Things to do in Santorini
Santorini island is considered one of the most beautiful places to visit in the world. In particular, It is very Affordable island ( if you know where to stay ) and is also many free things to do in Santorini, like visit Oia Village for pictures which is in the northwestern corner of the island that is the picture-perfect postcard image of Santorini. Oia is the best villge to visit with a professional photographer for 1 hour photography tour
Further, Santorini it’s one of the world’s most popular wedding and honeymoon destinations. The island really is perfect for couples and Santorini has got to be one of the most romantic places in the world.
The incredible cave hotels in Oia have become wall decoration for regular homes and pictures adverted. In those cave house and Santorini locations the prices have risen steeply to match the huge surge in popularity. Nights at one of these incredible hotels can start as high as € 1,000 per night, based on two people sharing. Further more, activities on Santorini such as boat tours will set a couple back in excess of 25 euros starting prices for 3 hours boat trip to the Volcano and back.. Santorini is also Known for local gastronomy and again in some places the prices are very reasonable is you go for lunch and dinner at Santorini’s families restaurants. if you visit Santorini and go only to the tourist plases, Santorini becomes one of the most expensive places for food and drink in the whole of Greece and ( specially if you eat in the main restaurants in Oia and Thira, that is! )
But don’t worry as many people will agree Santorini can definitely be affordable. In fact, you will be pleasantly surprised that visiting Santorini on a budget isn’t too difficult at all.
Santorini travel will share everything you need to know for visiting Santorini on a budget. But without compromising on comfort, convenience and experience. I’ll share how to plan an affordable trip to the Island, from accommodation to eating out. I will also include suggestions of the best free things to do on Santorini.
When to go to Santorini
The best time to visit Santorini is in the European summer months from May to September. The weather is reliable every day. You could except clear blue skies, consistently hot temperatures and a low risk of storms or rain. However, this is the peak season of course and with this, the price of accommodation rises – just like the temperature. Therefore, it’s unlikely you’d be able to stay in Oia if you’re visiting Santorini on a budget in the peak season.
Visiting Santorini in the off season months, such as February, March, April and October makes things a lot more affordable. In fact, the incredible cave hotels with pools are way cheaper. However, the weather might not be on your side. It could even be too cool to even swim in your pool.
Free things to do in Santorini
There are a surprising number of free and affordable things to do in Santorini, and although the organised tours are excellent, you can definitely explore the island easily on your own too. And of course, don’t forget the the biggest attraction in Santorini is Oia itself – and Oia is always free to explore! Climbing the staircases and taking yourself on your own mini photography tour is one of the best things to do in Santorini.
Swim at the public swimming pool
I recommend this first, as if you’re on a budget visiting Santorini in the peak months, you’ll want to find a way to cool down if your hotel doesn’t have a pool. We discovered Lioyerma public pool on the final day and we were so relieved to find somewhere to swim and cool down.
Old port of Santorini ( Skala )
Fira Port ( old port ) was Created by the volcano eruption in 1650 B.C., Santorini’s Old port ( skala ) or Cruise Port port of call is located at the bottom of the Caldera Cliffs in Fira, the capital of Santorini. It doesn’t have a cruise terminal and visitors are tendered ashore by small boats. During high season the island hosts about 80,000 visitors per day. Furthermore there can be as many as five cruise ships arriving in the same morning. The accesses to the port is by the cable car or donkeys but one of the best way to visit as a tourist is to walk up or down the 580 steps which of course is free.
Skala is the official name of the cruise port. Skala was an old port serving Thira before the bigger port of Athinios took over. This pier became a tourist hub of sort, a small town of seaside cafés, boat rental agencies and trinket shops.
From Skala, there are three ways to reach the top of the cliff which is 260 meters above sea level, cable car (daily, 6.30 am-10 pm, every 20 mins, €5 / $6.90), mule ride (€8/$11.05) or a tough hike up 580 steps (following the same path as the donkeys).
Hike from Oia to Thira (or the other way round)
This is definitely one of the best things to do in Santorini and you’ll see lots of other tourists tackling the trek. You can start in either direction and the route is signposted at both starts. It’s not clearly signposted throughout, but for the most part, you’re following a track on the ground. If you keep the Aegean Sea on the same side as where you started, you can’t really go wrong!
