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Unveiling Santorini:
3-Day Itinerary and Best Things to Do

Unveiling Santorini: 3-Day Itinerary and Best Things to Do

Date
24 April 2024

Imagine a place where the sea meets the sky in a symphony of blues, where sun-kissed cliffs cascade down to the sparkling Aegean Sea, and where every sunset paints a new masterpiece. Welcome to Santorini, a gem of the Cyclades, promising more than just a picturesque getaway but a journey into the heart of wonder itself. Below you will find our recommended itinerary if you have three days in Santorini (or two full days). Our suggestions will help you discover the essence and true value of this magnificent island, exploring Santorini with your senses, not just your lenses.

Image after introtext
The Santorinian vine - the so-called "kouloura" technique

In Santorini, the true spirit of discovery lies beyond the well-trodden paths, hidden among quiet cobbled streets, and nestled in secluded corners where the essence of the island whispers stories of ancient times. Here, adventure means sailing into the golden sunset, exploring vineyards perched on volcanic soils, and tasting flavors that tell tales of the sea and sun. Avoid the crowds, skip the lines, and uncover a Santorini that reveals itself only to those who seek to experience its authentic charm and hidden treasures. Step into a world where every moment is crafted to unfold the island’s secrets, allowing you to discover an exclusive paradise that feels like it was meant just for you.

The unique beauty of Santorini

Practical Guide to Santorini

Basic info about the island

The official name of the island is Thera, named after the mythical ruler Theras who settled the island in ancient times. Santorini is a nickname for the island. Many sailors would use as a pinpoint a church dedicated to Santa Eirini, located on the island, and thus, the nickname remained and evolved over the years (Santa Eirini - Santorini). Moreover, Thera and Fira should not be confused. Thera is the official name of the island and Fira is the name of the main town of Thera.

Best time to visit Santorini

Santorini is most captivating from the middle of April through early November, with the Aegean Sea gleaming under the warmth of the sun, and the local businesses are open. While July and August bring a buzz of activity, they also attract large crowds. For a more tranquil and enjoyable experience, the ideal periods to visit Santorini are the middle of April to late May and the middle of September to late October. During those periods, the weather remains delightful, the crowds are significantly thinner, and Santorini's charm is as vibrant as ever, allowing for a more relaxed exploration of its beauty.

Lefkes restaurant in Foinikia

How to move on the island

Public Transportation

Santorini's bus network is a great choice for getting around, covering all the key spots travelers love. The main bus station is in Fira, and from there, you can hop on a bus to pretty much anywhere on the island - Oia, Kamari, Perissa, and even the port. Buses usually run on the dot, especially when it's peak season, making it a budget-friendly way to explore. Just a heads-up, though: the bus timetables can be a bit hit or miss sometimes, so it's a smart move to check the latest schedule before you set out. Also, if you plan to catch the bus after sunset viewing in Oia during the peak season (June-September), you should expect a huge line with big delays.

Car rental

Renting a car gives you the freedom to cruise around Santorini on your own terms, making it a breeze to check out those off-the-beaten-path spots that the buses don't reach. You can pick up a ride from several rental spots - they're all over, including the airport and around Fira. But here’s a small piece of a local's advice: driving and parking in jam-packed places like Oia and Fira can be tricky. The streets there are narrow and often clogged up. So, keep your cool and allow some extra time when you're moving from one village to another, especially when the island's buzzing with other travelers.

Taxis and private transfers

Catching a cab on the island can be a bit of a hunt during the rush hours. They don’t run on meters here, so make sure to settle on a price before you jump in to avoid any surprises. You can flag one down on the go or book one ahead through your hotel to keep things smooth.

For a seamless travel experience, consider booking a private transfer, as they come with a few solid perks. First off, you get professional, English-speaking drivers who know the ins and outs of getting around Santorini efficiently. The vehicles are top-notch, offering comfort that can make any journey enjoyable. Plus, there’s no waiting around; you can schedule your ride in advance, ensuring you arrive at the airport or ferry port right on time, and stress-free. It’s an ideal option if you’re looking for reliability and peace of mind, especially for those early-morning flights or late-night arrivals.

