Everything they say about Santorini is true. It’s beautiful. It’s expensive. It’s touristy. And it’s a place you have to visit at least once in your lifetime. Nestled in the south Aegean Sea, the volcanic island is home to some of the dreamiest views you’ll ever see. The searing white villages built into the caldera cliffs are like nowhere else in the world. I’ve put together a complete guide to Santorini, and it includes everything you’ll need to plan your first visit to the island – the most scenic villages, swimming spots, cliff jumping, cave hotels, hikes, restaurants and more. This post contains affiliate links.
Iconic views of the island from the Oia Castle ruins.
MAY, JUNE AND SEPTEMBER. Santorini is one of the busiest tourist destinations in Greece, and you can feel the sheer number of visitors thanks to the small size of the villages. Avoid July and August when temperatures and crowds peak. Instead, opt for a visit in May, June or September.
Beautiful Amoudi Bay is my favorite area of the island.
Amoudi is a great spot for swimming, sunbathing and cliff jumping.
Fresh mussels for lunch at Sunset Amoudi.
THREE TO FIVE DAYS. Three full days in enough time to see the main sights on Santorini. Tack on a couple extra days if you want to day trip out to the smaller villages and beaches. As far as exploring goes, most of the island’s highlights will be in and around the villages – food, shopping, sightseeing, sunset spots, photos, etc.
Sunny afternoon down on Amoudi Bay.
The lovely village of Megalochori.
It’s 200+ steps down the caldera to reach Amoudi Bay, but worth every step of the 20-minute hike. Amoudi Bay’s charming fishing village is one of the most picturesque spots on Santorini, home to some of the tastiest seafood on the island. And if you continue on past the restaurants, the coastline leads to a popular sunbathing area on the rocks with views of a tiny offshore island where swimmers cliff jump. The return to Oia is the same trail of steps back up the caldera. Please, do not pay money to hire a donkey – the animals are exploited, and completely mistreated. If you walked down, you can walk up. Or, sometimes there are taxis at the village boat launch.
This eccentric book store has been around for nearly two decades, and it’s hard to miss when strolling the main drag in Oia. It’s bright, colorful, chaotic and a must-visit. Atlantis houses both new and rare books, so there is something for everyone.
Fira is the bustling capital of Santorini. While it isn’t as iconic as Oia, Fira is still a beautiful settlement built into the caldera cliffs with pedestrian lanes, blinding white alleys and beautiful churches. The town is loaded with food and restaurant options, the largest selection on the island.
FIRA TO OIA WALKING TRAIL
It’s a 10-km hike between the island’s two famous villages, and the journey takes three to five hours one-way. The route is scenic, you’ll pass white-washed villages, lovely churches and sweeping viewpoints scattered along the path. The trail can be hiked one-way in either direction, and then do the return trip by bus. During the summer months, best to hike in the morning or early evening to avoid the heat.
Imerovigli is the smallest of the three main villages on Santorini, but it packs a mean punch when it comes to views. It’s a short stroll from neighboring Fira along the pedestrian boulevard, and worth a visit to soak in the blinding white views.
Charming inland village that can be paired with it’s more spectacular sister Pyrgos. Megalochori is tiny – it only takes an hour to explore the village on foot, snap a few photos and grab gelato at Mr. Scoop.
Oia is the most famous village on Santorini. A labyrinth of white-washed alleys and stone staircases are the arteries of the little village that connect the dozens of cave hotels, windmills, churches, galleries, boutiques and restaurants. Must visit spots in Oia include the Blue Dome, Oia Castle ruins, Church of Panagia and the main pedestrian boulevard.
This wide open beach is located in southern Santorini at the base of the Mesa Vouno Mountain. While Santorini is not known for its beaches, Perissa still gets lots of summer traffic from tourists looking to escape the summer heat. The beach is long and lined with several seaside restaurants for lunch, as well as hundreds of sun beds.
This charming hilltop village sits tucked away in the middle of Santorini, far away from the Oia – Fira – Imerovigli tourist track. Pyrgos is a small labyrinth of white-washed alleyways lined with tavernas, shops and galleries. Must-see sights include the Castelli, Theotakaki, Saint Nikolaos Church and St. George Church.
You’ll need a set of wheels to get to Red Beach, and it’s a great excuse to rent a car, scooter or ATV and spend the day exploring the island. Red Beach is a volcanic beach where sweeping red cliffs meet the sparkling Aegean Sea – a beautiful setting for an afternoon of sunbathing.
