Santorini 101: The Beginner’s Guide to the Greek Island of Santorini

Greece, Greek Islands, Travel Guides

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By Ryan Gargiulo

Beautiful, historic, and filled with things to see and do, Santorini is a destination that every visitor to Greece must experience.

Santorini is a part of a group of islands known as the Cyclades islands (220 islands) — the largest being Naxos and the most popular islands being Santorini and Mykonos.

One of its many unique aspects about Santorini is that it’s still an active volcano (although dormant).

It’s also one of the few places in the world where you can find a volcanic crater in the sea.

While the volcano hasn’t erupted in over 3,000 years, its last eruption was responsible for the destruction of a local prehistoric civilization and the creation of this gorgeous and dramatic landscape which you’ll witness as soon as you arrive to the island.

Santorini has a lot to offer — from some of the world’s most famous sunsets to unique beaches, fine dining, local wines and a long list of things to see, do and experience.

Before You Go: Travel Insurance

When planning a trip to Greece and the Greek Islands your first priority should be to make sure you make a small investment towards your health and well being by considering an affordable travel insurance policy for your trip.

Not only will this budget friendly travel insurance policy cover you if your bags are lost/stolen and if your flight is delayed/cancelled, but you’ll also be covered for all medical and injury related issues as well. 

Let’s face it. No parents, family or friends want to have to cover the cost of you getting medevaced home from Greece.

Unfortunate things do happen.

Especially when you least expect it.

Do yourself a favor and consider purchasing travel insurance coverage for your trip so you can rest assured that you’ll be taken care of in the event of a serious emergency in Greece. 

P.S. You won’t believe how reasonably priced this travel insurance is.

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How to Get to Santorini

As mentioned above, Santorini is one of Greece’s most popular islands, therefore, getting to Santorini is quite easy.

There are two main options when it comes to making your way to the island; by ferry and by air.

Both modes of transportation are reliable but choosing between the two really depends on how much time you have to spend getting to and from Santorini.

By Air

There are multiple, daily, direct flights from Athens to Santorini International Airport and the approximate flight time is 45-50 minutes.

The route from Athens to Santorini and vice versa is serviced year round but beware that the schedule could be limited during the late fall and winter months.

During the summer months, you can find flights to Santorini National Airport from other islands such as Crete, Rhodes, Mykonos, and Thessaloniki.

My recommendation is to always begin by researching flights using Skyscanner before looking into taking a ferry to the Greek Islands.

Depending on the airline, time of the year and the latest promotions, flights from Athens to the islands can be found for as low as €45 round-trip.

Budget Airlines in Greece:

While flying tends to be the more expensive option to get from mainland Greece to the islands, there are definitely deals to be found.

Tip: Begin your flight search by using the Skyscanner engine embedded below.

By Ferry

If flights to Santorini are too expensive, the next best thing would be to resort to a more budget friendly method of transportation; take a ferry to Santorini.

A ferry from Athens to Santorini will take approximately 4.5 hours depending on the ferry company and the speed of the boat you choose.

When it comes to booking Greek ferries to Santorini, one of the most reliable and reasonably priced Greek ferry search engines is powered by a company called Ferries in Greece (highly recommended), a major greek ferry booking hub that helps more than 35,000 passengers get to and from the Greek islands each year.

Check Ferry Schedules & Prices:

Santorini Ferry Tips:

  • Ferry tickets to Santorini sell out quick during the high season. Be sure to book your tickets in advance to avoid running into issues.
  • If you’re planning on visiting Santorini during the low season, be sure to double check the ferry schedules as ferries that operate to and from Santorini will be running on a much more limited schedule outside of peak season.
  • The Athens ferry port (Port of Piraeus) is very spread out and can be quite hectic. Be sure to figure out which part of the port that your ferry is leaving from in advance in order to avoid walking long distances with your luggage.
  • The best way to get to the port of Piraeus from just about anywhere in Athens is to use Taxibeat as mentioned above. Don’t forget to use promo code: 2h92e7u6 to get a discount on your ride.

⛴ If you’re planning on booking a ferry to the Greek islands, I recommend you use: Ferries In Greece

Where to Stay in Santorini

Knowing where to stay in Santorini is extremely important and finding a place that fits your needs will be the difference between having a good trip to Santorini and an amazing trip to Santorini.

When it comes to finding the perfect place to stay in Santorini, you’ll want to start by focusing on the west coast of the island.

Fira (main town), Firostefani, Imerovigli and Oia are four villages that offer the majority of Santorini’s accommodations.

