Mykonos or Santorini? When anyone talks about the Greek islands, we think of the iconic whitewashed houses with the bright doors and shutters, the bright white churches with the blue domes, the winding paved paths, and the gorgeous views over the sun-kissed slopes overlooking the deep blue of the Aegean Sea. In essence, we are thinking of these two islands!
That’s right: those stunningly beautiful photos on postcards and travel agent posters that illustrate glimpses of a Mediterranean paradise are mostly from these two incredibly famous and internationally popular islands.
And now you are in the lucky position of having to decide which of the two to go to! Santorini or Mykonos? The choice may be tough but at least you can be certain that regardless of your choice, you are in for an unforgettable time!
Both Mykonos and Santorini (Thera) are part of the Cyclades, an island cluster roughly in the middle of the Aegean and relatively close to Athens. Both islands are massively popular with tourists and boast beauty, good hospitality, good food, and a lot of folklore.
But which one is the best for you and the vacations you’re looking to have?
This comparative guide will give you a general idea of what to expect of either island so you can make a more informed decision and get started on planning your amazing time there!
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- Mykonos vs Santorini. Which one to choose?
- Mykonos Overview
- Santorini (Thera) Overview
- Mykonos vs. Santorini: Which is easier to go to?
- Mykonos or Santorini: Which has the best views?
- Mykonos vs. Santorini: Which has the better beaches?
- Mykonos or Santorini: Which has the better sights?
- Mykonos vs. Santorini: Which has the better bars and nightlife?
- Mykonos or Santorini: Which has the better shopping?
- Mykonos vs. Santorini: Which is the best for a honeymoon?
- Mykonos vs. Santorini: Which has the better sunsets?
- Mykonos vs. Santorini: All in all which is the best?
Mykonos vs Santorini. Which one to choose?
Situated roughly in the center of the Cyclades, Mykonos is very well known for its cosmopolitan flair and extremely vibrant, high-profile nightlife. So much so that it is known as “Greece’s Ibiza”!
Mykonos manages to balance the cosmopolitan with the traditional and picturesque, with gorgeous sunsets to be enjoyed at the famous “Little Venice” of the island’s Chora (which is the capital town), its famous windmills, and a lot more sights to enjoy in its various villages.
The island is very LGBTQ+ friendly and as such as gained a lot of popularity as LGBTQ+ people feel welcomed and at home. There are also a lot of shops for all budgets.
At Mykonos, the nightlife is central as well as fine dining with stylish restaurants of international renown. At the same time, all of these luxurious cafés and restaurants or bistros blend perfectly with the local traditional look and architecture, making for a unique experience for everyone who visits.
Mykonos also boasts beautiful and extremely clean beaches where you can do water sports, pamper yourself with amenities, and even plan some island-hopping around the neighboring Cycladic islands!
Santorini (Thera) Overview
Santorini is in the southern part of the Cyclades and is the most famous of the Cycladic volcanic islands. Its caldera offers amazing views of the entire island and serves as a reminder of the devastation that irrevocably undermined the Minoan Civilization during the Bronze Age of Ancient Greece.
Santorini is very cosmopolitan and offers itself as the setting for dream weddings: the picturesque, blue-domed churches with the whitewashed, paved yards and background of one of the world’s most gorgeous sunsets, it’s no wonder couples line up to get married there!
At Santorini, there is a bit of everything: luxurious and cosmopolitan lifestyle, great nightlife, tremendously important and beautiful archaeological sites, amazing sweeping views of the island, and iconic beaches you won’t find anywhere else, with black or deep red sand.
Santorini is famous for its breathtakingly beautiful sunsets, and there are many spots to enjoy them from along with gorgeous views while you taste the local wine. Because yes, Santorini is also famous for its winemaking.
You might want to check out my Santorini guides:
How many days should you stay in Santorini?
One day in Santorini
Two days in Santorini
Four days in Santorini
Santorini on a budget
The best villages to visit in Santorini
Things to do in Fira, Santorini
Things to do in Oia, Santorini
Islands near Santorini
Mykonos vs. Santorini: Which is easier to go to?
Both Mykonos and Santorini have international airports. That means that you can fly directly to these islands from various European destinations and from anywhere else via a connecting flight. You can also fly to Mykonos or Santorini from Athens or Thessaloniki.
There is also a good connection of both islands via ferry, from Athens, the surrounding Cycladic islands as well as Crete. From Athens the trip to Mykonos is around 4 hours by regular ferry and 2 hours by speed boat or hydrofoil, give or take a half-hour depending which port, Piraeus or Rafina, you leave from.
For Santorini, the ferry trip lasts for about 7 hours from Piraeus port in Athens.
