Ah, yes. One of the classic Santorini travel questions — “When is the best time to go to Santorini?” Like all great travel questions, this one is never easy to answer. I could just end this post right here by saying ANYTIME is the best time for a trip to Santorini. After all, if you’ve never been to Santorini and you have one chance to go, why miss out? Stop fussing over the “best time” and do yourself a huge favor and just go!
Ok now that I have that off my chest… 🙂
If you have a lot of flexibility with your travel plans and you want to plan your trip for the best possible experience, there are a few important factors to consider.
The Best Time For Santorini – 4 Important Factors
As I see it, there are 4 things to weigh when deciding the best time for you:
Santorini Factor #1 – The Weather
Weather is always a factor, right? The good news is, Santorini weather is generally consistent. The winter months are definitely colder and rainier, but it’s unlikely you’ll be visiting in winter anyhow (see items #3 and #4 below).
July and August are easily the hottest months in Santorini. June and September are my two favorite months weather-wise with warm temperatures but rarely “too hot.” May and October can be nice as well with some colder days here-and-there.
Santorini does get some very high winds throughout the summer. These “Meltemi winds” can be strong enough to blow your drinks (and dinner!) right off the table and send your beach towel careening into the sea. Usually the wind is a temporary nuisance and can add to the overall Santorini ambience in some ways.
Santorini Factor #2 – The Crowds
If you want to avoid the crowds, you should avoid July and August. Late July to early August is the high-season for most hotels and restaurants around the island. This means throngs of travelers but it also means higher prices and less attentive service.
For me, August is the month to avoid. The heat can be really intense, and families often plan their “last vacations” at this time of year.
Another factor to consider if you’re concerned about how crowded Santorini will be when you visit is the cruise lines. During the summer months especially, cruise ships can be anchoring on a daily basis in Santorini. With large cruise ships comes large crowds of visitors hitting the island all at once. These visitors almost always enter the island at Fira, so if you’re staying on that part of the island you’ll encounter more of this than anywhere else.
By the way, if you’re visiting Santorini by way of cruise ship, that’s great! Personally, I love a good cruise time-to-time. But… I do encourage you to make your way back to Santorini for a longer stay on the island for at least a weekend or hopefully a full week or more. Also, I would encourage you to make an excursion to some of the other parts of the island rather than just Fira (where most cruisers tend to stay). Your cruise line should offer some excursions to Oia for a beautiful sunset or even to the beaches in Perissa and Perviolos.
Santorini Factor #3 – The Season
A third factor to consider is the Santorini travel season. Most hotels and restaurants actually close up shop between about early-to-mid October through mid-to-late April. For that 5-6 month period, Santorini basically shuts down its main tourism engines and takes a break.
So when planning your trip, keep this “seasonal arc” in mind. As the season starts, the weather is cooler and the hotels & restaurants are just opening up. The season hits full swing in July and then peaks in August with hotter weather and larger crowds and more cruise ships. Then, things wind down in September-October with many restaurants and hotels closing their doors completely by early October.
Santorini Factor #4 – The Flights
One of the reasons behind Santorini’s limited travel season is the limited availability of flights to the island. From May to September, there are lots of charter flights and nonstop flights from the UK and Europe. This is the easiest time to get to the island. But from October to April, flights are fewer and farther between. If you do visit Santorini during the winter, you may prefer to take a ferry instead.
So When Is The Best Time To Visit Santorini?
Ok, there you have it. Those are the 4 most important factors for choosing the best time for you.
Now, I can tell you the best time for me. 🙂
Personally, my favorite time of year to visit Santorini is September. The weather is ideal, the crowds are thinner, and the island has a sleepiness to it that I just enjoy. July and August are often too hot and almost always too crowded for my tastes, but I have enjoyed some excellent trips during both of those months nonetheless.
I hope this breakdown is helpful for planning your upcoming trip to Santorini. If you have any questions about the best time to plan your trip to Santorini island, please leave a comment below.