What not to do and things to avoid in Santorini Greece

Santorini is the most famous destination in Greece, and rightly so! It’s a really unique, beautiful island. Due to its popularity though, there are certain things to avoid in Santorini.

Things to avoid in Santorini - The famous blue domed church

Things to avoid in Santorini

From a sleepy, dry fishermen’s island in the 80s, Santorini has become one of the must-see destinations in the world. The hike from Fira to Oia, and the view to Santorini’s volcano, are simply stunning.

Things to avoid in Santorini - Don't miss the hike from Fira to Oia

I totally get what attracts people to Santorini, and will definitely visit again at some point. That said, I also think that you will have a better time if you avoid a few things.

Don’t go to Santorini in summer

Do you like venturing out in nature on your own? Do you like quiet, unspoilt beaches? Are crowds a major deal breaker for you? If you have answered “yes” to any of these questions, then don’t go to Santorini in summer. Instead, consider visiting Santorini in winter.

Things to avoid in Santorini - A view of Santorini

Sure, winter is probably not the best time to enjoy the beaches on the Greek islands. However, it is the best time to enjoy Santorini without the crowds. In my opinion, Santorini’s beaches aren’t that special anyway – but I am very spoilt as I’ve been to over 40 or perhaps 50 of the Greek islands.

Some of the tours in Santorini might not be running in winter, but there will still be plenty of activities. People planning to visit the volcano will be very pleased to go during the off-season. Temperatures in summer can climb to over 50C / 122F!

Don’t ride the donkeys in Santorini

Until 50-60 years ago, horses, donkeys and other animals were the most common means of transportation in Greece. Of course, these days it’s really very hard to imagine Greece without cars.

Donkeys are occasionally still being used around the country, as they can reach places where vehicles can’t. If you go to some of the quieter islands like Schinoussa or Kimolos, you will probably see a local or two on a donkey.

Things to avoid in Santorini - Don't ride the donkeys

Many of the boat tours in Santorini depart from the small Fira port, known as “the old port”. Numerous volcano boat tours depart on a daily basis, several times during the day. And while most passenger ferries dock at the newer Athinios port, some cruise boats may still dock in the old port.

What’s the catch? There is no road from Fira port to any of the towns in Santorini, and there are only three ways to go up to Fira town. You can take the cable car, walk up the stairs, or ride one of the donkeys on offer.

I trust that you were not considering to ride the donkeys, but if you were, please change your mind. Yes, it might have been the only means of transportation 60 years ago, but it was out of necessity and things have changed a lot since then. Some of these animals are seriously overworked, and there is no reason to ride them when there are alternatives.

Things to avoid in Santorini - Boats on a volcano tour

If walking up the stairs is too strenuous for you, which is absolutely understandable, the best way to get to Fira is the cable car. Expect some queues, especially if it’s summer and there are more cruise boats arriving around the same time. Alternatively, consider taking a tour that starts at another area of the island.

Don’t climb on churches or people’s homes

Santorini is really, really picturesque. The blue-and-white houses are famous all over the world. The iconic blue-domed church overlooking the sea immediately brings up images of Greece.

Things to avoid in Santorini - Don't take photos in people's homes

It is very easy to forget where you are, and keep taking photos. You might realize, all of a sudden, that you are standing in a private balcony, or on the roof of a church. In fact, you will probably see a sign or two that will remind you to watch your step, and to avoid flying a drone.

Unless you are in your own private balcony with a view to the caldera, please be mindful of your surroundings. I can assure you that locals have had enough of disrespectful experiences!

Don’t leave rubbish behind

This should really be taken for granted anywhere we travel to, but I can’t fail to mention it. Please do not leave rubbish behind. Although the beach bars and other establishments generally take care of the beaches, we should all do our bit to help.

Things to avoid in Santorini - Don't leave rubbish behind

If you want to take it a step further, consider buying a travel water filter to avoid buying all these plastic bottles. The environment, along with Santorini’s mayor, will definitely thank you.

Don’t leave your transportation in Santorini to chance

Are you travelling to Santorini during peak season? Unless you are planning to take a bus from your point of arrival, I suggest that you book your hotel transfer or rental car in advance.

In fact, even if you are travelling to Santorini in the off-season, it’s best to have some of your transportation booked to avoid wasting time. I’m still strong minded about the donkeys though!

Things to avoid in Santorini - Riding a donkey

Apart from arranging a taxi through your hotel, you can check out Welcome taxis, a company offering private transfers in Santorini and many more places in Greece and abroad.

Finally, if you have booked a rental car that you are picking up from the airport, get a daytime flight to Santorini if you can. It will be a lot easier to orientate yourselves, and get used to driving in Greece.

Don’t book every single activity in Santorini in advance

I get it – you are visiting from far, far away and you don’t want to waste a single moment. This is fine, but do take a minute to appreciate what has made Greece so popular all over the world.

