Don’t pack a lunch for a road trip on Santorini as distances are short. But do pack a sense of adventure as the island has a lot to see around its stunning caldera. These five jaunts take you to less-visited corners of Santorini where you can sample local wines, enjoy the sunset view beloved by residents, take in the sweep of the island from its highest point or just lounge on an uncrowded beach.

These trips can be made with a car or motorbike. And most are also possible using public buses or taxis. All distances below are one-way from the main town of Fira. Here are the best road trips in Santorini.

A squat white lighthouse at the edge of a cliff with the sea beyond, and the sky glowing orange as the sun sets
Time your drive to Akrotiri Lighthouse with the sunset © Westend61 / Getty Images

Akrotiri Lighthouse

Best drive for sunset

Start – Fira; End – Akrotiri Lighthouse; Distance – 8.9 miles (14.3km)

Santorini’s southwest corner juts into the sea like an accusing finger. High above the waves, the 19th-century Akrotiri Lighthouse has views to the south and west. It’s a top spot enjoyed by local residents seeking sunset views without the tourist crowds. The lighthouse still operates and is closed to visitors, but you can admire the whitewashed, rectangular architecture. Walking paths extend down the steep hillside to the rocky shoreline.

On the short drive here, you’ll pass a couple of small and isolated cove beaches and the village of Akrotiri, where you can hike the short trail to the archaeological wonders at Ancient Akrotiri.

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Several glasses of wine stand on a table outside a small white stone building
Name a designated driver and go on a wine-tasting trip through Santorini's vineyards © Ludovic Farine / Shutterstock


Best drive for scenic vineyard views 

Start – Fira; End – Fira; Distance – varies

Once known for its tomatoes and olive oil, Santorini is today also known for its wine. Vineyards wrapping around the hills are a scenic highlight of drives around the island. Today over 20 wineries make a variety of red, white, blush and sparkling wines. Of special note are crisp, dry whites and Vinsanto, an amber dessert wine.

Most Santorini wineries offer tastings for modest fees. Some serve snacks while others have more ambitious menus. Almost all have great views across the small island. Top picks include SantoWines, a large complex near the ferry port; Domaine Sigalas, in a bucolic location near Oia; Boutari, a major producer located near Akrotiri; and Gavalas Winery, a family-run operation near Megalohori.

Obviously, if you're sampling wine you’ll need to have a designated driver, opt for public transport or you can join a tour.

Vlihada Beach

Best drive for beaches and culture

Start – Fira; End – Vlihada Beach; Distance – 6.2 miles (10km)

Vlihada (Vlychada) Beach was once the site of a huge tomato processing plant where Santorini’s signature produce was reduced down to paste and canned. In summer part of the old complex is used for eclectic and changing art exhibitions. Still another portion is the year-round home of the Tomato Industrial Museum, which features fascinating recorded interviews with retired factory workers detailing a way of life lost to the tourist hordes.

The beach is long and has dark sand. There are several good options for a fresh seafood lunch, with some of the catch brought ashore at the tiny adjoining fishing port. The piers are also used by an array of excursion boats.

On the drive here, you can stop at numerous attractions and/or detour over to the long beach at Perissa.

A road curves round the side of a cliff, and then dips down the side of the cliff with a series of tight switchbacks
Follow the narrow clifftop roads to lesser-visited spots on the island © Olga Gavrilova / Shutterstock

Oia and around

Best drive for history

Start – Fira; End – Oia; Distance – 9 miles (14.4km)

Instead of the popular clifftop road along the caldera, this route takes you to the isolated north coast where you’ll see wave-tossed and crowd-free black beaches interspersed with the odd ruin. The road passes through the small village of Pori which is surrounded by a series of tomato farms, olive orchards and vineyards.

There is also plenty of stark geologic scenery for which Santorini is known. Once in Oia, you can walk the old streets and visit the 15th-century Agios Nikolaos Castle, which has park-like grounds and nearby sunset views. Churches large and small — some dating back centuries — line the narrow lanes that wind along the steep hillsides.

Drop down into the tiny port of Ammoudi, where the buildings reflect the local red rocks used in their construction. Wander the harbor to get a timeless sense of the fishing which has helped sustain island life for generations.


Best drive for mountain views

Start – Fira; End – Pyrgos; Distance – 2.9 miles (4.7km)

Although short in distance, the change in elevation makes this drive to the top of the island an essential use of your own transport. Protected as a historic settlement, medieval Pyrgos boasts a maze of lanes and hidden passages threading around the timeless whitewashed and natural stone buildings. You can walk up to ruins of an old fortress and browse through shops with goods from traditional artisans.

Cafes and restaurants with astounding views across the entire island can be found in Pyrgos and off the rugged dirt roads that radiate out. Look for wineries amidst green fields of grapes. The ubiquitous churches with their arresting bright blue domes are always worth a pause to see if the door is unlocked so you can savor the candle-lit interiors.

You might also like:
Paradise found: the best places to visit in Santorini  
Santorini's most breathtaking beaches  
Santorini's most unmissable experiences  

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