What To See & Do When It’s Winter In Santorini
Everyone has seen the iconic photograph of whitewashed buildings and blue-domed churches set high on a hilltop, with the glittering Aegean Sea below. It’s one of the most iconic snaps in the world. Even if you don’t know where this magical place is, you’ll have seen the photo.
If you aren’t aware of where that place is, we’re talking about Santorini, one of Greece’s most beautiful islands.
Volcanic eruptions have formed their beautiful landscape over the millennia, the worst being in 16 century BC. Oia and Fira, the island’s two main towns, sit perched on the side of steep hills, which are the sides of underwater craters from former volcanic eruptions! Located in the Cyclades Islands, this Aegean beauty is one of the most in-demand destinations in the world.
Don’t worry, though, because you’re not likely to be caught up in a fiery blast. The volcano has been dormant for many years, and geologists know when these sorts of things are likely to happen very far in advance.
Santorini’s beaches are simply stunning, and they’re stunning because they’re volcanic. The beaches have very tiny pebbles which range in color, from red and black to bright white.
Put simply, Santorini is pretty jaw-dropping in its untamed, raw natural beauty.
If you’ve ever considered going to Santorini before and never made it, one thing probably put you off – the price.
Santorini is not a cheap island during the primary summer months, between June to mid-September. However, it’s possible to visit Santorini in winter and not only grab a more affordable deal but have far more space to wander around without crowds and unbearable heat!
Don’t worry; Santorini in the winter isn’t a ghost destination. Rather the opposite, it’s a pretty bustling and active place no matter what the month. If you’re intrigued about winter in Santorini, let’s find out more.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Santorini?
I know what you’re thinking – indeed, the best time of year to visit Santorini is summer, and the rest of the time, the island is dead. Nope, not at all!
Many people assume that Santorini has zero life during the winter months, it’s cut off from the rest of the world, and sustenance is hard to come by. None of that is true, thankfully!
Santorini in winter, from November through February, is quieter, but that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t go. Some people like it much better when it’s quiet!
Peak Season In Santorini
The high season, peak summer, is between June and the end of September when the weather is hot, rainfall is extremely low, crowds everywhere, and beaches are packed. Although many people might say this is the best weather in Santorini, this also means that accommodation is more expensive; such are the rules of tourism.
Shoulder Seasons In Santorini
The mid-season, or shoulder season, is in the middle of April until the start of June and October. During these months, the weather is delightful, but it might rain a little. Crowds are less, although it’s still quite busy, and you can manage to bag a few good deals on accommodation if you look hard enough.
You should remember that Santorini is a very sought-after place, so any deals that do come up during the summer tend to be snapped up very quickly.
Low Season In Santorini
So, that leaves the low season in Greece, aka winter. I say “winter,” but it’s not freezing cold and blowing a gale with a blizzard thrown in for good measure.
Yes, you’ll get some cold and rainy days, and it’s probably best to avoid Santorini in January if you’re not a fan of coastal storms, but aside from that, winter is a great time to visit Santorini.
You’ll get many warm, sunny days, and even the days when it does rain, it’s rarely a washout. So, generally speaking, the weather in Santorini in November, December, and February are still pretty decent.
Deciding on the best time to visit Santorini comes down to what you want and enjoy. If you love beach time and crave cocktails on a balmy summer night, you must save up and visit during the peak months.
However, if you’re willing to be a little more flexible, you may find that winter in Santorini is an excellent time and a way to cut costs on this quite expensive location the rest of the time.
The Pros And Cons Of Visiting Santorini In The Winter
I’m not going to lie; visiting any traditionally summer-based destination is a risk during winter. Yes, you can get great weather, but you might also land in the middle of a winter storm that lasts three days.
But then, perhaps the weather isn’t the biggest deal-breaker for you, and you simply want to explore this beautiful location at a cheaper and less crowded time.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of visiting Santorini in the winter.
Pros Of Winter In Santorini
- Fewer crowds, and that also includes a lack of cruise ships docking in the port regularly. During the peak summer months, the crowds in Santorini can be HUGE.
- A great way to experience the local way of life.
- An excellent way to relax and get away from it all.
- You’ll find it easier to explore the local area and head out into the natural landscapes around the main towns because it’s not as hot.
