Why October is the Best Time to Visit Santorini And What To Do in Santorini to Make the Most of Your Visit
Santorini is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, which means if you go in the wrong month you will spend your time jostling crowds instead of enjoying all it has to offer. White-washed houses with domed blue rooftops built into magnificent hillsides are among the most photographed and recognized scenes featured in magazines and on websites everywhere. The island offers beautiful scenery, gorgeous beaches, pristine water, medieval-style cities, fabulous shopping, local wines, talented artists, fantastic restaurants, and the best bookstore I’ve yet to encounter anywhere in the world. It’s little wonder that this little island of 29 square miles with 15,500 residents sees more than 2.5 million visitors every year. Most of those tourists visit during the peak season between June and September every year, which is why I personally think the best time to visit Santorini is in October.
Why October is the Best Time to Visit Santorini
Every great vacation on an island includes sun, beaches, time on the water, and leisurely dinners on breezy verandas; I found all of this and more in Santorini in October.
Average temperatures in October on the island run in the mid-70s with plenty of sunshine and heat for tanning on the deck of a sailboat followed by a refreshing dip in the blue ocean waters that surround Santorini. Evenings are warm, perfect for sunset dinners from restaurant tables situated on rooftop patios with sprawling views of the ocean. The only thing missing is the suffocating crowds that swarm the island during the high season. There were short periods in the afternoon when the walkways in Oia were crowded with tourists from the cruise ships, but the rest of the day and the evenings were moderately busy making October a great time to visit Santorini because everything was still open but we didn’t have to fight overwhelming crowds to get into restaurants or shops.
Santorini Focusing on Expanding Tourism Outside of the High Season
The mayor of Santorini started a campaign several years ago to extend the tourism season, which has benefited the island as well as the tourists. Capacity is beyond maximum during the high season, with cruise ships adding more than 10,000 tourists a day when they port (the mayor is working to limit this to no more than 8000 tourists disembarking from cruise ships on any given day). By convincing the hotels, restaurants and shops to stay open beyond the end of September, Santorini has become a viable destination for those who want to enjoy all the riches the island has to offer during the fall, winter and spring months without the oppressive crowds.
Along with October being a great time to visit Santorini, the winter months are now attractive times to go to Santorini for those who love to tour historical sites, hike, and enjoy great dining and shopping. The ocean water will be a bit cooler in the winter months, but if your interests are broader than beaches and swimming, it’s a great time to see Santorini.
Relaxing in Oia, Santorini
We spent four nights in Oia, Santorini in mid-October after touring mainland Greece for the previous ten days. By the time we hit Santorini, we were ready to relax and soak in the sun. The only scheduled activity we had planned was a private sailboat cruise around the island on one of the days, otherwise we were ready for leisurely strolls through boutique lined streets, eating good food, drinking good wine, and watching the sunsets over the ocean. After ten days of taking in historical sites and logging double digit miles on foot daily to see as much as possible, the idea of lounging like the rich and famous on a romantic island sounded like the perfect end to a fabulous trip.
What to Do While in Santorini
Other than the sailboat cruise, we never left Oia – something that I plan to remedy on the next trip to Santorini. Oia is a beautiful little village on the northwest tip of the main island with lots to offer and plenty of great restaurants, so I don’t regret our time there, but I know there was so much more to see if we’d had the inclination and the time. Besides the quaint and picturesque seaside villages, Santorini is also known for its local wines and historical sites. You will never be at a loss of what to do in Santorini, and I recommend extending your trip there beyond just a few days if possible. Santorini has something for everyone.
Even though the high season for tourists was over, and the locals told us that the island was practically dead compared to just weeks prior, in our opinion mid-October was the perfect time to visit Santorini because we were able to relax and enjoy all that the island had to offer without having to deal with throngs of tourists.
Shopping in Santorini
Shopping is fabulous in Santorini. I love the street markets that pop up during the day with a huge variety of wares to buy including handmade goat-milk soaps and pottery at really great prices. The shops that line the streets have everything from the much coveted Santorini souvenir t-shirts and sweatshirts (of which we bought several) to high-end clothing boutiques and art galleries. Stores stay open late and shopkeepers are friendly and accommodating. Something about strolling into a little shop after a night out to peruse the jewelry or try on flowing sundresses felt very decadent, like the shops were there purely to indulge my whims.
