Santorini is one of those places that seems to be on everyone’s bucket list. Whether you are looking for a romantic holiday or visiting as part of a Greek island sailing tour, Santorini really is a must. But, aside from the beautiful villages of Oia and Fira, what exactly is there to see and do in Santorini? Surprisingly, lots considering it is a relatively small island. From village exploring to island adventures to foodie experiences, here are 31 unmissable things to do in Santorini.
Things to do in Oia, Santorini
Watch the Sunset from the Castle
Oia’s Castle of Agios Nikolaos is considered to be the prime spot to watch Santorini’s famous sunset. Perched on the cliff at the tip of the island, these ruins offer the perfect vantage point to watch the sun sink into the sea. Unsurprisingly, it does get pretty crowded so come early to make sure you can get a good spot!
Photograph the Famous Blue Domes
When you think of Santorini, no doubt you picture the white buildings with the blue-domed churches. To be honest, I was surprised at how few of these blue domes there actually are, but they are fun to find and make for stunning photo ops.
Stay in a Luxury Villa or Cave Hotel
I’m known to be a cheap traveller, but I splurged on a luxury cave hotel in Oia and it was the best decision I ever made. Not only was it gorgeous and relaxing, but it allowed me to escape the crowds and experience Oia early in the morning or later in the evening when the crowds left. Read this post on why splurging on a luxury hotel in Santorini is worth it.
Explore the Streets
The magic of Oia is in its beauty, and the best way to explore that is to just walk around and find it for yourself. You’ll get postcard-perfect photos and stunning panoramic views. The best time to explore is early in the morning before the crowds come- another reason why I recommend spending at least one night in the village rather than just visiting as a day trip.
Browse for Books at Atlantis Books
I’m a sucker for bookstores so when I read that Oia had one of the most famous book shops in the world, well I knew I had to visit. It reminded me of a mix of what I could expect to find at Hogwarts along with the library in Beauty and the Beast, though much smaller. However, despite its small size, it is magical. Definitely one of the best things to do in Santorini if you are a book lover like I am.
Visit Amoudi Bay
Not for those who are afraid of stairs, but if you are up for an adventure climb down the cliffs of Oia and spend a couple hours exploring the tiny Amoudi Bay. It’s known for its seafood restaurants plus it’s the closest place in Oia for swimming in the sea but, warning, you’ll no doubt work up a sweat as you hike back up to town! Please, do NOT ride the donkeys!
Book a Photoshoot
Oia is hands-down one of the most beautiful villages in the world so if you are looking for some memorable photos here, then consider booking yourself a photoshoot. Whether you are a couple, a family, friends, or travelling solo, these photos will be an amazing memento of your visit to Santorini. I did it with localgrapher and, not only was it a ton of fun, but I absolutely loved the results. Read about my experience here.
Pick up some Local Souvenirs
I found the best shopping to be in Oia. Fira had plenty of big stores and lots of extravagant jewellery, but as you wander the streets of Oia you’ll be able to find some local shops and artisans with beautiful merchandise. I picked up a gold-plated gold charm of the Greek calendar from one vendor, and a beautiful blue/purple silk scarf from another.
Things to do in Fira, Santorini
Grab a sunset Drink at PK Cocktail Bar
Oia may be known for the best sunsets in Santorini, but I got to see a pretty spectacular one from PK Cocktail Bar in Fira too. It’s a multi-level bar with yummy (though pricey) drinks and stunning views over the caldera. A sunset drink here is definitely one of my top recommendations for things to do in Santorini. Get here early though because these sunset views are no secret.
Wander the Village
Fira is very different from Oia. You’ll find chain stores and restaurants like McDonalds along with local Greek tavernas and souvenir shops. It’s pretty, though not as picturesque as Oia, but it is bigger. Take a walk one evening or early morning and take in the views because they are beautiful here as well.