Staying in any of the villages mentioned above will give you direct views of the volcano (caldera) below.

Those who are focused on traveling to Santorini on a budget will want to avoid the west coast and consider staying in one of the few villages in the south (ex. Perissa) that offer more budget friendly accommodations.

If this is your first time using Airbnb, we recommend that you read our Insider’s Guide to Saving Money on Airbnb Apartments.


Fira is the the capital of Santorini and arguably the most visited destination in Santorini.

In Fira, you can find a lots of shopping, cafes, restaurants and places to enjoy a drink with a view.

Accommodations in Fira are plentiful so finding a place to stay should be quite easy if you plan ahead.

Fira sits high up on the cliffs overlooking many of its neighboring villages in the distance; Firostefani, Imerovigli and Oia are just a few places you simply cannot miss when visiting Santorini.

Airbnb Recommendations

Nostos- Thira

Nostos – 2 Bed / 1 Bath

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Villa Drop- Thira

Villa Drop – 2 Bed / 2 Bath

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The former site of Fira, Firostefani is a quieter village with a wide range of cliff side airbnbs, hotels and other accommodations.

Firostefani overlooks both Fira and the caldera as it’s elevated slightly higher than the main town itself.

The village is considered to be a very romantic destination on the island, and witnessing the sunset from Firostefani is a sight of its own.

Airbnb Recommendations

Stilvi Studio- Firostefani

Stilvi Studio – 1 Bed / 1 Bath

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Superior Suite- Firostefani

Superior Suite Niriida – 1 Bed / 1 Bath

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From the hotels to the architecture, nearby hiking spots, and even archaeological ruins, Imerovigli is one of the best spots on the island.

Imerovigli is just 2 km (1.24 mi) away from Fira, so you can even walk there if you so choose.

Imerovigli is considered to be a traditional village on Santorini — it’s filled with taverns, cafes and a few historic buildings to check out.

Airbnb Recommendations

Villa Anita- Imerovogli

Villa Anita – 1 Bed / 1 Bath

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Pura Vida Villa- Imerovigli

Pura Vida Villa – 2 Bed / 3 Bath

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Oia - Santorini, Greece


From relaxing cafes to galleries and award-winning restaurants, Oia is one of the finest villages on the island.

Oia is also famous for being the best place to watch the sunset in Santorini.

Today, it’s one of the most popular, if not the most popular place to visit and stay outside of Fira.

Here, you can find plenty of shopping, locally made wine, cliff side restaurants and a wide variety of accommodations; some of which can be quite pricey.

Airbnb Recommendations

Argithea Apartment- Oia

Argithea – 1 Bed / 1 Bath

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Domus Solis- Oia

Domus Solis – 2 Bed / 2 Bath

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While it’s not as close to the capital and the volcano as some other villages in Santorini, Perissa is still a beautiful part of the island.

While Santorini isn’t necessarily known for its beaches like some of the nearby islands, the village of Perissa is home to Perissa Beach — a black sand beach which also happens to be one of the better beaches on the island.

When it comes to accommodations, Perissa caters to just about any budget.

Those who are looking to avoid the high costs of staying on or near the caldera and main town of Santorini will find that Perissa is the next best place to stay on the island.

Airbnb Recommendations

Adelphi Cozy- Perissa

Adelphi Cozy – 1 Bed / 1 Bath

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Theoni- Perissa

Theoni Apartment – 1 Bed / 1 Bath

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Airbnb Santorini Greece

Airbnb in Santorini

When Airbnb began operating in Santorini, it gave tourists a new, exciting way to experience the island.

Instead of staying in overpriced, box-like hotel rooms, guests now had the ability to rent small apartments and homes that actually felt like home.

The island of Santorini is pretty much Airbnb heaven as you can now book everything from small studios to beautiful, private Santorini villas.

You can get a discount of up to $37 on your first airbnb stay by clicking here.

Here are some recommended airbnbs in Santorini below.

Hotels Santorini Greece


There are no large hotel chains on Santorini which means that pretty much all luxury hotels in Santorini are boutique hotels, and they offer unique, personalized services and amenities.

The best hotels in Santorini are generally located on the west coast of the island and there are endless options when it comes to four and five-star hotels with views overlooking the caldera.


The island of Santorini has a variety of cheap options to choose from when it comes to hostels.

Hostels generally offer basic amenities for backpackers and budget travelers and are more geared towards travelers between the ages of 18-26.

