Visiting Santorini in winter is a great way to avoid the crowds! You will also spend much less on accommodation, and see a more relaxed side of the popular Greek island.
Santorini in winter – Best time to avoid the crowds
If you want to experience Santorini without the crowds, the best time to visit is in winter. True, the weather will be cooler and many restaurants and shops will be closed.
Still, the caldera views and black sand beaches remain stunning. Moreover, the famous sunsets are actually more spectacular during the winter months!
People who like nature and wild landscapes will love Santorini in winter. In fact, the cooler temperatures are ideal if you want to walk on the iconic volcano. You will also be able to explore the beautiful beaches, and enjoy the archaeological sites and museums without many other visitors.
Here is what to expect if you visit Santorini island in winter.
Winter weather in Santorini
The weather in Santorini in winter is relatively cold and wet – nothing like the warm, sunny summer weather. Still, that doesn’t stop the island from being a magical place to visit.
The 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 – 10 C (46 – 50 F), and this is mostly in the evenings. Daytime temperatures will generally be around 12 – 15 C (53 – 59 F).
Some days will be overcast, rainy or windy – though the winds will be different to the meltemi summer winds. However, there are very good chances of bright, sunny days and clear blue skies, even with cooler weather.
Santorini weather in winter can actually be very pleasant for sightseeing and exploring. 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 may be very picturesque, but are rather mediocre when compared with beaches on other Greek islands, like Milos or Andros. So you won’t really be missing out!
Santorini doesn’t close down in winter
During the low 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 or eat 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 west side of the island, which faces the caldera, 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 any beach time. You definitely won’t run out of things to do in Santorini.
Activities 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 and popular destinations 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, depending on when exactly you go. 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 small elevated town a couple of kilometres further out, and offers great views to Fira and the caldera.
Another important village in Santorini is Emporio, with its impressive Venetian tower and a few of the famous blue-domed 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 beach Santorini. These coastal towns on the east side of the island, 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, which I found really pleasant in winter.
The views of the entire island of Santorini from the sailing boat are outstanding. I absolutely loved hiking on the volcano – and many people will enjoy swimming in the hot springs.
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 wine tasting 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!
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’s easier to take an organized winery tour in Santorini. Book your wine tour here!
Not only will you learn more about the wine-making process, but you will also taste some local delicacies along with your wine 🙂
The famous Santorini wines
The most popular white wines that you will come across in Santorini are made out of varieties called Athiri, Assyrtiko and Aidani. A particular, vintage wine is Nychteri, which is made out of Assyrtiko grapes and is traditionally produced after dark.
If you are after robust red wines, which 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.
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.
Winter in Santorini – Special events and celebrations
Greeks celebrate numerous festivals and events throughout the year. Some of them are called panigiria, and they are big religious fiestas where all the locals gather together to eat, drink, and dance like there’s no tomorrow.
Here are some of the most special events in Santorini in winter:
Santorini in November
November is a month when many panigiria happen in Santorini. There are panigiria in Messaria (1 Nov), Taxiarhis monastery on Nea Kameni islet (6 Nov), Fira (11 Nov), and Imerovigli (13 Nov).
If you are in Santorini on 21 November, take a day trip to the tiny Thirassia island, to observe the unique local panigiri.
Santorini in December
Christmas Day is one of the most important days of the year in Greece. It is traditionally celebrated in a family circle, but if you happen to be on the island look out for any special events.
Here is more information about the Christmas season in Greece.
Santorini in January
A day to look out for is Epiphany (6 Jan). On this day, a priest throws a cross in the sea, and men dive out to retrieve it. It is a very special event that happens everywhere in Greece.
Santorini in February
Do not miss the local panigiri in Oia (1 Feb). Also, ask around for any Carnival celebrations, which is a unique type of event on the famous island.
Santorini in March
In late February or March, seven weeks before Greek Easter, Greeks celebrate a special feast day called Clean Monday, Kathara Deftera. It’s a fantastic occasion to experience unique dishes and a merry atmosphere.
How to get to Santorini in winter
There are no direct flights to Santorini from outside Greece in winter. You can get to Santorini either by ferry from Piraeus port in 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 don’t run in winter, 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 only cost 20 euro, but are non-refundable and non-transferable. Normal fares start from about 45 euro per person.
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 two companies flying from Athens to Santorini in winter: Aegean / Olympic and Sky Express.
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 winter trip. Prices can start from about 35 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. DiscoverCars offers excellent deals, starting at about 20 euro a day during the winter months!
While driving, and especially parking, during the summer can be a challenge, driving in winter is very pleasant. Have a look at this article about driving in Greece.
Where to stay in Santorini in the off season
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 – and you still get the caldera views.
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.
As for Kamari and Perissa beach, while these 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 in one of the bigger inland villages, like Pyrgos or Emporio, instead.
In my experience travelling around Greece, Booking has better deals and offers more choice than other platforms. Give it a go!
Conclusion – Should I visit Santorini in the winter?
Santorini is special year-round. However, this tiny dot on the map currently receives well over 2 million tourists annually, and most of them visit during the summer months.
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 one or two cruise ships, but the island will not be nearly as crowded as in summer.
Most shops and beach bars at the coastal resorts will be closed. However, you will still be able to enjoy the inland villages, white washed buildings, volcanic sands 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. Just bring some warmer clothes and a waterproof jacket! Check this guide on what to pack for Greece for any season.
FAQs about winter in Santorini
Here are a few questions that visitors often ask about Santorini:
Is it worth visiting Santorini 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.
How cold is Santorini in winter?
Santorini winter temperatures usually range between 8 – 15 C (46 – 59 F). There will normally be some rainy, windy or overcast days, but the weather can also be sunny and pleasant. If you are visiting in winter, 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, including beach bars, will be closed, you will still be able to enjoy most of what the island has to offer.
Can you go to Santorini in winter?
Yes, you can go to Santorini in winter. As there are no direct flights from outside Greece, you will either need to take a short domestic flight from Athens, or a ferry from Piraeus.
Does it snow in Santorini Greece?
Snow is extremely rare in Santorini. When it happens, it’s everywhere on the Greek news!
More Greece and Greek islands travel guides
If you enjoyed this article, you might also be interested in:
- How to plan a trip to Greece
- Things to avoid in Santorini
- How long to spend in Santorini
- Five incredible islands near Santorini
- Greek Island Groups
- Why are buildings in the Cyclades painted blue and white
- Cheapest time to visit Greece
- Warmest Greek islands in October
- Athens in November
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!