Santorini doesn’t really need much of an introduction when it comes to the Cyclades islands. This island is one of the most spectacular islands in the area. There is also a plethora of things to do in Santorini. You could spend a few days to a whole week or more in Santorini and still not get bored. Here is an extensive list of some of the best things to do in Santorini. As I keep going back to the island, I will make sure to keep updating the list.
1. Explore the capital town of Fira
Fira is a beautiful little town and you are bound to end up there as most of the restaurants with amazing views are located in this part of the island. I recommend you dedicate a couple hours just to wander around and get lost in the little alleyways of Fira. This is a lovely way to soak up the vibe of Santorini on your first visit.
Also Don’t forget to see Fira Town at night. Seeing the light and the ambiance is priceless.
2. Do the Fira to Oia hike
If there is one thing you absolutely do not want to miss on your visit to Santorini is the Fira to Oia hike. This hike will absolutely blow your mind. Get ready to be blown away and have your mouth dropping endlessly. By doing this walk, you will be fully immersed in the island’s beauty whilst experiencing its unique charm.
3. Check out the beautiful white churches with blue domes
Yes this is the iconic picture of Santorini we always see on those brochures, probably the one that even convinced you to book a trip on the island too. The good news is that there are many white churches with blue domes on the island. No worries, you will spoilt for choice.
If you spend anytime wondering around Fira and Oia, you’re bound to get your fill and see many of these beautiful little churches. The Fira to Oia hike also leads you towards a very picturesque blue dome church on your way back to Oia. That’s also a lovely place to watch a Santorini sunset.
4. Drive along the beautiful Caldera
The caldera is what makes Santorini truly unique. The caldera is the rugged dramatic coast that surrounds the northern area part of the island. It was created millennials ago by some volcanic eruptions. Most people flock to Santorini to enjoy the beautiful views and you and I, my friend are no different.
Very romantic setting on the Caldera. Just find a safe place to pullover on the side of the road and do a mini picniIf you have a rental, get ready for the best drives of your life along the caldera. But in case you forgo the car, no worries, you can always walk part of the caldera or enjoy a meal with the amazing views.
5. Check out the Caldera Beach
There is a little cove and a beach on the caldera. It isn’t the best beach but the scenery definitely makes up for it.
6. Splurge & Stay on the Caldera
Like I said earlier, not only can you just visit the caldera by eating at a restaurant with amazing views. You can also choose to stay on one of the hotels scattered around the northern edges of the island. Yes it will be pricey but the views are out of this world. I’m pretty sure , you’ve seen these beautiful private pools overlooking the cliffs. The sky is the limit-no pun intended- when it comes to Caldera staying.
7. Watch the world famous Santorini Sunset
Every time I find myself in Santorini, the locals have to make sure that I know that Santorini has the best sunset in Greece. Not going to lie but the sunset in Santorini feels quite unreal.
Expect the most intense bloody orange and red hues. It is totally worth experiencing at least once in your lifetime. You know what they say, no two sunsets are the same so there’s no better place to chase the nightfall than in Santorini.
8. Take a Santorini Wine Tour/ Wine Tasting
Calling out all my fellow wine lovers. If you love wine, make sure to take a Santorini wine tour. What better way to spend your day overlooking the best vistas while sampling local grapes?
9. Olive Oil & Honey Tasting
Don’t fancy a wine tour? Well what about some organic olive oil and honey tasting? If this is something you’d like to do, Santorini olive oils are said to be one of the best in the world.
Don’t take my words for it, let the people at Stoa Restaurant dine and empress you with their bio and extra virgin olive oil. You might like it so much that you could end up picking a few bottles back home.
10. Hike the Volcano at Nea Kameni Island
This is a great idea if you find yourself spending more than 3 days in Santorini. You can easily catch the ferry from the main port and head to the little sister island of Nea Kameni which is one of the islands you can see from the caldera. Once in Nea Kameni, hike to the top of the volcano. What a cool way to spend your day!
