Visiting Santorini in winter may be one of the smartest travel tips you’ll ever hear. You’ll avoid the crowds, spend less, and enjoy more of the Greek island of Santorini in winter.
When is the best time to visit Santorini?
Santorini is special at any time of year. The views of the volcano and the Aegean Sea are simply unique, and those beautiful buildings cry out to be photographed.
The thing is, Santorini is increasingly popular with visitors. So much so, that this tiny dot on the map currently receives well over 2 million tourists annually! Of these people, most visit during the summer.
With several cruise boats arriving on a daily basis, some of the most picturesque areas such as Oia might not be easily accessible in summer. Then there’s the crowds and the high hotel prices to take into account
To a certain extent, this takes away the point of visiting Santorini in the first place, which is why we’d suggest you consider visiting Santorini in the winter instead.
Reasons to visit Santorini in winter
The best option if you want to enjoy the island without too many crowds, is to visit Santorini in winter. You will probably still meet a few other tourists, and possibly a cruise boat or two, but the island will not be nearly as crowded as in summer. If you are after impressive holiday photos, winter is the best time to visit Santorini.
Another important reason to visit Santorini in winter, is the cost of accommodation. Hotels in Santorini can be a lot more expensive in summer. In winter, you might find that some Santorini hotels may be closed, but there’s still plenty of very affordable rooms pretty much anywhere on the island. Also, you can find great deals for renting a car.
Visiting Santorini in December, January and February
Winter months (off peak season) in Greece are December, January and February. November and March are also regarded as off-peak months, though less so in Santorini. While some businesses will be closed then, you will have no problems finding a place to stay in Santorini.
Similarly, having a delicious Greek 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 open in winter to choose from. Unlike in summer, you will probably not need any reservations for a dinner with a view of the sunset!
What is the weather like in Santorini in winter?
Santorini has a mild Mediterranean climate. This means that summers are sunny, hot and dry, and winters are cool, and possibly damp.
Winter temperatures rarely drop under 10C / 50F, and this is mostly in the evening. Daytime temperatures might be around 15C / 59F, and while some days might be overcast, there are good chances of sunny days.
While Santorini weather in winter is not ideal for swimming, most people will find it pleasant if they want to explore the island. In fact, we think that winter is better when it comes to activities in Santorini, as summer can be too hot for most people.
Finally, here’s our unpopular opinion – in terms of beaches, you won’t be missing out much if you visit Santorini in winter. We think that Santorini’s beaches are nowhere near the best beaches in Greece. That said, if Santorini is the only Greek island you’ve ever been to, you may actually fall in love with the beaches!
How can I get to Santorini in winter?
Like in summer, you can get to Santorini in winter either by ferry from Piraeus / Rafina ports, or by plane. There will typically be fewer ferries and fewer flights than in summer, but you will still find plenty of options.
A ferry ride from the Athens ports to Santorini can take anywhere from 4 hours to over 8 hours, while a flight from the Athens airport takes less than an hour. If you are pushed for time, a flight is definitely the best option.
Ferry prices are generally standard, regardless of when you book them. That said, some companies occasionally offer advance promo tickets which are non-refundable and non-transferable.
If you prefer 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 going to Santorini in winter, though if you know your dates there is no reason why you shouldn’t get them in advance.
Flying from Athens to Santorini
Domestic flights to Santorini are typically cheaper when booked early, so it’s best to check for good deals a few weeks or even months before your trip.
There are several companies flying to Santorini, such as Aegean, Ellinair, Sky Express, Volotea and Ryanair, the low-cost company that many people love to hate.
Prices start from about 20 euro one-way, but can be quite high around popular dates. You can choose according to your budget.
Getting around Santorini in winter
Getting around Santorini is pretty straightforward in winter if you are travelling independently. You can use buses to get around most areas of Santorini. That said, you should bear in mind that some routes might have very few buses per day. Check the bus schedules a few days before you visit, as they tend to change from time to time.
Renting a car might be the best way to get around Santorini. You should be able to find good deals, perhaps 25-30 euro a day. While driving during the summer might prove to be a challenge, especially in terms of parking, driving in winter is very pleasant.
Is there much to do in Santorini in winter?
Oh yes! You will be surprised at how much this little island has to offer, even without beach time. You definitely won’t run out of things to do in Santorini.
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, are all things that you can enjoy in Santorini in winter.
Hiking from Fira to Oia in Santorini
Our favourite activity in Santorini was the hike from Fira to Oia. This easy 10km / 6.2m coastal trail is the best way to appreciate the volcano views and to enjoy the quiet nature. We did the hike towards the end of November, and we only met two more people along the way.
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 our experience, allowing 4 hours for the hike is about right.
The hike begins in Fira, close to the Cathedral and Atlantis Hotel. There are enough signs on the trail so it’s really hard to get lost. Even if you do though, remember that the sea will always be to your left.
