Santorini in Winter was all we expected and more … We’d heard that Santorini was something not to be missed; that it was breathtaking and a bucket list destination. It not only lived up to our expectations but because it was winter, we had this beautiful island almost to ourselves. 

Winter in Santorini

It was December and our campervan Europe trip had taken us to Greece. As we were so close to the many Greek Islands, we decided to take a trip to the one we had heard so much about, Santorini.

We researched the suitability of the island for large campervans and it didn’t look particularly suitable for motorhomes. Also, it was cheaper for us to fly and leave the campervan in Athens with Megaparking. 

The Benefits of Santorini in Winter

View of Oia, Santorini in winter

Oia, Santorini, in winter

If you want to visit Santorini to swim and sunbathe at its beautiful beaches and enjoy the nightlife, then a winter visit isn’t for you. The weather is not guaranteed to be warm in winter and the nightclubs are closed.

However, if you are not concerned about those things then Santorini in winter is perfect because:

  • The cost of accommodation is far less in the winter months
  • The hordes of tourists that fill the island to the brim in Summer are relatively few
  • Exploring and hiking the landscape of Santorini is much more comfortable with the cooler weather.
  • The weather is relatively warmer than most of Europe
  • You can photograph Santorini’s sights without hundreds of tourists in your shot
  • Car rental in Santorini is cheaper in the off-peak season.

Winter weather in Santorini

The average temperature in the winter months in Santorini ranges from a low of 10 to a high of 15 degrees C and the highest rainfall is in December.

We were there for five days at the beginning of December and were lucky to have only one day of rain. The temperature also reached 18 degrees on two of our five days.

Go here for more information on Santorini weather.

Donkeys being walked through Oia, Santorini

Beautiful sunny day in Oia, Santorini in December – work as usual for the construction worker donkeys

Does Santorini Shut Down in Winter?

The nightclubs are closed and some restaurants and hotels. However, due to the overcrowding of the island in Summer, more tourists are choosing to visit Santorini in Winter. As a result, more restaurants and hotels are remaining open to cater for the change.

Winter Transport in Santorini

The main bus system is run by KTel and each route runs directly from Fira, the capital of Santorini. To get to each town on the island you need to depart from Fira each time.

We wanted the flexibility to explore the Island in our own time and were able to hire a rental car for 25 Euro/day. Hiring a small car, gave us the opportunity to see the furthest parts of the island.

A three-day hire was the perfect amount of time for our five-day trip. It was a wise decision leaving the campervan behind, as our plan to tackle the little out-of-the-way places with their tight access ways, definitely required a small vehicle.

Things to do in Santorini in Winter

Map of Santorini and the places to visit.

1. Explore Imerovigli

The beautiful hotel ‘Heliotopos’, that we stayed in, was situated on the cliffs in the town of Imerovigli. It had superb panoramic coastal views both to the north and south.

The hospitality and the quality of home-made food were second to none, which certainly set the mood for our December visit to Santorini.

Entrance to Heliotopos Hotel, Santorini

Entrance to Heliotopis Hotel in Imerovogli, Santorini

If you do not have a hire car, it would probably be more convenient for you to stay at a hotel located in Fira so that you have easy access to the local buses. Imerovigli is about half an hour walk from Fira.

Imerovigli is the most elevated town on the western side of the island, along the Caldera, (Caldera means crater). There are plenty of paths, alleys and stairwells to explore in this area with beautiful views along the coast.

The pretty laneways of Imerovigli, Santorini

The pretty laneways of Imerovigli, Santorini

2. Explore Skaros Rock

Skaros Rock, a rocky protruding headland that used to be the medieval capital of Santorini, was walking distance from our hotel at Imerovigli.

It was an easy downhill descent to ‘the Rock’. However, remember to keep enough fuel in the tank for the steep ascent on the way back.

The medieval town of Skaros was built around Skaros Rock and it used to be densely populated. However, due to earthquakes the people gradually drifted away to take up residence in Fira, the current capital of Santorini.

We walked to the far side of the rock and we were pleasantly surprised to find a remote chapel. The Chapel of Panagia Theoskepasti faces the horizon and is tucked completely out of sight from the mainland.

 

Skaros Rock Santorini

Skaros Rock Santorini

The Chapel of Panagia Theoskepastion Skaros Rock

The Chapel of Panagia Theoskepastion Skaros Rock, Santorini

view of Oia from  Skaros Rock santorini

View of  white cliff top villages of Santorini as seen from Skaros Rock

3. Visit Oia

On the day we drove to the renowned town of Oia, the sun shone and it was a perfect 18 degrees C. To walk among the picture-postcard iconic blue and white buildings of Oia that we had seen in so many magazines and online was surreal, especially given that they were missing the crowds.

