Are you planning a trip to Santorini? Boasting white-washed houses, blue-domed churches, and breathtaking sunsets, this Cyclades Island is at the top of many people’s bucket lists.
World-famous Santorini is a popular holiday destination known for its charming towns, luxury hotels with infinity pools, picturesque villages, and beautiful sunsets. It’s no wonder over 2 million people make a trip here every year!
So, it’s your first time visiting Santorini, and you’re wondering where to begin?
I remember my first visit in June 2015, stepping off the ferry and seeing the white-domed buildings scattered across the caldera. It was like looking up at a postcard that I had seen multiple times before however this time it was real!
Since then, I’ve been back several times and written dozens of useful travel and accommodation guides to help travelers plan a visit to Santorini.
This guide is a culmination of my research and first-hand experience to create an easy-to-follow step-by-step guide to planning a trip to Santorini.
So, let’s dive into this 9-step beginner’s guide where I help you navigate your Greek adventure. Here, I’ll detail the best ways to get to the island via plane or ferry, the ideal times to visit, epic activities that are a must-do, and where to stay.
- In a Rush? Here’s Your 9 Easy Steps to Planning Your Trip
- Here’s Your Santorini Trip Planning Cheatsheet
- 9 Steps to Planning a Trip to Santorini
- Step 1: Choose the Best Time to Visit Santorini
- Step 2: Choose Where in Santorini to Visit
- Step 3: Plan Your Budget, Trip Length, & Itinerary
- Step 4: Consider Your Greek Visa Requirements
- Step 5: Book Your Flights to Santorini or Travel by Ferry
- Step 6: Plan & Book Your Accommodation in Santorini
- Step 7: Book Your Tours & Experiences in Santorini
- Step 8: Organize Your Greek Travel Insurance
- Step 9: Pack Your Bags!
- Get Ready for Your Epic Santorini Trip!
I'm Olly, a full-time traveler for the past 5 years. I visit every destination I write about & handpick all recommendations.
In a Rush? Here's Your 9 Easy Steps to Planning Your Trip
Don't have time to read the entire article with all the tips and insights? No problem.
If you want to plan a trip by yourself to Santorini or the Greek Islands, here are the 9 steps I recommend you to follow.
- Step 1: Choose the Best Time to Visit Santorini - I recommend the shoulder seasons for good weather and fewer crowds (April to early June, & September to November)
- Step 2: Choose Where in Santorini to Visit - Oia for romance and views, Fira for nightlife and convenience (more options below)
- Step 3: Plan Your Budget, Trip Length, & Itinerary - Balance between must-see spots and relaxation time, and budget for both activities and dining (Santorini can get expensive).
- Step 4: Consider Your Greek Visa Requirements - Check visa requirements on official sources early, especially if you're a non-EU traveler.
- Step 5: Book Your Flights to Santorini or Travel by Ferry - Compare flight and ferry options for convenience and price (more info below).
- Step 6: Plan & Book Your Accommodation in Santorini - Decide between luxury hotels, cave hotels, or budget-friendly hostels.
- Step 7: Book Your Tours & Experiences in Santorini - Find amazing boat trips, volcano hiking experiences, and sea kayaking tours.
- Step 8: Organize Your Greek Travel Insurance - Check your travel insurance coverage for Greece.
- Step 9: Pack Your Bags! - Remember chargers, comfortable shoes for walking, and a camera for amazing sunset photos.
Read on below for a detailed breakdown of all these steps to help you plan your visit and to find the best resources and travel hacks.
Here's Your Santorini Trip Planning Cheatsheet
Don't want to pay a travel agent thousands of dollars to plan a trip for you?
Fun, independent travel to Santorini is easy if you have the right tools and plan ahead. In this guide, I'll be recommending the websites, apps, and resources that I personally use to plan my trips to the Greek Islands.
Here they are.
Tip: Bookmark these pages for the future.
Flights: Find & compare flight deals to Santorini using Skyscanner. Use the "search by month" feature to discover the cheapest day to fly.
Hostels: When it comes to scoring epic deals on hostels and cheap stays your secret weapon is Hostelworld. If you're traveling to Santorini to meet people, use the “See Who's Going” function.
Travel Insurance: HeyMondo is my top recommendation for travel insurance for Santorini. They've got your back with comprehensive coverage, from unexpected flight hiccups to those "oops" moments. Click the link to get 5% OFF your policy.
Internet & Connectivity: Stay connected as soon as you land in Santorini with Airalo's eSIMS. Download their app and grab an eSIM from the comfort of your own home, even before you set foot on foreign soil. No more frantic searches for local SIM cards when you arrive.
Ferry: Make your trip as smooth as possible by booking a ferry. From my experience Blue Star Ferries are the best to book through. These run from Athens and it is also possible to catch them from surrounding islands such as Naxos, Paros, Ios, and Mykonos.