Hostels in Santorini:

Things to Do in Santorini

Considering Santorini is one of the most visited destinations in all of Greece, there are endless opportunities when it comes to things to see and do on the island.

From the tasting of fantastic high-quality, local wines to sailing around the island, watching the sunset from Oia, and visiting one of the many museums, there is no shortage of activities on Santorini.

Be sure to choose your activities in Santorini carefully because there are some things you won’t want to miss.

Santorini Wine

Winery Tour

Many of the island’s finest wineries are located around ancient ruins and archaeological dig sites.

A winery tour is pretty much the ideal type of tour to see both as you’ll be exploring both at almost the same time.

On top of that, wine from Santorini is truly a delicacy, as it’s been something the locals have been doing for over a thousand years.

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Must Try Seafood in Ammoudi Bay

Santorini is known for its seafood and Amoudi Bay is one of the best places on the island to find it.

The food in Ammoudi Bay is always fresh and locally caught — you’ll see why as soon as you arrive in the bay and sit down at and you’ll be eating delicacies the locals have been making for centuries.

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Red Beach - Santorini, Greece

Visit the Red Beach

Located in Akrotiri Village, Red Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Santorini due to its black sand beach and the red rock cliffs that surround it.


  • Parking can be tough to find during high season so be sure to get there early. If you’re worried about finding a spot, do yourself a favor and rent an ATV instead of a car.
  • Pair your visit to Red Beach with a visit to Perissa (Black Sand Beach) and get both of the most popular beaches in Santorini checked off of your list in a single day.
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Visit Perissa Black Sand Beach

The volcanic activity that shaped the island in the past has had an influence on every part of the island of Santorini.

The black sand beach in Perissa is so unique thanks to volcanic eruptions, and it’s a type of sand that is always warm to the touch.

Oia Sunset - Santorini, Greece

Watch the Sunset in Oia

Oia is home to beautiful cliff side acommodations and more importantly Santorini’s most popular spot to witness the sunset each evening.

Thousands of tourists arrive to Oia each evening just before sunset to watch the sun melt into the horizon in the distance and it’s truly a sight that cannot be missed.

In other words, a trip to Santorini is not complete without joining the crowds to see the sunset.

Tip: Bring a bottle of wine and some snacks with you. Don’t forget to arrive early to beat the crowds and secure your spot.

There are a few options when it comes to getting to Oia:

  1. The best way to reach Oia is to rent a vehicle (preferably an ATV due to the ease of parking).
  2. You can also reach Oia by taxi but please note that it’s going to be quite an expensive taxi ride. Also, remember that finding a taxi back to where you’re staying is also a challenge especially considering you’ll be fighting hundreds of other tourists who want to get back to Fira and other parts of the island.
  3. Adventurous souls will enjoy the beautiful hike from Fira to Oia which can be completed in 2.5-3.5 hours depending on your pace. You will need to figure out a way back afterwards as the trail will be pitch dark after sunset. Hiking from Fira to Oia is amazing and absolutely recommended during your trip to Santorini
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Santorini Fishing

Santorini Traditional Fishing Experience

The surrounding Mediterranean Sea is home to some of the best waters in the world for fishing.

There are so many unique and delicious types of seafood, and you can join a tour to see the entire process for yourself.

You can choose to merely watch and be a bystander or you can also partake in the action – it’s your call.

Volcanic Islands Tour

Seeing as Santorini is one incredibly laid back destination, it’s only fitting to go on a tour that’s equally relaxing.

There are a lot of things to see, like Ancient Thira, the Hot Springs, as well as the volcanic crater itself.

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Santorini Hiking - Fira to Oia Hike

The Caldera Hike (Fira to Oia)

Fira and Oia are connected by the most famous hiking trail on the island.

It’s a historical path, one that’s been traversed by merchants, peasants, and explorers alike, and it also happens to run along the edge of the most scenic part of the island.

You’ll get to witness jaw-dropping scenery, learn about local myths and legends, and see just how stunning Santorini is firsthand from high atop its cliffs.

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Santorini has been inhabited for thousands of years; a place of many legends and myths, early civilizations, and deep history.

Santorini has a few museums which catalogue and record all of this wonderful history.

Santorini’s Museums include:

  • The Archaeological Museum in Fira
  • The Museum of Prehistoric Thira
  • The Megaro Gyzi Cultural Center

Here, you’ll find ancient pottery, items, and stories, but also artistic and social events that range from painting exhibitions to theatrical performances and even traditional dances.


Exploring the waters, cliffs, and rugged rocks of Santorini while on a kayak is one of the best experiences you can have on the island.

