Santorini island in Greece is one of the most romantic locations on the planet. It frequently features on the top of must-visit destinations around the world and offers visitors a truly cosmopolitan and majestic feel you will never find in another island.
It is not that any of the other Greek islands cannot offer visitors beautiful beaches, traditional flavours and relaxing moments. But Santorini’s location, geology and history are unique, so truly, it cannot be replicated.
A volcanic explosion more than 3,000 years ago formed parts of what we now know as the most scenic and captivating parts of the island. The cliffs where beautiful houses, hotels and restaurants have since blossomed on, are a direct result of that explosion. Interestingly, in the years before Santorini became a major tourist attraction, the rocky part of the island was not desirable, since the land could not be used for cultivation.
It is fair to say, than in the last thirty years Santorini has become a dream destination. People flock to this little island of the Aegean to experience the romance, the scenery and the famous sunsets. Summer visitors can also explore some of the beautiful beaches around the island that are equally interesting and unique.
General information about Santorini
Santorini, also called Thera, is a Greek island in the Aegean Sea and part of the Cyclades complex of Greek islands.
There are about 20,000 permanent residents and more than 4 million people visit annually, mostly during the summer season between May and September. Santorini is known for its dramatic cliffs, unique morphology, active volcano and white washed houses. The economy of the island is primarily based on tourism.
Before it became one of the top destinations to visit worldwide, the economy was based on agriculture.
How can I get to Santorini in the winter?
Santorini is connected by air and sea to the rest of Greece as well as some European cities in the summer.
Because of the number of permanent residents and the fact that more and more tourists are choosing to visit Santorini during the off season, you will find both flights and ferry connections all year-round with no problem.
Winter ferries to Santorini depart Piraeus port daily, however, weather conditions can impact the schedule. Northerly winds can make docking on the harbor impossible during certain days so last minute delays or cancellations are not unheard of.
While in the summer months the fast ferries can make the journey in under 5 hours in the winter expect no less than 8 hours. The Blue Star Ferries line that departs early in the morning is the best option for travellers as it takes around 8 hours and you can arrive on the island just in time for check in. This route runs 7 days a week all year round, bringing in supplies and stopping at Paros, Naxos and Ios along the way.
Zante Ferries operates on a similar schedule, however, this route is longer. (12 hours) The passage is a great opportunity to soak in the Aegean but it might not be suitable for those that are pressed for time and have only a few days to spend in Santorini.
Alternatively, ferries depart later in the day from Piraeus as well, taking an average of 8-10 hours, that arrive very early in the morning. For adventurous souls or those travelling light, this is a great option for starting your trip with a beautiful sunrise. Prepare to seek refuge in a cafe for a few hours or walk around until something is open. Shop hours are limited during the winter in general so do not be surprised if there are limited to no options outside of the main centre of Fira.
There are flights all year round, primarily from Athens. Low cost airlines like Volotea and Ryanair offer very competitively priced tickets from Athens, but do remember that they don’t include checked-in baggage which you might need for your warmer and bulkier clothes.
There is generally less flights cancelled during the winter due to bad weather, and the pilots are very experienced in navigating the windy and narrow air strips to the island. Do prepare for a bumpy ride though and a dramatic landing.
Weather in Santorini in the winter
In general, the weather is mild.
You will get at least a few days of drizzle and the wind can be quite cold. In mid February you will also get sunny days, with the average day temperature around 14 degrees Celsius (58 F). From the 8 days I was there, I had 4 beautiful sunny and warm days and 4 cloudy and rainy days. The rain comes and goes, however, so you can still go out and explore in between docking into cafes for a warm beverage.
While you should plan and pack for colder days it is just as likely to get sun and clear skies. The highest temperature in February I experienced during my week long winter in Santorini holiday was 18° C.
December – 15° / 11°
January – 14° / 9°
February – 14° / 10°
What can you see and do in Santorini in the winter?
Santorini is not just a beach destination. That means that even during the colder winter months you can do pretty much all of the things you would do normally and still have a great time.
The only downside to the winter season is the limited opening hours and the occasional bad weather that comes through. However, what you get in return is walking around undisturbed, the peace and quiet, and being able to take photos without needing to push anyone away. Other than that Santorini in the winter looks incredible.
- Visit the beaches (no swimming)
- Visit archaeological sites
- Walk around Akrotiri village
- Stay at a hotel with a heated pool (spa)
- Have a wine tasting
- Take as many photos as is possible
- Take a sailing tour to the volcano and thermal pools
- Go to the museums
Cafes and restaurants in Santorini in the winter
Diverso Cafe Bar
A great spot in the center of Fira, with some tables outside in the square that are perfect when the weather is good. This was my daily coffee spot for one week in the island.
They also have a good selection of sandwiches and pizzas as well as crepes, waffles and other sweets. Everything I tried was good and reasonably priced. Most cafes on the other side (the one with the view) do not operate during the winter months.
Kipos in Greek means garden,and the one in Pelican Kipos is full of flowers, palm trees and small corners for coffee catch-ups. This spot is a local favourite and it is obvious why. On rainy days, the tables inside still feel like you are hanging out in a garden.