Things to avoid in Santorini - Don't overplan

I am not referring to the ancient sites – speaking of which, you shouldn’t leave the Ancient Akrotiri out of your itinerary. I am referring to our siga siga culture – slowly slowly.

Even people who work in tourism will find some time to enjoy a cold frappe coffee and to enjoy their day. As a visitor, take some time to appreciate the moment, maybe sipping a glass of wine with a view to the caldera.

Don’t book all your Santorini restaurants ahead of time

This is very similar to my previous suggestion, but I’m keeping it separate. Sure, if you have read about Metaxi Mas restaurant in Exo Gonia (or any other) that you definitely want to visit, by all means go ahead and book it. Surely, all these people can’t be wrong!

Things to avoid in Santorini - Don't pre-book all your meals

However, consider leaving some flexibility in your schedule. What if you see a lovely taverna in a small village and you want to try it, but have booked to have a meal somewhere else in a couple of hours?

Only book some of your meals if you must, and leave some space for spontaneity – this is where your best memories are likely to be made.

Don’t put the paper in the toilet

Many people who haven’t been to Greece before are shocked with this one. In most areas in Greece, flushing the toilet paper is a big no-no. It has to do with the size of the pipes, and the worst that can happen is what you have just imagined – a clogged toilet.

Things to avoid in Santorini - No paper in the toilet

So, to keep things nice and clean, just put the paper in the bin right next to the toilet. You will quickly get used to it. And no, it’s not too smelly as the bag is changed on a daily basis.

While we’re at it, here are a few more things you should know about Greece.

Don’t just stick to Oia and Fira

Oia is world-famous, and for good reason, but it’s not like the rest of the island doesn’t have great sunsets. Any spot looking towards the west will have a lovely sunset. One of my favourites is a random spot in the middle of nowhere, between Fira and Firostefani.

Things to avoid in Santorini - Don't just stay in Fira and Oia

If you are in Santorini during peak season, be prepared for a bunch of other visitors clicking on their mobile phones and cameras. Visit the town during the early evening, and find a quieter spot to appreciate the sunset. If you are staying in a hotel with a caldera view, you don’t need to look much further!

If you are happy to drive, rent a car and get out for the day. Visit the mountain villages, and you will experience an entirely different side of Santorini, with considerably fewer crowds. Emporio, Megalochori, Vothonas, Mesaria and many other villages only see a fraction of the visitors. So get out of Fira and Oia, and you won’t regret it!

Don’t have high expectations about swimming in Santorini

This is my rather unpopular opinion, and I’ll stick to it. Compared to most other islands in Greece, Santorini’s beaches are quite mediocre. They may look exotic and pretty on the photos, but I find them rather disappointing. But I’m lucky and spoilt, as I’m a Greek living in Greece!

Things to avoid in Santorini - Don''t have high expectations about beaches

If you are keen on swimming in Santorini, it’s best to take a sailing tour around the island, which gives you time to swim off the island’s coast. You can then find some less busy coves, and perhaps even do some snorkelling off the boat.

People staying at hotels with a pool often mention that the water is a bit too cold. The strong northern Meltemi winds that appear in summer bring the temperature down. It can’t be too bad though, especially if you have your own private view of the volcano!

Things to avoid in Santorini - Don't expect to swim

If swimming is important for you, you could combine Santorini with another nearby island with great beaches. Here’s my article on five amazing islands near Santorini which will hopefully help. You will then discover your own best beaches in Greece!

Don’t walk barefoot on Perissa beach

One of the best beaches to swim in Santorini is the famous black-pebbled Perissa beach. And here’s one of the things to avoid in Santorini – don’t walk barefoot on Perissa beach, as the volcanic pebbles get really hot!

Things to avoid in Santorini - Don't walk barefoot on Perissa beach

The same applies for Kamari and Monolithos beaches, and any other black sand beach on Santorini. This is exactly why walking on the volcano can get so uncomfortable in summer!

Don’t book your ferry to Athens on the same day with your flight back home

I cannot stress this enough. While strikes in Greece are rather rare, they do happen from time to time. The last thing you want is to be stuck on Santorini because of a ferry strike, or because of bad weather. To be fair though, I can think of many places that it’s much worse to get stuck on!

Things to avoid in Santorini - Don't rush home

If you are taking a ferry back to Athens, allow for at least a full day in the capital. And don’t plan any journeys on May the 1st, as most transportation in Greece is on strike.

Things to avoid in Santorini

I hope this article on things to avoid in Santorini has been useful. Have you been to our most famous island? Are there any things you thought it’s best to avoid? Please let me know in the comments.

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Islands near Santorni - CreteHi! I’m Vanessa, a travel writer from Athens. I enjoy travelling, cooking, walking, yoga and snorkelling. I’ve written hundreds of blog posts and answered thousands of questions about Greece in online forums and groups. You can get in touch through the Real Greek Experiences FB page and FB group.

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