I wouldn’t recommend it.

Visit the Red Beach Santorini

While you are in the south, you should take a trip to the most famous beach, The Red Beach on Santorini. It’s called that because of the red and black volcanic rock that’s been sliding off the face of the cliff.

This is one of the more popular things to see in Santorini. Lots of tourists come here. The colors were quite spectacular and surreal, and it’s a great place to visit for an afternoon of you want to swim on Santorini. But to be honest, I wish I would have consulted this best beaches in Santorini post before visiting any of them. They get crowded!

I woke early again to shoot some sunrise shots from the beach. Quite lovely!

The Red Beach in south Santorini

Santorini is a great trip for a week

This trip to Santorini was just the ticket. I left feeling energized and glad I booked on a whim. There are so many things to see on Santorini and seven days didn’t feel too short nor too long.

It is easy and reasonably to reach Santorini from the UK with many low-cost carriers and tour package operators. Otherwise, just connect through Athens. I really do love Athens. And if you are short on time, here are 3 things you must see in Athens.

For more information on Santorini and the wine tour, click the links above. I highly recommend both hotels for location and service.

Other Reading

Keep in mind there’s more to Santorini than the main town of Oia. There is so much to discover, so take your time and plan accordingly.

For other great Greek island guides check out these posts here:

What to do in Naxos Greece

Why 2 days on Milos Greece was enough

Best Places to stay on Mykonos if you’re not planning to stay

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Life On The Mediterranean

US expat living the life on the Mediterranean in the South of France. I regularly travel to Spain, Italy, Greece and other intriguing locations around the Mediterranean. Former Hyatt Corp Marketing Manager, student accommodation director and hotel photoshoot art director.

6 Comments

  1. Lisa
    at 10:09 am

    Santorini is still on my bucket list. Great post and great photos!

    • Anonymous
      at 2:13 pm

      Thanks, Lisa. Santorini is very navigable. Quite easy to get around by bus and you’ll see totally different parts of the island. Hope you get there one day.

  2. Chandrima
    at 8:12 am

    Santorini will always be my most favourite destination. Your post and pictures made me so nostalgic ????

    • Anonymous
      at 9:11 am

      Thank you, Chandrima – I, too, love Santorini, and the Greek Islands in general. They are so photogenic and each island is so unique. I hope to explore and talk about more of them. Stay tuned!

  3. Shibani
    at 8:06 am

    Santorini is high up on my list and honestly this post drove my urge up high!! I love the pictures, the hotel recommendations and the drone video of the sunrise is just so mesmerizing!

    • Anonymous
      at 9:12 am

      Thanks Shibani. It is such a beautiful place that it’s easy to photograph. That drone is amazing, right? That is one thing I want to start doing – droning. Let’s see. Keep in touch!

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