Never planned independent travel before? Read my comprehensive guide to planning a trip.
9 Steps to Planning a Trip to Santorini
If you're planning a trip to Santorini any time soon, you'll want to ensure it's one to remember!
Below I've created a nine-step guide to planning your trip to this gorgeous island. So, by the ninth step, you'll have everything you need to enjoy the trip of a lifetime!
Step 1: Choose the Best Time to Visit Santorini
Before deciding the best time to visit Santorini, you have to understand its weather and seasons.
As you'd expect from a world-famous island, Santorini can get very busy.
This is especially true during July and August. However, the best time to visit Santorini is during the shoulder seasons (April to early June, and September to November). During these months, the weather is still warm, the sea temperatures are great, and there are fewer tourists.
Another thing to consider is what you want to get out of your Greek holiday before deciding when to visit. Here are the best times to visit Santorini depending on your type of holiday:
- Budget: While many people consider Santorini one of the more expensive Cyclades Islands, it doesn't have to be that way! If you're on a budget, consider visiting during the shoulder or winter seasons. From October to April, due to the lower number of tourists, airlines, hotels, and tour companies offer lower fees.
- Nightlife and festivals: If your main purpose is to enjoy its famous nightlife and festivals, then the best time to visit is from June to September. Since these months sit within the peak season, the entire island is humming from the music from bars and festivals. Some of the best festivals to experience in Santorini include the Ifestia Festival (August), Megaro Gyzi Festival (August), and the International Music Festival (September).
- Photography: If you're an avid photographer and want to capture the beauty of Santorini's famous sunsets without crowds, the best time to visit is early November. During this time, the skies are clearer, and there are hardly any tourists, meaning you can capture the perfect photo!
The hottest months in Santorini are July and August. I've visited Santorini twice in the past five years and found June to be especially hot.
The winter, however, is a lot cooler than the summer months. Although there is no rainy season, rain can be expected to fall in Santorini from mid-October until mid-April. The coldest months are January and February.
During the winter months, a lot of hotels, restaurants, and tour operators shut down due to the drop in tourists.
Top Tip: During my trips to Santorini I've come to realize most of the best places for photographs in Santorini are those locations away from the main tourist areas of Fira and Oia. Gabi from Chasing the Donkey mentions Akrotiri Lighthouse as an incredible spot for sunset.
Step 2: Choose Where in Santorini to Visit
The next step is to plan where to visit in Santorini. Remember, this island is only 76 square kilometers (29 sq mi), so if you want to explore, you can do so, no matter where you stay!
I'll touch more on finding places for accommodation in Step 6 below. But, here is an overview of the areas you can visit in Santorini. You'll also see a useful map below that I made to help you orientate yourself.
If you've seen any photos of the sunset in Santorini, it's probably from Oia. This picturesque white-domed village holds the position as the most visited spot to watch the sunset in Greece. Each evening, thousands of people flock to the streets and their hotel infinity pools to watch the famous sunset.
Some of the best things to do in Oia include watching the sunset, exploring Oia Castle, and seeing Ammoudi Bay (I ate the most delicious grilled octopus here). There are plenty of shops, bars, and restaurants to check out during your stay in Oia.
If you're looking to enjoy a romantic and tranquil holiday in Santorini, then Imerovigli is the best place to stay. Known as "the balcony to the Aegean", Imerovigli is situated 300 meters above sea level, boasting stunning views of the Caldera and the Aegean Sea.
Some of the best things to do in this village include hiking Skaros Rock, walking the path to Fira, and visiting the many churches.
Located directly across from the famous Caldera volcano, Fira is the capital of Santorini and a great place to stay for first-timers. Fira is known for its nightlife, shopping, and beautiful, colored streets. Whether it's from your Fira hotel room or a street, no matter where you look in Fira, you'll be blown away by the views.
Some of the best things to do in Fira include watching the sunset, walking to the Old Port, visiting the different churches, and hiking along the Caldera.
Located on the southeastern coast of Santorini is Kamari, a charming seaside village worth staying in if you want to be right on the beach. Kamari is also home to the Santorini airport, making it an easy journey to get to.
The most popular attraction is one of Santorini's famous black sand beaches; Kamari Beach. This beach boasts crystal-clear water and umbrellas so you can spend your day soaking up the sun. Or, discover the underwater world by taking part in scuba diving or snorkeling lessons.
Another option for a beach holiday is Perissa, which is located south of Kamari. Perissa is famous for its beach, which boasts black sand and dark blue waters. Much like Kamari Beach, Perissa Beach is organized with umbrellas, beach bars, and lifeguards.
