This Greek Island Is One of the Most-visited in the World — With Instagram-worthy Views, Romantic Villages, and Relaxed Tavernas

Here’s your ultimate guide to Santorini, the Cycladic showstopper that sets hearts aflutter.

<p>arturbo/Getty Images</p>

arturbo/Getty Images

Lovers and honeymooners gravitate to Santorini to meander amid cliffside cave houses that hover almost imperceptibly above a lustrous, inky Aegean Sea.

A catastrophic volcanic eruption some 3,600 years ago, which saw half the island swallowed by the sea, is responsible for the dizzying visuals. Famed for its sunsets, photogenic blue-domed whitewashed churches, and intensely mineral white wine, Greek tourism’s poster child has long epitomized romance. It’s no wonder Travel + Leisure readers have repeatedly voted the Cycladic superstar among their favorite islands in the world as recently as 2023. It’s that kind of mind-blowing destination you must experience once in a lifetime.

And while Santorini seems more geared toward couples, you don’t have to be partnered up to enjoy a visit. Most travelers stay in accommodations in one of the caldera-facing villages in northwest Santorini, namely Oia, Fira, or Imerovigli. It’s no coincidence that eight Santorini hotels made it into the top 10 Greece-wide among 2023 T+L reader picks.

Christos Stergiou, a T+L A-List Advisor and the CEO and founder of True Trips, said accommodations on Santorini’s “off-caldera” side are worth considering if you’re looking to dodge the crowds. Cruise ship passengers, in particular, make up many visitors who visit in the peak summer months.

“There’s an advantage to staying on the caldera because you have the views. You exit your hotel, and you’re in the heart of everything,” he said. “In recent years, we’ve seen quite a few hotels opening up inland on Santorini, offering more of a private refuge.”

Stergiou makes a similar recommendation in terms of sightseeing. “Hire a car and follow a road to see where it takes you,” he told T+L. “Or book a private walking tour to explore villages beyond Oia.”

Meanwhile, the island’s food scene has also improved in recent years. High-quality restaurants helmed by prominent chefs have opened within the island’s best hotels, showcasing superior local produce ranging from white eggplant to yellow split pea (fava). Fish tavernas on the waterfront and inconspicuous dining spots in the interior enhance culinary offerings.

Add black sand beaches and historical and cultural attractions, including an enigmatic ancient settlement and wine tasting at small-scale estates.

Dreaming of a Santorini getaway? Here’s how to plan your perfect vacation on the island.


  • Capture a dreamy Santorini sunset or, better yet, a people-free dawn.

  • Walk around picture-perfect Oia village.

  • Sail the caldera on a catamaran to witness the island’s beauty from the sea.

  • Explore the ancient site of Akrotiri.

  • Sample Santorini’s world-famous wines.

Best Hotels and Resorts

<p>Courtesy of Katikies Santorini</p>

Courtesy of Katikies Santorini

Katikies Santorini

A T+L mainstay, readers voted this elegant hotel as their favorite resort in Greece for 2023, Katikies Santorini is, after all, one of the island’s luxury hospitality pioneers. Situated in Oia, the 34-room hotel’s guests can avail themselves of experiences such as a private cruise in a sleek 52-foot Riva Rivale motor yacht to unassuming Thirassia islet.

Andronis Boutique Hotel

A consistent T+L World’s Best winner, this caldera-facing Oia resort echoes traditional cave houses, once home to seafarers. Of Andronis Boutique Hotel’s 25 accommodation options, the largest and most lavish is the Prestige Suite. Emmanuel Renaut, chef and founder of three Michelin-starred Flocons de Sel, curates the menu at in-house restaurant Lauda.

Grace Hotel, Auberge Resorts Collection

Oozing elegance, this pristine white boutique hotel looks out over enigmatic Skaros Rock and the caldera. T+L readers proclaimed Grace Hotel, Auberge Resorts Collection to be Europe’s best hotel in 2021. Located in Imerovigli, the resort features a sizable infinity pool and, for the deepest pockets, a sprawling villa.

Related: The 10 Best Hotels in Greece, according to T+L’s 2023 World’s Best Awards.

Best Things to Do

<p>Alexander Spatari/Getty Images</p>

Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

Hike between inland villages

A classic trek runs across the rim of the caldera, from Fira to Oia, with pit stops in the villages of Firostefani and Imerovigli and at Skaros, the first castelli (fortress) built on the island. Alternatively, hike ancient trails through the authentic settlements of Pyrgos, Exo Gonia and Mesa Gonia. Santorini Walking Tours offers small group and private guided options.

Take a boat tour of the caldera

No Santorini visit is complete without witnessing the caldera from the sea. Step aboard a catamaran for a private or small group day or sunset cruise. You’ll have the opportunity to swim and snorkel, take a dip in hot (lukewarm, actually) springs off the volcanic islets of Palea Kameni and Nea Kameni and view a 19th-century lighthouse.

Explore ancient Akrotiri

Akrotiri is one of Europe’s most significant ancient settlements. Santorini’s fiery eruption preserved it in Pompeii fashion but, strangely enough, no human remains have been found. Take a tour with a state-licensed guide to learn what life was like in this advanced Mediterranean Bronze Age city. Key excavation finds are on display at the Museum of Prehistoric Thira in Fira.