It was captivating wandering through the winding walkways, all the time surrounded by vivid whitewashed limestone buildings with their bright blue trappings. This was something special. No doubt about it – it was hard not to nail a half decent shot!

Santorini blue and white buildings

Oia with its iconic blue and white buildings of Santorini

Blue and white buildings with a windmill on Santorini in winter

Santorini sights

Santorini views in winter

View out to sea at Oia, Santorini 

During our walk around the many winding pathways of Oia, we heard a raised voice and clacking of hooves.

Eager to investigate, we rounded the next bend and saw about ten donkeys ascending the paved steps. They were loaded heavily with stones for the nearby building works.

Donkeys were definitely the preferred mode of transport for these steep cliff pathways as there was no way a motor vehicle could fit. Over the next few days, we realised that it was common to see a procession of these untethered loaded donkeys, each following the next in single file, on their way to a job site.

Donkeys ladened with stones for building construction in Santorini in winter

Donkeys laden with stones for building construction in Santorini in winter

Oia donkey owner getting a ride in Santorini

4. Visit Atlantis Bookstore in Oia

Atlantis Books was listed on the number one spot of the National Geographic top bookstores in its book Destinations of a Lifetime.

Entering this cave-like store, you can smell the musty history of the precious treasures within. If you love reading and getting lost in the shelves of quirky bookstores this is the place for you.

Atlantis Bookstore in Oia Santorini

Atlantis Bookstore in Oia Santorini

5.  Search for Santorini’s Hidden Geocaches

Geocaching is great to do while travelling, as the hidden spots are often in places that the locals know about but aren’t advertised as tourist spots.

One of our geocache locations took us to an old abandoned school built into a hill at Vothonos. Surprisingly there were still the old school tables and chairs in place.

Vothonos old school built into a hill in Santorini

Vothonos old school built into a hill in Santorini

Whitewashed church with its blue dome in Santorini.

One of the many beautifully kept Greek Orthodox churches in Vothonos, Santorini

6. Pyrgos

Pyrgos is about 7km from the capital Fira and has the meandering cobbled laneways and steep steps that are so representative of Santorini.  At the highest point on Pyrgos, you’ll find the ruins of the castle, destroyed by an earthquake in 1956. From here you can enjoy uninterrupted views across to Fira and Oia.

Church of Aghios Nikolaos, Pyrgos, Santorini

Church of Aghios Nikolaos, Pyrgos, Santorini

St George Church, Pyrgos Santorini

St George Church, Pyrgos Santorini

7. Perissa Beach

Take a walk along the dark volcanic sands of Perissa Beach and watch the sunset turn the rocks to gold.

sands of Perissa Beach in Santorini

Perissa Beach Santorini – winter views without the crowds

8. Meso Vouno Mountain

Head up the winding drive to stop near the top of Mesa Vouno Mountain. This is where the Ancient Thera ruins are found. From here, you have fantastic views of Kamari Beach.

Kamari Beach view from above in santorini

View of Kamari Beach, Santorini

Windy road up the Meso Vouno Mountain

Windy road up the Meso Vouno Mountain

9. Visit Akrotiri Lighthouse

You’ll find the pretty Akrotiri Lighthouse at the southernmost tip of Santorini. It was a picturesque scene. The land fronting the lighthouse gently falls away into the sea and the nearby hills stand watch from above.

Here great views of the island’s western coastline and headlands could be seen, accentuated by the townships of whitewashed buildings along the cliffs.

Akrotiri Lighthouse in Santorini

Akrotiri Lighthouse in Santorini

Back to Campervan Life

All too soon, our five-day, wonderful winter visit to Santorini drew to a close. It was nice to have a small hiatus from the van but to be honest, we were quite looking forward to getting back to our home on wheels. It certainly feels like ‘home’ even though it is rarely in the same place for more than a few days on our year-long Europe Campervan Trip.

Good to Know

Campervan Parking

We left the van near Athens airport in Megaparking and booked online via Parkcloud.

Santorini Car Hire

Car Rental: We managed to get a small runaround for €25/day.

Santorini Accommodation

We found a fantastic winter deal at the Heliotopos Hotel, Imerovigli, – a fantastic boutique hotel that we found absolutely wonderful. The staff could not do enough for us and were extremely helpful.

Heliotopis Hotel Bedroom Santorini

Heliotopos Hotel, Imerovigli

Located at the highest point of the caldera, Heliotopos is a boutique hotel built in the traditional dome style. It offers uniquely decorated rooms with private balconies overlooking the volcano. Rated 9.2

For more hotel deals in Santorini check out Booking.com here.

 

Would love to hear your thoughts on Santorini or any tips you may have when visiting. Leave a comment below 🙂

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