In this blog we’ve compiled a list of the best things to do in Santorini, featuring everything from villages to beaches, hikings, wine tastings, archaeological excavations, etc
Located on one of the Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea, the landscape of Santorini was forever altered following a devastating volcanic eruption in the 16th century B.C. The volcano is still active today–albeit sleeping–with the caldera or crater-like impression an otherworldly sight to behold.
Santorini has long been cited as one of the most spectacular destinations in the world, with a rich history to rival its modern appeal.
With its intoxicating blend of azure sea and whitewashed buildings, domed churches and cave houses, there is no end to what you can do in Santorini. Whether you prefer to stroll and explore at your leisure or partake in an organized tour or water sport, you are sure to hit your stride while staying on the island.
15 Best Things To Do In Santorini
1. Explore Fira, the capital of Santorini
Fira is the capital of Santorini and one of the most popular destinations on the island. A quintessential Cycladic town, Fira is an ideal place to find your feet on Santorini.
In Fira visitors can stroll the narrow winding streets and admire the famed blue and white houses, take in a panoramic view of the caldera, dine at a traditional Greek taverna, and browse the many boutiques and galleries.
If you’re up for it, you can descend the 587 steps to the small ancient port of Fira Skala, or hike to the villages of Firostefani and Imerovigli via a scenic walking trail from Fira.
There are a number of fascinating museums you won’t want to miss during your stay in Santorini. The Museum of Prehistoric Thera is dedicated to the discovery of Akrotiri’s ancient vestiges, as well as other archaeological finds.
Santorini’s Archaeological Museum houses one of the largest collections of items unearthed on the island, such as tools, personal effects, vases, weapons, and much more.
Fira has a lively nightlife culture and is home to some of Santorini’s most in-demand clubs, bars, lounges, and restaurants.
2. Oia, the most beautiful village in Santorini with amazing sunsets
Along with Fira, Oia offers some of the best things to do and see in Santorini. Renowned for its unforgettable sunsets, picturesque streets, whitewashed houses, and dramatic views of the caldera, Oia offers something for every visitor.
Explore the hidden stairways and passages of the village, shop for local crafts and gifts, and step back in time with a visit to one of the trademark blue-domed churches.
Oia is also great for relaxing and people watching, so make sure to nab a table at a taverna and enjoy the local fare and goings-on.
Daredevils will love Ammoudi Bay, with its towering boulders used for diving off, while a sailing tour across the caldera is an experience you won’t forget.
A popular pastime is to hike from Fira to Oia by taking a trail along the caldera; just make sure to give yourself plenty of time and prep accordingly!
3. Take a boat trip around Santorini, a top thing to do in Santorini
Boat trips are one of the best things to do in Santorini, the most popular being a 1-day cruise to the Palea Kamini hot springs and surrounding volcanic islands.
Guests can explore the island of Nea Kaemni and stand on the precipice of the volcanic crater, take a restorative dip in the hot springs, and end the day with a scenic tour of Thirassia island.
4. Hit the beach!
No visit to Santorini is complete without hitting one of its world-famous beaches.
The grand black sand beach of Perissa is idyllic for families of all ages, with onsite amenities including tavernas and snack bars, as well as plenty of water activities and even jet ski rentals.
For a quieter time there is Kamari Beach, where guests can pull up a deck chair and bliss out against the cerulean backdrop, while the Read Beach offers stunning views of the ochre-colored volcanic cliffs.
For whiter sands and rocks there are the White and Vlihada Beaches, respectively, while Monolithos is ideal for small children thanks to its calm shallow waters.
There are plenty of beach and water activities to try while looking for something to do in Santorini like diving, parasailing, kayaking, and paddling, so why not give them a go?
Read also: Best beaches in Santorini
5. Visit Prophet Elias Monastery
You can find everything from majestic domed churches to modest chapels on the island of Santorini but one attraction in particular stands out, the Prophet Elias Monastery.
Mimicking a fortress from the outside, the monastery was constructed in 1712 and is as much an architectural monument as it is a popular tourist destination.
Elias Monastery played a significant cultural and political role on the island, even teaching the people of Santorini to read and speak Greek in a secret underground school during the Ottoman reign.
Today the monastery houses a museum of sacred icons, relics, and artwork, and guests can enjoy the tranquil surroundings and breathtaking views at their leisure.
This Archaeological Bus Tour To Akrotiri Excavations & Red Beach will visit the Prophet Elias Monastery, Megalochori village, Akrotiri Excavations, the Red Beach and Perivolos Beach
6. Imerovigli Village, romantic streets and the best views of the Cadera
Mentioned earlier, Imerovigli Village is worth an endorsement of its own as one of the most recommended things to do in Santorini. Referred to as “the balcony of the Aegean,” Imerovigli offers the best views of the Caldera, with plenty to see along the way.
Visitors and especially couples will find the impossibly romantic streets of Imerovigli perfect for promenading at the golden hour.
The blue-domed Anastaseos church and Agios Ioannis Chapel make for poignant and picturesque sightseeing while visitors can hike the length of Skaros rock.
Skaros rock was forged during a volcanic eruption and upon which two castles once stood, with the chapel of Theoskepasti located at the end of the rock.
7. Take a wine tour
Santorini is celebrated for its exquisite white wines, and wine tours are all the rage on the island. Some of the oldest still-operating vineyards can be found on Santorini, and many are open to the public for year-round tours and tastings.
Wine tours can range from an hour to full afternoon depending on the package you select, with some wineries including transportation and multiple vineyard tours as well as on-site dining.
Wine lovers will no doubt want to make a pilgrimage to the Koutsoyannopoulos Wine Museum, located in Karami. Nestled within a natural cave 8 meters below the ground, the museum is accessed and enjoyed via an intricate underground labyrinth.
Guests can view special exhibits, dioramas, and artifacts that tell the story of Santorini’s wine history. (There’s even a tasting room!). You can buy your ticket online.
8. The ancient site of Akrotiri, a must-see in Santorini for history lovers
The ancient site of Akrotiri is a must-see for history lovers and the casually curious alike, and is truly one of the most memorable things you’ll see in Santorini.
Frequently compared to Italy’s Pompeii, Akrotiri was a Minoan city destroyed in a volcanic eruption around 1613 B.C. and rediscovered in 1967 during an archaeological dig.
The site’s unique footbridges allow visitors to walk throughout the city of Akrotiri and view the preserved streets, houses, and day-to-day detritus. Interestingly, the city was uninhabited during the eruption and thus no human remains or valuables were to be found.
It remains a mystery as to when and why the people of ancient Akrotiri abandoned their city, and excavations are ongoing. You may just get to see a dig in action during your visit!
Guided tours are available.
While not ancient (it was erected in the 19th century), the Akrotiri Lighthouse is worth a visit as well. The lighthouse ceased operating during WWII, after which it underwent reconstruction by the Greek Navy.
Although the lighthouse is still in use today, guests are invited to walk around the structure and take advantage of its once-in-a-lifetime view.
9. Pyrgos, Santorini’s highest village
Pyrgos is the largest preserved Cycladic village on Santorini, as well as the highest-located.
Admired for its incredible Medieval architecture, welcoming atmosphere, and unparalleled views, the hilltop village makes for a perfect afternoon of shopping, strolling, sightseeing and of course, dining at one of the local tavernas.
Cat lovers will be especially pleased to be greeted by the friendly local felines!
The castle of Pyrgos, built in 1580, is open to visitors and offers a dramatic glimpse into medieval fortress life on the island, along with some of the best panoramic views to see in Santorini.
Read also: Where to stay in Santorini
10. Visit ancient Thera
Thera is another ancient archaeological site on Santorini, and the original name of the island before it was permanently rechristened by the Venetians in the Middle Ages.
Located atop Mesa Vouno Hill, Thera was founded in the 9th century B.C. and boasts a mix of Hellenic, Roman, and Byzantine influences. Visitors to the site can look on the remains of the theater, gymnasium, temples, and public agora.
There is also the Museum of Prehistoric Thera (located in Fira), which is divided into 4 parts: geology, archaeological excavations, the island’s pre-Bronze Age era, and the 17th century “golden age.”
Guests can explore the vast collection of excavated treasures dating back to the Neolithic period which includes the magnificent Blue Monkeys fresco, painted over 36 centuries ago.
11. Explore local art
One of the best things to do in Santorini is pay a visit to some of the island’s most celebrated galleries, workshops, and studios.
For example, the Kyrkos Art Gallery, located in Oia and open since 1981, exhibits oil, watercolor, and acrylic paintings, while the MATI art gallery has been showcasing contemporary Greek talent for over 30 years.
Other honorable mentions include the Thiras Art Gallery, Akron Art Centre Dimitrios Bellos, Art of the Loom Gallery, and even the winery & art museum Art Space Art Gallery.
12. Visit the Castle Village of Emporio
Step back in time with a visit to the castle village of Emporio, originally constructed between the 15th and 16th centuries to protect the citizens from frequent pirate raids.
Easily accessible from all points on the island, the village is famed for its sun-bleached buildings, winding alleys, and unending photographic inspiration.
Emporio Castle and the Tower of Nimborio are the main attractions, thanks to their unique construction. The castle contains one entrance, with a labyrinthine network of winding streets and houses to explore en route.
The Tower of Nimborio, alternately called Goulas, is believed to have been built by the same monks who constructed the Orthodox Monastery of St. John the Theologian.
13. Visit Megalochori village
The village of Megalochori is nothing short of a hidden gem, with some of the loveliest sights to see in Santorini.
With its mixture of neoclassical mansions and primitive cave houses, elegant churches and colorful squares, Megalochori makes for a pleasant, low-key outing.
Make sure to visit the churches of Agios Nikolas and Panagia tis Plakas, constructed along the cliffside edge, and bring your camera for commemorating the views.
There is also the Symposion, a cultural center where visitors can immerse themselves in the cultural heritage of the village.
The Lost Atlantis Experience is the first museum in the world dedicated to the lost city of Atlantis, long fabled to have existed where Santorini now resides.
Last but hardly least, sweethearts will want to take a special sunset walk to the naturally-occurring heart-shaped holes along the coastal village.
14. Stay in an authentic cave house
Santorini’s Cycladic cave houses are among the island’s most distinctive characteristics, and the good news is you can sleep in one of your own!
These striking minimalist homes are carved into the volcanic cliffs and were used for centuries to house villagers.
Today the cave houses occupy their own niche in luxury accommodation, with many being modernized and converted into apartments, hotels, and guest lodges.
15. Indulge your inner foodie
Greece, like anywhere in the world, has its own one-of-a-kind cuisine and Santorini is no exception. For the foodie at heart, there’s no better way to experience the island than by sampling all the local fare.
Traditional dishes like Saganaki (consisting of cheese fried in filo pastry and drizzled with honey), Fava, Tomato Keftedes, White Eggplant, and the ancient pork loin dish called Apochti are all time-honored dishes worth trying.
While wine tours abound on the island of Santorini, food tastings, cooking classes, and special workshops are also available so guests can try their hand at creating authentic Grecian dishes of their own.