Check out the Nightlife
Santorini is not a party island, but you can still have a night out in Thira. As mentioned earlier, PK Cocktail Bar is a great and stylish place to grab a drink or two and enjoy the views. There are a few bar and club-type spots as well though they are quite small and can be cramped. Again, it’s not a party city but if you have a group of friends you can still have a fun night out in Thira. Two Brothers is a fun spot if you are looking for recommendations, though I don’t recommend doing the head shots!
Stay in a Cliffside Hotel
Fira may not be quite as packed at Oia (at least in my experience) but the crowds can still be pretty intense. Again, I recommend splurging on a luxury hotel with a balcony, pool, and a beautiful view so you can escape the main crowds and relax and enjoy the magic of Santorini. If you are still debating where you want to stay in Santorini, check out this article.
Visit the Museums
Thira is home to several museums, so if you love history and culture then you may want to take a peek into a couple. Try the Prehistoric Museum of Thira which has an impressive collection of fossils and ancient jewellery and figures. Or, the Archaeological Museum of Thira which also holds several exhibitions.
Go down to the Old Port- but DON’T Ride the Donkeys
The Old Port is a cute place to visit if you’re feeling adventurous. It’s 588 steps and those steps are, well, covered in shit and very slippery. So take your time and go slow. I suggest walking down and taking the cable car up, though you can take the cable car both ways. Please though, do not ride the donkeys. It broke my heart watching them have to run up and down those stairs in the heat of the sun. They looked miserable, unhealthy, and the ones I saw were covered in flies. Do NOT support the donkey herders. If you can’t walk and don’t want to pay for the cable car, then don’t go.
Beaches in Santorini
One of Santorini’s black beaches, Kamari beach is a great place to spend a day, or half a day, by the sea. Warning though, this beach is not sand, it’s rocks. Black rocks that get really hot in the sun so if you have water shoes, wear them or pull your towel as close to the shoreline as you can. Trust me when I say those hot rocks really burn! Kamari does have plenty of shops, beach bars, and restaurants nearby. I really enjoyed this beach and would say spending a few hours here is one of the best things to do in Santorini.
Another black beach in Santorini, Perissa Beach is basically a really long beach (though other sections go by different names) that caters to a lot of backpacker type tourists. Some spots are busier than others (the spots near the restaurants and bars) but it’s another good choice for those looking for a beach day.
Located near Akrotiri, the Red Beach is one of the best-known beaches in Santorini thanks to the colour of its sand which, yes, is red. It’s about a 15-minute walk from the bus stop and does require a bit of scrambling up some rocks, so it’s best if you wear decent shoes. It is a sand beach (though coarse sand) but the swimming area is pretty rocky. Bring plenty of water and snacks as well if you want, there’s nowhere nearby to get them once you arrive.
Not quite a beach, but Ammoudi Bay deserves a spot on this list since it is one of the best swimming spots on the island. Remember though, it’s quite the hike to get up and down to if you don’t have a vehicle.
Adventure Activities in Santorini
Hike Between Fira and Oia
Take a hike along the Caldera between Santorini’s two best-known towns: Fira and Oia. Expect the hike to take about three hours each way, and make sure to wear plenty of sunscreen and bring water. If it’s not too hot, this is one of the best things to do in Santorini.
Check out the Views at Skaros Rock
Skaros Rock is between Fira and Oia and can be visited if you are doing the hike between both villages, or on your own. The views here are supposed to be phenomenal, just make sure you wear proper shoes- you don’t want flipflops for this climb!
Rent an ATV to Explore the Island
Renting an ATV is one of the most popular ways to explore the Greek islands, especially in Santorini which is pretty steep and hilly in some areas. If you are experienced in driving ATVs, then you’ll be fine. However, if you have never driven one before, then it’s really not a good idea to just jump on one and explore. They can be dangerous and flip if you aren’t sure what you are doing. That being said, if you think you want to try then consider doing a day trip with a local who will teach you the basics of driving an ATV and lead you around the island on a locally-guided ATV tour. You still get to have fun and explore, but there’s an expert nearby just in case. Book your ATV tour here.