All in all, going to either island is quite the same in terms of ease and comfort.
Click below to check the ferry timetable and book your tickets.
Check out: How to get from Athens to Mykonos.
Mykonos or Santorini: Which has the best views?
Both islands are famous for their wonderful views and settings, like a gorgeous dynamic painting of timelessness and modernity. It can be said that it’s a matter of taste when comparing what views each island has to offer, but let’s try to do it anyway.
Mykonos offers views of long, stretching sandy beaches and the beautiful azure of the Aegean. Especially from Mykonos’ Old Town, you will get a chance to enjoy the entire Mykonos Chora sprawled out at your feet. You can also get wonderful photos from Kyriaki square or certain bars that are strategically situated to allow you to enjoy the sunset against the iconic Mykonos windmills.
Santorini, however, has the most unique panoramic views not only of the island but of the Aegean itself with many of its neighboring Cyclades. From the top of the caldera, you will be able to get amazing shots of the sunset with the entire island lying at your feet.
Especially from the picturesque village of Oia and its castle or the volcano ridge of Nea Kameni, you will get stunning photos of a place unlike any in the world. Santorini yields the traditionally pretty views of the villages to the wildly eerie and even alien world of the volcanic beaches.
Verdict: Santorini has the better views
Mykonos vs. Santorini: Which has the better beaches?
Both islands boast beautiful, iconic sandy or pebble beaches with crystal clear, clean waters. Once more, you are guaranteed to find at least a couple which you will enjoy lounging in and relax or have water sports. However, tastes aside, let’s have a look at what beaches each island has to offer.
Mykonos’ beaches are mostly sandy, very organized, and family-friendly as several are shallow enough to have younglings play in the water. At most Mykonos beaches you will be able to pamper yourself relying on the various amenities and if you are the adventurous type, you will easily find several where you can learn or do water sports, especially windsurfing and kitesurfing.
At most Mykonos beaches you will find that epic beach parties are regularly hosted with a wide range of music and often famous DJs. The best beach in Mykonos is considered the Super Paradise beach, with its fine sand and turquoise waters giving a definitely exotic feel to it.
Santorini’s beaches are also iconic. Due to the island’s volcanic nature, Santorini’s beaches have great diversity in how they look. Some are wildly alien-looking as if you found them while exploring Mars. Others are very much the typical picturesque seaside with pebbly or sandy beaches against the lush blue of the Aegean.
Some of the most famous beaches of Santorini are the black ones, featuring black sand, and the red one, featuring vibrantly red sand due to the volcano. Some of the beaches are organized and family-friendly while others are non-organized.
Bottom line is that it depends on what you are looking for on beaches. If you are looking for the exotically comfortable and family-friendly, Mykonos is for you. If you like unique experiences, then you want Santorini.
On the gorgeous exotic beachfront, however, Mykonos is where it’s at.
Verdict: Mykonos has the better beaches
Mykonos or Santorini: Which has the better sights?
When it comes to sightseeing, both Mykonos and Santorini boast iconic places. Mykonos has the famous “Little Venice” area in its Chora: a beautiful neighborhood of 18th and 19th century houses built literally on the waters, very much influenced by the Italian style of architecture hence its name. Chora itself is extremely picturesque with the bougainvilleas contrasting sharply with the white of the houses and the bright colors of the doors, fences, and shutters.
There are also the famous Mykonos windmills to enjoy and even explore as they are quite well-preserved. There is also a church dating from the 1500s that is a landmark and living historical monument of the island’s history.
Finally, from Mykonos, you can easily get to the uninhabited island of Delos the birthplace of Apollo according to mythology and an impressive UNESCO World Heritage site.
Santorini on the other hand boasts several significant sights that you can’t miss: it is not limited only to the geological history that is dramatically etched in the island’s surface, from Nea Kameni, which was created in medieval times due to volcanic activity, to the famous caldera.
There are also significant historical sights to visit, from the famous Akrotiri settlement dating back from the Bronze Age of Ancient Greece and the Minoan civilization to medieval times with Oia’s castle.
At the Akrotiri site, you will find the “Greek Pompeii” as the entire ancient town was covered in volcanic ash and thus was perfectly preserved. You will see gorgeous ancient frescoes and see many rooms just as they had been when their inhabitants abandoned them several millennia ago.
You can also explore Santorini’s various gorgeous villages such as Oia, Pyrgos, and Fyra and even hike to its rocky summit, Profitis Ilias. Santorini’s Archaeological museums are also must-see.
All in all, Santorini is the one that has the most to see, though both islands have places to explore.
Verdict: Santorini has the better sights
Mykonos vs. Santorini: Which has the better bars and nightlife?
