I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of Santorini. The famous white cliff houses, blue dome churches and sensational sunsets. It is by far the most visited Greek island. During the touristic season from April to November it works at full capacity. But, what can you expect of Santorini during off-season? I am here to tell you all about it as I lived in Santorini in the month of December and January.
Before coming to Santorini I did not know much about the island, nor what to expect. I only had in mind the viral pictures of pristine white houses on cliffs and gorgeous blue dome churches. There’s actually more to the island to enjoy all year round. Santorini off-season is like a pearl in the Aegean sea. Shining bright and clear.
I arrived in Santorini by ferry from Crete, where I had the best experience learning and living the Cretan way. As I reached the harbor in Thira at 10AM, I made my way to Perissa where this beautiful villa near the beach was waiting for me.The prices at Villa Dima are affordable even in high season and the location is fantastic. In just 5 minutes walk you are at the longest beach in Santorini, stretching over 7km of unique black volcanic sand and crystal clear water.
You couldn’t get a better winter in Santorini during this time of the year. Prior, I was in Crete and the weather was terrible. Raining most of the time, not a lot of sun and just cloudy throughout the whole November and December that I was there.
In Santorini it was sunny and warm all day with some clouds here and there. I would even dare to say that you could sunbathe. The soothing warm sun, the waves, black sparkly sand and infinite sea was the perfect atmosphere for a Christmas and New Year celebration. I even swam one evening, the water was so perfect. The sunset brought the sky on fire while I was swimming and I felt so blessed, so grateful to be there to experience and live this magical moment. For a second, nothing mattered, my body, my senses was infused with euphoria. Emotions and feelings started running high. I felt complete.
Santorini is an amazing place to hike during the winter months. It is not too cold nor too hot and you can walk long distances. There are shops on the way to buy fruits and stay hydrated. During the summer that would be a killer mission. The maximum temperatures during December- January are between 14/20°C (57/68°F). I can safely say that you can hike to all the major locations in Santorini because I did so. But keep in mind, during winter time is recommended. One of the best hikes in Santorini, I would have to say that is this one. Spectacular views indeed.
The general vibe of the island is my all time favorite. Quiet, chill, peaceful, special. There are close to 12.000 people living in Santorini from which most of go to Athens during the winter. Nevertheless, there is still some activity on the island. There are kindergartens, primary schools and so life goes on. Winter time is a period of restoration and regeneration, as everyone undergoes renovation work. In the preparation process for another season, the sparkling white and blue Santorini style has to continue to be up to the standards.
But no worries, even though it’s not normally a touristic season you can still visit. Many of the accommodations will be available in every village. Stores and supermarkets are open too. Definitely, not every store will be open, but the essential is up and running. There are locals living here so it is not totally dead. However, I enjoy this silence and stillness. The advantage is that you don’t have the crowds and you can enjoy and soak up the beauty with tranquility and at your own pace. You don’t have to hurry for the best sunset spot because the whole views are to be enjoyed by maximum a handful of people. You can check this other article on Why might be a good idea to travel off-season, to get a sense of why I enjoy travelling off-season so much.
Santorini can be as expensive as paying 6000 euro for a night in Oia during peak season. The famous cave houses on the cliffs with jaccuzi and pool overlooking the breathtaking view and sunset spectacle. Yes. That’s what you’re paying for. Indeed, the ambience is out of this world. I have visited some of these houses. The attention to detail, decorations, design. It’s so easy to fall in love with this place. You simply can’t resist it. Vintage, old style combined with modern technology.
In Santorini during off-season, you can get half the price off. I stayed in Thira in the heart of the village only paying 25 euro, more than half price off. In Oia, the cheapest that I could find was 50 euro also in the center, but not with view over the Aegean sea. That is the most expensive area with prices starting from hundreds of euro to thousands.
To visit the whole island, depending on how much time you have available, there are 3 options. Rent a car, go by bus or by foot. I opted for the last two since I was not really in a rush and had no return ticket to anywhere. The busses do not operate as often, obviously, but you can check the schedule here. There were only 2 busses a day. The main bus station is in Thira and from there departs to other areas.
I hiked all the way from Perissa to Oia, staying one night in Thira and two in Oia. And I returned by bus to Perissa. Overall, I have walked close to 100km all over the island. I loved it so much. I was in awe when I reached Thira and after when I did this hike. You have to go this route. During the season you have organized tours such as boat trips which are really fun. You get to visit the red, white and black beach and watch the sunset from the sea. It’s spectacular. You can find these tours plus more here and you can book them in advance.
What grows in Santorini?
Although Santorini is a volcanic island, there is still something that grows here. Wine making is a staple in Santorini. If you hike from Perissa to Vlichada beach you will pass through infinite fields of vineyards. If you visit in September you can still eat some fresh grapes. But, in December the fields are already cleaned up and ready for another production.
Besides this, there is a tomato museum right when you reach Vlichada beach, meaning that they grow tomatoes too here. One plant that grows wild everywhere is the cactus. In December the fruit of the cactus, also known as prickly pear or cactus pear is ready to be collected. However, I haven’t observed much interest in this fruit here. In other countries, it is utilized for its health benefits and it is used even in cosmetic. From its seed, oil is made while the flesh can be eaten raw or used in beverages and foods.
I noticed that some local people grow their own vegetables such as salad, corn, aromatic herbs, tomatoes. A funny thing is that you get to see for sale in the supermarkets rosemary when you can sometimes pick it up from the side of the road. Or, if you go hiking, you will encounter thyme and rosemary growing wild.
The food supply of Santorini comes from Athens and Crete. The only downside is that the island has no potable water. Buying plastic water bottles is unfortunately a must. The tap water is salty and can’t even be used for cooking, although some do. Unknowingly, in my first day I made a tea. It smelled and tasted like sea water.
If you reached all the way here, thank you for reading and I hope it has been helpful for you and if you visit Santorini off-season you will know what to expect. Everything is functioning, but not on a large scale. Santorini off-season is as interesting as while during high season. It doesn’t lose its magic rather the magic is even more enhanced. Let me know in the comments if you have visited Santorini before off-season or if you will.
Lots of love.