How to make the most of Santorini

Nothing says Santorini quite like the cliff-hugging white-washed houses, blue-domed churches and hilltop windmills that define the island's landscape. Yet, there's far more to see and do on this compact Cyclades' island than you might expect.

Top Excursions on Santorini
Top Excursions on Santorini © Hans Johnson - Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0

The cheapest option by far is to travel independently around Santorini by bus. Yet, hiring a car is a great way to get around if you like visiting more remote places of interest, letting you move at a pace that best suits you.

However, if that's not for you there are plenty of organised coach excursions or small group tours, both of which give you the advantage of a knowledgeable guide.

If you opt for a holiday to this beloved Greek island, you'll quickly see that the jewel in the island's crown is, without doubt, marble-paved Oia, although there are plenty of other lovely villages and archaeological sites to visit, hikes and water sports to enjoy, beaches and even other islands to explore.

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Visit Oia to see the iconic Santorini

Once a sleepy village, Oia is now a stylish, bustling and exclusive resort, very popular with photographers, especially at sunset.

The best time to visit, though, is early in the morning or out of season as it does get extremely busy; its popularity is understandable, being one of the most beautiful towns in the Mediterranean.

Beautiful Oia, Santorini, Greece
Beautiful Oia, Santorini, Greece © Kathryn Burrington -

Head to Pyrgos

If you'd prefer somewhere a little less crowded then try Pyrgos, where yet more white-washed houses huddle around the ruins of a Venetian hilltop castle.

It's a delightful village to get lost in with a maze of narrow alleyways each calling you to walk down and see what's around the next corner.

Hike Thirassia, Santorini's little sister

If you want to see Santorini from afar, make for Manolas on the neighbouring island of Thirassia. Here the views across to the main island are stunning and yet it remains pleasantly untouched by tourism.

Manolas Bay, Santorini
Manolas Bay, Santorini © Kathryn Burrington -

After exploring Manolas, you can hike across to the other side of the island to see an abandoned cave house village, finishing up with a traditional late lunch before catching the boat back to Oia.

Uncover ancient Akrotiri

Probably the most significant archaeological site in the Cyclades, Akrotiri was an important city until it was destroyed by a series of earthquakes and a volcanic eruption in the 16th century BC. It's a fascinating site with much preserved, similar to Pompeii. Join a guided tour to bring the ruins back to life.

Fira Harbour, Santorini
Fira Harbour, Santorini © Kathryn Burrington -

Shop in Fira

With designer boutiques and numerous souvenir, arts and craft shops, Fira, the island's capital, is a shopaholic's paradise.

While undeniably popular it has its charms. Catch the cable car down to the harbour for a more laid back atmosphere or, to find out more about ancient Santorini, the Museum of Prehistoric Thera is a must.

Take a wine tour

As well as delicious cuisine, Santorini also produces some excellent wines and you'll find plenty of lively, welcoming places to eat and drink traditional fare.

If, however, you really want to learn more about the local wine as well as how to cook authentic dishes, why not join a wine and food tour like the one offered by Santorini Wine Adventures. It makes for an enlightening and entertaining introduction to Santorini's gastronomy.

Sea kayaking, Santorini
Sea kayaking, Santorini - photo courtesy of

Take to the water

If you're after something a little more adventurous, Santorini Sea Kayak offers guided tours around the island by water. You'll get a completely different view of the island and you can stop for a spot of snorkelling and a picnic, too.

On the hike from Oia to Fira
On the hike from Oia to Fira © Steve Jurvetson - Flickr CC BY 2.0

Hike from Oia to Fira

For fabulous views of the caldera (the ancient volcanic crater now filled with seawater), follow the six-mile trail from Oia to Fira, or vice versa. Walking shoes are recommended as in at least one section the ground is quite loose underfoot.

The best time to go is just after sunrise or late in the afternoon. Be sure to take plenty of water with you plus the usual hat and sun lotion and allow up to three hours to complete the walk.

Of course, there's far more to do when visiting Santorini than just our top picks. There are beautiful beaches to visit, more hiking trails, two young volcanic islands in the centre of the caldera, not to mention the ancient city of Thira* and the cliff-top village of Imerovigli*. The list just goes on...

Weather in Santorini

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Find out more about the weather in Santorini and see when we think is the very best time to go to make the most of these exciting day trips.

Ready to book your island escape? Check out the latest deals on holidays to the glorious Greek island of Santorini with Jet2holidays today.

Jet2holidays Price Drop: 1000s of holiday prices slashed

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Kathryn Burrington

Kathryn Burrington

Article updated on Wednesday 12th February 2020 in: Culture Europe Excursions

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