Take a sunset Cruise
Watching the sunset from Oia of Fira is a must, but if you have extra time in Santorini then consider joining a sunset cruise for one evening and watching the sunset from the water. It’s a completely different vantage point plus much less crowded which makes it more relaxing. Book a sunset cruise here.
Go Sailing for a Day
Part of the charm of the Greek islands are the sailing tours you can take. I took a multi-day sailing tour with Intrepid which was amazing, but if you don’t have the time for that then hop on a sailing tour for half a day and sail around the island of Santorini. You can book a half-day sailing tour (which includes sunset) here.
Explore a Volcano
Santorini is famous for its volcano which, by the way, is still active. And yes, you can visit it. Take a day tour from Santorini across to the volcanic islands where you can peer into the crater of the volcano and then swim in the nearby volcanic hot springs. Sound fun? Book your Santorini volcano tour here.
Explore the Ancient Ruins of Akrotiri
Greece is known for its history and the island of Santorini is no exception. In Akrotiri, you can explore part of that history. Akrotiri is home to one of the best-preserved prehistoric settlements in Greece. Once a Minoan port town, this village was covered in ash following a major volcanic eruption. However, while it destroyed the town as a living place, the ash helped preserve it. Akrotiri is known as the ‘Greek Pompeii’ for this reason.
Take a Kayaking Trip
Want to see Santorini from the water in a more adventurous way? How about a sea kayaking tour? Sea kayaking is popular in Santorini, especially along the south coast of the island. There are plenty of day trip or shorter options depending on what you are looking for. This tour is a sunset kayak tour and this kayak tour will take you to the beaches and caves of Santorini.
Go Scuba Diving
The waters in Greece are some of the clearest I have ever seen in my travels, so it makes sense that it would be a great destination for scuba diving. If you already have your certification, consider spending a few hours exploring Santorini below the waves. Book your Santorini scuba diving experience here.
Other Fun Things to do in Santorini
Go to an Outdoor Theatre
Feel like watching a movie under the stars? You can in Santorini at the Open Air Cinema Kamari. Movies are shown in English (with Greek subtitles) and start at 9:30pm with doors opening at 8:30pm. There are snacks and drinks for sale and toilets on site. It’s a fun way to spend an evening in Santorini.
Take a Wine Tour
Another thing that people may be surprised to know is that Santorini is home to a few wineries. They tend to be away from the typical tourist areas which means they can be tricky to get to if you don’t have a car, however, you can avoid having to worry about any of that and take a winery tour. Spend a day touring Santorini and trying its wines? Sounds pretty good to me! Book your Santorini wine tour here.
Take a Cooking Class
Greek food is delicious and a cooking class is always a fun way to immerse yourself in the local culture, so why not try a cooking class in Santorini? Especially if that cooking class takes place on a winery and includes a wine tasting. Sound like something you might enjoy? You can book your cooking class with wine tasting and lunch here.
Splurge on a Helicopter Ride
OK, so this might be a bit much but if you have the room in your budget and have always dreamed of taking a helicopter ride, well Santorini just might be the place to do it. Soar over the clear blue waters, picturesque white villages, and the volcano. Your viewpoints (and photos) will be unforgettable. Book your helicopter tour here.
As you can see, there are lots of great things to do in Santorini. Whether you are looking for a relaxing break, some culture and history, or a little bit of adventure, this list should provide lots of inspiration to anyone wondering what to do in Santorini.
A Note on Travel Insurance in Greece
Please, do NOT travel without travel insurance! I’ve had to rely on mine twice before (once for damaged luggage, once because I developed a lung infection while traveling). While the cost may seem annoying and better spent elsewhere, trust me when I say you’ll be sorry if you don’t have it. For just a couple bucks a day, you can save yourself a whole lot of stress and money. I like to recommend SafetyWing for travel medical insurance. With prices starting at $37 for 4 weeks, they are one of the most affordable options I’ve found. Learn more about the importance of travel insurance here.