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Mykonos vs. Santorini: Which Greek Island Is Better for You?

The Cyclades islands of Santorini and Mykonos are two of the most famous Greek islands. Both offer direct flights or ferries from Athens, stunning views, and scenic beaches. So, how do you choose between the two if you’re short on time? 

As someone who’s spent a significant amount of time on both islands, I’ll be your expert guide. Whether it’s the nightlife and sandy beaches in Mykonos or the dramatic sunsets and ancient history in Santorini, I’ll dive deep into the pros and cons Mykonos vs. Santorini.

Hopefully, you’ll then be able to answer the question: is Mykonos or Santorini better for you? Nonetheless, if you’re still unable to decide, don’t fret! At the end of this article, I’ll review the best way to visit both islands in one trip, including ferry details and recommended itineraries.

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission when you book an activity or reservation through these links at no extra cost to you.

The beaches are better in Mykonos than in Santorini.

Red Beach in Santorini, showing red colored sand on the beach surrounded by red cliffs and the oceanWhen comparing the beaches in Mykonos vs. Santorini, you’ll find that the beaches in Santorini have more unique landscapes. Notably, Red Beach near Akrotiri boasts crimson-hued sand, a testament to the island’s volcanic history.

Additionally, Santorini’s southeast coast is home to popular black sand beaches like Kamari, Perissa, and Perivolos. Nonetheless, it’s essential to note that Santorini’s beaches primarily feature volcanic pebbles rather than traditional sand.

Perissa Beach in Santorini, a black sand beach made up of pebbles with sunbeds for rentalAs you can imagine, this type of sand borders on uncomfortable compared to your typical golden sand beaches. Moreover, the dark pebbles heat up in the sun, making water shoes a must-bring item on your Greece packing list.

Accessibility is also a factor, with White Beach reachable only by boat and Red Beach requiring a short hike along the caldera, though it’s now deemed unsafe due to landslides. Considering these factors, Mykonos is the better choice for a family beach vacation.

Ornos Beach on the island of Mykonos, Greece, with crystal clear waters and sunbeds lining the shoreline.Platis Gialos is our top pick on this Greek island! Just three miles (5 km) from Mykonos Town, this beautiful beach features crystal clear water perfect for swimming and lots of beach bars and restaurants. Other top Mykonos beaches to visit include Ornos Beach, Psarou Beach, and Paraga Beach.

Note that neither Santorini nor Mykonos is thought to have the most beautiful beaches in the Cyclades. Better options include the neighboring islands of Naxos, Paros, Ios, and Milos.

Santorini is more popular for honeymoons and romantic getaways.

View of the three blue domes in Santorini, GreeceSantorini is the epitome of an iconic Greek honeymoon destination, with its breathtaking sunset views over the caldera and luxurious five-star hotels. Undoubtedly one of the most romantic places in Greece, this island offers activities for couples like sunset cruises and wine-tasting tours.

For example, we suggest this Santorini sunset luxury catamaran cruise, which includes delicious Greek barbecue and unlimited soft drinks, beer, and local wine.

Wine tasting at sunset at Venetsanos Winery on Santorini, showing wine glasses on table along with cheese samplesIf you’d like to learn more about the island’s wine production, take this small group Santorini wine tasting and tour. Another romantic idea is to book a photographer to take pictures of you with the iconic whitewashed buildings. 

We feel this island–and especially the village of Oia–is best appreciated if you can splurge on Santorini hotels with private pools. Our top suggestions are boutique hotels like Canaves Oia Suites & Spa, Grace Hotel (Imerovigli), and Athina Luxury Suites (Fira).

View of open-air jetted tub and sea view outside of a junior suite at Katikies Mykonos in Greece.Mykonos can also be romantic with a bit of effort. For example, make a dinner reservation in Little Venice at Kastro’s Restaurant, Katerina’s Restaurant & Cocktail Bar, and Nice n Easy. Another idea is to take a catamaran tour at sunset!

For an unforgettable honeymoon in Mykonos, explore exceptional hotel options such as Katikies Mykonos, Bill & Coo Suites & Lounge, and Cavo Tagoo Mykonos.

The nightlife and partying are better in Mykonos.

View of Super Paradise Beach on Mykonos, showing umbrellas and day beds along the beachFrequently likened to Spain’s Ibiza, Mykonos is globally renowned for its vibrant party scene and welcoming atmosphere for the LGBTQ+ community. The island features numerous beach clubs and a string of nightclubs in the main town.

Plus, meeting people here is easy, making Mykonos one of the best Greek islands for solo travel. Regarding Mykonos beach clubs, Super Paradise Beach is home to two of the most famous: Jackie O’s and Super Paradise Beach Club. 

