Santorini is best known for its sunsets and the pretty village of Oia. With its whitewashed Cycladic buildings and the blue-domed churches, Oia’s what you imagine when you think of Santorini. However, there’s a lot more to Santorini than just Oia. I’m sharing the best things to do in 2022 including some unique things to do in Santorini during your trip.
Many people spend just a few days on Santorini. But there really is quite a bit to do if you’re able to stay longer.
Top Things to Do in Santorini – The Highlights
Watch the Famous Santorini Sunset
Ok, so this one’s a doozy. Watching the sunset from the streets of Oia has got to be number one on every visitor’s list of things to do in Santorini. To get the best, crowd-free views, book a hotel on the caldera with its own tiny balcony. You won’t have any privacy but at least you’ll have a bit of space. If that’s not in the budget then get there early to nab a spot on the street or book a table at one of the restaurants or cocktails bars with a sunset view.
Remember that the whole of the west side of the island has brilliant sunset views too. Take advantage of quieter spots in the other villages along the caldera. Akrotiri Lighthouse is a great place to see the sunset as well. It gets busy but there are actually some really good places to stop and watch the sunset on the way to the lighthouse. Another option is to go to Franko bar in Pyrgos and watch from the top of the hill.
Go Shopping in Fira
Fira is the capital of Santorini. It has white-washed buildings and pretty, narrow streets crammed with shops, tavernas and art galleries. Have a look around, stop for a drink on one of the terraces and then ride the cable car down to the old port and back for a stunning view. (Or walk down the hundreds of steps if you need a workout while on holiday!
Walk the Caldera
Hiking the spectacular caldera is a wonderful activity. It’s not a small undertaking but worth it for the views. Having said that, you could pick up the trail from Imerovigli for a shorter walk. Either way, you’ll get plenty of beautiful photos of both the stunning scenery and the whitewashed houses and blue domes. Walk Thira to Oia to finish with a sunset view if temperatures allow. If you’re walking in warmer months start early, take plenty of water and wear a hat.
Arrange a way of getting back from Oia as buses get full quickly and, in my experience, taxis are hard to come by.
Take a Boat Tour
There are various Santorini boat tours to choose from and a variety of boat types from basic to luxury. They generally range from 3 hours to a full-day island excursion combining a bus and boat tour.
The boat tours are usually a combination of the following:
- Caldera cruise including seeing the red, white and black beaches
- Volcano visit
- Swim in the hot springs
- Thirasia island visit
- Sunset cruise
- Snorkelling time
- Various meals/snacks/drinks
If you choose a cruise that includes the volcano visit you’ll have the chance to walk up the volcano and back. Note that the hot springs are not like what you might experience elsewhere, for example in Iceland or Turkey. You’ll be swimming to the edge of the volcano where the hot water mixes with the sea, so the temperature might be nearer 32 degrees than 42.
Visit Akrotiri Ancient Site
Akrotiri is an important prehistoric settlement that was once prosperous and well developed. The inhabitants were forced to leave because of terrible earthquakes that preceded the volcanic eruption. Thanks to the lava, Akrotiri is incredibly well preserved and excavated finds are on display at the Museum of Prehistoric Thera. Akrotiri is steeped in myth and legend and some people believe that this ancient city is the Lost Atlantis.
Tour Santorini’s Wineries
Santorini is apparently the number one destination for wine in Greece. Like on the other Cyclades, the vines are grown on the ground to stay sheltered from the wind. This unique way of growing, along with the volcanic soil, lends itself to beautiful wines from a particular type of grape.
There are plenty of wineries to choose from and you can decide whether the wine, the view or the package with food pairing is the most important. For spectacular views and a touristic experience try Santo Wines near Pyrgos. For the best wine choose one of the family wineries like Hatzidakis Winery or Estate Argyros.
Although it’s best to make an appointment you can visit the wineries without being part of a tour. However, joining a tour might give you the best experience without having to worry about getting lost or having a sober member of the group to drive.
Santorini Wine Stories have various tours available. For a variety of luxury, private and groups tours try Santorini Wine Tour. Art Space combines tasting with history and you can view the on-site museum and art gallery. This tour through Airbnb Experiences is a combined winery and brewery tour. This Santorini Wine Tasting Tour is also through Airbnb Experiences and takes you around three quite different wineries.
