What to Do in Santorini, Greece: The Ultimate Guide

written by local expert Jane Elmets

Jane always knew she wasn't destined for a desk job... She has travelled all over the world and is passionate about noodles, sloths and her hiking boots! When she isn't busy adventuring around the world, you can find her reviewing travel gear and dishing out travel tips to all the places she's visited.

Magical Santorini is full of things to do for an unforgettable island vacation. From climbing the endless stairs to Fira to exploring volcanoes in the middle of the Caldera, Santorini is full of active adventures to get your blood pumping. 

But if you’re in search of a relaxing holiday, there are plenty of (multi-colored) beaches, lush wineries, and small town squares where you can kick back and chill out. Check out the best hotels in Santorini with private pools for an unforgettable and relaxing experience. 

No matter what kind of activities you choose to do in Santorini, you’ll find that it’s a thrilling place to visit. Perfect for young travelers, honeymooners or anyone seeking a luxurious vacation, Santorini is the place to be!

Here are our picks for the best things to do in Santorini, Greece.

Climb Up to Fira

Santorini Attraction: View of white houses on hillside in Fira

Spending time in the island’s capital, Fira, is definitely one of the best things to do in Santorini. It’s the iconic picture of a Greek island, with whitewashed houses, blue detailing, and endless stairs leading to the top of the village.

Fira can be reached by walking up the 587 steps from the Old Port or riding the cable car which costs €5 one-way and comes complete with impressive, rocky views.

While exploring this magical little town, be sure to stop by the Archaeological Museum to check out finds from Ancient Thira and visit the Three Bells of Fira, a famous blue-domed church overlooking the sea.

Note: While they are available, please resist riding a donkey to the top of Fira! It’s unethical and does great damage to the mules. Stick with the cable car or your trusty feet. 

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Wander Around Oia

Another must-do in Santorini, Oia is one of the best places to catch a sunset on the island.

While Oia is a little more upscale than Fira, it’s still full of whitewashed houses. Many of them have been transformed into small hotels that sit high above the sea and boast circular pools in the back.

Oia is certainly a step up in terms of price, but with it comes the magical experience of spending time in the town. There are loads of fantastic restaurants in Oia serving everything from authentic Greek to international cuisine and plenty of little boutiques for shopping.

If you’re looking to escape the tourist crowd for a little while, walk down to Ammoudi Bay from Oia and enjoy crystal clear waters, cliff jumping, and scrumptious local tavernas.

Hike Between Fira and Oia

One of the best things to do in Santorini is to hike between the towns of Fira and Oia. While it may seem a little daunting, the walk is about nine kilometers and only takes about three hours.

It’s one of the most scenic ways to experience Santorini as it weaves along the caldera. There are plenty of places to stop for photos and some quaint villages on the way that make for a good resting point.

Just be sure to wear your sneakers and hike either early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid peak sunshine hours!

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Go on a Jet Ski Safari

If you’re hoping to ride a jet ski during your time in Greece, Santorini is the place to live out your dreams. 

On this jet ski safari, choose from three tours to explore the Santorini waters. You can travel around the south coast of the island, stopping at places like Perivolos, Vlychada, Red Beach and more. Alternatively, take a volcano tour that brings you to the best volcanic sites around the island. The final option is the extreme volcano tour, if you want to see as much of Santorini as possible.

No matter which tour you choose, snorkeling gear will be provided so you can jump in the water and explore the marine life living under the surface!

Even if you’ve never ridden a jet ski before, you’ll be in good hands on this safari as you’re accompanied by an instructor the entire time. Plus, each tour comes complete with a safety boat and a photographer so you can get some great snaps from your day. 

Admire the Caldera

A breathtakingly beautiful Santorini attraction is the Caldera, a massive volcanic crater filled with sea water.

The caldera came to life more than 3,600 years ago when there was a huge volcanic eruption that completely wiped out the center of the island. It spans 12 kilometers by 7 kilometers and is the spot to go hunting for hot springs and volcanic activity. 

You’ll find lots of Santorini tours that allow you to experience the caldera with a local guide as it’s certainly one of the main attractions on the island. That being said, you can still go at it on your own. Just take to the many winding paths to discover what lies on the edge of Santorini!

Soak up the Sun at Red Beach

Beach surrounded by red rocks in Santorini Greece

The unique Red Beach is a must-do in Santorini. The pebbly stretch of beach is surrounded by huge volcanic rocks in every shade of red, standing in contrast to the crystal blue waters of the Aegean Sea. 

You’ll find Red Beach loaded with tourists in the summer, but during the off season it’s quite a pleasant place to chill out.

Insider Tip: The path leading down to the beach is super rocky, so it’s best to wear your sneakers and pack your flip-flops!

Kick Back at Perissa Beach

Another unmissable volcanic beach on the Santorini coast is Perissa, home to lush black sand and a backdrop of curving mountains.