A local's tips to make the most of your Santorini trip

First and most important, Santorini’s water might seem mesmerizing, especially during sunset, but be aware that the tap water in Santorini is NOT drinkable! We recommend carrying a bottle of water with you, making sure to refill at your accommodation before you head out and utilizing cafes and taverns to stay hydrated.

Continuing, Santorini is a white Paradise. Feel free to “lose yourself” in the picturesque alleys to discover hidden spots for the perfect photo, which you will carry for a lifetime. And since you are an adventurous explorer, you will need to walk a lot. Make sure to carry comfortable sneakers with you. Santorini's cobbled and uneven streets, especially in historic areas like Oia and Fira, necessitate sturdy, closed-toe footwear with good grip for safe walking. This is particularly important if you plan extensive walking or visiting archaeological sites with rough terrain.

Last, but certainly not least, Santorini’s sun can be intense from late spring to early autumn, making sun protection crucial. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF, and wear a wide-brimmed hat and UV-protective sunglasses. It’s wise to find shade during peak sun hours between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., especially if you are visiting in July and August.

Local beer to try

Where to stay in Santorini and why

When planning a trip to the enchanting island of Santorini, choosing the right place to stay is crucial. Each village and town on the island offers a unique experience, tailored to different preferences and interests. Whether you're seeking breathtaking views, vibrant nightlife, authentic local life, or proximity to the sea, Santorini has the perfect locale for every traveler. Here’s a guide to help you decide where to stay during your visit:

Why stay in Oia

You are planning your trip to Greece and searching for “Santorini”. Well, the picturesque Oia with its Blue Domes is the first photo that will appear to you! Oia is the jewel in Santorini’s crown, known for its quintessential Greek charm with narrow, winding paths lined with whitewashed buildings. This village is perfect for those who dream of waking up to spectacular views of the caldera. Spend your days exploring white alleys, cozy cafes, and local boutiques. And of course, do not miss the opportunity to watch the famous Oia sunset, when the sun dives into the blue waters of the Aegean Sea. So, if you're after the iconic Santorini postcard experience, Oia is the place to be.

Hint! If you plan to stay right on the Caldera, you should expect a lot of stairs - I mean A LOT! Imagine climbing those stairs up during peak summer months with the hot sun... not an easy task. But, of course, the views from your room may be worth the trouble.

Caldera view from Oia

Why stay in Fira

While many view Mykonos as the Cyclades' premier party destination, Fira in Santorini certainly holds its own! As the island’s capital, Fira buzzes with energy both day and night. Here, you can enjoy a plethora of restaurants, bars, and nightclubs that stay open until the early hours. During the day, do not miss exploring its museums and historic sites. Fira is ideal for travelers looking to blend cultural visits with nightlife entertainment. It also offers the advantage of having the main bus station and taxi station nearby.

Why stay in Megalochori

Can you picture a location where Cycladic charm meets whitewashed alleyways, authentic local life, and tranquil serenity? Would you believe us if we said you could find all this in Santorini? The magnificent island of Santorini hosts thousands of people. Still, Megalochori has managed to keep its authentic lifestyle and beauty. This less-touristy village offers a peaceful retreat with charming architecture and a relaxed pace. Stroll through its narrow streets, visit local artisans, and enjoy traditional Greek meals at quaint tavernas. Megalochori is perfect for visitors who want to see a more traditional side of Santorini, away from the main tourist throngs. Yes, it does not offer the breathtaking Caldera views of Oia or Fira, but you can always take a tour or use transport to reach those views in your spare time.

Best things to do in Santorini

Admire the Cardera views and get lost in Oia’s alleys

Stroll through the maze-like alleys of Oia and soak in the iconic vistas you've seen in every travel mag out there. This spot’s all about those famous blue domes and sunset views that look like they’re straight off a postcard. Poke your head into some of the quirky shops or grab a gelato and just wander - this is the laid-back island life at its finest.