If you’re a beer drinker then consider this Santorini Wineries & Brewery Tour. You’ll experience 12 different types of wine, 4 different beers and everything’s accompanied by plates of local cheeses.
Visit a traditional Greek village
Think of Santorini and you think of Oia with its blue-domed rooves and maybe even Fira, the capital. You might also think (beautiful) tourist trap that’s heaving with hundreds of cruise ship visitors. BUT, it is absolutely possible to experience authentic Greece in Santorini.
Take the bus or your rental car to one of the villages in the middle of the island. Pyrgos is at the highest point of the island and is a great example of a traditional Greek village. It has castle (Kasteli) ruins which aren’t too exciting, but the view from there truly is. The pretty, labyrinth streets and hidden alleyways are great to explore. You’ll stumble upon little shops, many churches as well as bars and restaurants and more than likely a donkey or two.
You might also like to visit Emporio and have a wander through the medieval alleys.
Have Lunch at Ammoudi Bay
Ammoudi Bay is Oia’s old port and where the boats leave for Thirasia. It’s also a nice place to visit and go for a meal fresh from the sea. The water is turquoise and the food is good. Have a dip then some lunch while you watch the fishermen deliver their hauls.
Although I ran out of time to try it, the restaurant with the orange chairs was recommended as being particularly good.
Things to do in Santorini for history lovers
Ancient Thera is a well-organised archaeological site with outstanding views. I was as enthralled to see Anafi in the distance and planes coming in to land at Santorini airport as I was by the ancient ruins. It’s a trek to get up Mesa Vouno mountain so get a bus from Kamari. (I drove but in peak times I imagine parking is an issue.) If you want to hike you can either access the site by the hairpin bend road that the vehicles come up, or you can follow the trail up from Perissa.
Museum of Prehistoric Thera
This museum houses finds from sites around the island including Akrotiri. You can get a pass that includes access to Akrotiri, this museum as well as Ancient Thera. Akrotiri is a highlight and I really enjoyed seeing Ancient Thira. It’s nice to see all three as the museum explains Akrotiri quite a bit.
Lost Atlantis Tour
As I mentioned above, Akrotiri is one of the alledged sites of the Lost Atlantis. The Lost Atlantis Museum is an interactive experience that mixes history, philosophers and myth. It’s in Megalochori so a nice stop if you’re exploring some of the villages.
Food and drink-related things to do in Santorini
It would be a shame to come to Santorini and not experience any of the local food. Here are a few different ways you can enjoy Greek culture on the island, via food.
Take a Food Tour
Anydro Tours offers a unique tour of their farm in the southeast part of the island. It’s a series of traditional caves and uses a waterless farming method to grow a variety of local products. You’ll have a cooking class and lunch from products picked from the farm. You also get a tour of Megalochori Village and then the opportunity to try various local wines and cheeses. Bookings can be made via Airbnb Experiences too.
This Eat & Walk Santorini Food Tour comes highly recommended. Walk around Fira and Firostefani taking in the magnificent views and along the way, you’ll enjoy a variety of tastes. Coffee, beer, meze, souvlaki, moussaka and an oil tasting all feature.
The Santorini Walk, Drink, Eat Sunset tour offers a similar experience. It includes a tasting of Greek liqueurs and spirits, local sweets, craft beer, wine, tapas, seafood, souvlaki and a seasonal dish. Bring your appetite!
Santorini Wine Trails offers a Foodie Experience that combines a farm visit with a wine tour. Check the Wine Tours tab on their site.
Hire a Private Chef
When you’re on holiday in Santorini, take the opportunity for someone else to cook for you at home. If you’re staying as a group in a villa this could be great fun. Take a Chef offers you the services of Chef Giannis who was born on the island. He’ll arrive 90 minutes before dinner, armed with everything he needs to cook you a delicious meal. If you’re keen you can join him in the food prep to learn his secrets. If not, just chill with an appetiser until the meal is ready. The best part? All the washing up is done for you too!
Check Airbnb Experiences for More
If you’re interested in any other types of food tours keep an eye on Airbnb Experiences for the dates of your visit. You might find other tours that coincide with your trip, like olive oil and local honey tasting experiences.
Visit Santorini’s Black, White and Red Beaches
While beaches aren’t Santorini’s strongest point there are some you can enjoy. The secluded ones I’ve mentioned below are quite unusual.
