Santorini off season – 10 facts that will make or break your trip

Santorini is one of the most popular destinations in the world. There are times, though, when people don’t get what is advertised, especially during winter time. This is a small guide that will help you enjoy the most out of this tiny magical island when travelling off-season, from December to March!

 

TICKETS

+ The prices in air transportation are really low this time of the year, compared to what you can find during normal travel period. There is an everyday air connection to Athens with two big travel companies, one of which is low budget. There is also a ferry connection from Piraeus port with two boats per day.

The fierce winds that blow in the Aegean during winter can cause delays or even cancellations on sea transportation, so keep that in mind and make sure you check the weather report before you go.

 

HOTELS

+ Another great bargain during low season is accommodation. You can find rooms or villas available for even 70% less than their normal price. With a quick search we found more than 100 hotels and rooms, in every part of the island. If you want to stay on high–end facilities with great panoramic views for reasonable prices then absolutely go for it!

–  Hotels and most accommodation facilities are built for summer conditions. This means that, even though you will have a really nice view and all the services you would get during high season, the weather can be a troublemaker. Humidity, cold and strong winds should be considered normal this time of year, although I have to state that they normally last only for a couple of days every week. When the sun is shining, the temperature can go as high as 15C – 20C but when it goes down, a jacket and warm clothes are mandatory.

 

HISTORY AND GEOLOGY

+ If you have a particular interest in these fields then this is the period you will enjoy Santorini the most. All museums and archaeological sites remain open and have lower fees than high season. Also, the must-see trip to the volcano is much more pleasant with these temperatures than in the heat of summer. Hiking the trails of the island is also a really enjoyable activity that allows you to get in touch with the volcanic nature and explore views, colorful rocks and pumice stones, clean black and red beaches and all the beautiful small villages along the way.

When in Santorini, some people look for Atlantis’ ruins, others for professional guides to take them to the museums. Unfortunately, during winter, both are unlikely to find… Most professional guides come to the island after the 15th of March so I would suggest buying a book-guide of the historic sites and be prepared before you arrive at the museum / archaeological site. In that way, at least you will have the option to guide yourself if you can’t find someone to show you around. Entering without any information and just looking at ancient walls, rocks and artifacts isn’t worth the ticket’s price and doesn’t do any justice to the important civilizations you are going to meet.

TRANSPORTATION

+ Transportation prices tend to not vary a lot between high and low season. The buses though are less crowded and people who work there are much calmer (If you ‘ve been in Santorini during summer you will understand what I mean). Your best bet will be hiring a car (the prices here are lower than during summer months) and explore the island, or you can book a guided bus tour. Note that it is always better to prefer small-group tours which are personal and care for your specific needs.

The bus transportation is honestly unreliable and the routes are available usually until before noon. Check the schedule, double check with your host or receptionist and be careful to note down the time of the last bus to bring you back.

 

GASTRONOMY AND FOOD

+ Santorini is a very special island with many unique local products, such as capers, fava beans and cherry tomatoes. If you are looking for some real greek cuisine and mediteranean flavours you will not be disappointed, plus you can choose from small traditional taverns to high-gastronomy restaurants. Many of them remain open during winter (there are people living here during winter and we have to eat something, right?) and they are actually the top ones regarding both quality and price.

Most people who travel during winter are on low budget and tend to prefer quick meals such as gyros or fast food. Gyros is fine, it is cheap and it makes you full but don’t hesitate to try the local cuisine. You can find restaurants and taverns with low prices and it is definitely worth it.

Apart from that, fresh fruit and vegetables are not available because it’s the time for the crops to rest, but you will be able to taste them in dried and sweet versions.

 

WINE AND WINE TOURS

+ Wine is the gold of Santorini. It is the second most important source of income after tourism and Assyrtiko wine is one of the best wines in Greece. Most of the wineries are open to public after the 15th of January and they offer winetastings and guided tours to the establishments. If you want a more complete wine experience you can book a tour that will help you understand the whole philosophy behind winemaking, learn about the special viticulture techniques and, most importantly, drink without worrying how you will get back to your hotel! (You can check our wine and gastronomy tours – they are the best 😉 )

During December and January most wineries are closed so you have limited options. If you can’t find an open winery, you can taste the local wines at a restaurant, paired with some fresh fish or local cheese.

 

WINTER EVENTS (panigiria)

+ Winter is full of religious celebrations in greek islands. Since the old times, it was a chance for the locals to get together and share food, drink and dance, while honoring a favorite Saint. These events take place in small white churches decorated with flowers. People will gladly offer local wine and food and welcome you as one of their own. It is a unique chance to experience a traditional authentic fest with greek dances and singing.

It is difficult to find when and where these events take place. It was difficult even for us when we first got here. Your best chance is to ask your host or a local person, or contact a well-informed tour company. I guarantee you this: if you attend once, it will be an experience you will never forget.

 

 

ROMANCE AND SUNSET

+ The sun sets in the sea, filling the sky with warm colors as you hold your lover’s hand. Or as you write down your thoughts on your notebook and try to catch the perfect photo. Or as you contemplate about life and your life-choices. All these scenarios are really romantic and can be made real only if you have some privacy and silence while watching the famous sunset. The problem is that during summer it is never clear, it is scarcely romantic and it is absolutely never quiet and private. Take my word for it, winter is the best time to enjoy the sunsets of your dreams. When it is windy, the air is clear and you get golden views. When it is rainy you will have pink and purple colors in the sky. All you have to do is dress warm, find your spot and prepare your camera settings, your love-words or anyway just sit back and relax!

It will be cold and maybe it will also be rainy. If you are thinking of wearing an ethereal dress and sip in cocktails by the pool while watching the sunset, maybe May- October will be best for you.

 

 

 

TRADITIONAL VILLAGES AND OIA

+ Almost same as above, the pros are pretty much: privacy, less crowded streets and better pictures in general. You will have a chance to explore the small villages of the island and see how locals go by during the winter months.

– Most shops will be closed and almost everyone will be doing building or construction works. This means noise during daytime, a lot of garbage and streets closed because of debris. I understand it is not what you expect but cut these people some slag… They live on an island, the corruptive power of the sea is really strong, thus they need to repair and repaint their properties every year. Keep in mind that they work really hard , just be nice and smile to them, say a “kalimera” (meaning goodmorning) and continue looking for a better and more quiet spot to take pictures or enjoy the view- there is always one of these.

DONKEYS

+ The donkey is the mascot of the island. During summer they carry tourists up and down the steps but these strong animals work hard during winter as well, helping the builders and carrying around materials. You can find them resting, walking in narrow streets and even running by main roads. Feel free to take a picture of them but please, don’t try to feed or pet them.

They are everywhere, and they run a lot. Sometimes you will have to be careful when walking on narrow streets because they may come running around the corner and take up most of the space without noticing you. Also, be careful not to step on the “donkey-mines”! They are everywhere and they leave a certain “je-ne-sais-quoi” scent to the air. It is part of the everyday life in Santorini so you either get used to it or you end up walking with a mask.

 

To sum up, Santorini during winter is rough, cold and wet. But it is real and it is really beautiful. If you are looking for an exotic warm winter destination then you’d better put your money in another offer. But if you are looking for a unique experience, if you want to see the beauty of the island without the crowds that go with it during summer, then book a ticket and make the trip! The weather is not bad all the time and when it is nice, the island is full of flowers, birds chipping and a deep blue sea panorama that will steal your heart! In any case, do your research, find a hotel that will meet your needs and if you want to see and learn everything there is, book a guided tour that will help you explore much in a few days.

 

 

Xx from (sunny and warm today) Santorini,

Eleni