Visiting Santorini in winter can be very interesting. You’ll avoid the crowds, spend less on accommodation, and see a more relaxed side of the popular Greek island.
Best time to visit Santorini Greece
Santorini is special at any time of year. The views of the famous volcano, caldera cliffs and the Aegean Sea are absolutely stunning. The island’s whitewashed buildings and beautiful blue-domed churches cry out to be photographed.
The thing is, Santorini is increasingly popular with visitors. This tiny dot on the map currently receives well over 2 million tourists annually, and most of them visit during the summer months.
With several cruise ships arriving on a daily basis, the most picturesque villages like Oia get extremely busy during summer. Then there’s also the high hotel prices to take into account.
For some people, this takes away the point of visiting Santorini in the first place. This is why you could consider travelling to Santorini during the low season instead.
Winter weather in Santorini
Winter months in Greece are December, January and February, and they are the coldest months of the year. November, the last month of fall, and March, the first spring month, are shoulder months.
Winter temperatures in Santorini rarely drop under 8-10C (46-50F), and this is mostly in the evenings. Daytime temperatures will generally be around 12-15C (53-59F).
Some days will be overcast, rainy or windy. However, there are very good chances of bright, sunny days and clear blue skies.
Santorini weather in winter can be very pleasant for people who want to explore the island and the famous volcano. In fact, summer gets too hot for many people, because the dark volcanic soil absorbs the heat and stays hot during day and night.
Most people won’t enjoy swimming during the winter in Santorini as the sea temperatures are low. But here’s my unpopular opinion – Santorini’s beaches are very mediocre when compared with beaches on other Greek islands, like for example Milos or Andros. So you won’t really be missing out!
Check this guide for tips on packing for winter: What to pack to Greece for any season
Santorini doesn’t close down in winter
During the off season and shoulder season, many islands and coastal resorts in Greece pretty much shut down.
This is not the case in Santorini. The island has a large permanent population, and it remains relatively lively during winter. True, some businesses will be closed then, but overall you will have no problems finding somewhere to stay in Santorini.
In fact, winter is the best time to visit Santorini if you are on a budget. Hotels in Santorini, especially those on the caldera side, are very expensive in summer. In winter, you will find plenty of rooms, even those with a hot tub or private pool, at a fraction of the cost.
Similarly, having a restaurant meal won’t be a problem. You may find that a specific restaurant that you had read about is closed for winter, but there will be plenty of other Santorini restaurants with delicious dishes to choose from.
Bonus: Unlike in summer, you will probably not need any reservations for a dinner with a view of the sunset!
What is there to do in Santorini in winter?
You will be pleasantly surprised with how much this little island has to offer, even without beach time. You definitely won’t run out of things to do in Santorini.
Things you can enjoy in Santorini in winter include hiking, visiting the volcano, going on a winery tour, exploring the quaint villages and just enjoying a coffee with a view to the Aegean Sea.
1. Hike from Fira to Oia in Santorini
One of my favourite activities in Santorini is the hike from Fira to Oia. This easy 10km / 6.2m trail is the best way to appreciate the volcano views and to enjoy the quiet nature.
I have done the hike towards the end of November. The weather was great, and I only met two more people along the way. When I visited in peak season, I was totally put off by the high temperatures!
It is possible to complete the hike in 2-2,5 hours, but what’s the rush? The views are truly breathtaking, and you will feel that you are on the edge of the world, especially if you hike on a windy day! In my experience, allowing 4 hours for the hike is about right.
The hike begins at Fira, close to the Cathedral and Atlantis Hotel. There are plenty of signs on the trail so getting lost is very difficult. Even if you do though, remember that the sea will always be to your left.
Soon after leaving Fira, you will pass through two picturesque villages, namely Firostefani and Imerovigli. When I visited Santorini in winter, most shops and cafes were closed, but things change year by year.
The trail also passes by a few monasteries and churches, as well as Skaros rock, once the medieval capital of Santorini. Nowadays, it’s a fantastic viewing point.
If you decide to do the hike, bring water and a couple of snacks with you. Also, it’s best to have some sunscreen and a hat, just in case the sun is stronger than you expect. That said, a waterproof jacket might also come in handy!
2. Visit Oia for sunset
Oia, the small village at the edge of the cliff, is one of the most photographed places in all of Greece. In winter, you can stroll around the village, and catch the famous sunset views with much fewer crowds than in summer.
