Rhodes vs Santorini
Before we can even begin to debate the merits of Rhodes vs Santorini, we need to have a little chat about idyllic, white-washed villages, incredible sunsets and stunning sea views. Clichés, the lot of them. But, crucially, found in abundance on either isle. Which doesn’t, at this stage, help you with your debate – but does give you an idea of the kind of Greek holiday you’re in for.
Rhodes is a pretty good shout for active types who want a lot of options. But Santorini’s looking a little more sedate. Though, it’s been wooing honeymooners and cruise passengers with its quaint cobbles and cliff top views for decades now. Flight times don’t come into the mix – with only a 10 minute difference between the two, you’ll not be trapped in a Greek odyssey either way. With both islands still in the running, let’s delve into some details.
Food always stirs up an emotional response. Whether you’ll reminisce longingly about either island’s cuisine is very much down to your own personal taste. Santorini does a rather nice line in gourmet wine tasting experiences – and Rhodes wins hands down on sheer choice of budget-friendly places. But being a larger island shouldn’t automatically win it the cuisine crown. There are no Michelin stars to tally, but we can drill down into some degustation details.
First up, plant-based people may have to do a little foraging for vegan food in Rhodes. There are no fully plant-based restaurants, and you may want to brace yourself for a choice of falafel or, well, falafel. Santorini does have one vegan establishment and restaurants here generally happy to tweak their dishes for you. Vegetarians – you’ll be just fine. Both islands aren’t short of veggie haunts to hang out at. Fine dining foodies, your island is Santorini. This is their speciality – and the locations are almost always trying to outshine the food.
There’s no getting away from it. Classic beach lovers may find Santorini a smidge disappointing. Yes, the waters are warm and inviting, but the black volcanic sands heat up to unbearable levels in summer. Though, Santorini’s beaches are diverse. Red and black sands – unique topography and some that are only accessible by boat. Throw in the natural thermal springs from the volcano and Santorini starts to win over beach explorers – rather than sunbathers.
Serious sun worshippers, Rhodes is for you. Take your pick from 42 beaches ranging from secluded and calming to bustling family beaches and watersports meccas. But the sea shenanigans don’t stop there. Rhodes also pips snorkelling in Santorini to the post in the shallows. And, as if this coastal face off couldn’t get any more one-sided, Rhodes puts Santorini’s sea life to shame.
In the market for a serotonin boosting sunset? You’ll fare well on both islands. Sunset cruises are popular, though free perches are easily found. Fair warning: the best sunset viewing spots always get crowded on Santorini. If you’re planning a romantic sunset meal – always book and specify a table with ‘the view’.
Of course, it’s not all about the sunsets. Santorini does have some stunning sights – Oia is a town you’ll instantly recognise, even if you’ve never heard of it. The white-washed buildings built into the cliff are Santorini’s calling card. And, across the island, the landscape is very similar. Though the caldera is a view we’ll never tire of. Rhodes is a very different beast. Views are equally wowing – if slightly more diverse. Yes, you’ll still spot the quintessential white-washed buildings, but they can’t quite match Oia for old world charm. Rhodes’ beauty lies in its medieval town and colourful coast.
Santorini has a secret up its dreamy island sleeves. It’s quite the nightlife hotspot. But before you flee for calmer pastures, there are plenty of chilled bars, wine tasting tours, live music and sunset cocktail bars to keep your Santorini bliss vibe going until bedtime. A handful of festivals keep the summer season feeling lively. Though, on Santorini we’re talking culture and jazz rather than anything too rowdy. The petite and coastal outdoor cinema particularly charmed our silver screen-loving hearts.
Rhodes is, of course, home to Faliraki, who needs no introduction here. So there’s a club scene if you’re here to party. But you’ll not be bothered by it if you’re looking for sophisticated nights spent savouring an artisanal Muscat Blanc. With over 500 bars to choose from, you’ll not go thirsty in Rhodes. Their festival calendar is also more extensive than Santorini – but again, they tend towards religious feasts and cultural celebrations. The secret to enjoying nightlife in Rhodes? An early start. If you’re in a venue after midnight, you’re amongst the island’s serious party scene.
Winner: Rhodes and Santorini
Unique experiences to each island
Santorini’s menu of unique activities is diverse. We’re suitably wowed by the scuba dive along a volcano rim. And it’s not every day you get to poke around a Bronze Age settlement perfectly preserved by a volcano eruption. Think Greece’s answer to Pompeii and you’re halfway there. Santorini also happens to be home Atlantis Bookshop, one of the world’s most celebrated book stores. Worth popping in for a holiday page turner. Now, we’re not huge fans of the phrase ‘step back in time’ – but for Santorini it just fits. You can nip over to neighbouring Thirasia to see what Santorini may have been like – had all the visitors not pitched up.
Rhodes has plenty of activities, but unique pursuits? Not so much. There’s the Bee Museum – charting Greece’s fondness for bees all the way back to 5500 B.C. And then there’s the Tsambika Monastery. Quite the complex character this one. Rumour has it, this is the place to go if you’re looking to ramp up your fertility. That, the steep climb or the slightly creepy doll collection may put you off visiting – but the views from the top are worth it.
If you’re keeping an eye on your holiday budget, Rhodes is the island to relax on. Is Santorini expensive? As always, it depends on how you like to holiday. Yes, there are some free activity options, but as an island that caters largely to cruise ship cash flow, you’ll find almost everything worth doing has been priced accordingly. Yes, you can do Santorini on a budget – but your Euro will go so much further in Rhodes.
Rhodes vs Santorini: our verdict
Both islands are winners in our eyes. But if we had to pick just one, Santorini narrowly sneaks past the post. You’ll not be bored here, but it’s also a place where – because there’s not a vast choice of ‘must sees’ – you can just relax. Pottering through the narrow streets of Oia, you’ll never feel an ounce of FOMO. In Rhodes, you could just be tempted to trot from one activity to the next. Though, if you’re in the market for an on the go holiday, it’s ideal.
Still pondering the pros and pros of a Rhodes or Santorini holiday? Pop the Orbzii app on your phone to start dreaming, planning and booking your way to either island. Or both…