Both islands are considered the most cosmopolitan of the Cyclades and are internationally renowned for their bars, fine dining restaurants, and traditional tavernas. So whichever you choose you won’t be disappointed.
However, which one wins a comparison?
Mykonos is the queen of nightlife: its beach parties are the stuff of legend. Beach bars, too, are known for their famous guest DJs and the great happenings. Entertainment in Mykonos is also for all budgets, from the extremely expensive to the affordable.
There are several nightclubs with very iconic styles and a variety of music, and all-day bars that turn into nightclubs after sunset, so you can start by enjoying your espresso there and end up dancing with a cocktail in hand.
Mykonos also boasts LGBTQ+ friendly or dedicated bars and beach bars and completely supports LGBTQ+ culture.
Santorini is a lot more laid-back in terms of nightlife. At Santorini, you will find a lot more restaurants, bistros, and cafés compared to high-octane, crazy-party nightclubs. Santorini is a lot quieter than Mykonos and has a generally classier, calmer vibe.
Its bars, too, tend to be more about relaxing and enjoying top-quality cocktails. That isn’t to say there is no nightlife. Santorini boasts several nightclubs at Fira, Perissa, and Kamari.
All in all, you won’t be disappointed in terms of nightlife on either island, but Mykonos is the one with the greatest variety and versatility if you want to dance the night away!
Verdict: Mykonos has the better nightlife
Mykonos or Santorini: Which has the better shopping?
Both islands are known as Cycladic meccas of fashion and high-end shopping. Internationally the rich and famous are known to go to both islands and shop for anything from jewelry to clothes and footwear.
There are no shopping malls that would disrupt the iconic architecture of the islands, but there are dedicated streets lined with various boutiques and shops for you to window shop to your heart’s delight.
Santorini has most of its shops clustered in Oia and Fira. Alongside the latest fashions, you will also find artwork and items of beautiful craftsmanship, food, and other souvenirs to take home with you.
Mykonos though is the one best known for attracting the jet-set people for their vacation, island hopping. So much so that it has been on occasion called “a shopping paradise”! You will find everything from the latest international trends in fashion and accessories to art, crafts, souvenirs, and traditional items everywhere in Chora, so instead of simply going to just one street, you should explore and find little gems of shops for all budgets.
Verdict: Mykonos has the better shopping
Mykonos vs. Santorini: Which is the best for a honeymoon?
Just like Mykonos is the queen of nightlife, Santorini is the queen of weddings and honeymoons.
Scattered all over Santorini are innumerable romantic spots. The perfect sunsets make for unforgettable moments with your true love. If you choose to marry as well as spend your honeymoon in Santorini, you will get the storybook-type wedding of marrying in a blue-domed chapel and then relaxing in one of the several classy hotels with many private suites that Santorini has to offer.
The restaurants, cafés, and bars also are geared to cater to romantic couples, which is perfect for newlyweds.
Mykonos, too, can give you a wonderful honeymoon, but it is not as geared to romantic couples as Santorini is, with its highly energetic partying and loud frenzied nights creating a slightly different atmosphere than what most newlyweds may be looking for.
Verdict: Santorini is the best for a honeymoon
Mykonos vs. Santorini: Which has the better sunsets?
Mykonos is famous for its sunsets at Little Venice or under the big sails of the windmills. There are several bars with yards that are strategically placed so you can enjoy your cocktail as the sun sets overlooking the entire island. You won’t be disappointed with Mykonos’ beautiful sunsets.
However, Santorini is the queen, with its sunsets considered some of the best in the world. Whether you enjoy the sunset from the caldera, from Oia’s castle, or from any other ledge in its picturesque villages, the sunset at Santorini will take your breath away.
Make sure you enjoy it several times from different locations on the island, including at the terrace of a fancy all-day bar or restaurant!
Verdict: Santorini has the better sunsets
Mykonos vs. Santorini: All in all which is the best?
While Santorini wins in most of this guide’s comparisons, it really depends on what you are looking for in your vacations.
If you are looking for a few days of constant partying, lounging at beaches pampering yourself, and good food and top-tier shopping, then Mykonos is the one for you.
If you want more variety, more capacity for sightseeing, diversity in beaches as well as the cosmopolitan and high-class flair of the internationally famous, then Santorini is a better bet. It is also better for visiting around the year since in Mykonos most of the nightclubs and bars close after the high season.
Keep in mind that both islands get great crowds of tourists, especially in the months of July and August, and it might become harder to enjoy certain activities or sites packed together with several other people. Opt for May and June or September and October if you want a break from the crowds!
Whatever you choose, whenever you choose to go, it is a fact that you are in for a treat!