It’s a 20-minute hike in each direction to reach the top of Imerovigli’s iconic Skaros Rock. While the views really aren’t that spectacular, it’s cool knowing you did the trek out to the volcanic formation.
Did you know you can actually stay at this iconic spot in Oia? It’s called the Kastro Oia Houses, five different rentable villas.
As you plan your trip to Santorini, you’ll notice that a bulk of the hotel and Airbnb options are located in Fira, Imerovigli and Oia. These villages are the most popular because of their proximity to food, shopping and sightseeing – and location is everything on Santorini.
In a nutshell, Oia is the most popular place to stay. It’s home to the most iconic views, and the best hotels on the island. It’s also the most expensive, especially during high season. Fira is the capital city, and it’s a 20-minute bus ride from Oia. Views here are lovely too, and there are more shopping and food options than anywhere else on the island. And Imerovigli is a stunning white village walking distance from Fira. It’s the quietest of the three villages, and prices are slightly more affordable.
A handful Andronis properties are scattered throughout Oia, and they are some of the most sought-after stays on Santorini. Andronis Luxury Suites, Andronis Boutique Hotel and Andronis Exclusive all overlook the caldera with incredible village views, beautiful cave rooms, private plunge pools and sunset dining. Andronis Arcadia is their newest property, but it’s located in a quieter part of Oia, away from crowds on the caldera.
BLUE DOME CAVE HOUSE (OIA)
Blue Dome Cave House boasts one of the most spectacular locations in Oia with a breakfast terrace, private plunge pool and cave suite windows all facing epic views of the Blue Dome. The cave house is a two-bedroom property – minimalist in design, very clean and cozy. This is one of the closest properties to the Blue Dome – the location can’t be beat.
BLUE DOME SUITE (OIA)
If the Blue Dome Cave House is booked for your dates, the Blue Dome Suite is another Airbnb option in the same neighborhood. It’s a slightly smaller one-bedroom cave house that opens up to a terrace and plunge pool that also look out over the Blue Dome.
Canaves operates six hotels in Oia, and all cater to luxury travelers looking for the best views, the best rooms and the best pools on Santorini. Property portfolio includes Canaves Suites, Canaves Hotel, Canaves Sunday Suites, Canaves Epitome, Canaves Oia Villa and Eden Villas.
CYCLADIC HOUSE (OIA)
Another amazing Airbnb with a view of the Blue Dome. This is a charming two-bedroom cave house with a bright and sunny terrace – the perfect spot for sunbathing and hanging out in the plunge pool that overlooks the Blue Dome.
This beautiful, 12-suite haven sits on Perivolos Beach, away from the crowds and chaos of the caldera coast. Istoria is the epitome of luxury with archways, stone walls, white umbrellas, ultra sleek plunge pools and suites all designed with minimalist chic design cues.
Located at the edge of Oia, Mystique is one of the most beautiful properties on the island. This adults-only resort is the ultimate honeymooners destination. The property is a blur of creamy tones, neutral accents, arched doorways + windows, sparkling plunge pools, sea views and ultra-luxurious suites (my favorite is the Mystery Villa with its private cave pool and private cave gym).
PEGASUS SUITES (IMEROVIGLI)
A midrange option by Santorini standards, but a lovely hotel if you’re looking to stay in Imerovigli and not spend a fortune. The main pool isn’t as epic as most hotels on Santorini, but everything else is wonderful for travelers on a moderate budget. They offer a variety of cave suites, some with private jacuzzis and plunge pools, all designed with white-washed minimalism. Pegasus Suites sits at the south end of Imerovigli, so guests have a view of the entire village.
SIDERAS HOUSE (OIA)
If you want Oia’s central location, but don’t want to break the bank, Sideras House is a great Airbnb option. You won’t get iconic caldera scenery from your bedroom window, but the view is just a short stroll away. Sideras House is a one-bedroom Airbnb Plus property located behind the Church of Panagia. The decor and design are impeccable – lots of blues + whites, arched doorways, vintage decor details, flowers and more.
Vedema houses a mix of more than 40 rooms and suites in the middle of Megalochori Village. The setting is a side of Santorini most visitors don’t see, and it’s absolutely serene. The design of the Vedema is beautiful, and views of the surrounding village can be seen from the pool and other vantage points around the resort.
Spectacular private cave pool in the Mystery Villa at the Mystique.
The property at the Mystique reminded me so much of The Flintstones.
