Plenty of people visit this beautiful Greek paradise during its warmer months, but in January last week, I flew to Santorini and was taken aback by the lack of crowds. It was winter, meaning low season, and a Santorini that you can’t wear a flowy, maxi dress or a bikini at.
So what’s the catch? Is it still worth it to visit Santorini in winter?
For a solo traveller in Greece for the first time, and being a classic Introvert, this low season actually made my trip rather perfect and definitely much more stress-free!
Santorini in January during winter: Should you go?
Here’s a quick guide to help you get some answers! Especially if you’re gonna travel solo.
In winter in Santorini, it’s cold and cloudy. It also gets very windy. Do wrap up enough to stay warm. Throughout the year, January and February will be the coldest weather for Santorini, followed by December and March.
Rain is to be expected. It rains the most for the months of December, January, November, in that order. I had only 1.5 days of sunny weather out of the 4 that I was in Santorini – the rest of my days was gloomy weather. Thankfully, I enjoyed some sunny days of admiring the blue on that island and also got to the airport with no inconvenience.
Is Santorini safe for female solo travellers?
Generally speaking, yes. I’d asked my hotel people (the hotel owners) whether there are snatch-thieves, pickpockets or robbers, they answered no. I also didn’t meet dodgy people (except for a man who had his car parked outside my hotel one night and tried to get my attention. I didn’t respond and quickened my steps back to my hotel).
At Santorini, houses, hostels, and hotels are scattered along the roads. There might be gates or there might not be. My hotel didn’t have any form of security gate as well, so technically, anyone can walk into the compounds and knock on the room doors. This doesn’t mean danger lurks anywhere and everywhere. On the contrary, it reflects the kind of safety level at Santorini.
I also noticed some solo travellers in Santorini, both male, female and even elderly ladies. Solo-travelling to Santorini is not as uncommon as perceived.
Heading out on your own
You won’t be harassed as a tourist. On this island, the locals greet one another because they’re acquainted. Restaurant owners are warm and hospitable, making sure you’re comfortable and the food is ok, etc.
On another afternoon when the weather looked fine, I walked from Fira to Imerovigli. Most of the time (20-30min walk each way), I was the only person walking on the road, with my camera and a bag slung across my body. Vehicles will pass by but that will be all they do: drive by.
Where to Stay
Fira will be the most practical town for you to stay at during low-season because it’s the only one where you’ll find more restaurants and eateries that are still open.
Also, if you’re not renting a car, Fira is where all the public buses set off from.
The crowd level is very low during off-peak season when I was there. You might find yourself the only visitor at the wine museum, or Museum of Prehistoric Thera, at the restaurant, or at your hotel as it happened to me on the first night. If you relish quietness, winter is the perfect time to go Santorini!.
In Fira, at the main square which is where all the restaurants, taxi station, and bus terminal are at, there are few people on the streets.
When you venture to various places away from the road in Fira, you might find yourself to be the only person there.
These photos below were taken at the city centre, but just tucked away behind the main road. The quietness of this sunset was pure bliss to me. It was SUPER QUIET.
Supposed to be really crowded in summer, Oia (pronounced “ee-ya”, the ‘e’ as in how we say the alphabet) was ironically a peaceful place to be at in winter! It’s so quiet over there in the afternoon that you might not even dare to gasp out loud in order to not break the perfection in front of your eyes. If you’re blessed with sunny weather, the amazing views are all for yourself. Most shops here are closed until summer.
Oia is also where you get the postcard views of Santorini, and the same area you view Santorini’s famous sunsets at!
–> Read: Chasing Santorini’s Sunsets <–
Most eateries at Oia are closed. I only came across ONE restaurant that opened for lunch, thankfully.
There were more eateries open at Fira at the main square.
Is Santorini expensive in winter? Here’s a cost sampling of the food I ate:
Nick the Grill – a casual eatery along the road at Fira’s main square – €6.50 for a set of fries, two sticks of pork souvlakia (meat skewers) and a Coke. They have various selections of food. You may eat here or take away.
Below: grilled chicken set at Gyroland, also at Fira’s main square. This set of delicious grilled chicken (which took half an hour to be prepared), came with fries, rice and salad and cost €13. It was too big a serving for me, I couldn’t finish!