My top tip for this hike would be to start early in the day. We started at 11am as we wanted a lie-in and boy, was it hot! There’s little breeze and very little shade on this route. There are few shops or stalls to buy water or other supplies from too.
If you start this route in Thira and walk to Oia, you can consider taking a refreshing dip at the Lioyerma public swimming pool or alternatively, and if your legs can take it, hike down to Ammoudi Port for a swim by the rocks there. We chose to do the hike the other way around, so we started in Oia. It took around 2.5 hours to get to Imerovigli, even though we could see it on the horizon the whole way. From Imerovigli, it took about another 30 minutes to get to Thira.
I’d say it would take a fairly fit hiker 2.5 hours to do this route, as we stopped several time to take photos and to watch dogs howling (!).
Arriving in Thira, we were very hot and unsure how to cool down. We decided to take the bus to Kamari, which is just 15 minutes from Thira. This beach town was perfect to spend the afternoon in, and again, sun loungers were free if we bought a drin
Visit Red Beach
Located on the opposite side of the island to Oia was Red Beach. Quite unusual and a result of the island’s incredible volcanic history, this beach is definitely worth a visit for an hour or two. Entry is free – in fact, entry to all of Santorini’s beaches is free making it a great activity to do – even if they’re not soft, white sand!
Red Beach had a simple café and some sun loungers, but otherwise, the water here is quite nice. A lot of the expensive day trips (by boat or by land) stop here, so it’s great to know you can get here yourself too.
Nestled at the foot of Oia is the charming, tiny port of Ammoudi. If you walk to the left and follow the cliff along, you’ll find a path winding between the giant rocks. Keep going and suddenly you’ll come to a rocky/sandy platform where you can slip into the water carefully(!). From here, there’s some excellent cliff jumping from the rocks on the mini island opposite – exhilarating!
Once you’re finished jumping off cliffs, drop by one of the small cafes in Ammoudi Bay for a bite to eat or a drink. Cheaper than up the hill in Oia!
A popular beach with families, this black sand beach stretches for 7km. Lined with beach cafes, bars and small restaurants, there’s a huge number of affordable places to eat here. As with Kamari, a sun lounger is free if you buy a drink or some food. We could have easily spent all day here!
Visit a vineyard
Santorini is famous in Greece and across the world for its wine. Santo Wine Farm is one of the best places in Santorini to do wine tasting. It also has one of the most magnificent views across the caldera too to enjoy while you’re there.
Whilst visiting Santo Wine Farm isn’t free – wine flights start at €29 per person for 6 glasses, my top tip is to buy one glass instead. This is the best way to sample local Santorini wines but to not spend so much.
Santo Wines doesn’t advertise this as much, but it’s definitely an option. We turned up around 5pm, just as the sun was slowly starting to dip and had no problem getting a table. There were lots of wine tasting tours there but Santo Wines probably has the most expansive terrace I’ve ever seen, so you’ll have no problem getting a table.
However, if coming here for sunset is your plan, definitely consider reserving a table. We could see with all the ‘reserved’ signs they were starting to place down on the tables that it was going to get really busy.
10 most popular things to do in Santorini
1.Choosing Where to Stay in Santorini
Any visitor to the island will most likely be planning on visiting Oia, whether or not they stay choose to actually stay in the town. However, Oia is the most expensive place to stay in Santorini. As mentioned earlier, a cave hotel with a pool could set you back more than €1,000 per night. Avoid hotels with many rooms that can get crowded. Avoid no-service Airbnb too, as on this trip you will need to know someone is here for you if something goes wrong! The silver lining lies on the boutique hotels of Santorini, with minimal staff and less than 20 rooms it will never get crowded. Make sure you check their special COVID-19 measures and ask them about flexible cancellation plans before you complete your reservation.
2. Visit quiet beaches
There are a few popular beaches in Santorini, some because of their unique terrane, some because they are organised with umbrellas, bars and restaurants. The most crowded ones are Kamari, Perissa – Perivolos, Vlyhada and the Red Beach. All of these have crowded and not-so-crowded spots, so if you wish to enjoy some beach time there you can do it safely too. Other, not so famous beaches, are Vourvoulos, Exo Yalos, Baxedes and Panagia Kalou. Keep in mind that these are not organised beaches so you might need to bring your own umbrella. It is also better to avoid them when it is windy, as they are exposed to the North winds and can bring waves or look like they are not clean because of the sand getting stirred from sea currents.
