Visiting Santorini on a budget is possible if you plan ahead. Here are a few tips that will help you make the most of the famous Greek island, without breaking the bank.
How to save money when visiting Santorini Greece
Can I visit Santorini on a budget? Yes, you can! Some things on Santorini may be expensive, but it’s possible to travel to the beautiful Cycladic island without spending a fortune.
Santorini island has become super popular due to its volcanic landscapes and iconic sunsets. As a result, it’s definitely not the most budget friendly island in Greece. Still, if you make a few smart choices, it can be an overall affordable destination.
I’m an Athenian, and have visited Santorini a few times. I’ve always found it possible to stick to a low budget in Santorini, and to find affordable options for accommodation, transportation and food. This is easy to do if you travel during the low season, and do some self-catering – I’ll go into detail later on in the article.
So, here are a few things to do in Santorini if you are on a budget. I’ve also included my best tips, which will help you not break the bank!
1. Take a boat tour to Santorini’s volcano
Anyone visiting Santorini should definitely take a sailing tour to see the volcano. There are numerous tours where you can explore the small, uninhabited volcanic islands close to Santorini, and also swim at the hot springs.
This tour takes you to the uninhabited island of Nea Kameni, where the volcanic Geopark of Santorini is located. I’ve taken this trip twice, at different times of year, and in my opinion it’s one of the top experiences in Santorini.
You will have the chance to actually walk on the active volcano’s crater, and see the eerie landscape from up close. Depending on the season, there may even be flowers!
The boat then makes a stop at the hot springs, where you can go for a swim if you want. Many tours also visit the tiny Thirassia island, where you have more time for a swim.
This tour comes at a very reasonable price, and is suitable if you are visiting Santorini on a budget. Please note that there’s a small extra cost (5 euro) to enter the volcano, to be paid in cash when you arrive.
Book your Santorini volcano tour here: Santorini volcano tour
Tips for the Santorini volcano boat trip
The sailing tour above departs from Athinios port, and transfer is included in the prices. So it’s a hassle-free option.
Some sailing tours depart from the Old Fira port, which is located below Fira town. There are about 600 stairs that you can use to walk there. They are not very steep, so most people should be comfortable on the way down.
If you are tired to walk up on the way back, you can take the cable car, which costs 6 euro. Note that, during peak season, there will be a queue.
There is always the option to ride a donkey if you want… but please don’t! Donkeys have traditionally been used to carry heavy stuff all around the Greek islands, but the ones in Santorini are seriously overworked.
Riding a donkey is one of the things to avoid in Santorini! Please use the cable car instead.
Or you can also walk up the stairs. It took us exactly 25 minutes to get back to Fira town from the Old Fira Port, with a couple of photo-stops.
A word of warning: Bear in mind that donkeys walk up and down that path. There will typically be a lot of donkey poop, and smell to match! So, watch your step – and I suggest you wear proper walking shoes!
Also, if you are visiting Santorini in summer, be prepared – the temperatures on the volcanic island can reach about 50 C / 122 F. Hiking up the volcano can be uncomfortable for some visitors.
Last but not least – take with you everything you need for the day. You can buy snacks and drinks at the Fira Old Port, but they are overpriced. When you visit the volcano, drinking plenty of water is essential, as is wearing sunblock, sunglasses and a hat!
For something less strenuous, you can have a look at this sailing tour with meal and drinks.
2. Hike from Fira to Oia
Hiking from Fira to Oia is another one of my favorite activities in Santorini, and it’s completely free.
It’s a long walk (10 kms / 6.2 miles) rather than an actual hike, as the trail is mostly flat. The route begins at Fira and follows a cliffside path all the way to Oia.
As you are walking, the Aegean Sea will always be on your left hand side. You will be rewarded with incredible views of the caldera and the small volcanic islands of Nea Kameni, Palea Kameni and Thirassia.
On the way to Oia, you will pass by two more villages, Firostefani and Imerovigli. You can then take a small detour to have a look at Skaros Rock. This is one of my favorite spots in Santorini, as it’s so wild and natural, and the views are really amazing!
You will also see a few churches on the way. My favorite one is the Holy Chapel of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, not far from Oia. The location is just incredible and it’s a great sunset spot!
Once you’ve arrived to Oia, take your time to wander around the village. Look out for the iconic church with the three blue domes. Then, head to Oia’s castle for the sunset, and take the bus back to Fira.
Bus timetables are updated frequently, and you can find the latest ones here: KTEL Santorini. It will take you about 30 minutes to reach Fira from Oia on the bus.