11. Explore the town of Pyrgos
We spent a couple of hours exploring the small town of Pyrgos and we were pleasantly surprised. This is a great idea if you’re looking to get away from the Oia crowd and do a bit of “off the beaten path” exploration in Santorini. There are also a few cafes restaurants to grab lunch. You will also find a couple of boutique selling handicrafts and souvenir.
Besides that the town doesn’t really see many visitors yet it looks very beautiful and still taken care of. Look up this post for a trip to Pyrgos town.
12. Check out Red Beach
Now I won’t lie to you, Santorini is amazing but beaches are not its forte. If you’re looking for powdery sandy beaches, you will be disappointed. That said, the beaches still deserve your attention.
Red beach is exactly what I expected to find on the island. Just like the caldera, it is bold and dramatic in its own way. Expect a little hike to get down to the beach. And when you get there, the beautiful red rocks will blow your mind away. Check out my Red Beach guide so you don’t miss out.
13. Swim at Perissa Beach
Here is another beach unique to Santorini. Remember the volcanic eruption that created the caldera that I mentioned earlier? Well Perissa beach will remind you of that once again. We don’t have any caldera around Perissa. In this case, you can expect to see a black sand beach.
To be honest it is not a powdery black sand like the Icelandic black beach. The Perissa beach is mostly made up of black pebbles. I still believe the place is beautiful and deserving of a visit.
14. Have Lunch or dinner at the beautiful Perissa Waterfront
Perissa has a whole vibe going on. Not only there is the beautiful beach but there is also a cute little waterfront with small guesthouses along with a tons of restaurant to choose from. Just pick one and enjoy your time.
15. Explore the perfect postcard Ammoudi Bay
Ammoudi is tucked away at the bottom of the town of Oia. Whatever you do, DO NOT miss this little beauty. Even if you only plan to spend a couple of days in Santorini, you need to make sure to spend a couple of hours in Ammoudi Bay. You will get an amazing view of Oia from the bottom of cliffs. Not only that but the place is just spectacular, straight out of a fairytale.
16. Swim in the crystal clear waters of Ammoudi Bay
The whole time I was in Ammoudi Bay, I kept on pinching myself not believing this places actually existed. You will find the most pristine crystal clear water in Ammoudi bay. There is no sand there but you can still jump in and swim. Even if you don’t plan to swim, when you get to Ammoudi bay, just make sure you walk to the end to witness this little hidden cove.
17. Swim to the little island by the cove
There is a tiny little island by the Ammoudi cove. There isn’t a beach there per se but it can be a nice little exercise to swim back and forth there for those that are so inclined to do so 🙂
18. Eat the best Seafood & Calamari in Ammoudi Bay
First and foremost, Ammoudi Bay used to be an old fishing village. Up until now, it still lives up to the name. I’ve had the best seafood I’ve ever had. You can eat at the very popular restaurant Ammoudi Fish Tavern. If you absolutely want to eat there, I recommend you make a reservation.
The honest truth is that you can’t really go wrong with any of the restaurant at the waterfront. We just walked around and you could see some chef grilling the catch of the day right by the walking path. It doesn’t get fresher than that. So just pick a place, the best seat you can find and you will have one of the best meal of your life.
19. Challenge yourself & Take the 200 steps from Ammoudi Bay to Oia
Looking for a little exercise after your little food comma?
Why not take the steps from Ammoudi Bay to Oia. There are exactly 200 of them and I am warning you they are a bit steep at times. Yet, it is totally doable. This is a perfect case of slow and steady winning the race. I went through them and although I was panting the whole time, I managed to make it to the top just on time for a beautiful sunset.
20. Take an easier way out with the funicular
Not in the mood to subjugate yourself to this 200 steps torture? No problem! Just take the funicular from the bottom all the way to the top. This way you avoid sweating and can enjoy the views as the funicular slowly climbs up.