3. Discovering Greek street food
Oia in particular is an expensive place to eat. Main course meals in most restaurants start at €12 for the most simple of dishes, and can easily stretch up to €20 per plate. Drinks are even worse value. A coffee almost anywhere in Oia is about €5, a juice about €7 and I saw a smoothie for €12. At today’s exchange rate, that’s about £12! I would never pay that for a smoothie in the UK. Prices for food and drink are definitely inflated in Santorini.
Most hotels will include breakfast, which is good. However, paying €40 or more for each meal time for two people will really add up. One money-saving tip for lunches on Santorini is to pick up a famous Greek gyro from one of the small shops in Thira, Oia or at the beaches. It should cost around €2.60 – €4.00. Restaurants will charge you €10 or more for the same thing, so I recommend looking out for a gyro place.
A gyro is thick pita bread, stuffed with shaved pork or chicken, salad and a couple of chips. It might not sound appealing but it’s delicious and a great lunch-sized meal
4. Visit Oia in the morning
Oia village is very popular for it’s sunset, because sunsets are pretty and Oia is a beautiful village. For this reason, it gets very crowded during sunset time, which is both dangerous and annoying when there are so many other fantastic and quiet spots to watch the sunset from! Oia is built along the path that connects it with Fira. Make sure you discover the alleys around that path though too, as this is where you will find hidden treasures of abandoned Captain’s houses and bars/restaurants that offer good price/quality ratio.
5. Watch the sunset from a remote location on the cliffside
There are many, quiet, spots to watch the sunset from on the island. One example for the perfect sunset admiration, is the terraces of The Wine Bar, in Imerovigli village. Reserve a table and enjoy your dinner or drinks with fantastic views of the caldera and sunset, while keeping your distance from other travellers!
6. Eat at outdoor restaurants that follow the health and safety rules
Since we mentioned that beautiful place, keep in mind that bars and restaurants are now officially allowed to operate indoors too in Greece, with their tables in a safe distance between them. Our suggestion? It is summertime, head for an open air restaurant that keeps the proper distances and you will be safe to enjoy your time there without needing to look over your shoulder checking if someone is breathing on your back!
7. Visit the lighthouse
The southern tip of the island, the Lighthouse (or Faros, Φάρος), is one of the above mentioned magnificent spots to view the sunset. Completely open air (of course) and not so much known as the Nothern edge of Santorini, Oia village. Even if you don’t visit for sunset, the views it offers are very unique. This is one of the things that make us adore Santorini views, no matter if you saw the view from one spot, head to another and you will feel like you are in a different place!
8. Visit wineries
There are over 14 wineries on the island to choose from! Whether you are a wine enthusiast or not, trust us and head there for a wine tasting, or a tour in the vineyard. The anhydrous, volcanic terrain of Santorini island, has allowed for very unique wines, awarded around the world. Bonus: Santorini is the only place in Europe not affected by Phylloxera, a disease that killed all the vineyards the previous century, so some of the vines in Santorini are hundreds of years old!
9. Explore forgotten villages
If you have done some research before you visit, you have probably already heard of Oia and Fira for their views and shopping, Imerovigli for its restaurants and sunset views and Akrotiri for its excavations site and the Red Beach. How about the not-so-popular-but-equally-beautiful-villages of the rest of the island? They are there too, they are just not so much featured in Instagram and Pinterest. Walk around the alleys of Finikia village, climb Pyrgos hill, get lost in Emporio to end up inside a hidden village the Kastelli. Santorini has villages that are very different between them. Avoid the crowds and explore them! If later you don’t have time to visit the more popular villages too, we will send you pictures of them for your file! Besides, you will have fallen in love with Santorini already, so you are probably coming back one day.
10. Take long hikes
Santorini has many (many) hikes to take. Fira to Oia, Pyrgos to Perissa, Pyrgos to Emporio, Imerovigli to Skaros rock are just the tip of the iceberg. Get your Santorini hiking map and walking shoes and discover the unseen side of this volcanic island in 25 hikes!
11. Join private tours
No one knows if public tours will even be available this year! Stay on the safe side and book a private tour. You will be able to stop for as long as you like, wherever you like. May that be a wine tour, a hikes tour, a cruise or a land tour, the options are unlimited.