- Visiting Santorini in winter is much cheaper than during the summer months. The price difference can be jaw-dropping, so if you’ve always wanted to visit Santorini but you’ve been out-priced in the past, winter could be a way to get there.
Cons Of Winter In Santorini
- While the weather is mostly pleasant and the temperature in Santorini in winter is comfortable, conditions can be unpredictable. It can be cold and rainy, or it can be sunny and 20 degrees Celsius. For that reason, packing proper clothes can be a challenge.
- Many of the regular touristic spots are closed during the winter.
- There isn’t much to do during the evenings.
- Less choice when it comes to accommodation as many hotels close during Santorini winters.
- It isn’t a time to hit the beach unless you want to go for a walk
Santorini Weather During The Winter
I’ve mentioned that the Santorini weather in December through February can be unpredictable, but what does that mean exactly?
The good news is that Santorini is much milder than much of Europe during the winter, so it’s a great chance to get some winter sun on your shoulders. In December and January, the weather in Santorini, Greece, is typically chilly to cold, with temperatures that can plummet to around 4C on the coldest days.
It can snow, too, which it’s not likely, but it has happened before, so don’t count it out. However, you’re more likely to see a lot of rain during these months, so bring your umbrella if you plan to visit Santorini in December or on New Year’s Eve.
The skies are often blue for the rest of the time, although there may be a nip in the air. On the warmest days, the Santorini temperature in December and January can reach up to as high as 20C, although the mid to high teens are more likely. Even cloudy days are ideal for heading out for a walk. Just be prepared for rain if that’s the case.
You may experience the odd Santorini winter storm. In that case, it can be windy and pouring for a few days, but these storms are very well forecasted, and you’ll know a few days beforehand. These often happen in December and January, and they’re rarely severe. We’re not talking hurricane force here!
The plus point of this milder Santorini weather in December, January, and February is that you can see more of the island without feeling overwhelmingly hot or dodging huge crowds. For most people, that’s the major plus point of visiting Santorini during the winter months. Relative peace and quiet are significant benefits of visiting most of Greece in the off-season.
Smaller tourist crowds are the main reasons to visit Santorini in winter. So, if that’s what you’re looking for, winter is the best time to go to Santorini for you.
How To Get Around Santorini In Winter
During the summer months, local transportation is very frequent. However, as there are fewer visitors during the winter, the bus service can be a little less frequent and finishes for the day in the early evening.
It’s a good idea to look at a car rental in this case or rent a scooter, but always remember to wear a helmet. This will allow you to get out and about and see far more without worrying about bus timetables. However, if you’re keen to stay in one particular part of the island, you can don your walking boots and get around on foot quite quickly.
What To See And Do In Santorini During Winter
So, what is there to see and do during these winter months?
Quite a lot!
Fira is the best place to stay during the winter as this is the capital town and has the most life at this time of year. You can easily reach the beaches if you want to from here, although the Santorini temperature in January, for example, won’t have you swimming in the sea – unless you like it very chilly indeed!
Let’s check out a few things you can see and do in Santorini in the winter.
Take Plenty Of Insta-Worthy Snaps Of Oia
A little earlier, I mentioned that famous landscape that everyone has seen on a picture and adores– Oia and its famous whitewashed scenery. During the winter months, you’ll be able to take photographs of your own that don’t have random people walking in front of them or the back of some man’s head you’ve never met before!
Oia isn’t as busy as Fira, but it is a wonderfully laid-back place to visit for the day. The town is also full of steps and hills, thanks to the volcanic landscape, and these are far easier to navigate when the weather isn’t scorching hot.
Head Back In Time At Akrotiri
If you love history, you must visit Akrotiri, a set of wonderfully preserved ruins. Here you’ll be able to look through a window of history, and you’ll be able to do it so much more comfortably with cooler weather and fewer crowds.
The site was initially covered in volcanic ash after the colossal eruption, but that was a blessing because the ash preserved many of the buildings. For that reason, we can see them today in such fantastic condition.
If you’re worried about the rain, you don’t have to be here – there is a huge roof that protects you from sun, rain, wind, and anything else the weather wants to throw at you.
Enjoy A Deserted Beach Walk
You’ll still see the odd beach walker or group sitting on the sand and having a picnic during a mild day. Still, Santorini’s beautiful beaches are tranquil during the winter – you certainly can’t say that about the winter months!