There is also a water park, diving centers, and watersports to make the most of your time by the sea. In the evening, you can choose from a range of tavernas, restaurants, and bars to explore.
Located on the southwest of the island is Akrotiri, a village that isn't as popular or developed as many other towns on the island. However, it's still worth a visit! Due to its location, Akrotiri boasts stunning views of the Caldera and jaw-dropping sunsets.
Akrotiri has two beaches, Red Beach and White Beach, which are both vastly different from other beaches on the island. The main village is home to the Castle of Akrotiri (one of the five fortified settlements of Santorini), Akrotiri Lighthouse, restaurants, and bars.
If you're heading to Santorini with the intention of drinking all day and partying all night, then Perivolos is the place to be.
Located on the southeast coast of the island, Perivolos is home to the liveliest beach bars on the island JoJo Beach Bar being a favorite. Here you can relax by the many swimming pools, and dance the night away to the music from the DJs.
Top Tip: Last June whilst visiting Santorini I hired an ATV and this allowed me to reach locations such as Skaros Rock early in the morning for photographs before the crowds. Having the ATV allowed me to pack as many activities as possible into one day. Remember to always wear a helmet and drive responsibly.
Don't Know Where to Go? - Consider an Organized Group Trip
Are you traveling solo or just don't know where to begin when it comes to planning a trip to Santorini?
Why not join a group trip? With organized activities, meals, and accommodations included (varies with each trip), group trips are an easy way to enjoy Santorini, as all the planning is done for you!
Another benefit of joining a group trip is you're guaranteed to have an experienced guide. Think of all the extra information and history you'll learn about Santorini.
Here are two group trips to Santorini worth considering.
1. Santorini and Mykonos Trip 2 Days
Spend two days soaking up the views of the Caldera, indulge in wine made from grapes on the island, wander through the colorful streets of Santorini, and experience the famous beaches and beach bars of Mykonos.
2. Santorini Bus Tour with Volcanic Cruise 2 Days
Explore Santorini by bus for 2 days and experience the famous Oia sunset, swim in volcanic hot springs, indulge in Greek wine, and visit the Monastery of Profitis Ilias.
Step 3: Plan Your Budget, Trip Length, & Itinerary
Santorini is popular for many reasons, two of them being it's a great place for relaxation due to its incredible views and breathtaking beaches. If you want to explore the best of what Santorini has to offer, a minimum of three days is required.
For a holiday that includes active days and relaxing ones, I recommend spending five days on the island. During my last trip to Santorini, I spent 5 days there and I felt this was an adequate amount of time to explore the island.
Here is how you can spend five days on one of the most popular islands in Greece by basing yourself in Fira:
- Day 1: Explore the capital of Fira in the morning and wander the streets of Imerovigli in the afternoon.
- Day 2: Enjoy the morning by the pool and spend the afternoon/evening in beautiful Oia.
- Day 3: Visit the black sand beaches of Kamari, Perissa, and Perivolos and catch the sunset in Akrotiri.
- Day 4: Hop on a boat cruise and explore the volcanic islands next to Santorini or take a sea kayaking tour.
- Day 5: Spend the morning wine tasting and the afternoon by the pool for sunset.
Here is what you can expect to spend each day (including food, activities, and accommodation) as a solo traveler in Santorini, depending on your budget:
- Budget: 80 USD
- Mid-range: 120 USD
- Luxury: 280 USD
These are rough budgets and can definitely change by the season!
Top Tip: If you're a budget traveler like myself and looking to save money I recommend Gyro or Souvlaki as a lunch choice. I found myself in multiple small Gyro shops devouring this delicious meal the best being from 'Why Not! Souvlaki'. It's one of the cheapest meals to eat during your stay in Santorini.
Step 4: Consider Your Greek Visa Requirements
One of the first things to do before you start booking anything is to know whether you need a visa.
Most travelers who are planning a trip to Santorini won't need a visa due to the Schengen Arrangement. The Schengen Arrangement allows nationals from certain countries to travel freely within the European Union for tourism or business purposes for 90 days without a visa. Certain countries that are part of the Schengen Agreement include Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the USA, and the UK.
However, if you're from a country that isn't part of the Schengen Arrangement, such as China, Türkiye, South Africa, Indonesia, and India, you will need to apply for a visa to enter Greece. You can see if you need a Schengen Visa here.
If you're from a country that requires a tourist visa to enter Greece, it's important to apply far enough in advance and have all the required documents to ensure you can enjoy your Santorini holiday. Here is everything you'll need when applying for your Schengen Tourist Visa.
Step 5: Book Your Flights to Santorini or Travel by Ferry
This is when planning your trip to Santorini gets really exciting - it's time to book your flights!
The best way to get to Santorini is to fly to Athens and then to Santorini. The flight from Athens to Santorini is around 50 minutes. Skyscanner is the best tool to find cheap, direct flights to Athens.