By far, my most favorite shop was Atlantis Books, which was a quick five minute walk from our hillside house. The bookstore stays open late, and despite the dozen or so people in there, the shopkeeper managed to make each one of us feel as though we were his only customer. He chatted with everyone, making recommendations and pulling books he thought of interest off the shelves to place in your hands while letting you know exactly why you should read this book.
Restaurants and Eating in Santorini
We did not find one restaurant in Santorini that disappointed, from the rooftop patio of Pelekanos Restaurant (best stuffed grape leaves yet!) with spectacular sprawling views from high above the ocean to Sunset Restaurant on the shore of the water where every table is just feet away from the harbor and you can hear the waves as they lap against the boardwalk and docks. Another reason October is the best time to visit Santorini is all the restaurants are still open but it was easy to get reservations quickly, and many we just walked into and were seated immediately.
The great thing about shops being open late is your every desire is just a credit card swipe away no matter what time of day. One evening, after another fabulous meal, we stopped by a bakery at 10:00 pm to buy a variety of delicious homemade desserts, stopped at another shop for a couple bottles of wine, then settled on the veranda of our rented house to enjoy the lights of the boats twinkling on the water under the moon. We set all the desserts in the middle of the table, everyone grabbed a fork and filled their wine glasses, and we ate, drank, and talked into the early morning hours while basking in the delights that make up Santorini.
Sailing in Santorini
Every day was magical in Santorini, but the sailboat cruise around the island was truly spectacular and worth every dollar. Our friends who traveled with us really wanted to spend a day on a private sailboat while in the Greek islands, and it did not take much convincing for my husband and me to be on board with this idea.
Our captain and her first mate from Oia Yachting were top notch sailors, fabulous cooks, and just fantastic women who made the entire trip an unforgettable experience. We sailed by beautiful beaches on Santorini island and around the other islands that make up the municipality of Santorini. We swam in the clear waters, ate a freshly prepared dinner on the back deck of the boat while anchored in a calm harbor, and sipped cocktails while watching the sunset off the north shore of Santorini. Our crew kept us well fed, well informed, entertained and constantly refreshed our drinks while expertly maneuvering the waters around Santorini on a 40’ catamaran. Best of all, we spent the day comfortably lounging in our swimsuits, warmed by the sun and refreshed by the ocean because the temperatures were still perfect in October, making it a great time to visit Santorini.
Other Things to Do in Santorini
Winery Tours in Santorini
Santorini has 18 wineries on the island for tourists to visit, and has become of the most popular wine destinations in all of Greece. The island is known for their white varietals, but red wines are also produced in Santorini. Perhaps the most unique thing about the wineries is the fact that the grape vines form into a basket shape, surrounding the grapes and protecting them from the harsh winds as they grow. Though we did not get a chance to tour the wineries, we enjoyed local wines while dining in the restaurants and heard time and again from other visitors to the island that the winery tours were well worth the time. A tour of the wineries is the highest priority on our next trip to back to Santorini.
Archeological Sites of Santorini
There are two ancient cities on Santorini where visitors can walk among ruins dating back to the 17th century BC. Akrotiri dates back to prehistoric times and is located on the southwest end of the island. The other is the ruins of an ancient Greek civilization located on the southeast side of Santorini.
Visit the Churches of Santorini
Santorini is only about 15 miles from tip to tip, and about three miles wide, but there are over 450 churches on the island ranging from small quaint chapels to larger monasteries. Definitely take a moment to notice them while you are touring the island, and don’t be afraid to go inside (just please be mindful that it is a place of worship and respect those who are there for that purpose). Many have beautiful frescos, old manuscripts, and amazing architecture.
Visit the Black Sand Beaches of Santorini
Santorini has beautiful beaches because of all the variations to the terrain, and most of the beaches will have black sand or pebbles because of the volcanic rock. You can access the beaches by the sailboat tours, or arrange excursions to many of them. The turquoise water is clear and will be warm through into October.