The beach stretches for a whopping six kilometers and is lined with plenty of places to eat and drink. You can rent sunbeds in the summer and work on your Mediterranean glow or sign up for some water sports at the many tents along the beach. 

Check out the Moonscapes at Vlychada Beach

So far we’ve covered red and black beaches, but now it’s time for bright white Vlychada Beach. 

This lovely sandy expanse is surrounded by huge cream-colored cliffs pockmarked with craters, resembling the face of the moon. While the cliffs encircling the beach are part of the volcanic landscape, you can’t help but imagine the giant rock formations springing up right from the sand itself. 

The beach is super peaceful, but if you’re looking for a little more action, Vlychada has a sleepy fishing village with fresh seafood and local tavernas, perfect for an evening drink.

Horseback Ride Along the Beach

Do you have a lifelong dream to ride a horse along an empty beach? Well, Santorini is the place to make that dream come true!

On this horse riding adventure, you’ll learn to ride a horse (novices, no worries!) from a professional instructor and then spend the rest of the day galloping along the beach.

You’ll start at the dunes of Caldera Beach and then ride through the mountains to take in views of the expansive sea. Afterwards, you’ll ride along the black sand shores of Eros before taking a quick swim and riding back to the stables.

How magical does that sound?

Have a Scuba Diving Adventure

Scuba diving is another popular Santorini activity due to the warm Mediterranean waters and diverse marine ecosystems.

Since the waters are fairly calm, there’s diving suitable for any level in Santorini. If you’re a beginner hoping to learn the ropes, this is the perfect place to take an introduction to scuba diving course with an experienced instructor. You’ll learn how to use the gear, how to breathe underwater, and then take your first real dive!

For more advanced certified divers, link up with the Santorini Dive Center and head out to some of the best spots around the island. 

On this diving excursion, experienced divers are able to head out to the New and Old Volcano where there are underwater lava formations and a wide range of marine life like lobsters, moray eels and more! There’s even a wreck that you can dive to in this area, so long as you have the proper certifications. 

Kayaking and Snorkeling at Sunset

If you’d rather stay closer to the surface of the water, there’s no better way to enjoy the gentle waves of Santorini than from a kayak.

On this chilled-out kayaking excursion, you’ll take a tour of Santorini from the water at sunset. Away from the bulk of the tourist crowd, you’ll paddle along the water as the Mediterranean sun sinks low in the sky.

While kayaking along, you’ll stop at different famous Santorini beaches, jump in the water for a snorkel and even stop at a local taverna for a fresh snack. Along the way, you’ll get to see Mesa Pigardia, White and Red Beaches, Kampia Beach, the Black Mountain, and the Akrotiri lighthouse.

What could be better than sightseeing from the water?

Visit the Akrotiri Archaeological Site

While any trip to Santorini is about having the time of your life, there are also some fascinating historical and cultural components to the island that are worth exploring.

After being closed to the public for several years, Akrotiri was reopened in 2012 and it’s a captivating place to visit. So much so that it’s frequently compared to Pompeii!

A visit to the Akrotiri Archaeological Site is a great way to get a glimpse into ancient life. This Minoan settlement was actually completely covered in lava after a volcanic eruption in the 16th century BC… and then rediscovered hundreds of years later. Today, you can see what remains of the ancient town, from buildings to drainage systems to prehistoric pottery.

If you’re interested in learning more about Akrotiri after your visit, head to the Museum of Prehistoric Thira where you can see many of the discoveries made at the site on display.

Travel Must: While it’s easy to get around Santorini by bus or on foot, you may prefer having the flexibility and freedom of having a rental car during your stay. Click here to compare car rental prices. You’ll be surprised at how affordable it is!

Explore Ancient Thira

Another ancient place to visit, Thira is home to crumbling Hellenistic temples and Roman buildings. This historic site sits on the southeast coast of the island and overlooks the sea. 

On a visit here, walk among the ruins and see if you can make out what the structures once were! With open eyes, you’ll be able to find multiple religious sites, a theater, administrative buildings and, of course, a gym. 

While it may not be as impressive as other archaeological sites on mainland Greece, Ancient Thira is still an interesting place to visit in Santorini, especially when paired with a visit to the Archeology Museum in Fira. 

Fall in Love with Pyrgos

Santorini activity: visit the whitewashed village of Pyrgos

Pre-1800, the quaint village of Pyrgos was the capital of Santorini. 

Sitting high on a hilltop overlooking the rest of the island. Pyrgos has all the components we love in Santorini’s towns – classic whitewashed buildings, churches sporting blue domes, and little streets to get lost in.

While Pyrgos was once sleepy and all but forgotten, it was revived in the early 2000s. Now, it’s the location of many upscale tourist retreats. If you’re on the hunt for a unique boutique hotel, this is the place to be!