Jackie O's Beach Club on Super Paradise Beach in Mykonos, Greece, showing the pool and sunbeds belonging to the clubMeanwhile, Super Paradise Beach Club is famous for its nightly DJ sets and its restaurant featuring yummy Mediterranean cuisine. However, our favorite beach club on the island has to be Scorpios Mykonos (Paraga Beach), famous for its bohemian ambiance and sunset ritual.

Other top contenders include Cavo Paradiso (Paradise Beach), a major nightclub that hosts international DJs, and Alemagou (Ftelia Beach), an upscale boho club where you can lounge during the day and dance the night away after sunset.

View of the outside of Negrita Bar, showing pink flowers decorating the entrance.For those looking to party in Mykonos Town, there are all sorts of clubs and bars near Little Venice. For example, visitor favorites include Scarpa Bar, Queen of Mykonos, Negrita, and Skandinavian Bar.

While Mykonos is known for a more wild type of partying, Santorini is probably best for those who enjoy sipping on wine with a view. For example, PK Cocktail Bar and Franco’s Bar are lovely places to grab a cocktail and watch the sunset over the caldera in Fira.

There’s one main traditional town in Mykonos, while Santorini is home to various picturesque villages.

A view of Little Venice in the traditional Greek village of Mykonos Town or Chora, showing white table lining the shoreline and whitewashed buildingsWhen picturing the most beautiful Greek Islands, the iconic image of whitewashed homes with blue shutters comes to mind. In Mykonos, this charm is primarily found in Mykonos Town (also known as “Chora”).

Little Venice and Mykonos’ old town are home to trendy restaurants, boutiques, and souvenir shops. Although this area is undoubtedly picturesque, it can be a bummer that the island doesn’t have more of these villages to explore.

View of the village of Oia in Santorini, Greece, showing whitewashed buildings along a cliffsideIn contrast, Santorini boasts several traditional Cycladic towns, with Oia and Fira (also known as “Thera”) being the main two. Oia, situated on the northwestern edge along a cliff, is arguably the most renowned and photographed village, offering spectacular caldera views.

Fira, larger than Oia, houses the majority of luxury hotels on the island. In Fira, you can enjoy activities like watching the sunset from a local bar, shopping for Greek souvenirs, and walking the path connecting Fira to Oia.

Santorini offers more day trips, but Mykonos is near Delos.

Boats docked along the coast of Nea Kameni, a volcanic island near Santorini. Santorini offers more day trip options than Mykonos. Popular spots include neighboring islands of Ios and Thirassia, and cruising the beautiful caldera (flooded volcanic crater) during the day or at sunset.

However, our favorite day trips are to the nearby volcanic islands: Nea Kameni and Palea Kameni. In fact, you can even swim in volcanic hot springs on Palea Kameni! Just remember to wear a dark-colored bathing suit, because the red tint of the water will stain your clothes.

The archaeological ruins on Delos island near Mykonos in Greece, showing the Pantheon and surrounding ruinsThe top day trip from Mykonos is Delos Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece. For history enthusiasts, the chance to visit the mythological birthplace of Apollo and Artemis could be a decisive factor.

Delos is approximately two nautical miles from Mykonos, with a quick 30-minute ferry ride. If you’d prefer to take a guided tour, we recommend the following: Delos Guided Tour with Skip-the-Line Tickets. When visiting, make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and plenty of sunscreen.

Mykonos and Santorini are both expensive but can be done cheaper.

View of the famous windmills in Mykonos as seen from Little Venice.Mykonos and Santorini are among the priciest Greek islands. Yet, from our experience, both can be budget-friendly depending on your choice of accommodations, food, and activities.

For Mykonos, where beaches are the primary draw, consider renting a car or scooter to explore affordably. You can also save by buying groceries and packing your own lunch or snacks.

A local café in Mykonos Town in Greece, with white walls and blue shudders, advertising crepes and other foods.To save on food in Mykonos Town, walk away from the harbor into the village for more affordable local options. For example, you can grab gyros at Saki’s Grill House or Local Mykonos.

While you can make your visit more budget-friendly, be honest about your goals. Bear in mind that if shopping and partying are priorities for you, Mykonos may be more expensive than Santorini.

An aerial view of Perissa Beach, a black sand beach on the island of Santorini, GreeceIn Santorini, opt for budget-friendly choices by staying on the south side near the black sand beaches instead of Oia or Fira. Additionally, save on transportation by using the public bus system or renting a scooter.

For activities, focus on free options like the 6.5-mile (10.5 km) hiking trail from Fira to Oia. Other cheap attractions include the black sand beaches, watching the sunset, or climbing to the top of Skaros Rock.

Santorini has better sunsets.