The volcanic activity back in the day has genuinely made Santorini an incredible and surreal place to visit, and during the winter, you can truly appreciate its raw beauty. The beaches on the island vary in sand color, depending upon the volcanic makeup. You’ll find a beautiful white sand beach just south of Akrotiri, but just before that, there’s Red Beach!
Try Traditional Greek Food
Winter gives a much slower pace of life, which means you can enjoy the authentic customs and traditions on the island. Locals have much more time now the crowds have gone, and they’ll no doubt love to sit down and talk to you about the island and its history.
Stop at a traditional Greek taverna and enjoy some authentic cuisine. Most are open in Fira, but around the island, you’ll still find small family-run restaurants. Many large touristic restaurants will, of course, be closed.
Rent A Car And Drive Around The Island
This is the ideal time to rent a car and drive around the island at your own pace. The roads won’t be deserted, but you won’t experience traffic jams, that’s for sure! Santorini isn’t a large island, and if you wanted to drive on the longest road possible, it would only take around 40 minutes, traveling 20km! One must visit is Pyrgos Kallistis, a hinterland village that will show you a truly authentic way of life.
Buses run during the winter, but they’re not as frequent and cease running early in the evening, as I mentioned earlier. That means that car hire allows you to see far more, in a much more relaxed way.
Visit The Archaeological Museum In Fira
If the weather is a little rainy, visiting a museum is a great way to spend your time. In Fira, you’ll find the rather large Archaeological Museum, and it’s perfect for history buffs. Here you’ll find pieces that date back to the Hellenistic era and some that head back to the times of dinosaurs too!
If one museum isn’t enough, the Museum of Prehistoric Thera is also an excellent spot to visit. This has many items found in Akrotiri, as well as artifacts spotted across the region beyond Santorini.
Go For A Hike
Hiking is an activity that is available all year round. The most popular hike is from Fira to Oia, over the stunning coastal path with more photo opportunities than you can count. During your winter visit, you must remember to wear suitable clothing, depending upon the weather in Santorini.
Oia is located at the very northern end of the island, so this is an opportunity to pass small villages and plenty of countryside on your way. The hike takes around two hours, but remember to take your time and enjoy the scenery as you go. This is the best way to check out the volcanic landscape’s true beauty and the entire caldera formed during the colossal eruption.
Visit Iconic Blue Domed Churches
It’s impossible to go to Santorini and not visit one of the beautiful churches everyone has seen in photographs. However, you’ll find churches all over the island, not just in Oia and Fira! Karterados has a beautiful blue-domed church, as well as one in Perissa.
Remember to be respectful when visiting these churches as they may be seen as tourist attractions in photographs, but they’re working places of worship for locals.
Try A Wine Tour
Of course, there are many more wine tours during the summer, but you get to try more wine during the winter because there’s more to go around! Santorini is a famous wine-growing area, and you’ll learn about local wines, such as Assyrtiko and Visanto while understanding wine pairing in more detail.
Your accommodation will be able to give you more information on available wine tours, and some hotels offer them on-site, too, so that could be an option if you’re staying somewhere that has that facility.
What To Pack For Winter In Santorini
By this point, you’ve probably decided that a winter trip to Santorini is on the cards, right?
In that case, what should you pack?
When visiting Santorini in winter, you need to pack for every weather eventuality, and then you’re covered. The key idea here is layers. It could be hot one day and chilly the next, so if you have layers, you can dress for the weather and take a layer off or put one on!
Here are a few must-haves for your winter tour.
- Walking boots
- Warm clothing, e.g., jeans, sweaters, cardigans, etc
- A rucksack or large bag that you can carry a raincoat in during days when it feels warm and you don’t want to wear it
- Warm night clothes – evenings can be cold even if the sun shines during the day
If you thought Santorini was only for the summer, you’ve probably had your mind changed a little now. So, is Santorini worth a visit in winter? 100% yes, if you plan well and don’t mind cooler weather.
While winter in Santorini isn’t ideal for groups that want to party and spend time in the sea, it is an excellent idea for lone travelers, couples, and small groups that want to relax and enjoy their time.
Of course, not everything is open, but there is beauty in that. You’ll experience a slower pace of life; sometimes, that’s a beautiful thing to behold. Additionally, Santorini is often a place that many people feel priced out of during the summer months, and in that case, winter could be the answer to visiting this sought-after location.