Tips for the Fira – Oia hike
If you are planning to do the Fira – Oia hike, my best tip is to bring with you good walking shoes. Also, don’t forget to bring some fresh water, a few snacks, a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, and your camera.
I recommend allowing at least 4 hours on the trail, especially if you are into landscapes and photography. There are sooooo many incredible photos you can take!
If you want to do the Fira to Oia hike in summer, you should start really early in the morning, or late in the evening. High season temperatures in Santorini are not pleasant!
3. Visit the ancient city of Akrotiri
When in Santorini, you shouldn’t miss out on visiting the archaeological site of Akrotiri. This is an ancient city which dates from the 3rd millennium BC! It’s one of the top archeological sites in Greece.
In the 17th century BC, a strong volcanic eruption destroyed Akrotiri. The houses and other buildings were entirely buried underneath volcanic ashes, lava and all sorts of debris. The ancient settlement was preserved under the volcanic materials, and was only discovered in the 1860s.
The entrance fee to the ancient site is 12 euro from April to October, and 6 euro from November to March. In addition, entrance is free on certain days throughout the year. For more detail, check the official website.
You can easily get to Ancient Akrotiri on the public bus from Fira. There are frequent buses, and timetables change according to the season.
You’ll be glad to know that visitors will walk under a large canopy, which has been installed over the ancient ruins to protect them from the sun. So, no chance of a sunstroke here!
4. Hike to the antique city of Ancient Thera
Akrotiri is not the only site you can visit in Santorini. There’s also Ancient Thera, a settlement founded in the 8th century BC, almost a millennium (!) after Akrotiri was destroyed.
The ancient city of Thera is located right on the top of Mesa Vouno Mountain, on the east side of the island. It offers fantastic views of the two main beach resorts of Santorini, Kamari and Perissa.
The archaeological site itself is possibly the largest ancient settlement in the Cyclades group of islands, apart from Ancient Delos. Among others, you will see the remains of various buildings, an ancient temple and a church.
The entrance fee to Ancient Thera is 6 euro from April to October. I recommend spending at least an hour and a half to walk around the ancient ruins and take in the beautiful views.
Tips for visiting Ancient Thera
If you want to save money on transportation, you can get to Ancient Thira on foot from either Kamari or Perissa. It’s also possible to drive, or take an organized mini bus tour from Kamari. You can easily get to both Kamari and Perissa on the public buses from Fira.
We hiked up from Kamari, which took us about 40 minutes, and then walked down to Perissa, which took us 30 minutes. Both hikes are a little steep, but we didn’t find them tiring.
Apart from the well preserved excavation site, we loved the views of the entire island, especially as we were hiking up from Kamari. There are some great spots where you can sit and watch airplanes departing from Santorini airport!
Again, take everything you will need with you, including water, snacks, a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. We managed to get a sunburn on a cloudy day – we’ll learn one day!
5. Enjoy Santorini’s colorful beaches
Among the free things you can do in Santorini, this is one of the most enjoyable, especially if you are visiting in summer. Santorini has a number of beaches that you can visit, and go for a refreshing swim.
The most popular beaches in Santorini are Kamari and Perissa, which are famous for their gray / black sand. Alternatively, you can head to Mesa Pigadia, Monolithos or Vlychada beach. They look similar, but have less infrastructure overall and can be quieter.
You will generally need to pay some money if you want to rent an umbrella and sunbeds, but you can also put your own towel on the sand and spend the day swimming and people-watching.
Make sure you have a thick towel, and always keep your flip-flops or water shoes on. The black sand, which you will find on most beaches in Santorini, is very, VERY hot! And don’t forget the sunscreen!
Another beach to visit in Santorini is the infamous Red Beach, which is close to Ancient Akrotiri. As landslides have occurred in the past, you might find that the beach has been cordoned off with “no entrance” signs. You can choose to ignore them at your own risk, like most other visitors 🙂
Note: If, like me, you love beaches and swimming, Santorini is not the best Cycladic island to visit. For beautiful beaches, consider going to other nearby islands, like Ios or Naxos, which are also a lot cheaper than Santorini.
Here’s a list of islands close to Santorini, which you can easily add to your Greek island-hopping trip.
6. Visit the Museum of Prehistoric Thera in Fira
Just across the street from the bus station in Fira, you will find the Museum of Prehistoric Thera. Here, you will see some amazing artefacts that are several thousands of years old!
I thought these frescoes, which were discovered in Ancient Akrotiri, were amazing. I still can’t believe how well these fragments have been preserved after all these years!
The entrance fee to the museum is 6 euro from April to October. There is also a combined ticket which costs 15 euro and includes entrance to Ancient Akrotiri, Ancient Thera as well as the museum.
