Picturesque architecture, vivid blue water, gorgeous rocky landscapes, warm temperatures, delicious food, and rich culture: both of the amazing Greek islands of Santorini and Mykonos have plenty to offer.
Both Santorini and Mykonos are incredibly beautiful destinations, looking exactly as one would imagine a picture-perfect Greek island. They’re a popular choice among all sorts of travelers, with plenty to offer including luxury hotels and resorts, fantastic restaurants, and stunning scenery. Many people like to visit both on their Greece vacation.
But if you’re traveling to Greece on a short trip, it can be difficult to know which of these islands you should visit.
Santorini vs. Mykonos: Our Quick Take
When it comes to choosing between the two islands, we prefer Mykonos. While Santorini is certainly beautiful, due to its popularity it can sometimes feel a little too touristy, particularly during the high season.
However, Santorini is worth a quick visit for the gorgeous views if you can add it to your trip. Since travel between the two islands is fast and affordable, it is also easy to fit both into one trip, especially if you’re traveling a long way to visit Greece.
Our controversial take is that you can skip both Santorini and Mykonos and go to a quieter island like Sifnos or Crete!
Santorini vs. Mykonos: Did You Know?
- Santorini has had many names in history and is officially called Thera. The name Santorini was introduced by the Venetians and is a reference to Saint Irene (Santa Irini). It also used to be known as Storgilli (the round island) before the volcanic eruption.
- Mykonos is home to many donkeys. Their population dates back to ancient times when they were used for work by farmers and builders. Most families living in rural areas owned a donkey and would use them as a means of transport. Traditionally, brides would even ride to the church and back on a donkey.
- Santorini is a volcanic island with many unique and impressive beaches. Unlike the long golden beaches boasted by Mykonos, Santorini is home to the famous “red beach” with colorful cliffsides and the quaint portside of Ammoudi.
Santorini vs. Mykonos: Santorini Overview
Santorini is one of the most popular Greek islands when it comes to tourism, and is likely the first destination that springs to mind when planning a trip there. Famous for its beautiful sunsets, natural attractions, and romantic atmosphere, many couples choose Santorini as a honeymoon.
Not only are the stunning sights a major attraction for visitors but there is plenty to enjoy on this magnificent island including fantastic restaurants, fun bars, and charming villages.
Santorini is home to Santorini International Airport (JTR), and there are dozens of flights offered from all over Europe. If you’re traveling from the U.S., you won’t be able to get a direct flight, but one with a stop in Europe can cost around $800 – $1000.
Santorini vs. Mykonos: Mykonos Overview
Popular with a variety of tourist types, Mykonos is famous for bars and nightlife, beautiful winding streets, and a great vacation atmosphere. A major draw for visitors is the pristine and beautiful beaches.
Mykonos is not only a gorgeous island destination, but it also houses many historical and cultural sites. You can visit various museums and art galleries and even see the famous windmills.
Mykonos, like Santorini, also has an international airport and receives flights from Athens and a select number of European cities. It is also accessible by ferry from Athens, as well as many of the other Greek islands, including Santorini.
If you’re traveling from America, flights with a stopover in a European city typically cost around $800 – $1000 depending on where you’re departing from. The best way to save money is to fly from a major international airport (such as JFK or LAX) to Athens and then take a ferry.
Santorini vs. Mykonos: Best Time to Visit
When deciding on the best time to visit these islands, we recommend September. The weather will start to cool but you can still enjoy the beach and go for a catamaran cruise.
The main tourist season for Mykonos is between May and September. The glorious weather at this time of year is perfect for relaxing on the beach, exploring the quaint little towns, and getting out and about but it can also get very hot.
On Santorini, the tourist season is typically a bit longer. Visit between April and November to truly get the most out of your trip.
If you plan to visit the Greek islands during the off-season (during winter), Santorini is likely a better destination for you. There is far more to see and do here during the cooler months than in Mykonos.
On both islands, you’ll find that beach town and many hotels and restaurants close during winter. Mykonos doesn’t have a huge amount to enjoy without the lively party atmosphere. Santorini gets some out-of-season tourism though, and of course, the amazing cliffs, spectacular views, and gorgeous architecture don’t go anywhere!
Santorini vs. Mykonos: Weather
There is no huge difference in climate between Santorini and Mykonos, and the best weather for both islands can be appreciated between May and September.