Hint! During peak season, Oia gets crowded for the sunset. The 'sunset boulevard' has hundreds if not thousands of people waiting in line, wishing to get in time for the sunset view. Take advantage of having a local guide who can reveal the best spots for the sunset, skip the lines, and share fascinating stories behind this renowned village!

The Sunset Boulevard in Oia

Taste Santorini's volcanic wine

Santorini’s vines are ancient and they give us some seriously unique wines, like the zesty Assyrtiko. Swing by a local winery to see how they grow grapes in volcanic soil and stay for a tasting session. Sipping wine with a view of the sprawling vineyards is an absolute must-do! Of course, there are different qualities of wine estates and wine labels, so it would be wise to use a wine-tasting tour from a local company that you trust to take you to the best places.

Did you know? In Santorini, vines are trained to grow low in a unique circular formation known as "kouloura" to combat the island's harsh environmental conditions. This technique shields the grapes from strong winds, helps retain moisture by capturing dew and humidity, and provides shade from the intense sun, all while making efficient use of space. This ancient method not only protects the vines but also enhances the quality of the famed Assyrtiko grapes.

'kouloura'

Hit up a sunset cruise

One of Santorini's most celebrated attractions is its breathtaking sunsets, renowned for their stunning palettes of color splashing across the Aegean Sea. O course, what makes them truly unique is the frame of the Caldera's cliff with its red and black rocks and the whitewashed little houses on top. A sunset cruise can offer this unique perspective and couple it with visits to the famous red and black beaches of the island, or a scenic tour of the volcano and the hot springs.

Step back in time at Akrotiri

Did you know that Santorini is home to its own version of Pompeii? The ancient site of Akrotiri is an ongoing archaeological discovery, where an entire Minoan city was preserved under volcanic ash. Similar to the famous site in Italy, Akrotiri offers a fascinating glimpse into a sophisticated civilization that thrived thousands of years ago. As you wander through the well-preserved ruins, you’ll see intricate frescoes, pottery, and streets that map out the daily lives of its ancient inhabitants.

Be sure to visit the Museum of Prehistoric Thera as well. The museum houses many of the artifacts excavated from the site, providing deeper insights into the history and culture of the Minoan people. It features detailed explanations of the findings, including the advanced techniques they used and the wide array of their daily activities. The museum effectively ties together the historical narrative, enriching your understanding of this remarkable archaeological site. Don’t miss this window into ancient history during your visit to Santorini.

Note: The Museum of Prehistoric Thera is located in Fira town, not in Akrotiri.

Experience ancient Greek music and Mythology come to life

Santorini is lucky to have as a resident a very special artist who has studied Greek mythology and music in detail. In his specially designed cave-like house, he welcomes you to join him and explore the musical instruments of Greece, while playing music and listening to ancient Greek myths that have hidden meanings and knowledge. You can spend an hour exploring the hidden meaning of Greek mythological tales and how music connects with the universe, participating yourself in this interactive experience. The artisan's name is Yiannis and you can meet him at the Symposion Cultural Center in Megalochori village. We've experienced it and we can't recommend it enough - it is a 'must-do' in our opinion.

Must-do experience in Santorini

Party in Fira

As the sun sets, Fira transforms into a vibrant hub of nightlife, offering more than just the typical club scene. The town comes alive with an array of rooftop bars where you can enjoy live DJ sets and sip on expertly crafted cocktails, all while taking in the breathtaking views of the caldera. These spots provide the perfect backdrop for a relaxing evening or a lively night out. In addition to the high-energy clubs and stylish lounges, Fira also boasts a variety of more intimate venues. Here, you can listen to live music ranging from traditional Greek tunes to international hits. The streets buzz with travelers and locals alike, creating a lively atmosphere that captures the essence of Santorinian nightlife.

