Mykonos vs Santorini

Mykonos vs Santorini: how to decide between these two island escapes

Greece has thousands of islands, but two are undeniably the most popular, and it’s easy to see why. Boasting stunning views of the Aegean Sea, iconic architecture, and plenty of sunshine, Santorini and Mykonos are both world-famous vacation spots. Located within the Cyclades, each island has its own distinct features and depending on your time, interests, and budget, you might prefer one over the other.

Not sure whether Santorini or Mykonos is best suited for you? Here’s what you can expect from each island.

For convenience: Both

Both Santorini and Mykonos are easily accessible from the Greek mainland, by either plane or ferry. However, Santorini is slightly farther from Athens compared to Mykonos. While there isn’t much of a difference when it comes to flight times (about 50 minutes from Athens), expect a longer ferry ride to Santorini (5-8 hours).

When it comes to travel within each island, both Santorini and Mykonos have extensive bus networks, and it’s easy to flag a taxi or call an Uber. Shuttles are also available from Santorini International Airport and Mykonos Airport, so you’ll be able to get to your accommodation without much hassle.

For everything from budget to luxury: Mykonos Santorini

As tourist hotspots, it’s no surprise that Mykonos and Santorini are both expensive. When it comes to lodging, a luxury hotel in Mykonos is generally pricier than Santorini’s 5-star hotels; on the other hand, Santorini’s mid-range hotels appear to be more expensive than those in Mykonos. Food and drinks are similarly priced on both islands, though Mykonos seems to have a bigger range, offering everything from pizza by the slice to fine dining.

Still, you don’t have to break the bank to visit Santorini or Mykonos. Most pricey hotels and restaurants are clustered in prime locations like Oia and Paradise Beach, and it’s easy to find more affordable alternatives outside these areas.

Time of year to visit
For year-round activities: Santorini

Santorini sees a regular influx of tourists, with the most crowds in the summer months between June and September. But the island is far from dead in winter; apart from the 15,000 locals who live in Santorini throughout the year, more travelers are recognizing that off-season is a great time to avoid the crowds and enjoy lower prices, and a growing number of hotels and restaurants stay open throughout December to February.

In comparison, Mykonos is generally quiet throughout the year until July and August, when the partying is in full swing. During the low season, there’s a lot less going on, and you won’t be able to enjoy the beach—Mykonos’ main draw—in the cold.

Traveler types
For couples: Santorini

A favorite among honeymooners, Santorini is the epitome of romance. Whether you’re sipping a glass of wine while gazing out at a kaleidoscopic sunset in Oia or exploring a charming fishing village, the beauty of Santorini will make every moment feel cinematic. Best of all, there are a plethora of cave hotels and villas for newlyweds to enjoy some private time together, like Apanemo, a 2022 Travelers’ Choice Best of the Best hotel.

For solo or group travelers: Mykonos

Mykonos caters to a variety of budgets and travelers, so there’s more flexibility when it comes to planning a solo or group trip. It’s also easier to drive in Mykonos compared to Santorini, so you can wander off the beaten track to explore hidden gems around the island. During the day, there are plenty of water sports to entertain everyone, and Mykonos’ buzzing nightlife will guarantee lifelong memories.

For families: Santorini

Santorini is more family-friendly than Mykonos, which can be rowdier at night. Kids will be enthralled by Santorini’s black sand beaches and ancient ruins, and interactive activities like Lost Atlantis Experience or the Open Air Cinema Kamari are sure to be a hit. Pique their interest in geology by joining a volcano and hot springs tour of Santorini Volcano and Palea Kameni, and exploring the island on horseback.

For golden sand: Mykonos

Santorini is an active volcanic region, so its coastlines are covered with pebbly, black sand made up of pumice, volcanic ash, and solidified lava. Perissa Blank Sand Beach and Kamari Beach are stunning, but the coarse, dark sand heats up quickly in the sun, making it uncomfortable to walk around barefoot.

In contrast, Mykonos’ beaches have soft, golden sand, from the iconic Paradise Beach to the lesser-known Fokos Beach. Popular beaches like Paradise and Super Paradise Beach are typically more crowded, with most of the strip taken up by beach clubs like Tropicana Club and the LGBTQ-friendly Jackie O’ Mykonos. For a more private experience, clamber down a rocky path to find the secluded Kapari Beach.

For jaw-dropping vistas: Santorini

It’s hard to find an island as unforgettable as Santorini. As you stand on the caldera’s edge, the sea of blue-domed whitewashed buildings will take your breath away. The jagged cliffs drop sharply to meet the turquoise Aegean Sea, creating a dramatic landscape unlike any other. From the Akrotiri Lighthouse to the Castle of St Nicholas, Santorini is full of Instagram-worthy locations—“flying dress” photoshoots are particularly popular.

For party animals: Mykonos

Known as Greece’s Ibiza, Mykonos’ narrow streets and expansive beaches are dotted with bars and nightclubs. From upscale cocktail bars to open-air dance floors, Mykonos is an island ideal for night owls. The glitzy Nammos has welcomed countless celebrities, including Leonardo di Caprio and Ariana Grande, while Kikis Tavern is a cozy beachside bar frequented by locals. Scorpios Mykonos is famous for its sunset music rituals that revitalize your body and mind.

Food and drinks
For world-class wine: Santorini

Both islands feature many excellent restaurants that overlook the Aegean Sea. For authentic Greek food with a stunning view, we recommend Karavaki Restaurant in Mykonos and Sea View Restaurant Perivolos in Santorini, which were both named 2021 Travelers’ Choice Best of the Best.

Instead, what sets Santorini apart from Mykonos is its wine. Santorini is home to some of Greece’s best wineries and vineyards, such as Santo Winery, Domaine Sigalas, and Gaia Winery, which you can visit on a wine tasting tour.

Why not visit both?

Mykonos and Santorini offer different yet equally exciting experiences, and we highly recommend visiting both islands if possible. Daily ferries run between the two islands, with a ferry ride taking about two to three hours. Direct flights are usually only available from late spring to early fall, and don’t run every day; otherwise, you’ll have to stop over in Athens.

For a fuss-free experience, this 5-day tour includes private transfers, tickets, and accommodation all pre-booked for yo. You can even book and stop by the Archaeological Site of Delos. If you’re short of time, you can even hit as many highlights as possible by booking private tours – shore excursions on Mykonos and on Santorini.

By Amelia Ang

Santorini Tours in Greece