ATHENIAN HOUSE (IMEROVIGLI)
One of the prettiest restaurants on Santorini. Best to experience Athenian House at sunset for the breathtaking views over Imerovigli. Reservations recommended, and request a table with a sunset view.
While it feels like cheap eats are far and few between on Santorini, a few casual gems do exist, most of them located in Fira. Falafeland is a popular one that occupies a tiny shopfront in the center of town. The menu is cheap, simple and delicious – wraps, falafel burger, hummus, fries and salad.
FINO RESTAURANT & COCKTAIL BAR (OIA)
Hip restaurant tucked away in Oia, away from the bustling main drag. Menu boasts a variety of delicious cocktails, as well as seafood, meats and delicious Mediterranean dishes.
LOLITA’S GELTO (OIA)
A popular gelateria located in Oia. The variety of flavors include Rosewater & Pinkpepper, Blueberry, Chocolate, Biscuit, Coconut, tasty sorbets and more.
LYCABETTUS RESTAURANT (OIA)
Lycabettus serves both lunch and dinner, but the restaurant’s location over Oia makes dinner particularly special (especially at sunset). I love the seafood selection. Menu highlights include sea bass with almond crust, spinach & clove; grouper with oyster, fennel & wine sauce; crab with watermelon radish, Greek yogurt and passion fruit; and scallops with pumpkin, citrus and kum quat. Reservations recommended, request a table with a sunset view.
MR. SCOOP (MEGALOCHORI)
Cute little gelato shop that sits in the heart of Megalochori Village.
If you’re craving something other than Geek dishes and seafood, grab a table at Paradox. The little restaurant serves classic Thai dishes including Pad Thai, curries, stir fry plates, fried rice and more.
PITOGYRO TRADITIONAL GRILL HOUSE (OIA)
One of the only cheap eats in Oia, Pitogyro Traditional Grill House is a great place to get takeout and then head to the Oia Castle ruins to feast while laying claim on a spot for sunset.
SUNSET AMOUDI (AMOUDI BAY)
There are a handful of restaurants that surround Amoudi Bay’s port – all serving up a fresh selection of seafood with stunning views right on the water. Grab a table at one of the restaurants (my favorite is Sunset Amoudi) and order your favorite fish, cooked to order.
TAVERNA GEROMANOLIS (MEGALOCHORI)
The best taverna in Megalochori. It’s on the outskirts of the main village, but the food is the tastiest in town. Menu is a mix of classic Greek dishes and fresh seafood.
ZOTOS DIMITRIOS (FIRA)
Home to the widest selection gelato flavors I’ve seen on Santorini including passion fruit sorbet and mint chip gelato (two of my favorites).
The iconic blue domes of Oia.
Stairway to the sea at Andronis Boutique Hotel.
For travel between Fira, Imerovigli and Oia, most tourists take the bus (comfortable Greyhounds). And within the villages it’s easy enough to walk. If you’re interested in visiting Red Beach, White Beach and some of the smaller villages, I suggest renting a car or scooter for the day. Island taxis are available, but expensive.
For transport to and from the airport and ferry, it’s easiest to pre-arrange through your hotel. It’s usually an extra fee, but easier than trying to find a taxi upon arrival.
A rocky staircase leads to the top of Skaros Rock.
The blue dome churches on Santorini are so beautiful.
Due to its popularity, Santorini is one of the most accessible islands in Greece. The international airport services dozens of cities throughout Europe and the Middle East, and the ferry service connects Santorini to several other islands including Crete, Ios, Paros, Mykonos, Milos and more.
Church Agios Ioannis Theologos is located in Fira.
Explore Oia – (sightseeing)
Blue Dome, Oia Castle Ruins, Church of Panagia, Atlantis Books, Windmills, Boutiques
Lolita Gelato (gelato)
Amoudi Bay (swimming)
Sunset Amoudi (dinner)
Rent a Car or Scooter for the Day
Castelli, Theotakaki, Saint Nikolaos Church, St. George Church and Shops
Taverna Geromanolis (lunch)
Mr. Scoop (gelato)
Red Beach (beach)
Fino Restaurant & Cocktail Bar (dinner)
Fira to Oia Walking Trail + Skaros Rock (hike)
Pitogyro Traditional Grill House (to-go)
Oia Castle Ruins (sunset + gyros – arrive early to get a spot)
Lycabettus Restaurant (dinner)
Fira (sightseeing + shopping)
Zotos Dimitrios (gelato)
Athenian House (sunset dinner)