There is a peculiar feeling about it as you’ll be constantly in view of the island on one side and the gorgeous Mediterranean Sea on the other.

The Sea is often crystal clear, and if you look down, you’ll get to see the diverse marine life as well as stunning underwater natural beauty.

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Greek Wedding Show

Everyone wants to be a part of a Greek Wedding at some point in their lives.

This musical performance is one that manages to capture that lively spirit and engages the audience at the same time.

It’s a show that is suited for pretty much everyone, and it’s a type of show that celebrates Greek culture in a most spectacular fashion.

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Santorini Hidden Paths Tour

Santorini has a lot of fascinating and even secret spots that not a lot of visitors manage to see during their vacation to the island.

There are a lot of off-the-beaten-track parts of the island that are absolutely worth a visit, like a secret cave church, spots where you can eat completely authentic local delicacies, and more.

This is one of the best ways to discover the island as it’s a much more personal way of exploration.

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Cooking Class

Greek food is one of the most unique and delicious cuisines in the world and a cooking class in Santorini is a great way to learn something new while you’re on your holiday.

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Getting Around Santorini

Public transport is readily available on Santorini although we rarely recommend the use of public transport on the Greek islands due to the reliability factor and the fact that everything is on “Greek time”.

That being said, there are plenty of taxis available as well as more efficient ways of getting around the island such as renting cars and scooters and ATV’s.

Each option has its pros and cons, but seeing as the longest ride is around 50 minutes, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem moving from point A to point B.

By Bus

Using public transportation to travel around Santorini is the cheapest way to get around but it’s very unreliable and as mentioned above, we really don’t recommend it.

However, if you choose you use public transport, just know that you’ll have to adhere to the schedule of the buses and it can get pretty hectic and chaotic during the busy season.

By Car

Renting a car is hands down the best way to explore the island of Santorini.

While the island isn’t too large, it’s certainly large enough that walking and taking public transportation simply won’t cut it when it comes to exploring the island.

Looking for the the most reputable Santorini rental company? We recommend


Renting an ATV is the next best way to explore the island if you’re two people or less.

It’s much easier to maneuver the more narrow roads of the island on an ATV, and pretty much every part of the island will be accessible to you.

Generally speaking, finding parking in Santorini can be quite the task but with an ATV, you won’t have any issues at all.

By Taxi

Unfortunately, there are no Uber or Lyft in Santorini but thankfully, taxis are plentiful.

If you do take a taxi, make sure to negotiate the fare before getting in the car in order to avoid getting ripped off.

Best Time to Visit Santorini

Best Time to Visit Santorini

Each month brings something unique to the table when it comes to figuring out when to visit Santorini.

You can visit the island any time of the year and still have a great time, but you’ll have to manage your expectations if you’re planning to visit during the off-season.

Firstly, you should know that the temperature in Santorini starts to get quite chilly after mid to late October and doesn’t warm up until mid-April or May.

Summer time is high season (Mid-May through early September), and it’s generally considered the best time to visit Santorini if you’re looking for full access to the island.

July through August are the busiest months, so if you want to escape the crowds, definitely consider from the last week of April to early June or the end of September through the first or second week of October.

Don’t Miss: The Best Time to Visit Greece


There is something very, very special about the island of Santorini and you’ll know what I mean once you wrap up your trip to the island.

You’ll soon find out why Santorini is one of the most popular and gorgeous destinations in the Mediterranean Sea.

As mentioned above, there’s a wide variety of activities that can satisfy just about any individual, and it’s perfectly organized from A to Z as it’s an island which has been receiving tourists from around the world for many, many years now.

As mentioned in my detailed Greek islands on a Budget Travel Guide, I always recommend travelers to combine their trips to Santorini with a visit to Milos and Kimolos, if possible.

Interested in visiting more Greek islands? If so, be sure to check out my full collection of Greek Island Travel Guides.

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6 thoughts on “Santorini 101: The Beginner’s Guide to the Greek Island of Santorini”

  1. Thanks Ryan, my husband and I have spent our Saturday night on the sofa reading your fantastic blog. We only just decided to visit the Greek Islands this evening and didnt know where to start. Your guide has really inspired us and we will definately come back to it before we book our trip. Thank you! Have a fantastic 2020 and Happy Travels!

    Jo & Adam Warren
    Good Easter, Essex, UK

  2. Thank you so much for this blog!!
    It was a lot of fun to read and super informative. It will help me when I travel to Santorini.


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