Soon after leaving Fira, you will pass through some villages, namely Firostefani and Imerovigli. When we visited Santorini, most places for drinks or snacks were closed, but things change year by year. The trail also passes by a few monasteries and churches, as well as Skaros rock, a great viewing point.
Walk to Oia for sunset
Eventually, you will reach Oia, one of the most photographed places in all of Greece. You can stroll around the village, and catch the famous sunset view.
Sunset in winter is roughly between 17.00 and 18.00, so it’s best to begin your hike before 13.00, or even earlier. This way, you will have some time in Oia before the sunset. Afterwards, you can hop on a bus, or maybe take a taxi, to get back to your hotel.
If you go hiking in Santorini, we recommend that you 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, an umbrella or waterproof jacket might also come in handy!
Take a sailing trip and explore Santorini volcano
While the volcano views can easily be enjoyed from Santorini, visiting the volcano itself is an otherworldly experience. Sailing into the caldera is a truly memorable activity, and the views of Santorini from the sailing boat are outstanding.
Unless you have been to another volcano, chances are that the terrain is unlike anything else you have seen. The pebbly, black-gray sand has a very distinctive colour. Note, however, that the soil’s dark colour reflects the sun, so if it’s a sunny day it can get quite warm. Winter is, in fact, the ideal time to visit the volcano, as it can get uncomfortably hot in summer (over 50C / 122F).
You can find many sailing tours to the volcano. If you are going in the middle of winter there may not be a very wide choice, but you will definitely find something to suit your needs. 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.
Take a winery tour in Santorini
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 mild Greek weather helps produce some very distinctive wine varieties. This is not exactly news – 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, and as such it’s a fairly expensive wine – perfect if you are looking for a special gift.
While you can simply order these wines at Santorini’s restaurants, you can also visit some of the wineries in Santorini for a tasting. You could do this on your own, but it might be easier to take an organized winery tour in Santorini, especially if you want to learn more about the wine-making process.
Some of the most famous wineries in Santorini are Santo Wines, Venetsanos, Sigalas and the very unique Koutsoyannopoulos Winery and Wine Museum, which is open on a daily basis.
Visit the Akrotiri archaeological site in Santorini
A place you should visit in Santorini is the archaeological site of Akrotiri, one of the most significant ancient settlements in the Aegean. The 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 and architecture, but also in terms of commerce and arts.
Akrotiri was destroyed during the 17th century BC, due to a series of earthquakes and a volcanic eruption. The volcanic materials have helped preserve much of the ancient town, which was opened to the public in 2012. Many of the artefacts that were excavated are exhibited in the Museum of Prehistoric Thera in Fira, which you can also visit.
Explore Santorini’s towns and quaint villages
Santorini has several towns and villages that are worth stopping by. If you don’t want to rent a car, the easiest way to explore them is to go on a tour.
Oia, the sunset village at the edge of the cliff, needs no introduction. You should definitely visit, just note that if there is a cruise boat at the time you are going it might be somewhat busy. It’s best to allow for a few hours in Oia, especially if one of your goals is to take decent photos, as there will be more people trying to do exactly the same. You can also walk down to the coast, and reach the small Ammoudi beach.
Even if you are not staying in Fira, which is our suggestion, you will definitely pass by at some point. Admittedly, Fira is quite touristy, but it’s still a pretty little town, and the views to the caldera are great. We actually liked the views from Fira more than the views from Oia!
Firostefani and Imerovigli are the easiest places to visit if you don’t want to take a bus or rent a car, as they are both walking distance from Fira. Firostefani used to be a separate village from Fira, but nowadays they are almost joined up. Imerovigli is a couple of kilometres further out, and it offers great views to Fira and the caldera.
Another important village in Santorini is Emporio, officially the biggest village in Santorini. Here, you can see 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. You can also see a Venetian tower and a few picturesque churches. Close to the village, you can spot a few windmills and some Byzantine ruins.
Pyrgos is Santorini’s highest village. It was built in a similar manner with Emporio, but many of the houses were destroyed in the 20th century due to an earthquake and subsequent demolition. Many of the old houses in Pyrgos, and elsewhere in Santorini, were built partly underground, in order to keep the temperature high in winter and low in summer.
You can also visit the beach towns of Perissa and Kamari. These towns are right on Santorini’s most popular beaches, and they are likely to be very quiet in winter.
Where to stay in Santorini in winter
As some of the businesses all over Santorini are closing down in winter, our advice is 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, and while it was great for an evening visit, we were a lot happier staying in Fira.
Finally, if you want to stay by the coast and you are happy to drive around the island, you can choose to stay in Perissa or Kamari. Although these beachtowns will mostly be closed down, it can still be an interesting time to stay there, and you will be able to get budget deals.
Santorini in winter – Have you been there?
Have you visited Santorini in winter? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!