A beautiful sunset in Oia, Santorini, showing all of the whitewashed buildingsOne of Santorini’s most popular activities is watching the sunset. Oia Castle provides a legendary view with whitewashed houses and a stunning panorama over the Aegean Sea. Or, for a quieter option, Skaros Rock near Imerovigli is off the beaten track.

If you’re visiting the beaches along Santorini’s southern coast, catch the sunset from Akrotiri Lighthouse. For a more relaxed experience, make a reservation at Santo Winery or Venetsanos Winery to sample local wines with a view of the sunset over the caldera.

Sunset from 180° Sunset Bar in Mykonos, Greece, showing people sitting at tables and gathered around the bar with a view of sunset in the distance.In Mykonos, enjoy beautiful sunset views by making a dinner reservation at a restaurant in Little Venice along the water, such as Kastro’s Restaurant or Katerina’s Restaurant. Negrita Bar is a good choice for cocktails!

For the best view of the sunset in Mykonos, you won’t want to miss 180º Sunset Bar. Although pricey, it’s totally worth the splurge! Consider making a reservation with a minimum spend, or for budget-friendly options, arrive right when they open and find a seat in the non-reserved areas.

Mykonos has fewer stairs and hills.

View of whitewashed shops in Mykonos Town, surrounded by pink Bougainvillea treesMykonos and Santorini present challenges for travelers with limited mobility due to cobblestone streets, hills, and crowds. However, while exploring Mykonos Town, you may notice that it’s relatively flat compared to Oia or Fira in Santorini.

In general, Santorini is not the most disabled-friendly destination. Unfortunately, many of its traditional villages are located on steep terrain and feature narrow streets. Plus, thanks to the island’s geographical location along the caldera, Fira and Oia are built on top of cliffs.

While some southern beach areas in Santorini are flatter, the main attractions are on the north side. With this in mind, Mykonos may be a better fit for seniors or people with disabilities.

Santorini is slightly more family-friendly.

A family walking the streets of the traditional village of Emporio on the island of Santorini, Greece.For a family vacation to Greece, we’d actually choose the neighboring islands of Naxos or Paros! Overall, you’ll notice that both Santorini and Mykonos cater to more of an adult population.

For example, some of the top things to do in Santorini are visit wineries and dine at upscale restaurants. On the other hand, Mykonos is world famous for its beach clubs and summer party atmosphere.

A cute bookshop on the island of Santorini, with a cat sitting on its steps.However, Santorini offers a slower pace, while Mykonos is rowdier and and attracts a party-going crowd. Of course, we’d argue that both destinations can be family-friendly with the proper research.

Nonetheless, Santorini provides more kid-friendly activities, such as Open Air Cinema Kamari, the Lost Atlantis Experience, black sand beaches, and horseback riding. Another fun idea is to book a boat tour to the volcanic hot springs on Palea Kameni!

Sunset at the famous windmills on the island of Mykonos, Greece.For a family beach vacation in Greece, Mykonos is the better option. Unlike Santorini, where most beaches are very pebbly, Mykonos offers sandy shores perfect for playing and making sandcastles.

Top family activities in Mykonos include exploring Mykonos Town, watching the sunset in Little Venice, and checking out the windmills. Of course, beaches like Platis Gialos Beach, Agios Ioannis Beach, and Agios Stefanos Beach are another big draw. 

Water sports are slightly better in Mykonos.

Woman snorkeling at Platis Gialos Beach in Mykonos, Greece.Both Santorini and Mykonos offer plenty of options for watersports. For example, on both islands, you can find beaches with windsurfing, kitesurfing, jet-skiing, kayaking, snorkeling, and scuba diving. However, we would argue that Mykonos has a slight advantage.

Both Santorini and Mykonos offer various watersports, including windsurfing, kitesurfing, jet-skiing, kayaking, snorkeling, and scuba diving. Nonetheless, in Mykonos, you can snorkel at popular beaches, while Santorini is less suitable for shore snorkeling.

Both Santorini and Mykonos offer exciting scuba diving opportunities, including wreck diving. In Mykonos, the Anna II shipwreck is a popular site at a depth of around 82 feet (25 m), along with the Peloponisos Shipwreck and Lia Beach.

In Santorini, the trendiest spot is a short boat ride away on Nea Kameni, featuring three wrecks: the Santa Maria, at 59 feet (18 m), a WWII boat at 42.7 feet (13 m), and the Tugboat at 98.4 feet (30 m). For beginner divers, Kamari Beach is another good option.

A group of windsurfers in the water on a beach in Mykonos, Greece.For windsurfing or kitesurfing in Mykonos–fittingly known as “The Island of the Winds”–try Korfos Beach, Kalafatis Beach, or Ftelia Beach. In Santorini, head to Nemely Windsurf and SUP Center on Avis Beach for windsurfing and Santorini Kite on Monolithos Beach for kitesurfing.