For lunch and dinner, they offer local specialty dishes, small bites, pasta and lots of seafood.
Pelican Kipos also has one of the most extensive wine cellars on the island. Maria, the owner and wine authority, hosts small group for tastings but if you are lucky you might even get a tour of the 400-year-old cave that is hidden directly under the garden.
Wine enthusiasts should definitely make a stop here.
Pelican Kipos, Santorini
Kokkalo Restaurant is just outside of Fira on the main road into the village.
The name translates to “bone” and apart from the fact that the menu is ideal for meat lovers, bones, in their own words “are what make up robust structures and hold in a magnificent way the posture, movement and activity of every body.” It would make sense then that dining at Kokkalo is a robust experience, focused on providing wholesome flavours and the best local ingredients to nourish and support the body.
You will find Ladokola restaurant on the road to the KTEL or bus stop central in Fira. It has a wide variety of grilled meat dishes, salads, appetizers and local delicacies. Their tomato fritters are a favourite and definitely something to taste for sure during your trip to Santorini in the winter or any other season.
Yogi: Vegetarian Falafel and Gyros
This is a small takeaway establishment, even though there are a few bar stools where people can eat as well.
They do both gyros, souvlaki and traditional Greek kebab type options, as well as pizzas and vegetarian wraps with falafel. Their prices are also incredibly competitive compared to other places. Friendly, fast and tasty, I came back here later that week for a quick bite and also arranged a phone delivery to my hotel.
There is a good selection of Chinese restaurants available to satisfy all tastes!
Quiet alleyways in Santorini at night…
Where to stay in Santorini in the winter?
During the winter months, most locals recommend staying at Fira, the main village of the island.
That is because Fira is where most locals will be in and where you can find restaurants and shops that stay open.
However, if you are renting a car you can pretty much stay anywhere you desire. Most destinations are only a half an hour away, and considered the island is only at 10-20% capacity, you will have no trouble with parking or traffic.
If you don’t feel like driving or would like to skip on the expense of renting a vehicle, then you can still use public transport buses that depart from Fira. The bus service is semi-frequent during the winter months but you can reach most popular destinations like Akrotiri, Oia and Kamari and of course airport!
The number of hotels, villas and Airbnb’s that are staying open all year – round is continuously expanding.
If there was a time to book a hotel with a spa pool and a view of the caldera, it is during the winter.
The view remains just as magical during the winter months and there is nothing better than relaxing inside a hot tub on a quiet starry night looking out towards the volcano during a romantic holiday.
Things To Do In Santorini in The Winter
There are more than a dozen museums in Santorini, which includes galleries and studios where you can learn more about the cultural and historical heritage of the island.
It is also possible to organize a sailing tour or head out on your own on a walking tour, especially on a sunny day.
Don’t expect to find dozens of options for sailing tours like during the summertime.
There are usually daily “Volcano and Hot Springs Tour” departing from the old port of Fira which you can book ahead in one of the many kiosks in Fira.
Nowadays you will also find quite a few wineries staying open during the winter months on the island. One of the most famous, in Greece and worldwide is SantoWinery. It is one of the most modern wineries in Greece that receives upwards of 400,000 visitors a year. You will need to try the local Assyrtiko and Vinsanto and stay to enjoy the view of the area. They suggest making an online booking and their website has up to date information regarding opening hours and wine tastings.
Another place that is very interesting to visit and is arguably one of the best wine museums worldwide is the Koutsoyannopoulos Wine Museum. Eight meters below and spanning 300 meters, this underground cave-like museum guides visitors through the history, cultivation and production of wine-making in Santorini. It is one of my favourite spots to visit on the island and the passion of the family is clearly evident. In the end, you are of course welcome to stay and sample wines and local delicacies. This museum is open year-round with reduced hours during the off season and is an affordable and entertaining option for travellers.
Museums to visit in the winter
Most museums stay open during the winter with the notable exception of the newly established and very interesting Lost Atlantis Interactive Museum, the first of its kind focused entirely on the legend of the Lost Atlantis, which some believe is in Santorini!
If there is one place that needs to be visited is the Prehistoric Town of Akrotiri which can easily be combined with a visit to the Red Beach. They are both easily accessible whether you are renting a vehicle or travelling by bus.
The ancient town of Akrotiri, which we have yet to discover its name, is one of the most important archaeological findings of Santorini as well as the whole Cyclades. It operated as an outpost of the Minoan civilization of Crete, that includes the striking palace of Knossos. The people of Akrotiri were wealthy and well connected sailors, establishing a community that valued the arts and left behind treasures we are still able to appreciate due to one tragic event, the explosion of the volcano. The thick layer of ash protected the houses of the village that were excavated thousands of years later.
Other Greek islands you can visit in the winter
The Greek islands don’t have to be just a summer destination!
In addition to Santorini, you may also want to consider visiting some of other Greek islands during your holiday. Islands that are larger in size will have a bigger permanent population and offer more frequent travel options. They are also much more likely to have year-round restaurants, hotels and entertainment options for visitors.