Watch the Sunset at Profitis Ilias

As Santorini’s highest point, Profitis Ilias is definitely one of the main attractions on the island. It’s reachable from a long road starting in Pyrgos and hits the summit at a whopping 584 meters.

From the top, you’re offered remarkable panoramic views of all of Santorini and the sea beyond. You’ll also find the Profitis Ilias Monastery when you reach the peak; it has been around since the 18th century and is open to visitors.

While the monastery makes an interesting place to visit, Profitis Ilias is best known for being the greatest place on the island to catch a sunset as it sinks into the Aegean Sea!

Take a Helicopter Tour

Another great way to enjoy #Santorini #views is from the sky! 

On this helicopter tour, you’ll have the chance to soar over the island to see places like Oia, Caldera, and the massive volcano. The tour takes off from the south of the island and flies over vineyards before making its way over the whitewashed villages and blue-domed churches.

You can choose between a 25-minute and one-hour tour (the longer one flies over Ios, too!), and for an extra dose of romance, book the sunset slot to see the sky lit up in pastel colors. 

Hike to the Top of Nea Kameni

View from the volcanic island of Nea Kameni in Santorini Greece

For even more volcanic action on your trip to Santorini, take a day trip to Nea Kameni, a volcanic island in the middle of the caldera. You won’t want to miss the hike to the top!

There are tons of boat tours that run day trips from Santorini to Nea Kameni. These tours often come with a guided hike to the top through lava formations, smoldering craters, and views over all of Santorini.

This tour gives you the opportunity to not only hike Nea Kameni but also swim in hot springs and visit other volcanic islands in the area!

See a Movie at Kamari Open Air Cinema

Wondering what to do in Santorini at night? 

After a long day of sightseeing around Santorini, you’ll probably be eager for a restful, laid-back evening. If so, there’s no better place to chill out than at the Kamai Open Air Cinema, an outdoor movie theater that operates from May until September.

While there are plenty of open-air cinemas around Greece, Kamari is one of the most famous ones. It even has a bar inside where you can purchase snacks and drinks. The movies are always shown in English with Greek subtitles, and there’s generally something pretty good being shown. 

What a lovely way to spend an evening! 

Indulge on a Food Tour

It wouldn’t be a trip to Greece without indulging in the finest local cuisine, and there’s no better way to explore the Santorini food scene than on a walking food tour!

This tour lasts four hours and takes a small group to some of the best places to eat on the island. You’ll have the opportunity to munch snacks at local tavernas and sample authentic specialties like olive oil and honey. On a stroll through the daily market, you’ll see locals out selling their goods before stopping for an included drink.

If you’re hoping to eat your way through Santorini, this food tour is the way to go!

Take a Cooking Class

Here’s a fun thing to do in Santorini, if you’ve totally fallen in love with Greek food. Learn how to cook Greek specialties while in Santorini, so that you’ll be able to prepare (and eat!) authentic Greek food — no matter where you are!

This cooking experience includes a hands-on cooking lesson with a local chef who will teach you how to prepare a scrumptious meal. And best of all, the class is held at a winery.

The perfect Santorini activity for foodies, you’ll have the chance to cook a traditional meal, pair it with local wines, and then enjoy it all together. Not to mention, the winery’s sommelier will be on hand to walk you through a wine tasting and explain why they go so well with the food. 

Yes, this is in fact what dreams are made of!

Treat Yourself to a Winery Tour

Two classes of wine on a ledge looking out at Santorini Greece

Speaking of wine, Santorini is home to dozens of wineries and vineyards responsible for the delicious local wine on the island.

One of the most famous of these wineries is Santo. You can visit for a tour and indulge in an 18-glass (yes 18!) wine tasting flight that comes with little nibbles and unbeatable wines. Santo also boasts spectacular views. What could be better than wine and a lookout?

If you’re hoping to visit more than just one establishment, consider taking a guided winery tour which will bring you to some of the best wineries in Santorini to learn about the craft from local experts. 

Relax on a Cruise Around the Aegean

One final Santorini activity that cannot be missed is the opportunity to sail around the waters surrounding the island.

This cruise gives you the choice to book a morning or sunset ride through the waters of Santorini, where you’ll get the chance to swim in volcanic hot springs and snorkel in the clear waters. It’s on a luxury catamaran with a small group and you’ll be treated to cocktails and a freshly prepared, five-star meal. 

After five hours out on the water, you’ll be hard-pressed to return to shore. But one thing’s for certain, you’ll always remember a cruise in Santorini!

Another great way to explore this part of the world is to go on a Cyclades island hopping trip allowing you to stop at many stunning Greek islands. In fact, sailing in Greece is one of the best things to do in the country!

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Things to Do in Santorini | There are few places as magical as the Greek island of Santorini. Here's everything to do in Santorini for an unforgettable island getaway!

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