21. Go scuba diving in Ammoudi Bay
Yes I know! We’re still talking about Ammoudi Bay but this place is just such a little gem.
While we were enjoying our amazing seafood lunch, we noticed that cute little scuba diving spot smacked right in the middle of the action. People were coming and going and I couldn’t stop myself from thinking what a unique activity it would be to add to one’s Santorini itinerary. I also heard that the sea is breaming with aquatic life.
22. Dance the night away under the starry sky
There are so many things to do at night in Santorini. You can just head to Fira, get lost in those lovely tiny alleyways and you will find countless of venues to grab a drink, dance the night away on a beautiful terrace and under the starry sky. Don’t forget to check out my Santorini nightlife guide for more details.
I really loved that the nightlife wasn’t raunchy but very mature with classy people just enjoying their time. So don’t worry if you hate the whole spring break vibe. The whole vibe in Santorini was refreshingly laidback yet chic and classy 🙂
23. Watch a Movie in style at the Kamari open air movie theatre
I think you’re slowly realizing that Santorini is a terrace haven. You can even head down to the southern part of the island in Kamari and watch a movie at the Kamari open air theatre. Before you go, don’t forget to check the Santorini cinema website so you can see which movies will be showing during your stay on the island.
The movies are in English with Greek subtitles and they also show the latest movies that you’d see in your local movie theatre. The Kamari movie theatre is open from May to October and the showing is usually at 21h30 with the doors opening at 20h30.
Best thing is the ticket is only around 9 Euro and they also have a full bar with cocktail on site. Totally worth experiencing at least once.
24. Hike to the big skaros rock
This was hands on one of my favorite things to do in Santorini. One day we decided to hike to the Skaros Rock and it was very rewarding. Do no underestimate this little hike though. While it is no multi days hike, it still is a two hours strenuous walk, going through the steep steps and pebbly path, under the scorching hot sun.
You might want to do it early in the morning to avoid the heat as much as possible. There is a cute tiny church hidden on the other side of the Skaros rock you can also walk to which will add a bit more time to the hike.
25. Extra challenge: do some rock climbing at the Skaros rock
Now let me warn you that once you walk your way to the big Skaros rock, there isn’t a path nor stairs leading you on top of the rock. If you want to go on top, you’d have to do a little bit of rock climbing. If you’re scared of heights, you might want to skip that part.
I went on top of the rock and it was an interesting view. Sadly I didn’t take any pictures on top as I was way too scared to break my phone or camera while climbing the rock.
26. Search for Atlantis at the Akrotiri Archeological Site
Greece will spoil you for choice when it comes to archeological sites and Santorini is no exception. You can visit the archeological site of Akrotiri if you’re into archeology. Often referred to as the Greek Pompei, Akrotiri was destroyed by a volcanic eruption. The site was eventually excavated and you can spend an afternoon or a couple of hours checking it out.
27. Visit Akrotiri Lighthouse
Whenever you need a break from eating all the seafood on the island you can do something different and visit the Akrotiri Lighthouse. It is amongst one of the first lighthouses in Greece. It was built in 1892 by a French company and ceased operating during world war II.
28. Check out the Mexican Restaurant
Not going to lie but finding a Mexican restaurant in Santorini was a bit of a shocker to me. Turns out there are two popular Mexican restaurants: Senor Zorba and Los Tres Amigos. We went to Senor Zorba which is located on the main road alongside the caldera and the food was AMAZING.
We’ve had one of the best ribs ever, tender and fall off the bone. Plus, the location of the restaurant makes for an amazing low key place to have dinner while enjoying the sunset away from the bustle of Oia and Fira. If you choose to go, you won’t be disappointed. Check out my review of the restaurant for a better idea and to know what to expect.
29. Grab the munchies at Nick The Grill
We are big foodies around here and I’m the type who will travel for food. So don’t be surprised that I’m still talking about food. This next place is a little foodie gem. Instead of fancy dining, think more hole in the wall unpretentious yummy food. We stopped by after having a few cocktails in Fira and dancing at one of the lounges.