7. Hike up to Prophet Elias monastery
Perched on Santorini’s tallest mountain, at an altitude of 567 m (1,860 ft), you will find the monastery of Prophet Elias / Profitis Ilias. It was founded in 1711 by two brothers, and remains an active Greek Orthodox monastery until today.
Many visitors come here for the views. This is the only spot in Santorini that offers a 360 degree view of the whole island!
There’s a winding road that you can drive on, and also hiking paths from Kamari and Perissa. Some tours of the island will also take you to Prophet Elias.
If you come here, make sure you spend some time inside the monastery too. Have a look at this article about religion in Greece for some insight.
8. Explore the pretty white-washed villages in Santorini
If you like walking and exploring on foot, you will love Santorini. There are several beautiful white-washed villages that you can spend hours and hours exploring.
I can’t remember the number of times I’ve walked up and down the stairs in Fira and Oia. There’s always something new to see, or a new photo to take, and so many churches everywhere. Just bear in mind that most of these villages have hundreds and hundreds of stairs!
Here are the best Santorini villages to explore, in no particular order:
If you would prefer to see the highlights with the help of a local guide and not have to worry about transportation, check out this full-day tour of Santorini. It’s a budget option, and it will give you an excellent feel of the Cycladic island.
9. Chase the famous Santorini sunsets
Santorini is known around the world for the impressive sunsets towards the caldera. It’s no exaggeration to say that millions of people visit on an annual basis just to get a few snapshots of the iconic views!
So, where can you see the Santorini sunset from? Well, pretty much anywhere on the west side of the island will guarantee you a sunset view! This includes Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli, the famous Oia, the tip of Akrotiri, and almost anywhere in between.
There are plenty of cafes, restaurants and hotels with a view towards the caldera, but as you can imagine they are not budget friendly at all!
Best places to see the sunset in Santorini
Some of my favourite spots to see the sunset in Santorini on a budget are, in no particular order:
- Skaros rock, close to Imerovigli
- The main square in Fira, close to Atlantis Hotel
- The Holy Chapel of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, close to Oia
- Oia castle in the off-season (too crowded in summer)
- Pyrgos Kallistis Castle, the highest point in Pyrgos village
- Taxiarchis Michail Church, close to Akrotiri
- Akrotiri Lighthouse
- Monastery of Prophet Elias
If you stay on the island for a few days, I am sure you will discover your own favorites – feel free to leave a comment below with your best spots 🙂
10. Watch a movie at Cine Kamari
Did you know that open-air cinemas are very popular in Greece? It makes sense, as we have long summers!
Santorini’s best known open-air cinema is Cine Kamari, a short walk from the popular beach town. They’ve been around for years, and show a variety of movies throughout the summer months.
Tickets costing just a few euros per person, and you can buy some pop-corn and a beer to enjoy with your movie. Bring a light jacket, just in case you feel a little cold!
Tips that will help you visit Santorini on a budget
And now, as promised, here are five tips to help you see Santorini on a budget!
Tip #1: Avoid Santorini in the peak season
If you want to visit Santorini on a budget, my number one tip is to travel in the shoulder season (April, May, or October), or even the low season (November to March). This is the best time to save money on accommodation!
The summer months, especially July and August, are considered the high season here in Greece. This is when prices tend to surge up due to increased demand for flights, accommodation and rental cars.
In fact, these are also the warmest and busiest months, due to both independent travelers, and passengers arriving to Santorini on cruise ships. Visitors coming in high season often complain about the heat and the crowds!
I have always enjoyed Santorini more when I visited in the off-season. Here are my thoughts on traveling to Santorini in winter – yes, you can get good weather even in the off-season.
Tip #2: Choose your accommodation carefully
Depending on where you choose to stay, accommodation can easily be your highest cost in Santorini. The popular luxury villas with a caldera view and swimming pool can be crazy expensive.
Generally speaking, accommodation located on the west side of Santorini is pricier. Areas like Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli and Oia are popular, as they offer hotels and villas with sunset views. For example, have a look at Cavo Tagoo in Oia – nice, isn’t it!
However, not all hotel prices in Santorini are high. There are some very nice and reasonably priced accommodation options available. Many of them are located on the beach resorts, such as Kamari, Perissa, Perivolos or Monolithos. Others are in the inland villages, or in the backstreets of Fira.
On our last visit to Santorini, we stayed in Alexandra’s Home – it was a fantastic choice and it had everything we needed for a short stay!
Visitors who are backpacking Santorini also have a choice of hostels. There are a few in Fira, so you can get a bed in a dorm room and still be in the middle of the action.