However, if you have time, you can also catch a ferry from Athens to Santorini. On average, the journey takes around five hours. However, depending on the weather conditions and the ferry operator, the journey can sometimes take up to 11 hours.
If you are heading to Santorini from nearby islands, such as Ios, Paros, or Naxos, the easiest (and often cheapest) way to get to Santorini is by ferry. The ferry journey from these islands takes between 30 minutes to three hours, depending on where you depart from.
Top Tip: On my last visit to Santorini I took the ferry from Mykonos which took 3 hours due to some high Aegean winds. Pack snacks to save money as the onboard cafes are quite expensive. Also, it's worth making the trip to the top deck to get some fresh air and take in the incredible views.
Step 6: Plan & Book Your Accommodation in Santorini
Santorini is one of the most popular islands in Greece. So, there is a range of accommodation types to suit every traveler.
Here are the types of accommodations you can expect in each village in Santorini:
- Oia: In Oia, there are some amazing places to stay. If you want the ultimate Santorini experience I recommend checking out the famous cave hotels. There are also many hotels with private infinity pools and suites with jaw-dropping Aegean Sea views.
- Imerovigli: Known for having spectacular Caldera views, the accommodations in Imerovigli range from cave hotels to suites with private pools with Caldera and Aegean Sea views.
- Fira: Being the capital of the island, drawing in thousands of visitors each year, the accommodation types in Fira range from luxury hotels to comfortable budget rooms.
- Kamari: From hotels with private pools to relaxed, comfortable rooms on the beach, there is something for everyone in Kamari.
- Perissa: Whether you want to be right on the beach or further up in the village, Perissa has accommodations ranging from 2 stars to 5 stars.
- Perivolos: From hotels with stunning beach views to white-washed buildings surrounded by blooming flowers, Perivolos is the perfect pick for budget and mid-range travelers.
- Akrotiri: Boasting hotels with private infinity pools to adults-only resorts; while Akrotiri may be a small village, you're spoilt for choice when it comes to accommodation.
No matter if you'd like to stay in Oia, Imerovigli, or one of the smaller villages on the island, Booking.com is a great place to look for accommodation options.
Places to Stay in Santorini
If you're planning a trip to Santorini and need help with deciding the best places to stay– I have you covered.
Step 7: Book Your Tours & Experiences in Santorini
From boat cruises to wine tasting and watersports, there is something for everyone to enjoy on the beautiful island of Santorini.
If you're looking for some of the best tours and experiences in Santorini, two places to look include GetYourGuide and Viator. These two sites showcase epic tours to do in Santorini at affordable prices.
Whether you want to explore the volcanic islands around Santorini or taste the delicious wines made on the island, you'll find your ultimate experience to suit your budget.
Sail around Santorini's caldera, hike the volcano (optional), and stop at some epic islands for swimming, exploring, and enjoying the hot springs (Thirassia)
Are you looking for an adventurous tour that is worth the arm workout? Look no further than the Santorini Sea Kayaking tour. With spectacular views and a picnic to fill you up this one shouldn't be missed.
If sipping wine and enjoying spectacular views is your kind of thing then the Wine Tasking Tour should be on your list. With 3 wine estates to be visited, you will be sure to have an exceptional day. The best part is you don't need to drive!
Step 8: Organize Your Greek Travel Insurance
When planning a trip to Greece, make sure to safeguard yourself from unforeseen travel mishaps like accidents, cancellations, delays, and loss of your personal items.
HeyMondo offers peace of mind travel insurance for Greece at super affordable rates and has an excellent, easy-to-use app to manage claims.
These days I always use HeyMondo for my trips to Santorini because I like how easy it is to manage claims via their app on my phone.
Tip: We Seek Travel readers get 5% OFF
Step 9: Pack Your Bags!
Now that you know when to visit Santorini, where to stay, where to book your flights, and whether you need a visa or not, it's time to start packing!
The clothes you pack for Santorini will depend largely on the time of year you visit. However, since the best times to visit Santorini include the shoulder seasons when the weather is still warm, you won't need to take any pairs of jeans or thick jackets!
To ensure you don't forget to pack anything for your trip to Santorini, check out the useful image below for a packing list that you can save to your phone or computer when packing!
Get Ready for Your Epic Santorini Trip!
From choosing when to go, where to stay, and what to do, planning a trip is always an exciting time. So, I hope this guide of the nine steps to planning your trip to Santorini has been helpful!
Boasting white-washed houses, colorful streets, epic sunsets, and breathtaking views, Santorini is one of the most beautiful islands in the world and famous for a very good reason, so it's definitely worth visiting at least once in your life.
If you're planning to visit any other Greek islands during your travels, check out some of my other posts that may be helpful.