They are open quite late up until 2:00 AM and get really busy towards the late hours with night owls like ourselves. The food is really good and the owner is such a funny character that will entertain you while you wait for your food.
30. Go to the Public swimming Pool at Lioyerma Lounge Cafe Pool Bar
Don’t have a pool in your hotel and tired of the beach? There is a pool bar with a pool overlooking the ocean. It gives an infinity pool type of vibe.
Also tired of the beach and would like to lounge at the pool? Lioyerma Lounge Cafe Pool Bar is located right next to Ammoudi Bay. They have an excellent view of the bay and also serve cocktails, cafes and food. Admission is free and you only have to order food, drinks etc.
When I went, it was very popular with kids. Sadly, it was the end of September and we went on a windy day. We planned to swim but we quickly found out the water wasn’t heated and freezing cold. So might be a good option on a scorching hot summer day.
31. The Three Bells of Fira
Take a picture in front of the iconic three bells of Fira. They look so beautiful overlooking the pristine waters.
32. Take a day trip
There are so many day trips to take from Santorini. You can choose to catch a ferry or boat and do a day trip to another island entirely. But this might feel a bit rush. For a more time effective and equally amazing fun time, you can take a boat tour to the nearby volcano. The volcano and hot springs day tour is a vey popular tour to do when in Santorini.
33. Kamari Black sand Beach
What’s that? Another black sand beach I hear you cry?
Sigh, yes 🙂
In case it wasn’t obvious already, Santorini is not famous for white sand beaches with crystal blue waters. It is the caldera that steals the show. But once you know what to expect, you can keep disappointment at bay and start to enjoy Santorini’s dynamic charm.
Kamari beach is pretty much the same stretch of sand as Perissa. They are divided by a massive rock area and Kamari is a bit higher north. A tip I can give is to bring beach shoes. I didn’t have any and was too stubborn to buy some. And let me tell you that it wasn’t comfortable walking on those big pebbles.
34. Scroll or have dinner at the Kamari Waterfront
Because this area is a recent development compared to Oia, it is a very modern place with a nice vibe. If I absolutely have to choose between Kamari waterfront and Perissa waterfront, it would have to be the Kamari for me. The little town just feels a bit more compact and more warm. Whereas, Perissa has more of a retired crowd vibe. No offense to my retirees here 🙂
Note that if you are coming from Fira town, parking can take a few minutes to find in the small streets. You might have to park a bit outside but there is also a big paid parking lot there.
Kamari beach area feels like a mini resort with nice guesthouses and many restaurants and bars. I really like it as it feels very classy and the workers there are quite hospitable and friendly. Another thing I noticed is that Kamari has a few more showers to rinse on the beach than Perissa.
35. Sunset Picnic on the caldera
Right before you leave, enjoy the magnificent sunset one last time and have a picnic on the caldera. Just pick up some food and find a random spot by the main road. Just make sure to park safely. And enjoy the free show 🙂
What not to do ( Skip) !
Ditch the Donkey Ride!
Tip: You should totally skip riding the monkeys. I think we are getting to a time where we have to try our best to be the most ethical travelers as possible. There will be plenty of donkeys waiting for you at the base of Ammoudi Bay to carry you all the way up the 200 steps.
I’ve seen those poor donkeys and they look truly miserable. Take pictures next to them while tipping the attendant if you want. But I just don’t see any reason why someone would subject these overworked animals to such torture. Especially when the funicular is readily available, affordable and much faster.
To Sum up
So this was my recommended list of top best things to do in Santorini. I’ve written so many articles and guides on Greece all based on personal experiences. Don’t forget to check them out. As for the current Santorini list, as I keep going back to Santorini, I will also keep adding to the list to make is an extensive one. Whatever you decide to do, I can promise you that you will have an amazing time in the magical island of Santorini.