Sunset in winter is between 17.00 and 18.00. If you are hiking to Oia from Fira, it’s best to set off before 13.00, or even earlier. This way, you will have a few hours to explore Oia before the sunset.
While you are there, you can also walk down to the coast, and reach the small Ammoudi bay. Don’t expect too many businesses to be open in Oia, but you will appreciate the relaxed atmosphere.
In the evening, you can hop on a bus, or maybe a transfer, to get back to your hotel.
3. Explore Santorini’s quaint towns and villages
Apart from the famous Oia, Santorini has several towns and villages that are worth stopping by.
Fira is the capital town in Santorini. Admittedly, it is rather touristy, but it’s still a pretty little town, and the views to the caldera are great. This is where you’ll find the majority of shops, restaurants, bars, and things to do in Santorini in winter.
Firostefani and Imerovigli are two smaller settlements, a short hike from Santorini’s capital. Firostefani used to be separated from Fira, but nowadays they are almost joined up, so it’s walking distance. Imerovigli is a couple of kilometres further out on the way to Oia, and offers great views to Fira and the caldera.
Another important village in Santorini is Emporio, with its impressive Venetian tower and a few picturesque churches. Emporio was one of the traditional castle settlements of Santorini, where all houses were built next to each other, forming a circle, with only one entrance to the settlement. Close to the village, you can spot a few windmills and some Byzantine ruins.
Pyrgos is another medieval town, built in a similar style with Emporio. Many of the houses were destroyed in the 20th century due to a strong earthquake. The cave houses in Pyrgos were built partly underground, to keep the temperature low in summer and high in winter.
You can also visit the beach towns of Kamari and Perissa. These coastal towns, which are bustling with tourists in summer, will generally be very quiet in winter.
If you don’t want to rent a car, the easiest way to explore the villages in Santorini is to go on an organized private tour, where you will learn lots about the island.
4. Take a sailing trip and explore Santorini volcano
While you can easily enjoy the volcano views from Santorini itself, visiting the actual volcano is an otherworldly experience. Sailing into the caldera is a truly memorable activity. The views of the entire island of Santorini from the sailing boat are outstanding.
The pebbly, black-gray terrain on the volcano is unlike anything else you have seen. In fact, as the soil’s dark colour absorbs the sun, winter is the ideal time to visit the volcano. Temperatures can get uncomfortably hot in summer (over 50C / 122F). Hard to imagine what the volcanic eruption must have been like!
There are typically many boat tours to the volcano, though if you are going in mid-winter, choice will be limited. Many of the sailing trips include a visit to the nearby thermal springs, so it’s worth packing a swimsuit if you are feeling brave.
5. Take a winery tour
Apart from the sunset views and the volcano, Santorini is also famous for its unique, fantastic wines. The combination of the island’s volcanic soil and the warm weather helps produce some very distinctive wine varieties. In fact, there is evidence that wine has been produced in Santorini for thousands of years!
The most popular white wines that you will come across in Santorini are Athiri, Assyrtiko and Aidani. A particular, vintage wine is Nychteri, traditionally produced after dark, and made out of Assyrtiko grapes.
If you are after robust red wines, that are generally more suitable for winter, the most common varieties are Mavrotragano, Mandilaria and Voudomato.
However, the most famous Santorini wine is the sweet, vintage Vinsanto wine, made from grapes that have been dried in the sun. It takes over 10 kilos of grapes to produce just one litre of Vinsanto! As such, it’s a fairly expensive wine, perfect if you are looking for a special gift from Greece.
While you can taste these wines at Santorini’s restaurants, you can also visit some of the wineries in Santorini for a tasting. You can do this on your own, but it is easier to take an organized winery tour in Santorini, and learn more about the wine-making process.
6. Visit the Akrotiri archaeological site in Santorini
The archaeological site of Akrotiri in Santorini is one of the most significant ancient settlements in Greece.
The ancient town of Akrotiri was founded around the 4th millennium BC, and reached its peak around the 20th-17th century BC. It was a very advanced settlement in terms of infrastructure, architecture, commerce and arts.
Akrotiri was destroyed during the 17th century BC, due to a series of earthquakes and the famous eruption. The town was buried under multiple layers of mud and volcanic ashes. These materials have helped preserve much of the ancient site, which first opened to the public in 2012.
Many of the precious treasures excavated by Greek archaeologists are exhibited in the archaeological museum of Prehistoric Thera in Fira. This is the best place to visit to find out more about Santorini’s history.