My lunch: pork gyro at an eatery somewhere near Imerovigli – €3. It tasted great! And was very filling too. I miss it so much now!
The only restaurant at Oia I came across that was open for lunch – Lotza Restaurant. I forgot how hugeeee the servings in Europe are. A huge plate of marinara pasta at €16, I barely could finish half! The view comes free. It was completely relaxing to savour lunch slowly (I had lunch with a solo traveller here), enjoying the cold winter weather.
The Bone for dinner. This restaurant came recommended by my hotel-owner and also by the guy hosting our wine-tasting at the wine museum. I met up with with a solo traveller acquainted in Santorini, and we ordered a full rack of ribs, one starter, one appetizer, a soup and some wine. The total bill did not exceed €60. Service was excellent!
Getting Around in Santorini
Cars / Motor-bikes / ATVs
There’re many car rental shops around, as well as ATVs. I only saw the occasional ATV rider on the road; I’m sure it’s the opposite in summer. Roads in Santorini are bi-directional without marked arrows on the road. Because sometimes the lanes are shared, cars give way to one another, especially to buses due to their sheer size.
The buses (big, air-conditioned coaches) are cheap and convenient methods to get around Santorini, mostly costing between €1.80 – €2.30 per trip. In winter, bus frequency for each destination is on average once an hour, sometimes once every two hours. Time-tables are updated regularly, so check at the bus terminal to plan your next day’s schedule. Just board the bus and sit down. A conductor will either come and collect your fare and issue you a ticket on the bus, or the driver/conductor will do it before you alight.
The buses start and end at the bus terminal at the main square at Fira. Say, you would like to go Oia and Kamari in a day, which are two different directions starting from Fira. You’ll have to take a bus to Oia, back to Fira, and from Fira, take a bus to Kamari and back to Fira. The buses don’t go directly from one side of the island to another side. Fira to Oia is about 20 minutes, with fantastic views over the cliff in the day.
If you’re there for the sunset, there should be a bus (last bus) that leaves Oia around 6.20pm, right after sunset, so make sure you don’t miss it! The bus company probably timed their schedule according to the sunset hours. The ride back is a journey in the dark without any road-lights – rather nerve-wrecking when you’d seen how narrow the road over the cliff is!
I didn’t take a cab so can’t advise on that. However, there was a day I tried to grab a cab from the road when it was raining, but no taxis passed by at all, due to the lack of tourists in low season. No one walks on the road during winter when it rains, except us silly tourists who missed the bus.
Your best bet would be to take the taxi directly from the taxi-station at Fira’s main square, or arrange for a taxi in advance.
The roads in Santorini wind around a lot and there are also plenty of slopes everywhere. For your safety, I would think it’s not advisable for you to commute around on bicycles.
Fira and Imerovigli are walking distance (20-30 minutes) from each other. I wouldn’t recommend walking after dark though because there are very few people around and the roads aren’t exactly well-lit. The bus between Fira and Oia cuts through Imerovigli, so you may board wherever there’s a bus-stop sign.
Drivers will keep a decent distance from people walking on the road.
There is a popular hiking trail from Fira to Oia but the hike will take you 3 hours at least, which I didn’t do.
What else to know
Most people that you need to communicate with can speak good English! From the hotel staff to museum people, and even convenience stalls and of course the souvenir shops.
Accommodation – Where to Stay
There are plenty of options available for staying at Santorini. Fira is a good choice during winter for many reasons such as the proximity of bus terminal and food options. I stayed at Dream Island Hotel (read my review!), for €85 a night with breakfast and daily housekeeping included.
There are between 11,400 (according to SantoriniGreece.net) to 24,000 (according to my hotel staff) people living in Santorini, so it is not exactly a desolate island even during winter.
How to Get to Santorini
I took Aegean Airlines from Athens international airport, reaching Santorini airport in 30-45 minutes, very short flights! You can also get to Santorini via ferry, but it will take 5-8 hours as mentioned on this site.
Hope this post gives you some insights about visiting Santorini during off-peak, or even as a solo traveller!