Santorini has to be one of the most frequently visited Greek islands and there’s a ton of amazing things to do. Unfortunately its recent rise to fame also comes with an enormous amount of tourists.
But not to worry! In this Santorini travel guide I will also share my best tips on how to successfully avoid these crowds in Santorini.
You can thank a volcanic eruption in the 16th century BC for creating the magical land we now know as Santorini and it’s an island with rich history that dates back to the ancient times. But if you’ve ever been drooling over pictures of the Greek islands, chances are very high that’s Oia on them.
This famous village is definitely one of the highlights when visiting Santorini, especially if you know how to avoid the big crowds. And yes, I am talking crowds as big that you’re shuffling through the streets, shoulders pressed to shoulder.
The Very Best Things To Do In Santorini And Tips To Avoid The Crowds
Santorini is one of those places that you simply have to visit once in your life. Cause yes, it is as beautiful as they say and looks exactly like in all of the photos you see online.
I had always dreamed of visiting Santorini with the love of my life and this past summer I did exactly that! We stayed at a beautiful hotel with our own private pool, had incredible sunset dinners while overlooking the caldera and also explored the more hidden gems of this stunning island.
Cause while most people tend to focus on visiting Oia or Fira, these are also the most crowded and touristic places. And yes, you have to visit these places during your time on Santorini but you also have to look further and discover the lesser known parts of the island.
Honestly, some of the best memories from our trip to Santorini was simply wandering around the streets of these lesser known towns and grabbing a quick bite on the side of the road without worrying about another overpriced meal.
But before I start rambling even more let’s dive into the very best things to do in Santorini and how you can avoid the crowds when visiting the most popular places.
Top Things to do in Santorini
1. Watch the sunrise from Oia Castle
Oh I know, pretty much everyone will tell you to visit Oia for sunset. And while watching the sunset from Oia Castle is definitely one of the most popular things to do, you’ll also find yourself surrounded by hundreds of other people, all fighting and pushing to get the best spot.
Instead pick one day out of your holiday for a very early rise and drive to Oia before the sun comes up.
One of the most beautiful places to watch the sunrise in Oia, is Oia Castle. And in the morning you’ll pretty much have it all to yourself.
2. Explore Oia in the early morning
While Oia is the busiest place in Santorini, it’s also one of the very best things to do on the island. But during the day you’ll also find tons of day tourists here from the cruise ships.
The clifftop town of Oia is tiny and there’s only a handful of streets, so imagine hundreds of people all wanting to visit it at the same time. We visited Oia three times. Once for sunrise, once during the day and once for sunset. Our favorite time was definitely sunrise. There was only a handful of other people roaming the streets and it was pretty easy to find a parking spot.
The early morning is also the best time to take photos in Oia. Cause already 1 hour after sunrise there will be a line for the most photogenic places. Pretty crazy and ridiculous if you think about it but that’s the way it is unfortunately.
So, one of the best tips to avoid the crowds in Santorini is to visit Oia during sunrise.
TIP – Wear proper shoes cause the cobblestones can be very slippery.
3. Spend the afternoon at Ammoudi Bay
You can find Ammoudi Bay underneath Oia and there are two ways of reaching it. Either drive down to Ammoudi Bay or walk down the steps from Oia Castle.
Once you’re down here go for a refreshing swim, grab lunch at one of the seafood restaurants or even go cliff jumping.
But whatever you do, don’t ride on one of the donkeys if you go back up the stairs.
4. Watch the sunset from Imerovigli
One of my favorite places in Santorini to watch the sunset is the stunning clifftop town of Imerovigli. Here you’ll have a beautiful view over the caldera and you’ll have to deal with a lot less people compared to Oia.
One of the best things to do in Santorini is to have a sunset dinner. I highly recommend booking a front row table at The Wine Bar in Imerovigli. We went here on our first evening in Santorini and its one of my favorite memories from our trip.
5. Hike to Skaros Rock for sunset
One of the very best things to do in Santorini is to hike to Skaros Rock for sunset. The hike down starts from Imerovigli and all you have to do is simply follow the zigzag steps down.
Skaros Rock is a prominent rock formation and one of the best places to watch the sunset in Santorini.
The hike down takes about 30 minutes and I recommend hiking down until the Mother of Lord Theoskepasti Holy Orthodox Church.
TIP – Make sure to bring enough water with you. The hike may not be long but it’s a steep way back up and otherwise you’ll be absolutely parched when you arrive back in town.
6. Visit the beautiful town of Pyrgos
Pyrgos isn’t on a lot of people’s radar but it turned out to be one of my favorite places in Santorini. This beautiful hilltop town overlooks the entire caldera and is also one of the best places to watch the sunset in Santorini.
Simply wander through the streets and make sure to grab lunch or dinner at Penelope’s and try their pasta dish. It was one of our favorite meals on the island. You won’t need a reservation for lunch but definitely call ahead if you want to have a sunset dinner here.
Built on top of a hill it really is one of the best things to do in Santorini.
7. Go on a wine tasting tour in Santorini
Today, Greek wine is thriving and vineyards can be found all over Greece, particularly in the Aegean Sea. Santorini is one of the best islands to go wine tasting and there are several ways to go about it.
You can go wine tasting at Santo Winery where you can try a range of delicious Greek wines. Another option is to join one of the many wine tasting tours in Santorini.
One of the big advantages of joining a tour is that you don’t have to drive yourself.
8. Vist the small town of Messaria
The beautiful village of Messaria lies almost at the center of Santorini, about 3,5 kilometers southeast of Fira and it forms a node that provides access to the beaches and the rest of the towns.
Wander through the streets or walk all the way to the top of the caldera. There are plenty of restaurants in Messaria and since the town is surrounded by vineyards you can also find some good wineries here such as Kalliston.
9. Go on a boat tour to the volcano
One of the top things to do in Santorini is to go on a cruise that involves a ton of fun activities. Go snorkeling and bathe in the hot springs. Indulge in some delicious local food and wine while sailing passed the volcanic islands and admiring the Santorini caldera from the sea.
10. Explore the town of Megalochori
The town of Megalochori is a must visit when you’re on holiday in Santorini. This town is known for its stunning architecture, cave houses and laidback vibes. Don’t forget to grab a drink at one of the local bars at the main square.
The best restaurants in Santorini
Unfortunately there are a lot of overpriced restaurants in Santorini where the quality of the food doesn’t match up to its price tag. To help you avoid those tourist traps I’ve listed our favorites below.
- The Wine Bar
- Kira Niki Tavern
How to get around Santorini
When traveling around Santorini you’ll need some sort of transportation cause the island is too big to simply go on foot from one place to the other. My advice is to pick up a rental car or rent an ATV.
Downside to an ATV? You can’t carry your luggage so you’ll first need to take a taxi to your hotel and then find an ATV rental shop nearby.
When it comes to renting a car I always use SunnyCars. There’s never any hidden costs with them and free cancellation up to 1 hour before rental start. Their price is transparent and everything is included.
TIP – If you’re only visiting Santorini you’ll probably arrive by plane, simply pick up your rental car at the airport. If you’re island hopping know that you can’t take your rental car on the ferry so it’s best to then find a car rental company near the port.
Where to stay in Santorini
A bucket list item for a lot of people is to stay in Oia in one of the many cave houses or cave hotels on the caldera. And yes I must say, I was one of those people. Until I saw what it was really like… Every single day there’s thousands of people walking above your private terrace. Honestly, I think I would feel like an animal in a zoo.
Instead I would choose one of the hotels on the caldera in Imerovigli. It has the exact same vibe as Oia but is a lot less crowded which means more privacy while you’re enjoying the sunset in your private plunge pool.
My favorite hotels in Imerovigli
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