If you are driving to Ancient Akrotiri, make sure you stop at the Red Beach nearby. Also, visit Akrotiri Lighthouse, where you can enjoy a lovely sunset.
How to get to Santorini in winter
During winter, there are no direct flights to Santorini from outside Greece. You can get to Santorini either by ferry from Piraeus port close to Athens, or by plane from the Athens international airport.
Ferries to Santorini
During winter, there are fewer ferries to Santorini than in summer. The fastest ferries won’t run, so a typical ferry ride will take around 7-8 hours. You can check routes and buy your ferry tickets on Ferryscanner.
Ferry prices are generally standard, regardless of when you book them. Some companies occasionally offer advance promo tickets which are non-refundable and non-transferable. Normal prices start from about 35 euro per person.
Photo of the Greek flag on a ferry
If you are planning to take the ferry, note that winter schedules may not be released before the end of summer. Pre-booking your tickets is not essential if you are travelling in the off-season.
Flights from Athens to Santorini
A flight from the Athens airport to Santorini takes just under an hour, and is probably the best option.
There are several companies flying to Santorini, such as Aegean, Sky Express, Volotea and Ryanair, the low-cost company that many people love to hate. Some of them may stop running in winter.
Domestic flights to Santorini are typically cheaper when booked early, so it’s best to check routes a few weeks or even months before your trip. Prices can start from about 20-25 euro one-way, but can be quite high around popular dates.
How to get around Santorini in winter
Getting around Santorini is pretty straightforward in winter for independent or solo travellers. You can use buses to get around many areas of Santorini, just bear in mind that some routes will have very few buses per day. Check the bus schedules a few days before you visit, as they change from time to time.
Renting a car is probably the best way to get around Santorini in winter. You should be able to find good deals, perhaps 25-30 euro a day. While driving and parking during the summer might prove to be a challenge, driving in winter is very pleasant.
Where to stay in Santorini in winter
As some of the businesses all over Santorini are closed in winter, it’s best to stay in Fira, the main town. There will be enough to do in terms of restaurants and nightlife, but it won’t be as packed as in summer.
If you are after peace and quiet but would prefer not to hire a car, Firostefani or even Imerovigli might suit you better. They are close enough to Fira, but will be a lot quieter.
Oia is some people’s favourite option. In our experience, not very much was happening when we visited in November. While it was great for an evening visit, we were a lot happier staying in Fira.
While Kamari and Perissa beach Santorini are great to stay in summer, they will mostly be closed down in winter. If you don’t want to stay in Fira, you’d be better off staying in one of the bigger inland villages instead.
Conclusion – Should I visit Santorini in winter?
If you want to enjoy the island without the mass tourism, winter is the best time to visit Santorini. You will still meet a few other tourists, and you may come across a cruise ship or two, but the island will not be nearly as crowded as in summer.
Although most shops and beach bars at the coastal resorts will be closed, you will be able to enjoy the inland villages, white washed buildings, picturesque beaches and beautiful landscapes in Santorini.
While the weather won’t be suitable for swimming, you will love exploring the island without the extreme summer temperatures. Bring some warmer clothes, as the weather can be quite cool.
FAQ about winter in Santorini
Here are a few questions that visitors often ask about Santorini:
Is Santorini worth visiting in winter?
A winter visit to Santorini is definitely worth it. You will meet fewer tourists, find much cheaper accommodation, and enjoy the island at a more relaxed pace.
What is the weather like in Santorini in winter?
During the winter months, you should expect cooler weather in Santorini. There will be some rainy, windy or overcast days, but the weather can also be sunny and pleasant.
How cold is Santorini in winter?
Santorini temperatures usually range between 8-15C (46-59F) in winter. If you decide to take a winter trip, bring some warm clothes with you.
Does Santorini shut down in winter?
Santorini does not shut down in winter, as there is a large permanent population. While some businesses will be closed, you will still be able to enjoy most of what the island has to offer.
Does it snow in Santorini Greece?
Snow is extremely rare in Santorini. When it happens, it’s everywhere on the Greek news!
Can I take good photos in Santorini in winter?
Winter is a great time to visit Santorini for unique holiday photos. The pretty whitewashed houses and black sand beaches are impressive year-round. Moreover, the famous sunsets are actually more spectacular during the winter months!
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Hi! I’m Vanessa, a travel writer from Athens, and I like helping visitors travelling to Greece. Feel free to follow my FB page and FB group, and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions!