What's it really like?
Santorini is known as one of the most romantic destinations in the world, famous for its glorious sunsets, white-domed cliffside villages, and breathtaking landscapes. It’s quite simply one of the most beautiful places in Southern Europe, and there is perhaps nowhere better for a romantic getaway.
In the past few years, Santorini has also become a playground for the rich and famous, from Instagram influencers to Hollywood stars. This means there is an abundance of amazing bars, clubs, and restaurants to be found in its main towns of Fira and Oia – although you should be ready to burn some cash to join in the fun.
For budget travelers, there are more low-key bars and tavernas to enjoy, as well as spectacular nature hikes, quiet remote beaches, and unique archeology. Just make sure to book accommodation well in advance, especially if you are planning to be there in the summer peak season.
In Santorini, both gay and straight visitors are welcomed with open arms. However, there is not a gay scene on the island. It’s a wonderful place to come with a loved one or even with friends, but if you’re looking to meet your new Greek fling then you’re better off heading to Mykonos. The great thing about traveling in Greece is that this is fairly easy to do. Spend a few days enjoying the beauty and luxury lifestyle of Santorini, then take a ferry to Mykonos for gay partying – it’s the best of both worlds.
On Santorini, it’s all about the caldera views. The island was once home to one of the largest volcanic eruptions in history, which created its unique shape. Tall cliffs line the edge of the main island, encircling the caldera (lagoon) formed by the volcano. The sunset over the Santorini caldera is one of the most famous in the world, and people from all over flock to see it. Hotels have wised up to this, so most hotels offer private terraces with sunset views – that said, look out for those with extra perks, like outdoor jacuzzis and hot tubs facing the view, for something truly special
Greece is one of the most progressive countries in Southeast Europe when it comes to gay rights. Same-sex sexual activity has been legal since 1951, gay marriage since 2015, and its hate speech and hate crime legislation is among the most comprehensive in all of Europe.
The country is a popular LGBT destination thanks to famous gay island getaways like Mykonos and Lesbos (for the ladies). This has helped create a welcoming environment for gay visitors throughout the country, especially on these islands and in large cities like Athens.
Santorini isn’t as gay as Mykonos, but it’s still an island that depends almost exclusively on tourism, so gay lovebirds are just as welcome as straight ones. All hotels are gay-friendly and you are unlikely to attract any attention with public displays of affection.
There are no testing clinics on Santorini. Public healthcare in Greece can be overcrowded and inefficient, so most tourists use private clinics. These can be quite expensive, so you could consider waiting until you reach somewhere where free tests are available. If this is not an option, Mykonos Medical is a highly rated private clinic on the island which offers HIV and other STD tests on Mykonos.
If you’re going to be stopping in Athens or Thessaloniki during your trip, you can use the free and confidential testing service offered by Checkpoint, which includes HIV and Hepatitis B and C tests. The Athens branch is located in Monastiraki, close to several gay-friendly hotels and gay bars. Opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 12:00 to 20:00. The Thessaloniki branch is open at different hours in the afternoon, every day except for Saturday. You can book an appointment online or by calling (+30) 210 33 10 400 (Athens) or (+30) 2310 282 284 (Thessaloniki).
Santorini doesn’t have any “official” gay beaches, but there are a few beaches on the island that are known for being gay-friendly and that are popular with gay beachgoers. These also tend to be the quieter, more isolated beaches on Santorini.
Vylchada after 5 PM is as close as Santorini gets to having a gay beach. This picturesque stretch of grey sand, surrounded by unique rock formations, is remote and quiet, yet accessible and organized enough to be convenient. There are a couple of restaurants, loungers for rent, and a small beach concession stand. There is some gay activity going on in the evenings, but it’s not a gay beach per se, so do remember to be discreet if you’re looking to meet someone.
The best way to get to Vylchada is by taxi. A taxi from Fira shouldn’t cost more than 15€. There is also a public bus from Fira to Vylchada village.
As Santorini’s only nudist beach, this is the best spot to hit for those who enjoy naked swimming and sunbathing. It’s one of the quietest beaches on the island and a great place to get away from the mass of tourists that flood Santorini in the summer.
Koloumbos is situated on the north coast of the island, not far from Oia. There is no public transport to the beach and there is no infrastructure, either – take a taxi and bring your own food and drinks if you plan to spend the day. A taxi from Fira should cost no more than 30€.
Exomitis is the very tip of the long stretch of black sand that starts at Perissa. Unlike other beaches on this part of the island, Exomitis is not very developed and is thus quiet and relaxed. It is an easy walk to Agios Georgios beach, which does have restaurants and a bar. This makes Exomitis a great compromise between a remote beach and a crowded organized one.
The easiest way to reach Exomitis is by taxi, which shouldn’t cost more than 15€ from Fira.
The easiest way to travel between Mykonos and Santorini is by ferry. The ferry takes about 2.5 hours and there are 4 daily ferries during the peak summer season. Two companies operate this service: Seajet and Hellenic Seaways.
You can buy tickets online in advance, or at the company’s kiosk at the pier. If you’re traveling during the summer, we recommend booking at least a month in advance as ferries do fill up fast. Note that there is no direct ferry service during the winter (November – March).
Flights between the two islands are sometimes available – operators change their schedule every year. However, there isn’t much advantage to flying, as the ferry is cheaper and just as quick once you take security and travel to and from the airport into consideration.
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