Explore Megalochori village

Stroll through Megalochori, a traditional village where the essence of authentic Santorini is preserved. Time seems to pause in this tranquil place, with its old-world charm evident in every quaint lane and stone-built house. Megalochori maintains its genuine authenticity, offering a true glimpse of untouched island life. Our tip: don't miss the opportunity to explore one of the village's cave houses. These subterranean homes provide a fascinating insight into how people historically lived below ground, offering a unique perspective on Santorinian residential architecture. This quiet village is a perfect slice of the real, serene Santorini.

The road to the cave house

Watch the famed Santorini sunset

You can't say you've seen Santorini without catching one of its legendary sunsets, famous for their dramatic colors and the mesmerizing beauty of the background.

Insight! Contrary to common belief and other blog articles' suggestions, the best viewpoint of the sunset is not from Oia. Thousands of people rush to Oia close to sunset time to catch the famous spectacle. However, besides the huge crowds, pushing for the best spot and viewpoint during peak season, the sunset from Oia offers a view of mainly the sea since you are in the corner of the island. On the contrary, our recommended viewpoint for the sunset is either from Immerovigli, from where you have in your canvas the breathtaking caldera and Oia, or from Prophet Elias Monastery which is located on the higher point of Santorini, offering 360 views.

Santorini 3-day itinerary

You've just arrived in Santorini, and you have 72 hours to explore. Worried that might not be enough time? Fear not! We've put together the ultimate guide for this dazzling Cycladic gem, ensuring your visit is truly unforgettable.

Day 1

- Morning: Arrival in Santorini. Private transfer to your hotel.
- Check in at your hotel and settle in. If check in is not ready yet, leave your luggage with the reception and go for a first walk to get oriented with the area.
- Lunch at a local, recommended restaurant (make sure to have a reservation in advance - some places require reservations many weeks in advance).
- Afternoon: Set sail on a mesmerizing cruise and experience the sunset up close from the deck of your boat as the day draws to a close.
- Evening: Walk and explore the picturesque alleys of the Caldera villages (Fira / Firostefani / Immerovigli / Oia) and enjoy the breathtaking views.

Insight! Sunset cruises usually start with a pick-up from your hotel at approximately 2 pm. The cruise itself is usually between 2.30 pm and 7.30 pm, including snacks, drinks, a meal, snorkeling equipment, etc. There is also a return transfer to your hotel after the cruise.

Day 2

- 9 am - 5 pm: Take a full-day, guided tour that will showcase you the true beauty and the essence of Santorini. Our recommended tour combines many elements of what makes this island unique, from the beauties of Oia to the tastes of wines, the history of Aktoriti, and the authentic living in the island's villages.
- Enjoy a leisurely afternoon at your hotel's swimming pool and prepare to secure a prime location to witness the sun dipping into the sea.
- Dinner at a local, recommended restaurant.
- Evening: Same as yesterday. Walk and explore the Caldera villages - after all, you can never get enough of that view!

Touring Megalochori

Day 3

- Morning: Enjoy some free time to take your final stroll and perhaps indulge in some souvenir shopping at the local stores.
- Private transfer from your hotel to the airport/port.

As your 3-day trip to Santorini concludes, it's clear that the island offers more than just its postcard-perfect views - it presents a story waiting to be lived. Whether it's your first visit or your tenth, Santorini remains endlessly enchanting, a place where history, culture, and natural beauty intertwine to create a truly authentic experience.

From the sun-soaked terraces of Oia to the historical depths of Akrotiri, each day here unfolds like a well-crafted tale. We've shared local knowledge and insider tips that can transform a trip into a treasure trove of memories.

As you depart from this Cycladic paradise, take with you not just photos, but a piece of Santorini itself - a sense of its enduring charm and timeless allure. Let the experiences of the past three days inspire stories of your own, and remember: Santorini doesn't say goodbye; it simply whispers, "Until next time."

You may also find useful:

 

Credits: All photos were captured by our team.

About the author: Our team at Greek TravelTellers consists of academics and lovers of Greek culture. Our vision is to convey our knowledge and Greek values through immersive experiences and curated trips. Through our blog, we hope to bring Greek history and culture closer to you. Feel free to learn more about us.

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