The tourism season is slightly longer in Santorini.

Aerial view of Mykonos Town during the summertime in Greece.Mykonos is best visited between late May and early October, known for its golden sand beaches and beach clubs. Outside these warmer months, there’s not much to do during the low or shoulder seasons, making it advisable to avoid visiting Mykonos.

On the other hand, Santorini’s tourist season starts around Greek Orthodox Easter (April) and lasts until late October or early November. It’s generally recommended to avoid Santorini from mid-November to mid-March, as many businesses close during this period.

Traditional windmill in the Greek village of Oia on Santorini island.Santorini has a slightly longer tourist season than Mykonos, providing more flexibility in trip timing. Both islands have high seasons from June to September, with shoulder seasons in April to early May and late October to early November.

To avoid experiencing overtourism, consider visiting during shoulder seasons when off-season activities are available. You also don’t want to rule out visiting Santorini in the winter as a budget-friendly option!

In fact, the most popular attractions here are open year-round. For example, you can watch the sunset over Oia, visit a winery, hike from Fira to Oia, or check out the Akrotiri Archaeological Site no matter the time of year.

Can’t choose? Visit both Mykonos and Santorini!

White buildings with blue doors in Santorini surrounded by blooming flowers.If you have one week, both of these famous islands are worth visiting. We recommend spending three nights/four days in Mykonos and four nights/five days in Santorini. Or, if you have less time, we suggest a minimum of two days in Santorini or Mykonos.

With less than a week in Greece, we typically like to focus on Athens and just one island. We do NOT recommend taking a day trip from Mykonos to Santorini or vice-versa. One day isn’t enough time!

Taking the ferry: Santorini or Mykonos first?

Blue Star Ferry traveling on the ocean in GreeceWe suggest traveling to Mykonos first for those who prefer to take a ferry from Athens to the islands. The high-speed ferry takes just under three hours, saving an hour compared to the fastest ferry from Athens to Santorini.

Book your tickets in advance on Ferry Hopper, with popular companies like Seajets, Fast Ferries, and Blue Star Ferries. Standard ferry prices are around 38€, while high-speed ferries start at approximately 70€ per person.

Upon arriving at Mykonos New Port, a 15-minute drive from Mykonos Town, use the Sea Bus, public bus, or book a private transfer with your hotel. To head to Santorini after Mykonos, choose between flying or taking another ferry.

The ferry route is typically active from April to October, with four daily crossings during the high season. The ferry journey between the two islands takes 2-3 hours, depending on the vessel and weather conditions.

The Athinios Port in Santorini is a 40-minute drive to Oia or 20 minutes from Fira. The best option to reach your hotel from the ferry port is to arrange a private transfer with your hotel.

Flying into Santorini or Mykonos

Aegean plane at the Santorini Airport in GreeceThere are no non-stop flights from the United States to Mykonos or Santorini. So, you’ll have a short layover in Athens before reaching either island. Flights from Athens to Mykonos take 45 minutes, and to Santorini, 55 minutes–significantly faster than the ferry.

The Mykonos Airport is a 10-minute drive from Mykonos Town, while Santorini Airport is a 25-minute drive from Oia or 10 minutes from Fira. After visiting the first island on your itinerary, you can fly again to reach the second island of choice. 

Just remember that there are no direct flights between Mykonos and Santorini. So, you’ll have to fly back into Athens to connect, which is actually often still faster than taking the ferry (famous for delays).

With extra time, consider island hopping to Crete, Paros, or Naxos. All you have to do is make sure you get back to Athens–whether you fly or take a ferry–so you can catch your flight home.

Need more tips? Check out these Greece travel guides!

The Best Things to Do in Paros, Greece 

The Most Popular Beaches in Paros, Greece

Famous Sayings About Greece

The Best Books About Greece

The Best Islands in Greece in October

10-Day Trip to Greece Itinerary

The Best Things to Do in Naxos, Greece

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Are you trying to decide between a trip to Mykonos or Santorini for your first visit to the Greek Islands? With so much going on in each destination, it can be tough to choose which one is the best fit for you! To help make sense of it all, we've assembled an insider's guide comparing Mykonos and Santorini. With helpful tips on everything from the beaches and food scenes to attractions, nightlife and more, this post has all the info you need before booking your dream holiday getaway.

This article was first published in January 2023 and has since been updated.

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Sunday 27th of August 2023

Mykonos is by far the best place we have visited, then Athens let us Santorini. It’s more diverse in places your family can go. Food, shopping, beaches and more . I love it. We met some locals during our trip and we continued to be friends in social media. Very low key beautiful people, polite and caring. I don’t mind going back to Greece and experiencing different islands. Love, love, love Mykonos is the best selection.

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