In my experience traveling around Greece, Booking.com offers better value than AirBnB. So, have a look and compare prices before you book.
Tip #3: Take Public Transportation
The best way to get around Santorini on a budget, apart from hiking, is to use public transportation. Buses can help cut down costs significantly, compared with renting your own form of transport. Bus tickets will cost you around 1.60 – 2.40 euros.
The main bus station in Santorini island is located in Fira. There are buses departing frequently for many areas on the island, such as Oia, Kamari, Perissa, Akrotiri, and more. For more information, have a look at the Santorini KTEL bus website, which changes according to the season.
Renting a car will require you to pay rental fees, insurance fees, plus the cost of fuel, which is quite high in Greece.
With that said, if you are a group of people traveling together, a car or small van might actually be more convenient than using the public bus, especially if you are pushed for time.
Check Discover Cars to compare car rental prices in Santorini, and book a vacation car to explore the island of Santorini on your own. If you are traveling in the off-season, you can get some very good deals.
Other popular forms of transportation in Santorini are scooter, e-bike, and quad bike. There are also taxis and pre-booked transfers, which are, however, quite expensive.
Tip #4: Find cheap places in Santorini to eat
Let’s face it: Santorini is a famous and touristy island. Eating at the fancy restaurants with a caldera view will be very pricey by Greek standards. As an example, the price for a Greek salad is usually 7-8 euro – but it can be closer to 20 euro at a sunset-facing restaurant in Santorini!
Instead, you can get meals and drinks at very affordable prices in the inland villages and coastal towns. I’ve had nice Greek food at many of the seaside restaurants on Kamari and Perissa beach.
For even more budget options, head to street-food places like Lucky’s Souvlakis, or Yogi, right in the center of Fira. In fact, this is some of the best budget food in the main town, as it will cost you just a few euros.
When you are out and about, you can always bring a few things to eat with you. There are several supermarkets in Santorini where you can buy fruits, nuts and other snacks. Or you can pop in one of the numerous bakeries and get some filling Greek pastries.
To keep costs down, you can book accommodation with a kitchenette, and have some basic meals in your room.
Tip #5: When it comes to souvenir shopping in Santorini, be very selective
While it might be tempting to buy souvenirs at any holiday destination, Santorini is not the best place for cheap souvenirs. There are plenty of souvenir shops, but prices for certain items can be incredibly high.
If you want to take home something special from the island, there are a few options that won’t break the bank. For example, you can buy some delicious Santorini wine at very reasonable prices in supermarkets and select wineries around the island.
Have a look at these other ideas for souvenirs from Greece.
FAQs about Santorini on a budget
Here are some questions I’ve been asked about Santorini:
Can you go to Santorini on a budget?
Yes, it’s possible to visit Santorini on a budget, though overall it’s more expensive than most other Greek islands. If you visit during the shoulder season or the off-season, you can find budget accommodation, which can be one of the highest costs in Santorini.
How much money do you need in Santorini?
The amount of money you’ll need in Santorini will depend on what you want to do on the island, what type of accommodation you will be staying at, and the time of year you are going. Most people should budget for a minimum of €80-100 euro per person per day for accommodation, food, transport, and any tourist attractions.
How do you get around Santorini cheaply?
The cheapest way to get around Santorini are the public buses, with ticket prices starting from 1.60 euro. You can easily visit all the best attractions in Santorini on the public buses.
What is the cheapest month to go to Santorini?
The cheapest months to go to Santorini are in the off season, from November to March. During this time of year, accommodation, rental cars and even some tours are a lot cheaper than during peak season.
Can you drink tap water in Santorini?
No, you can’t drink tap water in Santorini, but you can use it to shower and brush your teeth. Bottled water is available everywhere, and you can get it cheaply at the bigger supermarkets.
Where are the best budget Santorini hotels?
The most affordable hotels and rooms in Santorini are on the east side of the island, on the famous beaches in Santorini like Perissa and Kamari. There are also a few hostels and budget hotels in Fira, the main city.
Is Santorini expensive?
Your Santorini vacation cost doesn’t have to be very high. With that said, Santorini is more expensive than many other Greek islands. Have a look at this article which breaks down why Greece is not expensive.
How can I travel to Santorini cheaply in July?
If you are looking to save money while planning a trip to Santorini in July, renting a car and booking a cheap hotel outside of Fira and Oia is one way to do it.
Hi! I’m Vanessa from Athens. If your travel style is similar to mine, you’ve hopefully found this blog post on how to visit Santorini on a budget useful. Have a look at this article on a 4-day itinerary in Santorini for a few more ideas. Follow me on FB and Instagram for more Greece-related inspiration!