Santorini is known for its black volcanic sand. The largest stretch of beach is in the southeast of the island where Perissa and Perivolos Beaches run into each other. These popular beaches offer music, sunbeds and umbrellas, bars and tavernas pretty much along the whole stretch. Kamari on the east is also a popular black sand beach.
As well as those beaches there’s also a secluded beach near Akrotiri that’s actually called Black Beach. You can get to it by turning off the road on the way to Akrotiri Lighthouse. It’s quieter than the others mentioned above.
A bit further along the coast is White Beach. It’s another secluded beach and is named because of the stunning white rocks the beach is nestled into. The sand here is not white, it’s black sand and pebbles.
The White Beach isn’t accessible by car. You can either visit it during a boat tour of the Caldera or get a water taxi from Akrotiri, near Red Beach.
Santorini Red Beach
The Red Beach near the Akrotiri ancient site is also quite famous. Its colour comes from the ochre-coloured lava rock behind. Although people do go and visit it, it’s been closed off for years because of the danger of falling rock. Most recently was a landslide in 2018. Accidents do happen there (which stretch local resources as well as ruin your holiday) so please respect the signage. You can see the Red Beach safely from the sea on a boat tour, water taxi or kayak experience.
Active Things To Do in Santorini
Serenity Kayak-Semi Private Day Tour
Serenity Kayak offers morning and sunset tours for you to discover Santorini’s fascinating natural landscapes including the Red and White beaches plus caves!
See Santorini on an e-Bike Tour
See the island by e-MBT (electric mountain bike). Santorini Adventures offers tours of the ancient pathways and non-touristy parts of Santorini. They also have specific tours for cruise ship visitors and biking experts plus they can make something totally custom for you.
Take a Fishing Trip
If you’re into fishing then a Santorini fishing trip can make for a nice holiday excursion. Have a look at Santorini Fishing Tours who offer tours from 3 hours to a full day. Giorgaros Fishing Tours also have a variety of semi-private, private and advanced fishing trips.
Learn a Skill in Santorini
Stargazing and Photos Experience
Learn to identify stars and get to grips with some night sky photography basics in this Stargazing and Photo experience.
Take a Pottery Class
You can go and have a pottery lesson at Galateas Pottery and then go back the next day to paint your creation. One and two-day sessions are available to book at the shop in Megalochori.
Take a Greek cooking class
Petra Kouzina offers an authentic and fun gastronomic experience in their cave house in Santorini. You get to cook, share, taste and enjoy warm hospitality while creating five different dishes. The cooking class and meal is a four-hour experience and you get to take the recipes away at the end.
Other Things to Do in Santorini
Take Part in Traditional Dancing and Plate Throwing
For a real evening treat, laugh, dance and throw plates at this Greek Wedding Show extravaganza in Fira.
Watch a Film at the Outdoor Cinema
For an atmospheric evening catch a film at the Santorini’s pretty outdoor cinema at Kamari.
See Santorini at Sunrise
We know that Santorini is all about the sunset. But what about a sunrise tour to enjoy Oia before the crowds. Start at a secret sunrise spot and go on from there.
Island Hopping from Santorini
Do a tiny hop to another Greek island
Thirasia is just 10 minutes away from Santorini by boat but it’s another world. Escape the crowds on this quiet island of wild beauty with its few hundred residents.
Get the boat from Ammoudi Bay and see the island by yourself or join a tour. I did the E-MBT (electric mountain bike) tour with Explore Thirasia and they offer a walking tour too.
You can see Anafi from the east coast of Santorini. It’s a bigger hop than Thirasia but still about 60 – 90 minutes away depending on which boat you get. Coming here you’ll get beautiful golden sand beaches, hiking and a complete break from the Santorini crowds.
If you fancy it as an island stay of its own I have a whole Anafi Guide for you. Alternatively, you’ll find boat trips that will take you from Santorini to the best beaches on Anafi. Check Airbnb Experiences as well as local information for tours running during your visit.
As you can see there are plenty of things to do in Santorini! Check the dates of any tours you’d like to do if you’re visiting during the shoulder season. Some things run from the beginning of March and others won’t start until around May. At the end of the season, some things finish up around the middle to end of October but you will find some activities running into November.