Sample Santorini’s great whites

Assyrtiko, Santorini’s best-known wine, might make up about 90 per cent of production, however, the island lays claim to around 50 indigenous grapes. Book a tour with oenologist Iliana Sidiropoulou who leads private tours where you’ll learn about the singular terroir, view an archaic pruning method and sample wines at family-owned estates.

<p>Jorg Greuel/Getty Images</p>

Jorg Greuel/Getty Images

Swim at a black sand beach

Santorini features some pretty cool beaches. Among them is Perivolos, known for its black sand and invigorating, deep blue waters. Located in the southeast, here you’ll find water sports like jet skiing, along with buzzy beach bars and casual restaurants. As the sun goes down, turn up the romance with a shoreline wander to admire the rocky peaks of Mesa Vouno rising up to the north.

Best Restaurants

<p>Carol Yepes/Getty Images</p>

Carol Yepes/Getty Images

Selene, Katikies Garden Hotel

Founded by self-taught chef Giorgos Hatzigiannakis, Selene is the stuff of Santorinian culinary legend. With reverence and ingenuity, Botrini today helms the restaurant that brought reimagined island fare to the fore. Splurge on a tasting menu, featuring dishes like cured bonito with rock samphire, local cucumber katsouni and pistachio paired with wines selected by Master of Wine Yiannis Karakasis.

Varoulko Santorini, Grace Hotel

Chef Lefteris Lazarou, whose Piraeus restaurant carries a Michelin star, quietly demonstrates his expertise with fish at his Santorini outpost. Linger over a laidback a la carte lunch at Varoulko Santorini or book for dinner, where degustation menus feature refined monkfish soup and crispy sea bream with smoked eggplant mousse, among other highlights.


In Vourvoulos, away from the celebrated caldera, you’ll find Roza’s. Seasonality reigns supreme at this downhome dining spot owned and run by a Georgian cook and her Greek husband. Rice-stuffed vine leaves with smoked eel and lime foam count among the delectable offerings, while there are plenty of vegan options.

Best Time to Visit

<p>Daniel Gorostieta/Travel + Leisure</p>

Daniel Gorostieta/Travel + Leisure

“Late September through early October is the best time to visit Santorini. Crowds are thinner, prices are better, the weather is generally fantastic and the sea is warm,” Stergiou said. The shoulder season from late April through May is also a good time to schedule a trip though keep in mind the Aegean is still too cold for swimming, at least for most people. June offers long, languid summer days, making it a popular month. July and August are the busiest and hottest months of the year. And while rainy days are rare in spring or fall, it can be chilly. Stergiou said winter wasn’t an ideal time to visit as it’s mostly cold and damp and that’s also when construction and renovations occur.

How to Get There

The quickest way to reach Santorini is by plane. Flights from Athens International Airport (Eleftherios Venizelos) to Santorini operate daily and take about 50 minutes. For those who prefer to island hop, take a ferry from Piraeus. A fast catamaran takes around four hours and 40 minutes to reach the island, while conventional ferries require between six hours and seven hours and 45 minutes. Santorini features on many cruise line itineraries including those of Virgin Voyages, Silverstar, Seabourn and SeaDream Yacht Club, though peak season means significant crowds. Viking Cruises and Windstar Cruises operate Mediterranean itineraries that encompass Santorini in winter.

Areas to Visit

<p>Daniel Gorostieta/Travel + Leisure</p>

Daniel Gorostieta/Travel + Leisure


Santorini’s best-known village draws the crowds to its cobblestoned alleyways lined with elegant art galleries, boutiques carrying Greek designer labels and the island’s iconic blue-domed churches. Stop in at literary treasure trove Atlantic Books and lose yourself in Oia’s backstreets to peruse stately neoclassical mansions once home to sea captains. “Everyone knows Santorini for its sunsets but dawn is equally spectacular,” said Stergiou, who suggested rising early, while Oia is still people-free.


Few visitors venture to the low-key inland medieval village of Pyrgos, situated in the southwest, which Stergiou described as “underrated”. By day, visit the chapel atop Profitis Ilias, the island’s highest point, from where you can take in views across the island. Stergiou said he particularly enjoyed walking amid the town’s whitewashed houses in the evening to soak up the atmosphere.


Megalochori, another of Stergiou’s favorites, is brimming with living folklore and tradition. Located in the island’s southwest, the village is characterized by labyrinthine alleyways and ornate bell towers. Immerse yourself in music, art and mythology at family-friendly cultural center Symposion, where youngsters can learn to craft a panpipe. Fun is also guaranteed if you take a cooking class at Petra Kouzina. “There are a few tavernas and they’re all good,” Stergiou added.

How to Get Around

By Rental Car: Book a rental car well in advance, particularly if visiting during summer. “As long as you feel comfortable driving, I always recommend car rental, so that you’re independent,” said Stergiou. “Venture off without choosing a specific destination. Go check out wine country, for example.” Google Maps is mostly reliable.

By Taxi: Silver taxis operate on the island but numbers are limited. Wait times can be long and traffic can spike fares. Cab ranks operate at the airport, Athinios port and near Fira’s central square. They may cost more if booked in advance or via a hotel. Taxis are metered and prices vary. It costs around €17 to €22 to reach Fira from the airport and about €30 to €40 to reach locations further afield.

By bus: Santorini has a fleet of 23 buses known as KTEL that connects all island villages. Fira is the main hub for all bus routes. One-way tickets start from €2 (daytime fare) and €3.10 (night-time fare), respectively.

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