What to Do in Santorini (And What NOT to Do)
With its iconic white buildings, stunning sunsets, and impossibly blue ocean, Santorini has become one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. The Greek islands are even more affordable and picturesque than your Instagram feed would lead you to believe, but it is easy to get lost in the tourist traps.
I traveled to Santorini twice in the spring of 2019. While the island is beautiful, I highly recommend also visiting Athens, Paros, Delphi, and other parts of Greece. Especially in the summer, Santorini can get overcrowded and way too hot!
If you are planning on visiting Santorini, opt to go during off-season to properly enjoy the island. Based on my trips to the island and the semester I spent in Athens, here are my recommendations of what to do and what NOT to do:
What to Do:
When you visit Santorini, there are plenty of options. Here are some of my favorites from my trips.
Hike from Fira to Oia
The best way to take in the ocean views of Santorini is the hike from Fira to Oia. Along the hike you can explore the towns along the coast, stop at cliffside churches, and enjoy the views.
We hiked from Fira to Oia, and I recommend going in this direction because it is more of a downhill walk. We also started the hike in the early afternoon so we could get to Oia in time to watch the sunset. However, if you plan on visiting in the summer, leave earlier in the day to avoid peak heat. Also, bring lots of water!
The hike is about 6 miles and takes around 3-5 hours. It can be pretty difficult, so definitely factor in time for rest stops.
Buy a pair of the cutest sandals from NB Leather
Someone on my trip had heard about the most incredible sandal store. The only problem was that they didn’t know the name or the address. We only received a set of clues. What followed was an elaborate treasure hunt around Fira. We had to go to the main strip, walk towards the ocean, find the Chinese restaurant, and look for the man with the jet black hair.
It was not easy, but man was it worth it! There are a ton of places to buy sandals in Santorini, but the tiny, hidden NB Leather store is by far the best. They have a gorgeous color palette and I still wear my sandals even years later.
If sandals aren’t your thing, no worry! You can also buy purses, belts, wallets, or anything made of leather.
Wake up early to take photos around the island
There is something magical about walking around the island before it has woken up. If you get up early enough, you can get the golden hour vibe after sunrise.
If you have chosen to visit Santorini during peak season (June-August), odds are the streets will be full of people most of the day. No one wants a bunch of randos in their Santorini shots. If you want great photos, wake up early!
Bonus: It’s so hot during the day you’ll want to be inside taking a nap during peak heat rather than fighting sweaty tourists for the view.
Go wine tasting
Wine tasting is a great way to relax, feel pampered, and soak in the gorgeous views of the island. My family went to Ventesanos Winery and Santos Wineries and enjoyed sitting in the sun and trying the different wines. They went to Ventesanos without me so I photoshopped myself in.
In the summer, wineries tend to host weddings and events, so plan accordingly.
Bonus: If you go wine tasting at the beginning of your trip, buy a few of your favorite bottles so you can enjoy it throughout your stay!
What NOT to do:
Santorini boat and volcano tour
When my family came to visit Santorini, we went on a boat tour around Santorini. It was fun, but honestly also underwhelming. Our tour went to the volcano, warm springs, and other stops around the island.
I did not vibe with the volcano. It was a hike up a big piece of dirt. The warm springs were fun but nothing to write home about (although, I suppose that is exactly what I’m doing now). With a ton of options in Santorini, and HUNDREDS of other islands around Greece, I would not recommend this tour.
A friend of mine rented a catamaran for the day with a group and loved it. It’s more pricey, but that also might be the glamorous island activity you are looking for.
Take a donkey tour
After speaking with some locals, we learned that they advocate against donkey tours. While you may have imagined your Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants moment riding up the iconic steps, opt to walk them on your own two feet.
With the recent boom in Santorini’s popularity, donkeys have become so overworked that they are having health problems. Travel requires a degree of responsibility, especially when caring for the living things and local culture of your destination.
Go to an overpriced taverna
While it may be tricky to distinguish the overpriced tavernas from the true local ones, there are a few key signs. The tourist trap tavernas will stand out on the street trying to lure tourists in, will have big menus with photos, and will be on the more popular streets.
If you want a true, Greek meal opt for the tavernas off the beaten path. We went to Volcano Blue in Fira and Melitini in Oia during our trip. Both restaurants had gorgeous views of the sunset, but be sure to make your reservations far in advance.
Also, as wonderful as Greek food is, you may get exhausted throughout your trip. If that is the case, go to the Chinese restaurant by NB Leather. It may have been the best Chinese food I have ever had, and in Greece of all places!
Let anyone charge your card without you
Throughout your trip to Greece you may notice that cafes and restaurants only charge your card in front of you and always hand you a paper receipt. This is not a coincidence; it’s the law.
This is for good reason. On our trip to Santorini the waiter took our card inside to charge it, and a week later we were notified that our card had been used to purchase a boat. You have been warned.
Traveling to Greece?
There is so much more to Greece than just Santorini! Check out our guides to get the most out of your trip.