With Santorini being a little further south than Mykonos it can get slightly hotter earlier and stay warmer longer over the summer. That said, the temperature remains fairly similar between both islands year-round.
Neither island gets a huge amount of rain either, especially during the summer months, so you can rest assured that you’ll have a great summer vacation at either Santorini or Mykonos.
Santorini vs. Mykonos: Accommodations
Santorini is well known for its cave-house architecture, carved into soft volcanic clay on the face of the calderas. They’re one of the first things that come to mind when thinking of the destination.
Many have been converted into stunning 5-star hotels with luxurious rooms and suites, where you can find beautiful modern interiors and private plunge pools. These unique hotels face the sparkling sea and are some of the most expensive places to stay in Greece, due to their unique style and unbeatable luxury.
Mykonos also has plenty of great hotels to choose from, and since they’re not crowded along a caldera like in Santorini, they typically boast a little more space and facilities for guests. When staying in Mykonos you can choose to be close to the action in Mykonos Town or at a five-star beachfront resort.
Santorini vs. Mykonos: Things to Do
Both Santorini and Mykonos offer a variety of things to do, but they differ somewhat.
Santorini boasts some unique things to do and discover, including a range of excavation sites to explore, tours of wineries, day trips to a traditional village, and boat tours around the volcano.
In contrast, Mykonos is a little more laid back and is the perfect place to visit if you’re looking to enjoy the views or take a scenic walk. It is also known for its beautiful windmills. You can also take a day trip to the nearby island of Delos, which is one of the most important mythological, historical, and archaeological sites in the Greek islands.
So if you’re looking for a trip filled with fun activities, Santorini typically has more to offer, but if you’re looking for a picturesque vacation where you can simply relax and enjoy the views, then Mykonos is the perfect place for you.
Santorini vs. Mykonos: Bars & Restaurants
Food and drink are an integral part of any vacation, and Greek cuisine is certainly up there as one of the best!
The rim of the caldera in Santorini offers stunning sunset views, and here you can find bars and restaurants with gorgeous rooftop terraces. Fira is the main town of the island and has a lively summertime bar scene and many great restaurants where you can sample delicious Greek cuisine.
The next village along the caldera, Imerovigli, is a little more relaxed than Fira but offers great restaurants too. That said, if you’re looking for the best of the best, you’ll want to head further around, to the clifftop village of Oia, where you can find high-end fine-dining restaurants with amazing open-air terraces.
Mykonos is a lively island with a bit more of a party scene. The capital, Mykonos Town, can get quite busy in the evening. There are plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from, with many hot dining spots having Michelin-star status.
Fine dining is also common at some of the high-end hotels in Mykonos. Be aware that meals at the beach clubs can be severely overpriced for what you get.
Santorini vs. Mykonos: Cost
As these islands are both quite touristy, they’re more expensive than other islands. On average, Santorini comes in a little more expensive than Mykonos.
Santorini vs. Mykonos: Getting Around
Santorini and Mykonos are equally easy to get around. While both are limited in terms of public transport, the best way to get around the central towns is on foot.
On both islands, the small villages are easily walkable. However, it can be a bit confusing due to the winding streets.
Mykonos is particularly well known for being an easily walkable island, and Mykonos Town has banned motor vehicles, making it essential for visitors there to walk or cycle.
When traveling across the islands, however, it’s best to use a taxi, as parking is not widely available around the popular attractions. That said, if you’re planning on staying in a remote area at a villa or self-catering accommodation, then it’s advised to get a rental car. This way you’ll be able to get around the island with ease.
If you’re staying in Santorini and renting a car isn’t an option, then the best way of getting around is by bus. These buses connect the different towns and ports between Fira and other destinations across the island. Mykonos also offers an effective and affordable bus service that connects the towns and major tourist attractions.
Santorini vs. Mykonos: For Families
If you’re looking to book a family getaway, Santorini is typically the best choice.
This is because Mykonos is popular with younger people who enjoy partying, and the lively atmosphere and busy bars can be a little much for family vacations, especially for people visiting with younger children.
Santorini on the other hand has great things to see and do that can be engaging for the whole family plus a range of family-friendly accommodations including great all-inclusive resorts.
Still, having trouble choosing between Santorini and Mykonos? You may want to talk to a Greek travel expert to get advice on which one is best for you.